Community & Current Events

How to buy the best digital camera

By: Marc Saltzman

Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

How to buy the best digital camera

By: Marc Saltzman
If it's time to upgrade your digital camera, you'll need to ask yourself a few questions. Aside from budget, of course, assess your needs. Do you prefer a camera with a lot of zoom, so you can capture the emotion on your child's face during her soccer game while you are sitting in the stands? Or do you want a compact point-and-shoot to keep in your pocket or purse for casual group shots? The more you know about how and where you'll use the camera, the happier you'll be with your purchase.

Choosing the best camera for your needs
• There are two main kinds of cameras. "Point-and-shoot" models are less expensive and more compact; they are ideal for everyday photography and will yield better-looking photos than your mobile phone will. Digital single lens reflex (d-SLR) cameras are bigger and pricier, but take higher quality photos at faster speeds (so you don't miss that magic moment), offer more manual photography features and support interchangeable lenses, too. Some "tweener" cameras borrow from both categories -- they're small, like a point-and-shoot, but offer d-SLR-like image quality and interchangeable lenses.

• Many Canadians are bogged down with how many megapixels the camera has, but that really isn't an important consideration these days. Why? Because even a camera with five megapixels is ample for four-by-six-inch photos. More megapixels only matter if you want to enlarge a photo to, say, a poster-size print, or if you want to crop a photo on your computer (for example, to isolate your child in his hockey team photo), and enlarge that image.

Look for optical zoom and image stabilization features
• More important considerations when buying a digital camera include the size of the sensor (the bigger, the better); optical zoom (to get closer to the subject without moving); the quality of processor (speed and performance); and image stabilization (to compensate for a shaky hand). Most digital cameras today can also shoot high-definition video.

Page 1 of 2 -- Find the perfect camera model for the photographer on your list with digital camera reviews on page 2

• When it comes to digital cameras, there are two kinds of zoom: optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom brings the photographer closer to the subject, without needing to physically move; as with non-digital cameras, this is done with a retractable lens.

Digital zoom, on the other hand, only changes the presentation of existing data by guessing where extra pixels should go to give the illusion that the photographer is closer to the subject. Therefore, the optical zoom is a more important number as it's the "true" zoom. Many point-and-shoot cameras offer 5x optical zoom today, but you can do much better with a d-SLR.

The best digital cameras to buy 
For the cottager: The Fujifilm Finepix XP20 ($200) can withstand the elements as it's waterproof, shock-proof, freeze-proof, and sand- and dust-proof. The 14-megapixel camera can also shoot HD video.

For the socialite: Whether you're taking photos for Facebook or videos for YouTube (or a bit of both), you'll appreciate the second screen on the front of the Samsung ST700 ($270). It's ideal for self-portraits.

For the active family: The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj ($430) features a built-in projector that can beam photos and movies onto any flat surface -- up to 60 inches wide -- and can also project images from your iPod touch, iPhone and iPad.

For the hobbyist: The Sony NEX 5N ($800, with 18-55mm lens) is a compact interchangeable lens camera that offers the world's fastest release time lag (ensuring you don't miss the shot), fast autofocus and ability to shoot full HD (1080p) video.

For the budding professional:
Canon's EOS Rebel T3i ($950, with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens kit) features an 18 megapixel CMOS image sensor; multiple shooting modes, options and creative filters; and can also shoot 1080p video.

Shopping for the latest in gadgets and technology? Let tech expert Marc Saltzman help you decide what to buy. Find the best smartphones, computers, digital cameras and other tech toys to suit your family's needs with our home electronics shopping guide.

This story was originally titled "Holiday Tech Shopping Guide" in the January 2012 issue.

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How to buy the best digital camera