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Cs to Choosing Your First Digital Cameras
3 Cs to Choosing Your First
your first digital camera can be quite a
daunting task. Increase your level of confidence
by doing your homework first before talking
to the salesperson. Here are 3 Cs (Category,
Criteria, Choice) that should help you narrow
down your selection.
helps to understand how camera manufacturers
divide up the digital camera market. Basically,
the consumer digital camera space is divided
up into four categories: Point-and-Shoot,
Beginner, Serious, and Advanced. [Notice,
we did not mention a fifth category which
is the "Pro" category and which
targets both the amateur "pros"
as well as the professional "pros."]
You have to decide the Category
you fit into.
This crowd is the bread and butter of the
camera manufacturers. They want a digital
camera that is easy to use, takes good pictures,
and does not require them to even break
open the User Guide. Interestingly, most
digital cameras from the other categories
can also be used in a point-and-shoot mode,
and this crowd has been known to spend $$$
to get "the best" -- yet use only
a fraction of the features they are paying
for. But then again, there are not too many
strictly point-and-shoot digital cameras
today; the technology has advanced to the
point that a digital camera targeted to
the point-and-shoot crowd will usually also
have more features than they need. I wouldn't
recommend you buy from the Advanced category
because these higher-end models might require
you to fiddle with more settings than you'd
be comfortable with to get good pictures.
Here is the budding photographer who wants
a digital camera to start off with. A strictly
point-and-shoot camera might do the trick,
but may not permit too much experimentation.
A digital camera in this category should
not cost too much but must provide the ability
to experiment so the beginner can learn
the basics of photography. This is also
the time to head off to your neighbourhood
library and loan out a couple of photography
books on composition and exposure control.
The beginner has exhausted the capabilities
of his or her digital camera and is ready
to try out more advanced features, including
manual modes, white balance selection, and
exposure bracketing. The serious amateur
photographer has also a better understanding
of the type of photography she or he prefers:
landscape, portraits, macro, sports, street,
etc. and may seek out a digital camera that
is good at that particular type of photography.
Once you reach this level, I don't see you
asking, "Which digital camera should
I buy?" You know what you want, what
you don't really care for, and what you
are willing to live with. You know there
is no such beast as the perfect digital
camera, and you don't waste your time and
energy debating "my digital camera
is better than yours." You simply have
no desire to debate any of these things
because you are out there busy making
pictures (yeah, that's not a typo: making,
not just simply taking). You probably
demand the best in image quality, rapid
performance, reliability, and flexibility;
but then you may also purchase the digital
camera that "the majority" denigrate
but which you consider is right for you.
In fact, you can take excellent pictures
with a digital camera from any of the four
Do You Fit?
you understand these categories, mosey over
to our Buyer's
Guide and take a look at the digital
cameras we have sloted into each category.
This should help narrow down your choices.
Check out the QuickFact
Sheets to get a better idea of why a
camera falls into a particular category.
If we have reviewed the camera, see if you
fit its User Profile.
(Really) Important To Me?
cameras in each category tend to offer pretty
much the same feature set at the same price
point than their competitors. So, how do
you decide among them? Having decided on
the Category, you now have to figure
out what Criteria
are important to you. Do you want something
you can easily slip into your jeans pocket
and take anywhere? Do you need a wide-angle?
Panorama capability? Movie capability? At
first, you may decide you want all of these,
and the kitchen sink thrown in for good
measure. Then you look at the price and
you realize you cannot afford it. So, you
have to decide which criteria really
matter to you. As an example, if you're
into macro photography, then you need a
digital camera that can focus in real close;
if you want to be able to carry it in your
jeans pocket, then you need an ultra-compact
To help you in this quest, we have decided
not to feature all the available digital
cameras on the market. Only a subset make
it in our list. They are the ones our editors
believe are the best in their respective
categories. That does not mean there are
not as good or even better ones out there.
There are a couple of reasons why we may
not include some digital cameras in our
The most important reason is that we do
not know enough about them, either because
the manufacturers do not provide enough
information, and/or there are not enough
users out there who have a positive comment
We try to avoid private labels. What private
label means is simply that a company takes
the digital camera made by another company
(which usually makes a "cheap"
generic model) and puts its own brand
on it. (Note: This is not the same as
two companies which combine their respective
R&D and strengths to put out the same
camera under their respective brands.)
We already cover one of the "similar"
model in case 2.
manufacturer has a lot of models which
approximate one another on features; so,
we select one or two from the group.
you have your Category and Criteria,
you can now make your Choice.
It is pretty much a matter of matching the
digital cameras in your category against
your criteria. Now, your confidence level
is much higher than you first started. A
salesperson will not be able to sell you
more than you need or less than you need.
You should by now have narrowed down your
choices to two or three digital cameras
you want to personally handle and try out
before deciding on the one that is right
for you. More often than not, it will come
down to how it handles, whether it is too
small or too heavy for you, and the all
important price. Do not miss this all important
step to try it out first, which means a
return guarantee from the vendor in case
you don't like it during the trial period
(it's usually 2 weeks, but get it in writing
from the vendor).
Digital camera technology is advancing at
an accelerated pace (perhaps even faster
than the PC did) and you should not view
your first purchase as your last. So don't
worry too much if you make a "mistake."
This also means that you cannot really afford
to sit back and wait for the "perfect"
model. Only you can decide what you can
afford and when you can afford it. Though
digital cameras in the serious and advanced
categories are still high compared to their
35mm film counterparts, entry-level (point-and-shoot
and beginner categories) digital camera
prices have come down drastically and are
now very affordable.
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