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I'm ready to purchase my first digital camera. Need advice!

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / October 25, 2007 9:29 PM PDT
Question:

I'm so glad I found this newsletter; it has been so helpful in many ways for me. Lee, you have many wonderful people here who have a lot of knowledge, and I hope they can help out this grandpa here. I know my question is not a complicated one, but to me it's quite frightening, so here it goes. Before I head into the holidays, I'm ready to purchase my first digital camera, and I know nothing about them except that it doesn't need film. I don't want to ask my kids for help because I really want this to be a surprise to them that an old geezer like me still has a knack for technology these days; besides I have a lot of time on my hands. I'm not looking for anything fancy, just a good reliable camera to take good pictures and put them on my computer for viewing and printing them to share with my friends at my local senior club. I would love if I can get some pointers to start me out on this big venture of mine, like things to look for and disregard, the dos and don'ts when buying a digital camera. The one thing that I've heard is that megapixels are overrated--megapixels that's beyond me. Simplicity is what I have in mind, as I'm quite forgetful these days--so the less complicated, the better. I'm grateful in advance for your recommendations and advice. Please forgive if this question is all too simple, but I have my glasses on, pen in hand, and ready to take some notes. Thank you!

Submitted by Walter H.

Answer voted most helpful by the CNET Community newsletter readers:

Megapixels Aren't Overrated


Walter,

You've got great timing on deciding when to get into the digital camera arena. With prices so low, in all likelihood you will get an affordable camera that will meet your needs. Based on what you said in your question, I would recommend a more basic "point-and-shoot" camera (meaning not too expensive, just turn it on and go). So here's what you need to know:

Let's start with megapixels. They aren't overrated, but they sort of are. A pixel is a small unit that makes up the picture. Think of a newspaper picture. It's made up of little dots of different colors; a pixel is just a digital version of one of those dots. A megapixel is one million pixels. So a 4 megapixel camera can take a picture that is composed of 4 million pixels or dots. So the more megapixels the better, right? Not exactly. A 4x6 print can hold approximately 3.2 megapixels. Since most basic cameras have 4-6 MP, most new cameras ought to take decent pictures. You will need more than 4-6 megapixels if you want to do one or more of the following: crop and zoom (use your computer or a digital developing station to select a portion of the picture and resize that portion to fit a 4x6 print), make prints larger than 4x6, or project your images on a large screen like a video projector. If you don't need to do those things and the salesman tries to upsell you to the 10 MP model that has the same features as the 5 MP, don't bite.

Zoom is also important, and you need to know the difference between digital and optical. Optical zoom is true zoom, like you would find on a traditional 35mm camera. Digital zoom just stretches your pixels. It's like putting a magnifying glass to the newspaper. Eventually digital zoom will stop looking like a picture and start looking like a bunch of dots. 3x optical zoom is pretty much standard, anything more is gravy. Don't even bother with digital zoom. You can do the same thing later on your computer.

There are some other things that make a good picture. A good quality lens helps capture the picture. Fast "shutter speed" will also help reduce blurriness. But the number one extra you should concern yourself with is image stabilization. This makes the camera a little more forgiving if you accidentally shake it while taking a picture, especially when zoomed in. Some cameras are even able to automatically focus on faces in a picture.

So what else do you need to get started? You'll definitely want rechargeable batteries. Some cameras come with their own specialized batteries. They usually last a bit longer but if you lose the battery you're stuck having to shell out $50 or so for a new one, plus if you run out of juice and don't have a spare, you're done taking pictures for a few hours to recharge. Some cameras take AA batteries, and for these I recommend getting Nickel Metal-Hydride (NiMH) rechargeables. If you run dry, you can always use a spare set or even use some standard alkaline in a pinch (though they won't last as long). You'll also want a memory card. The camera will come with enough onboard memory to hold 5-50 pictures. A 512 MB or 1 GB card will expand that memory to the hundreds or thousands of pictures. You can put pictures on the card and take it to a photo station to develop your pictures.

