Photography 101 – Buying Pocket Digital Camera for Non Photographers


Buying a camera these days (almost) always means a digital camera since film camera is (almost) dead. This article is not for professional photographers nor hobbiest, who I believe know how to select from thousands of choices out there. This is more for moms and dads with their newly born baby and all other out there who wants to purchase one but not sure how to pick.

Choosing digital camera can be very easy and yet can be very confusing. If you want it to be easy, just go to the store and pick you like most offered by the store and be happy with that.

However most of people now are investigating more comparing products offered in the market before buying. People now goes the hard way. If this is your way, then some rule of thumbs below might be useful :

1. Megapixel.

Choose for 6 – 8 megapixel. No more. There is no point having huge megapixels for pocket camera. One of the downside of having high megapixel number is it takes more spaces in your card. It also produces more noise when you have more pixels.

2. Sensor size.

Choose the biggest sensor size you can buy. This is more important than migapixel sizes. Sensor size usually written as 1/3, 2/3, 1/1.8, etc. This link provides good explanation on the real meaning of those numbers.

Say there are two different products, one offers 6 megapixel (MP) and the other one offers 10 MP. If both products have the same sensor size, then the one with 6 MP has individual pixel size that is bigger than the one with 10 MP. Given the relatively the same technology level, bigger individual pixel size always means better image pixel quality, usually translated to less noise in high ISO.

The other way around, if two products offer both 8 MP, with one of them offers bigger sensor size, go for the bigger one, for the same above mentioned reason.

3. Optical Zoom

Usually advertised as 3.5X, 6X or 10X optical zoom, this number represent the magnification ratio of the longest to the shortest zoom setting of the lens. Choose the smallest ratio you can. Zoom with focal length of 35 – 90mm (2.6X) is adequate for casual shooting. You may want to have wider than that, such as 28 or even 24 mm (rare), since it will be handy for travel photography (building, landscape, etc.). Wide angle also produces less camera shake, meanwhile long focal length produces more camera shake if you cannot handle it steady enough since most pocket cameras are used without tripod. Camera shake leads to blurry pictures.

4. Digital Zoom

Forget digital zoom. You do not need digital zoom.

5. Shutter lag

Shutter lag is the time spent by the camera between when you press the shutter release button and when the camera actually takes the picture. This is not important for most of us, if you only photograph landscape, buildings, and other static objects. However if you shoots your children running around with camera with a quite long shutter lag, you might be frustrated. So choose the one that has the shortest available in the market.

6. Menu, ergonomic, looks, weight, etc.

They need to be physically experiencedat least five to ten minutes in the store with a demo camera and you are the only one to decide if the menu navigation is easy enough for you, the ergonomic suits your hand, the weight and size are not objectionable for you, etc.

7. Brand ?

Which brand you choose is not important. As long as they are known brand that has good reputation in this field, you cannot go wrong. These days brand is the least important matter of choosing digital camera.

Good luck !


2 Responses to Photography 101 – Buying Pocket Digital Camera for Non Photographers

  1. Pingback: Photography 101 : The Practical Basic of Aperture And Speed « Loose Lens

  2. karenstuebing says:

    Thanks for this informative post. Even though I am a photographer, I was not aware that more megapixels can cause more noise. I did know that bigger sensor size was important. I still have my old Olympus digicam and when I bought a DSLR, I wanted to buy another Olympus camera but they had gone to the 4/3 sensor and then the micro 4/3. 😦 Agree totally about “forget digital soom.” Amazing how many people think that means something.

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