What should I look for in a Digital Camera?
July 7, 2004 6:36 PM   Subscribe

What should I look for in a Digital Camera? Is there any indication of what takes better pictures than another? I'm familiar with resolutions and megapixels... I don't know about things like lenses and A/D converters, and what other issues may exist.

Also: I'm interested in being able to wirelessly trigger the shutter, possibly at ranges up to several few hundred feet, though it's not an essential feature. Does any model out there come with this?
posted by weston to Technology (18 answers total)
The two classes of digital cameras.
posted by stbalbach at 6:44 PM on July 7, 2004

First, you should decide what you want to do with the camera. Is it a family snapshot camera, a taking-on-vacation camera, a studio camera, something you're going to use near-professionally, what?

Then you should look for features you like and guess how much you want to spend.

Good review sites like dcresource.com and dpreview.com will indicate picture quality by tests. That's the only way to go; lenses vary from camera to camera and the only thing you can do is see what works and what doesn't. There aren't any buzzwords to look for WRT lenses.

Some of the upper-end cameras have wireless remotes as an aftermarket accessory.

AFAIK the only a/d converter is the chip itself. After that, it's digital turtles all the way down.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 PM on July 7, 2004

At least two mid-range (where high-end equals DSLR) cameras I know of come with infrared remotes: The Pentax Optio 555 and the Casio Exilim Pro EX-P600. Several hundred feet is quite unlikely, though.
posted by whatnotever at 7:29 PM on July 7, 2004

I use the "Highly Recommended" list from dpreview.com. I think that is the best site for camera reviews.

You can spend a lot of time on other sites, but I have not been disappointed by his recommendations.
posted by gen at 7:53 PM on July 7, 2004

No one ever complains about the image quality of a Canon or a Nikon.
posted by smackfu at 9:56 PM on July 7, 2004

I've seen dcresouce complain about chromatic aberration with some of the Canon point-and-shoots.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:57 PM on July 7, 2004

But not the Canon Powershot 400 or the Powershot A70... those come HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by dpreview. I can also highly recommend the Powershot S400.
posted by gen at 12:10 AM on July 8, 2004

I'm absolutely bowled over by the quality of my new Canon Ixus 500. I've not noticed any chromatic aberrations, but then I Am Not An Expert.
posted by viama at 3:42 AM on July 8, 2004

Don't buy anything until you've tried it out - held it in your hand, stuck it in your pocket or bag, worked out how you will use it on a daily basis. Are you going to carry it around with you all day every day? Then get something light enough that you won't really notice it. Go to a bestbuy or a Circuit City or a big camera store and spend a good hour going through all the different ones you like.

I highly recommend the Sony line... I have the P72 and it's superb, particular when the light is good. Email me and I'll send you some samples. It's 3MP and light enough to stick in a pocket when I'm out with the kids. I think Sony have updated their range recently. One big advantage of the Sonys is that they come with their own rechargable batteries and charger. With almost all other digicams, that's extra - and you will need them.
posted by humuhumu at 3:49 AM on July 8, 2004

Do you want easy or hard? Easy=TTL (Through-The-Lens), Hard=SLR (Single Lens Reflex). small or big? Small=TTL, Big=SLR. Interchangeable lenses or fixed lens? Fixed=TTL (generally), Many lenses=SLR (generally).

Are you just looking for something easy to take pictures of friends & family & vacations with? Or are you going to be learning photography and all its sundry aspects?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:36 AM on July 8, 2004

You would get a lot better information if you would answer these questions:

- What is your $$ limit?
- Are you looking for an everyday camera?
- Snapshots or artshots?
- What is the largest print you want to be able to print?
- Is zoom important to you?
- Do you have any lenses already from film cameras?
posted by jonah at 8:10 AM on July 8, 2004

the big shock for me when I got a compact digital was discovering the time lag between pressing the shutter and the camera capturing the picture. It's a problem that seems to have been largely (and conveniently) ignored by almost all manufacturers in the compact digital market. I've tried some cameras which claim fast response times but haven't been particularly impressed by any so far. If you like taking spontaneous/action pictures, this is an area you should definitely research before buying. If you find a good one I'd love to know.
posted by gravelshoes at 12:41 PM on July 8, 2004

I don't design digital cameras, nor do I play a designer on tv.

But I think some of the shutter-lag problem has to do with how compact cameras use the CCD. It's on all the time in order to feed an image to either the LCD on the back, or the LCD in the electronic viewfinder for cameras that use that. So before the camera can take a picture, the camera has to wipe the CCD and re-prep it to take the picture.

Unlike a digital SLR, where the CCD isn't used except at the moment the picture is taken. And dSLRs don't have a shutter-lag problem.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:54 PM on July 8, 2004

Response by poster: This is all fabulous information, folks. I would love to go for a DSLR, but the truth is I've got higher priorities for that kind of money right now. The best part of this, though, is that I know what to save for an know not to waste my money on a high end p/s while I'm waiting.

So suppose I'm looking for a p/s for the time being, and my primary concern is affordability without sucking badly...
posted by weston at 1:43 PM on July 8, 2004

Response by poster: (and maybe being able to rig a wireless remote shutter somehow... even if I have to open up the thing.)
posted by weston at 1:47 PM on July 8, 2004

I've had an Olympus Stylus 400 for several months now. I really like it.

4 megapix, good picture quality, remote control (not hundreds of feet), some video capture (no sound), small, panorama mode, water resistant, USB, rechargeable battery with a good life, just over $300 after some looking around. Expect to buy a new memory card (xD, not sD). Also, Olumpus makes a few goodies that work on this model. I'm eyeing the underwater rig.
posted by speedo at 3:23 PM on July 8, 2004

The stbalbach link above is really superb.
posted by gimonca at 5:08 PM on July 8, 2004

Don't buy anything until you've tried it out

Got to second this. Everyone is slightly different in how they use a camera and what they use it for. What feels just right to one person can seem uncomfortable and clumsy to another. Digital cameras add another interface complication because they're software driven and the quality and style of the user-interface varies dramatically between brands. When you're trying out cameras it's a good idea to try have in mind the kinds of settings and features you might want to change most often for your kind of photography and try poking your way through the menus and buttons to see which ones work best for you.
posted by normy at 6:36 PM on July 8, 2004

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