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Friday, March 26, 2010

Comments on Buying a Digital Camera

A friend emailed me about getting a new camera and during the discussion he asked if I had this stuff on a website. I didn’t but realized it wouldn’t be bad to use our conversations as a basis for others looking to get a digital camera. I have edited the emails to make them applicable to all and to not reveal unnecessary personal information.


Hey Lee, I wanted to connect with you about a good camera. I am using an old one and to be honest with you, I have lost some great pictures because of it. I am working in islands (and some other travels) this summer and would like to get some good photos. What is out there that is good but not too expensive. Also, do you have anything that you have upgraded from that would be a good general camera? I know that is general, but I'm not sure what to ask.... Also, does anybody rent out cameras? just wondering...


From Me:
1) Let me ask, do you want film or digital? I will assume digital as film is all but dead to consumers. (I met a PhD microbiologist who shoots the bellows type black and white film. WOW! Great photographer.)
2) Why did you lose those good photos? Did the situation out do the limits of the camera? (I tried to take low light photos of my daughter’s graduation with a digital point and shoot and it didn’t come out very well.) If that is the case, what situations are you needing a change for? (Low light? Fast moving? Etc.)
3) The next basic decision in getting a digital camera is do you want a Point and Shoot (P&S) or a DSLR (detachable lenses is the main distinguishing feature). The Pros of a P&S, esy to carry. Convenient. In an informal survey of camera people on the Nikonians.org forum (great place) somebody asked who carries their DSLR with them all the time in the car, etc. Few do. The equipment is expensive and it isn’t practical to carry all your lenses etc. Many carry a Point & Shoot (I did until it died) in the car. Cons: With a P&S, once you buy it, you have what it is. You can’t change lenses etc.

With a DSLR, you can change lenses to meet needs. BUT there is one a problem to deal with – dust. Film didn’t have this problem as if dust got one the film (unlikely) you advanced to the next frame and voila, the dust was gone. With a P&S, the camera sensor is not exposed to dust (99% of the time) and dust isn’t a problem. With a DSLR, every time you change lenses, there is the risk of dust getting inside on the sensor. The environment is a factor here. Pointing the camera down when changing is the primary thing you can do to help prevent this. You spot dust in the pictures as little blobs or circles usually. Some cameras have a self-cleaning feature that vibrates the dust off onto a sticky pad to catch it. This doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to let a pro do it. (I wouldn’t try it myself).
Also, some DSLR come with body only and you have to buy the lenses. Others come as a “kit” with some good starter lenses. (How many lenses do you need? Just one more!! LOL )
That said, a DSLR offers the greatest flexibility for meeting needs in the future.
4) If a DSLR, do you want video also? I would rather have two separate cameras, still and video, but it is handy to have it in one camera BUT the video will fill the memory card quick and most camera only allow a few minutes of filming, sort of like the old 3 minute Super 8 cameras.
5) Brands – Nikon (yea, the force is with us) and Canon (the Dark side) have about 85% of the market. Both are excellent. When I got my DSLR, I evaluated everything and Nikon was better in some ways and Canon in others. I eventually went with Nikon, as I have always wanted a Nikon.
One important thing is ergonomics or the fit of it in your hands and the control layout. You probably won’t appreciate the layout until you have used it a while but the fit is important. The Canon Rebel series initially drew a lot of comments of how tight it was around the left hand grip for men with bigger hands.
One feature on both Nikon and Canon is that they build the Vibration Reduction /Image Stabilization (called IS for Canon, VR for Nikon) into the lens. VR adjusts for slight hand movement/shake allowing the image to be in focus and sharp instead of blurry. This makes each lens with this feature (You can get lenses without it). Other companies incorporate the VR/IS into the camera body making lenses cheaper and the VR/IS works with any lens. BUT you can’t see the effect in the viewfinder, you have to trust is working.
P&S cameras have VR/IS but not all do it by eliminating shake. Some simply increase the shutter speed, which works but as the light gets low, a quick shutter speed can make the picture too dark. And sometimes you want a slow shutter speed (all those foamy rivers and waterfall shots are taken with slow shutter speed.)

6) Where to buy. Simplest part
www.Adorama.com or www.bhphotovideo.com. That’s it. These two are the most trusted and best prices. Are there cheaper? Yes but these two have earned their reputation. Famed photographer Scott Kelby among others recommends them. <Hours of operation corrected.> Adorama is open for Phone Orders Mon - Thurs 9AM to 7:30PM EST; Friday 9AM to 1:30PM EST; and Sunday 9:30AM - 5PM EST. In person orders are the same. EST as you are in New York. The website never actually closes because they don't make a charge until an order actually ships, they can keep the site open throughout the Jewish Sabbath and Festival days. (A tip of the camera cap to Helen for letting me know the correct hours). I have used them and they are great. There are others that are also excellent. But is price is too good to be true, run away.