If I were you, I would stick with the name brands like Sony, Kodak, Samsung, or maybe Fuji. One other option is to buy a kit that has a camera, docking station, and 4x6 printer all in one. It's not economical to print large numbers of pictures from the printing station, but it sure is easy, and the pictures look just as good as any others. Lastly, go to a store with a good salesman that will heop you and a generous return/exchange policy. So happy shopping!

Submitted by jskrenes

If you have any additional advice or recommendations for Walter, click on the reply link and share. Please provide as much details as you can in your answer. Thanks!
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Minimize Your Hassles: Go Canon
by oregonviewer / October 26, 2007 9:57 AM PDT

If you are new to digital, you probably will want an old-fashioned viewfinder-- and Canon still puts them in most entry-level digital cameras. I would not buy a digital camera without a viewfinder.

We bought our college-age daughter the Canon Powershot A540. My daughter reported that it was the envy of her friends b/c of the clarity of the pics when conpared with other $200+/- cameras, and its 4X zoom.

So.. viewfinder, super quality pics and 4X (vs 3X for most competitors) for zoom, plus good quality rep tilted me to Canon, and my daughter has been pleased.

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Viewfinder: all cameras have.......
by cesareDH / November 9, 2007 10:01 AM PST

a viewfinder. I think he means SLR or through the lens viewing. When you start getting up to SLR, your prices start going up, too.
Pick a good camera brand name, eg: Canon, Olympus, Nikon, etc. not something like Hewlett Packard, Kodak, etc. He may mean that some ONLY have a LCD display and no viewfinder. Not good.

Look at the size of the memory and whether or not it's built-in and/or upgradeable. You're never going to get enough memory with a camera priced less than $500 so you want to be sure it has a card that you can upgrade/replace to 2GB or higher. On it's "best" setting you will only get about 1 picture for every 2MB; therefore a 32MB card will only give you 12 - 16 pictures.

Easy to read display is essential, especially out in the sunlight. I prefer to set my cameras to view through the viewfinder to eliminate washout and glare.

http://reviews.cnet.com/4321-5_7-6554233.html?tag=nl.e725
Olympus also makes a great little camera for about $350 that has everything you'll probably ever want in a first time digital camera.

Read up on Shutter Lag which is a pain when you're used to a 35mm SLR which is instantaneous.

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All cameras have a viewfinder ...
by claretkid / November 9, 2007 4:57 PM PST

Oh no they don't. Some of the entry level cameras now rely on the LCD display and there is no optical viewfinder (look at the most of the Pentax range for example).

These ar OK unless you are outside in sunlight. If its at all bright (rare in the UK I know but still a problem) you will not be able to see the image at all.

These cameras become literally 'point and shoot'. You need to buy something you can look through.

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lack of optical viewfinders
by rdwngsfn21290 / November 10, 2007 4:40 AM PST

I am looking for a good non SLR digital camera with at least 10X zoom. There are new ones available from Panasonic, Sony and Canon with optical image stabilization. But guess what? NONE of them have optical viewfinders.

What suggestions do you have for someone who takes a lot of outdoor pictures and wants more than just a digital display which is hard to see in bright light, and requires holding the camera at arms length?

Frustrated shopper.

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Canon Powershot
by pkr8ch / November 10, 2007 8:19 AM PST

I just was browsing this page and I saw your post. The Canon Powershot "S3 IS" and the "S5 IS" both are very nice cameras with many advanced settings and with pretty good ratings from Cnet. Here are the links so you can check them out.
S5-IS: http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-cameras/canon-powershot-s5-is/4505-6501_7-32441341.html?tag=prod.txt.1

S3-IS:
http://reviews.cnet.com/digital-cameras/canon-powershot-s3-is/4505-6501_7-31740582.html?tag=prod.txt.1
These two cameras have an optical image stabilizer and optical viewfinder.

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Digital camera
by benrau / November 9, 2007 9:36 PM PST

I was disappointed that none of your answers specifically mentioned the advantage of a standard card. I have an Olympus camera, which is still in the xD camp, and I have a few less impressive digital cameras with SD cards. The SD cards are always on sale; the xD cards are never on sale, and the person who said you only buy one card is an alien in my world. Given the choice again, I would have selected a camera with wither SD or CF card. Other than that, many of the issues discussed were good. The person who suggested you buy one with a dockng station and 4 X 6 printer also seems to be more than a casual photographer.

