Sunday, 3 July 2011

Buying Guide - Digital Point and Shoot Cameras

The market today is flooded with plenty of options today. There’s also plenty of confusion. This quick guide should hopefully help you get the best deal possible.
Buying Guide - Digital Point and Shoot Cameras
We’ve all used mobile phones and it’s easy to say that the cameras on the smartphones don’t provide the same kind of performance and functionality as a digital camera would. This is the very reason people like to go out and buy a decent point and shoot camera. Digital cameras, like mobile phones and notebooks are a very hot topic and there are plenty of players in the market. Each brand releases a new range of camera once or twice a year, so there are plenty of choices. And when there’s plenty of choice, there’s also plenty of confusion all thanks to the marketing gimmicks that each one uses. This quick guide should hopefully demystify most of the claims of the companies and you should end up with the best deal possible.

Megapixel is not everything!
Many of us might assume a camera to be good if they have a high resolution. It’s not the case. Point and shoot cameras have tiny sensor size and beyond a certain sweet point, you aren’t getting any more detail from it.
Small sensors with large resolutions offer little performance improvement
Small sensors with large resolutions offer little performance improvement

These days any camera with a resolution of 10 to 12 MP is more than sufficient. It’s enough resolution and detail for you to be able to take printouts and enough to fit any display. Don’t go out hunting for a 14 MP point and shoot camera.

Zoom capability
What is more interesting than the sensor resolution is the optical zoom lens on a camera. It allows you to zoom further. Look for a larger optical zoom lens on a camera. The cheapest of cameras today come with a 3x or 4x optical zoom lens. Something in the range of 6x is optimum for both indoor photography and outdoors.
A large optical zoom lens is more useful than a large image resolution
A large optical zoom lens is more useful than a large image resolution

If you like taking wildlife photographs, then even a larger zoom lens camera is recommended. Ultrazoom cameras or Superzoom cameras, as some people like to call them have optical zooms anywhere between 12x and 30x. The quality of zoom lens may not be excellent, but at least you have the capability. Ignore everything to do with digital zoom as it only helps deteriorate the quality of the image, rendering it useless.

Manual focus
Focus, on all point and shoot cameras and all digital cameras, in general for that matter is automated. All DSLR cameras and the recently introduced micro four-third cameras come with a manual focus feature. If you’re a slightly more serious photographer and want to experiment with your camera, look for cameras that have a manual focus option.

Aperture and shutter priority features
Just like manual focus, there are some other controls that are handy while shooting in different situations. The aperture and shutter priority mode are two such features. While camera manufacturers very proudly display all sorts of colour profiles and shooting modes, very little emphasis is given to the aperture and shutter priority modes. These two modes allow some control over the camera and it’s handy when you’re clicking fast action shots or shooting in low-light areas.
Display size
A camera with a large screen is a great thing to have to view photos on, as well as while shooting photos. Look for cameras that have a 3-inch display. The resolution of the display might also be stated by the manufacturer.
A large screen on a camera is handy while shooting photos
A large screen on a camera is handy while shooting photos

The higher the density, the better it’s bound to be. This is not to say that all high resolution displays are excellent, but it’s an easy way to filter out the good screens from the bad.

Video recording capability
Video recording on point and shoot cameras have been around for ages now, but in recent times, there have been some advancements. Camera manufacturers are providing HD resolution recording on almost all point and shoot cameras, today. Look out for cameras that have a minimum of 720p video recording. Make sure that the recording frame rate is a minimum of 24fps. While the video quality isn’t directly comparable to a good HD camcorder, it’s still a bonus feature, worth having on your point and shoot.

Aesthetics and build quality
The aesthetics of the camera is an important factor of the camera. Look for a camera that comes with a solid build. The zoom trigger is bound to be used the most after some of the buttons at the back such as the directional keys.
A comfortable grip on the camera is a good thing to have
A comfortable grip on the camera is a good thing to have

Loose zoom triggers and buttons means that you’re likely to run into issues a few months down the line. If you’re visiting a mall or a camera showroom, try and get a hands on feel of the product before you buy it. You’ll also get an idea of how compact the device is and how easy it is to operate the menus and hold in your hand.

Touchscreen, 3D anyone?
Some manufacturers have tried focussing their efforts on newer features such as touchscreens and 3D. For features such as touchscreen, the interface and the touch functionality has to be flawless, to be practical. 3D, although a neat feature to have is still not mainstream.
Best to wait till 3D is more refined
Best to wait till 3D is more refined

There are very few users using 3D TVs and so the only ones viewing the images you shoot will be you. Since 3D is still in its early stages, you’re likely to end up with an average quality camera with bugs. It’s a good idea to wait a while till the technology matures.

Bundled freebies
To make offers more attractive, manufacturers bundle freebies with the product. Look out for offers where free memory cards and carry pouches are bundled with the cameras. Of course, be careful and make sure that you’re not being overcharged for those freebies. If a bundled memory card is of 8GB capacity and higher, it might be a good freebie to have. Otherwise, 4GB SD cards are really cheap and are worth no more than Rs. 400 in the market. Cheap pouches are also available for that much. Keeping these points in mind and it will be hard to go wrong with your next camera purchase.

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