** A note: If you walk into your local camera store and demo the products and chew up their time, don’t turn and buy everything from an on-line store. At least make part of your purchases at the brick and mortar store. Also it always helps to have a friendly liver person to chat with. They will learn who comes in, takes up their time and advice and never buys. 

7) Now, what would I recommend (not having heard what your needs and situations are). First I would guess a good point and shoot since you mention traveling a lot. They are smaller, less conspicuous, and today are very good. My daughter was talking about wanting a DSLR for Christmas but when I found out all she wanted was close up work for posting online, I bought her a Canon (somebody please forgive me) Powershot SX10 IS camera. (Note the IS there) IT can focus to within 2 mm of the target!! That is better than I can do unless I spend a lot on some expensive lenses. Cost was about $335. That is probably NOT what you need.

Check out this site for some good recommendations

For a P&S camera (as of March 26, 2010)

Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Canon // PowerShot SX200 IS Digital Camera Kit, Blue with 8GB SD Memory Card Adoarama kit includes memory card. (BTW, the kit comes in other colors but I picked blue, also comes in red or black.)

http://www.adorama.com/ICASX200BLH.html $50 rebate puts at $279

Review here http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SX20IS/SX20ISA.HTM 

Or a

Canon PowerShot SX120 IS // Canon Powershot SX120 IS Digital Camera Kit, with 4GB SD Memory Card
http://www.adorama.com/ICASX120KH.html $229 with $30 rebate = $199
Review here
Or a
Canon PowerShot SX210IS // Canon PowerShot SX210 IS Digital Camera with 14.1 Megapixel, HD720p, Dynamic IS, Miniture Effect, Smart Suffle - Black - U.S.A. Warranty $349

Review here

Nikon Coolpix cameras are good also but Canon seems to be the preferred choice in P&Ss.

For a DSLR I would look at:

Nikon D3000 10.2 MP DSLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S DX VR Lens - USA Warranty (That USA part is important. Grey market or out or country cameras are not covered in the states. Don’t know about where you are.) $496.95 (includes a lens with VR!)

or a

Nikon D5000 DX-Format 12.3 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera Body with 720p HD Movie Mode and 2.7" Vari-angle LCD $524.95

or a Canon EOS Rebel XS Digital SLR Camera, 10.1 Megapixel, 2.5-inch LCD Monitor, with 18-55mm Lens – Black (I prefer the black body as the silver attracts attention, and I think it looks better). $499
IMPORTANT. You will also need: At least one memory card. 4 – 8 GB ought to be good. SanDisk is a good brand name. Watch for rebates. I picked up 3 16 GB cards for $15 each after rebate (they cost $115 list !!!)

You will also need batteries. DSLRs are use proprietary batteries. (Don’t get off brand here, I tried something other than a Nikon battery and had problems) Most P&S use AAA. I recommend Sanyo Long Life Eneloop batteries. You can charge them and sit them on the shelf and they will have 80% charge a year later (or something like that).

And a camera bag.

Well, I guess I have overwhelmed you with info and choices. Don’t blame me for setting you one the never ending road of getting “that one perfect shot”. Seriously, remember, the photographer is far more important then the equipment for getting that shot.

Oh, you asked if there was anything I have upgraded from. My Digital P&S died last November (hints at Christmas didn’t help, still need to replace.) and my previous camera was a Minolta 35mm film.

Hope some of this helps


leedawson@Gmail.com www.HLDPhotos.com  

Some sites you may want to look at.



  1. Just wanted to clarify Adorama's opening times:

    By Phone:
    Monday through Thursday 9:00 AM to 7:30 PM EST
    Friday 9:00 AM to 1:30 PM EST
    Sunday 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM EST

    In Person:
    Monday through Thursday 9:00 AM to 7:30 PM
    Friday 9:00 AM to 1:30 PM
    Sunday 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM

    BTW the Adorama website never actually closes; because we don't make a charge until an order actually ships, we can keep the site open throughout the Jewish Sabbath and Festival days.

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador


  2. Some other information from Helen that she emailed me.

    "Please Note:
    Adorama Passover Holiday Schedule

    The Adorama Retail Store will be closed for the Passover Holiday from Monday March 29, 2010 at 12:30pm and will reopen on Wednesday April 7 at 9:00 am.
    Adorama phone-sales and Customer service departments will be open on the following days:

    Monday, March 29, 9:00am—3:00pm
    Tuesday, March 30 - Wednesday, March 31, Closed
    Thursday, April 1, 9:30am—5:00pm
    Friday, April 2, 9:30am—3:00pm
    Saturday, April 3, Closed
    Sunday, April 4, 9:30am—3:00pm
    Monday, April 5 - Tuesday, April 6 ,Closed

    Starting Wednesday April 7, back to Regular Schedule, however, when we re-open on April

    7th there will undoubtedly be a back log, so please bear with us.

    Thank You for your understanding, and for your business"


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