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I agree with the memory card question needing to addressing
by Photog432003 / November 11, 2007 12:40 PM PST
In reply to: Digital camera

As an admitted computer geek, I helped my dad, a grandpa, buy his digital camera. One of the important factors I considered important for him was the memory card format. I still recommend CF cards due to their hardiness in shirt or pants pockets. Plus thanks to the standard they are available from many sources driving down prices, and the recent addition of camera optimized versions is an extra plus. They are optimized for the way digital cameras transfer pictures thus freeing the camera electronics faster for the next shot.

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Walter, it's okay
by mittens / October 26, 2007 10:20 AM PDT

Some things you need to know about a digital camera, and some things take care of themselves. Megapixels just mean that the picture you take will be cleaner looking, sharper, and can be reduced to a standard 640x480 picture (a good size for email), or printed out to 5x7 inches for photos to mail.

Get a zoom lens, not digital but optical. A Digital zoom just makes the picture seem larger, a true optical zoom acts like a telescope, bringing the subject "closer". And yes, you will surely use that zoom more than you realize.


The new cameras come with something called a memory stick (oh oh something else to learn), which can hold a LOT of photos; mine will hold 2000 huge photos, which makes me very happy.

Go to a place that will take the time to answer your questions and dont be afraid to ask.

Most cameras now come with very good, very detailed instruction booklets, and dont be afraid of them. just pick out the stuff you want to use and ignore the rest.

Someone told me, when I got my first digital camera, take pictures. Take more pictures. Leaves, trees, grass, rugs, windows. you can't waste the film, there's no film to waste! If you dont like a shot, or twenty, delete them from the camera, or from your computer. The more photos you take, the easier it gets.

Im not going to recommend a camera, because there are so many kinds out there I think it has to be a personal choice. Go online if you see a camera with a price and a feel you like, and see what regular people say about it.

Yeah, its scary. But you mastered a computer, you can master a camera, one click at a time. Take what you need, ignore the rest, for now.

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Good Advice, take a friend, take pictures, take pictures!
by Photog432003 / November 11, 2007 12:48 PM PST
In reply to: Walter, it's okay

Both pieces of advice are quite valuable. I bought my first digital camera based on my own computer experience and 35mm background. I understood a bit about the camera end and a lot about the computer end of the questions. In the first year after I bought that camera, I believe I took around 4,000 pictures. No, not all were good, but could be easily erased. Some were quite surprisingly good when I was just experimenting. I now have a group of friends who look for my next pic for their background picture. One extra piece on taking a friend, I took along "the friend" of trusting camera companies to get the optical zoom right after many decades work on lenses. I trusted the digital/computer end to be fairly easy for the technicians to get right thanks to TV and Video game efforts.

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Digital Cameras: Which is best?"
by pamppapa / October 26, 2007 10:27 AM PDT

Hi Walter - from one "old geezer" to another, megapixels are important if only because, eventually, you will want to print one or more "large" prints from your original shoot. The more megapixels in the original, the better will be the resultant enlargement. So, with that thought in mind, please seriously consider the most megapixels you can afford; especially since the cost of "megapixels" has dropped so dramatically over the past couple of years.

After that, consider the quality of the lens and, by extension, the quality of the final product/print, especially when using the zoom function.

Quality and type of memory is important because most of the products you will be interested in will come with less available memory than is optimum or even desireable. The memory can be replaced with relatively little expense and will work quite well until you are ready to replace it with something that will give you a lot more pictures before it fills up.

You will be taking pictures under many differing conditions so f-stop range and ISO range are important. A minimal amount of research will quickly let you know that most cameras are set up to meet minimum standards in these areas and a few are outstanding because they push the envelope. The few are the ones to seriously consider since they give you more flexibility for the same or nearly the same investment.

A large viewfinder is important since our eyes aren't what they used to be. 3.0 inches or better is good. Make sure before you buy that you will be able to easily see the viewfinder's display in bright sunlight.

