New Camera Advice
Being somewhat of a photography enthusiast people sometimes ask me for advice on buying a new compact, or point and shoot (p&s) camera. I don’t generally stay in the loop on new gear, especially so for p&s models, but there is some general advice to keep in mind if you’re looking for a new compact camera.
Mega-Pixels aren’t everything.
They are a marketing tool. My DSLR is ‘only’ 6MP, and it’s sufficient for the 8×10 shots I use in my photo books. For the much more common 6×4 prints you really don’t need more. It is not an indicator of image quality, but image size, although it can affect image quality, which brings me to my next point.
The sensor size is more important.
What’s really going to affect image quality is the physical size of the sensor. Most DLSRs, appart from the professional high-end, have an APS sized sensor, which is around 3/4 the size of traditional 35mm negative film (some high-end ‘full frame’ DSLRs nome with sensors of 35mm size)
As I mentioned, Mega-Pixels can affect image quality, and this is why: Let’s say you have a camera with 12MP. If you have an APS sensor or a tiny ‘fingernail’ sensor, they both have to fit the same amount of photon-sensors (1 for each pixel in the resulting image) into that physical space (12 million of them). The reailty is that they must be smaller and more ‘cramped’ to fit in a smaller physical sensor, which results in more ‘noise‘ / grainier images. In that case, with a smaller sensor, I’d personally prefer less mega-pixels and a cleaner image.
Think about the glass.
Perhaps the most important thing is the quality of the lens. Glass is better than plastic, and again, a physically bigger lens surface area should do a better job than a tiny thing.
In both of these considerations, in a compact / p&s camera, one will no doubt have to make compromises between size, portability and quality. After all, if it was purely about quality, we’d all be carrying around large-format cameras (where the film is roughly 8″x10″ in size!).
Be careful of the zooms.
One final consideration is the zoom factor. Digital zoom is often listed as a feature, but ignore it. Optical Zoom is zoom is the important one, which is done using the lens. Digital zoom simply crops away parts of the image and enlarges the ‘zoomed’ area. This means you’re not actually capturing enough information (or zooming closer), and the camera is just ‘guessing’ and interpolating extra pixels in – it’s why the image is pixelated or perhaps jagged on the edges of objects. It will inevitably be of inferior quality, and besides, you can do this yourself at home with your computer, thereby not throwing about image information on the spot.
Hold it right there.
Perhaps the most important thing is actually to see how the camera feels in your hand, and to see how intuitive the menus and controls are. Different brands have different layouts and menus, and different people prefer different ways. Find the one that works for you. You don’t want to get a camera that has you mucking about trying to figure out how to use it and then miss the moment you wanted to capture!
From → photography