Another very handy feature to consider is the ability to make short- or long-term movies with your camera. Videos of the kids and grandkids can now be viewed on big/wide screen TVs as well as computer screens so having the ability to make even short (60 sec.) videos is a very nice feature to keep in mind.

That's about it without getting into semi-pro or professional photography considerations.Megapixels for enlargements, quality of the lens for zoom with minimal distortion, enough memory to allow lots of shots without running out, f-stop and ISO range for flexibility under differing conditions, viewfinder for minimal eyestrain, and being able to take movies as well as still photos are what you want to consider when you shop for your new camera. There are many cameras in a wide variety of prices out there that fit these parameters so sit back, do your homework, and then enjoy your new camera by thoroughly experimenting with all of its features until you are comfortyable with it.

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Some layman's advice
by john3347 / October 26, 2007 10:28 AM PDT

Walter, I am also an old f--t who is only interested in taking clear, sharp pictures of anything that interests me, including, but not limited to, family. I have used a Fuji FinePix 1400 for several years and find it quite satisfactory. It is not only long since out of production, but even now obsolete as it is difficult to find memory cards for it now. My friend has a Fuji F-10 which is a newer model camera with a price tag somewhere around $100 or so and has several improvements over my old camera. Improvements include a much smaller package, larger viewing screen, and it seems to take marginally sharper pictures. I am not specifically plugging Fuji here, I just have some first hand experience with Fuji models. All of this is to say that if you just want to take good "Grandpa quality" pictures, big money will not buy you a whole lot better pictures. Look for a memory card that will be available for a long period of time and easily obtainable. Look for the largest viewing screen available. Don't buy something with a whole lot of bells and whistles that you don't know how to adequately utilize. (I think the phrase is, "point and shoot") It is convenient to have a nice pouch to carry your camera and a couple of spare batteries and a spare memory card, but you also need to select a camera that you can slip into your shirt pocket for occasions when a camera pouch hanging around your neck may be inappropriate or inconvenient. You will find that you will have more good photo opportunities that way. Oh yes, and also look for one that uses standard batteries available anywhere and not an expensive special battery pack that you have to pay three prices for at a camera shop and will be out of production long before your camera is "done".

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First Digital Camera
by shockedme / October 26, 2007 10:45 AM PDT

I have always had luck and fantastic pictures with Canon Powershots. The price, size and quality are all there (check out the CNET reviews). The only mistake was my first S10 which had batteries other than "AA". Specialty batteries are a major pain when you need a fast replacement.My A95 is fantastic and The A560 (which I purchased as a company camera) is at a great price, no need to go to the new model for more things you dont need.
I personally don't care to read directions until I feel the need so the Canons in the "AUTO" setting got me thru in nearly every situation. Simple is great! I wont go on with boring technical details you dont care to hear. But do read the CNET reviews "users reviews" so you end up with a good camera that will last for years

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first digital camera plaese take your time!
by tazadsldevil / November 9, 2007 4:34 PM PST
In reply to: First Digital Camera

Nowadays digital cameras are cheap, and allmost every brand has its class. There are the point and shoot types, they have very little possibilities and are easy to understand, so for a start these are recomendable but there are also little more advanced types with more buttons but also more things you can do with them.

my tip is first:
go to a fotostore like dixons or even better a dealer who has a wide spread of brands and types. explain taht you are looking for a digital camera that is easy to understand ( i can recommend canon and olympus ) but has to power to go a little out off the simple point and shoot range but hasn't got so many complicated buttons to press to take a picture

check for you self what you would like to spent, go to the store let your self try a few cameras and if possible take someone with you a child, or relative that knows you good. write down the brands and the types you like an post a second question i have had so many digital cameras so i know more than most of the people on the globe what the features do and what to have and what not

tip2:

i do not know if you have steady hands but most of the time a too small camera is less easy to hold steady than a little bigger and thicker one ( you do not want to go your pictures down the drain by hand instabillity (shaking) )

further there are cameras that help people to make a good picture like the nikon D40 is a small size DSLR (meaning you can change lenses and believe me sometimes you wish you would have that option)

this camera has also got a decent help feature learning you to take better foto's i know use a niknon d70 it is an older model than the d40, but bigger heavier more decent build and more and wider lens range that i can use

so start you tripp through the internet check dpreview , steve digital camaras they have good reviews on almost every model ever made and even on new ones

you better take your time because a camera buying isn't hard (it can be done in few seconds) but buying a camera that is the right one for you is time consuming but ask every one you know who has camera of the digital type and ask them if they would think it could be the one for you.

in the store let yourself to be advised but listen closely and good, if the sales man or woman advises a camera ask always if you may try it outside the shop, take a few picutres on the street from moving vehicles and people and also from builings.

look if you can adjust the lcd monitor in light (darker and lighter) and if possible a angle. live view (looking through the lcd al the time is modern and yes it eats up batteries so always ask if there are types of cameras with a (possible) LION accu these accu's are more modern than NIMH , offer more capicity and do not suffer from memoryloss like the NIMH accu do ( a LION accu can be loaded even when the battery is half empty on a NIMH i only recomend to load the battery or accu when it is fully empty and ask how long the charging time takes when you decide to buy a camera always buy two accu's with is and ask if the have a fast charger so when you are on a trip you have to charge your accu's both all full.

memory isn't expensive anymore but watch of the developping times, and reaction speed that is where most compact take their time, so you have to hold the camera steady for a longer time in the same position

DLSR cameras like the nikon d40 are a lot faster they are instant on , and react faster when pressing the shutter and therefore you can take a next picture faster. Believe me in the beginning it can be fine a slow camera but when you want to take a snapshot you will understand that slow reactions speeds are worthless

And believe me 6.1 MP is more than enough , and 6.1 MP of a nikon d40 are better than 6.1 MP of a same model coolpix , canon ixus ore any other compact because the sensor in the camera is smaller, the MP dots are smaller and cannot be compaired to the ones of the dslr , and if you like to take a picture in the "bad light conditions" you will notice that on a compact with the same resolution of the nikon d40 you have less noise with the d40 and there fore a better pcture and you can if you want enlarge it at a fotoshop to A3 size or larger , when you do that with a same specifications compact you are limited because the sensor is to small

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Good answer for camera buffs, perhaps not good for snapshots
by Photog432003 / November 11, 2007 1:20 PM PST

The question of DSLR vs. point and shoot is valid and good for prior SLR users. Perhaps not so good for someone who wants a p&s camera for family gatherings. Having used both Nikon Coolpix compacts and Cannon DSLR's I see benefits of both, however, for someone who just wants to take snapshots for the holidays, etc. a decent compact camera is usually good enough. I will definitely agree with the idea of getting good lenses, ie: a camera brand instead of a computer brand name.

I would also like to add since I haven't seen it yet that response time is more important than pixel count these days. I learned the tricks with a 90's vintage digital of catching a race car on track by swinging my camera with the car's passing. I watched from the sidelines as mega-pixel counts went up till I saw shutter response improve. Now with a newer camera I can catch isolated sports shots like a soccer ball in mid-air with crisp definition. Whether it be a single shot or a rapid shot sequence for those of us who want a higher end camera, shutter response can be a winner when catching sports or children playing with new toys at Christmas.

Snapshots don't really need the capabilities of an SLR like the Nikon D40 or the Cannon D1, and those cameras can be a load to carry for mom and pop attending kids events. A decent compact camera will get those 4x6 prints out well enough with the standard 4 - 7 mega-pixels today. Leave the enlarging and Photoshopping to us silly hobbiests and professionals who are willing to put the money into extra lenses, etc. A camera that is easy to use and carry will be used much more often than one that needs extra baggage; especially if that extra baggage includes the manual for "how the heck do I work this thing!"

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Digital Cameras and Us Old Fogies
by edbrady / October 26, 2007 11:03 AM PDT

I don't know much about the cameras, either. But I was given a used one that I've had good luck with.

It's on old HP PhotoSmart 315.

As far as megapixels (?) are concerned, this thing says it has 2.1, which would make all the kids today probably fall over laughing at how far out of date it is.

It has an 8 mb card in it--more amusement for the kiddies. But, this little thing will hold 80 photos.

Today they have cards that hold 1 and 2 gigs. I have no need for something that large, and they probably wouldn't work in this camera anyway.

I transfer the photos to my computer, print them, email them, etc., and don't see any probelms with them. They aren't fuzzy, nor anything like that.

Bottom line, I suppose, would be to get the best you can afford, and don't worry about it if it isn't the latest whiz-bang.

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Check for 'Shutter Lag' by trying a camera before you buy
by rejacob / October 26, 2007 11:03 AM PDT

Walter -

One thing to be concerned about is something called 'shutter lag'...how much time goes by after you press the shutter before the camera actually takes the picture.

The film cameras you are familiar with capture the picture the instant you press the shutter. It is not so with many digital cameras.

If all you take are still life pictures then shutter lag may not matter. But if you want to capture that look on your grandsons face you need to get it before it flits away. If the shutter lag on your digital camera is too long that look may be gone by the time the shutter actually opens.

Check the camera specs...if they do not mention shutter lag then it's a good bet that the shutter lag is long. Better still is to go to a retail store...try out the camera that you think you might want...find out how long that interval is.

There are many other factors to consider but shutter lag is one that many people forget to consider.

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Megapixels Aren't Overrated
by jskrenes / October 26, 2007 11:06 AM PDT

Walter,

You've got great timing on deciding when to get into the digital camera arena. With prices so low, in all likelihood you will get an affordable camera that will meet your needs. Based on what you said in your question, I would recommend a more basic "point-and-shoot" camera (meaning not too expensive, just turn it on and go). So here's what you need to know:

Let's start with megapixels. They aren't overrated, but they sort of are. A pixel is a small unit that makes up the picture. Think of a newspaper picture. It's made up of little dots of different colors; a pixel is just a digital version of one of those dots. A megapixel is one million pixels. So a 4 megapixel camera can take a picture that is composed of 4 million pixels or dots. So the more megapixels the better, right? Not exactly. A 4x6 print can hold approximately 3.2 megapixels. Since most basic cameras have 4-6 MP, most new cameras ought to take decent pictures. You will need more than 4-6 megapixels if you want to do one or more of the following: crop and zoom (use your computer or a digital developing station to select a portion of the picture and resize that portion to fit a 4x6 print), make prints larger than 4x6, or project your images on a large screen like a video projector. If you don't need to do those things and the salesman tries to upsell you to the 10 MP model that has the same features as the 5 MP, don't bite.

Zoom is also important, and you need to know the difference between digital and optical. Optical zoom is true zoom, like you would find on a traditional 35mm camera. Digital zoom just stretches your pixels. It's like putting a magnifying glass to the newspaper. Eventually digital zoom will stop looking like a picture and start looking like a bunch of dots. 3x optical zoom is pretty much standard, anything more is gravy. Don't even bother with digital zoom. You can do the same thing later on your computer.

There are some other things that make a good picture. A good quality lens helps capture the picture. Fast "shutter speed" will also help reduce blurriness. But the number one extra you should concern yourself with is image stabilization. This makes the camera a little more forgiving if you accidentally shake it while taking a picture, especially when zoomed in. Some cameras are even able to automatically focus on faces in a picture.

So what else do you need to get started? You'll definitely want rechargeable batteries. Some cameras come with their own specialized batteries. They usually last a bit longer but if you lose the battery you're stuck having to shell out $50 or so for a new one, plus if you run out of juice and don't have a spare, you're done taking pictures for a few hours to recharge. Some cameras take AA batteries, and for these I recommend getting Nickel Metal-Hydride (NiMH) rechargeables. If you run dry, you can always use a spare set or even use some standard alkaline in a pinch (though they won't last as long). You'll also want a memory card. The camera will come with enough onboard memory to hold 5-50 pictures. A 512 MB or 1 GB card will expand that memory to the hundreds or thousands of pictures. You can put pictures on the card and take it to a photo station to develop your pictures.

If I were you, I would stick with the name brands like Sony, Kodak, Samsung, or maybe Fuji. One other option is to buy a kit that has a camera, docking station, and 4x6 printer all in one. It's not economical to print large numbers of pictures from the printing station, but it sure is easy, and the pictures look just as good as any others. Lastly, go to a store with a good salesman that will heop you and a generous return/exchange policy. So happy shopping!

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Looking for a Digital Camera
by JCipo / November 10, 2007 11:47 AM PST

I have spent the last month testing one of the best pro DSLR cameras against criteria that I have used for a number of point and shoot digitals over the years. The Fuji Finepix 6000 is the best camera for the price...$350. It has everything a person needs to shoot pictures that can be printed in 80x60 inch format. It is the heaviest of the point and shoot units but is still light compared to most DSLR cameras. With the Fuji and its unbelievable telephoto lens (18-200mm) coupled with face recognition and antishake I can barely tell the difference in picture quality between it and cameras costing 4 times as much.
Most places won't sell this camera because it gives the salesman little profit and competes too well against Canon, Nikon, and other DSLR cameras.

John Cip

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re: buying a digital camera
by jkatz122 / November 10, 2007 10:39 PM PST

megapizels are overrated .. anyhow to the gentleman who wanted to purchase his first digital camera.. there are 2 types you can buy a pocket ala point and shoot type that isnt nearly as reliable and slr (single lens reflex)point and shoot (p&s) are usually slower and the metering is not as reliable as slr however they are convenient and usually small the lens is integrated and cannot be removed

slr are larger even the smaller slr cannot be put in a pocket
but are far more reliable have much better metering and auto focus
and most importantly since te actual chip (ccd) is larger have richer colors and record more data than the smaller cameras this is the diference between te 2 types in a nutshel

i myself use a 6 megapixel slr to shoot events and engagements and weddings .. remember its not the megapixels that make the picture nice its the user

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One exception
by Jim F / November 10, 2007 11:30 PM PST

I find this a good response to Walter. However, the one shortcoming I see is the failure to mention Canon when suggesting manufacturers. Canon is one of the highest, if not highest rated average consumer use camera.

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I agree
by hotshot982 / November 12, 2007 4:50 AM PST
In reply to: One exception

Nikon is also a brand I greatly trust. I actually prefer manufacturers that have been in the photography business for most of the past century (Pentax, Nikon, Canon, Fuji) to electronics manufacturers who decided to branch into cameras (Epson, Sony, Samsung, etc.)

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Digital Camera choices
by rsevern / November 12, 2007 9:10 AM PST
In reply to: I agree

I'd look at Canon and Olympus point-and-shoot cameras. If you want more, I recommend the Nikon D40. It now costs around $450 and makes truly great photos. A valuable addition, for under $200 is the 200mm zoom telephone lens. With the D40 and these 2 lenses (and maybe later an add-on external flash) you will have a near-pro set-up.

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Canon is greatly overrated
by stevemet / November 18, 2007 11:54 PM PST

I am also a grandfather. I bought a canon A710. I have a Ph.D. in engineering and handled it with kid gloves. It failed in 6 months and canon won't fix it or replace it or refund my money, it must have been my fault!!!

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about comments on jskrenes
by sanjibrbasu / November 20, 2007 11:46 PM PST

Many many thanx to provide detailed informataion on digital camera...it is very useful for me.

sanjib basu
Kolkata, India

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Walter: you can do it-- and you'll be glad you did.
by TLE_MN / October 26, 2007 11:10 AM PDT

The variety of features available for today's digital cameras can be overwhelming. But your description of your expertise (minimal) and your desire for a practical, useful camera above all gives me good clues as to what to recommend. I really have only 3 points to raise:

1. Choose features that make a camera simple to understand and operate. "Simple" mode-- where you just set it and shoot away is an example. Easy to understand buttons that let you override the general settings occasionally-- force flash on or off, for example-- are important.

2. It sounds like this would be your general purpose, all around camera, for both indoor and outdoor photos, so look for use of rechargeable AA batteries (vs. a proprietary battery), so you can always get some regular AA's anywhere in the world when the power runs out. Look for a high zoom factor, since this camera will be used for landscapes and distant outdoor shots of all kinds. Look for water resistance. Since you say you are older, look for one with a large viewfinder screen, vs. looking through a little viewfinder opening.

3. With those general points in mind, go to a store and handle them. Get a size that fits your hand well, that you are comfortable with, that you can actually operate the buttons easily.

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Get a good fit!
by starrpoint / November 9, 2007 9:55 AM PST

Very important to get a really good fit. Some cameras are really small, but so are their buttons and screens, and this makes them hard to use. Also, the LCD viewing screens look nifty in the store but can be hard to use in full sun.

And really think about how you will upload these to your computer. If you are using XP or mac, you should not have any trouble, but some cameras have trouble with vista and the new mac system. Most of these problems have been solved, but there is a good chance that the software with the camera has not been upgraded, and you will need to go to the manufacturers website and upgrade it your self before it is functional if you have a new operating system. (had this with my new canon SLR)

So play with it a bit in the store, Take out the memory card (also price a replacement) take out the batteries, (also price) see if you need a cable or dock. If you are new, docks are really nice! and play with the buttons, settings and dials. Make sure they are easy for you to use, not the clerk!

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Digital cameras???
by Betty Becker / October 26, 2007 11:53 AM PDT

From one old geezer to another... check out www.dpreview.com (Digital Photography Review) This site has everything you need to know to compare, test, preview most every digital camera out there. There is a terrific Learn/Glossary section that will help you to understand the terminology for digital format and relate that information to corresponding "film" cameras. By the time I bought my first camera I felt like an expert after exploring this web site.
Good luck. Once you catch on to digital you'll never go back.

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Digital cameras???
by Capn Dave / November 9, 2007 9:40 PM PST
In reply to: Digital cameras???

Betty, yours is the best reply so far. Everyone has different ideas, wants and needs when it comes to photography. A person wanting to get into digital photography should do their research and decide what they need to fulfill their requirements.

Wally, read through all these responses and go www.dpreview.com You will learn a lot from that site. Then decide for yourself. If you rely on others to tell you what camera to purchase, you may not get one that will meet your needs.

Happy Photographing!

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Digital Camera
by Ogee101 / October 26, 2007 11:53 AM PDT

Walter--I also wanted a good digital with all whistles and bells at a good price. After VERY MUCH research, I got down to five, then three, then ONE. That ONE is the new Fujifilm Finepix F50-SE(fd). This camera has dual stabilization (mechanical and electronic) to stop any blur. It has a new face detection program. It is a 12 mega-pixel which is more than you need but you can change the mega-pixels to obtain an unbelievable sensitivity. The functions of this camera go on and on. Almost TOO MUCH, however, I am 68 years young and am using this camera as a "study" to keep my mind active. The pictures are FANTASTIC. The camera removes any "red eye" for you. The portrait mode makes the subject have a model's finish. The price is listed at $299.00 but you can find it on sale for $269.00. It comes with a good battery and a compact charger. I picked up a 4 GB card for $45.00. The controls are great. Has power button rather than a twist switch. Check this one out. I am a Doctor of Pharmacy and I would not steer you wrong. I give this camera 5 stars and A-Plus.
-----Ogee101

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Digital camera suggestions
by spegga / October 26, 2007 11:57 AM PDT

The criteria for purchasing a "simple", easy-to-use camera are not always obvious. As you have alluded, the mega-pixel count is irrelevant at this point: any camera you purhcase will have enough resolution to enlarge an image to 8 by 10 (at least). The single most important, and overlooked, feature is the optical zoom: the lomger the better. It is the one comoponent that cannot be compensated for in any other way. The greater the zoom, the more flexibility you'll have when shooting, and the less frustration.
Secondly, I'd look for size and shape. In the old days, 'the smaller the better' was the rule . If you owned the best camera in the world but you left it home because it was a pain to schlep around, then what good was it? But now, too small is frequently a problem: difficult to hold, aim and steady. Try them out in a store. Our hands are different sizes and the layout of the controls...most important, the zoom control...should feel comfortable and convenient.
I prefer using a viewfinder, even before I purchased an SLR. I find it much easier to steady the camera when holding it to my eye. Again, play with them at a store.
Finally, image stabilization is a great help. Most long zoom digicams offer it. Following my own advice, I'd probably grab an Olympus with 18X zoom but Panasonic, Fuji and Canon (at least) all offer competitive models. Good luck!

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