The deals are starting to arrive to your inbox, your mailbox, and your social media ads – it’s shopping season! Is this the time you were waiting for to buy that nice-looking camera? Don’t let ignorance be the only reason you don’t take advantage of an incredible deal. Let me break down the essential specs you’ll want to look for to make sure you get the right camera for you – no matter what brand the camera is!
What NOT to Worry About
Don’t worry about megapixels! Unless you want to print LARGE wall art or photograph things for billboards, any recent model camera will have plenty of megapixels for what you need. Also, don’t worry about if it’s a full frame or APS-C (cropped frame) when you see those pop up in the specs. A cropped frame camera will be less expensive, so unless you’re making money from your photography and already know how to shoot in manual mode, don’t spend the money on the full frame camera. Moving on…
From here on I will list camera features and why they are important. Be thinking about the different situations you are wanting the camera for as you read through my list.
Features to Consider
There are a lot of features on every camera, but they all boil down to a few main things that you’ll want to know what you’re looking for.
The lens length is how close the lens will make something look in your camera. It’s measured in millimeters. If there is a range (70-200 mm), that means it’s a zoom lens and you can adjust how close or how far away something is by turning the lens. If there is only one number on the lens (50 mm), it will only have one setting and you have to physically move your body to get closer to or further away from an object.
- 12-24 mm – great for indoors (think birthday parties) or wide shots of nature without squeezing yourself into a corner and adding a third chin to your face.
- 50 mm – perfect for portraits (if the person you’re taking the picture of is cooperative) or still photography (flower arrangements, crafts you’re selling on Etsy, or Lego figures in creative scenes).
- 24-120 mm – the most versatile lens range EVER because it allows you to go wide or zoom in just enough.
- 80-200 mm – wonderful for situations where you can’t get too close to the subject, but you want it to seem like you are (sporting events, animals at the zoo, or if there is a guard rail preventing you from getting any closer at your favorite tourist site).
- 300 mm or greater – ideal if you’re stalking wild animals or athletes in action but need to stay far away for your own personal safety. If you are getting a lens this big, you’ll also want to buy a tripod to help keep your camera steady so that the image doesn’t end up blurry.
NOTE: Lenses come in all kinds of lengths. The numbers above are to give you a general idea of what they mean and what situations they are best for. Also, if you see VR in the lens description it simply means “Vibration Reduction”.
This is probably the most important thing to consider in a camera. The ISO determines how good the camera will be in low-light situations. ANY indoor picture should be considered a low light situation in addition to any photo you want to take from dusk to dawn. If you want to use your camera for more than the mid-day field trip to the zoo, then buy a camera that has at least an ISO of 6,400 or higher. New cameras (even entry level) will have much higher ISO than this, but you’ll want to keep that number in mind if you are buying a used camera from Craigslist or Ebay.
f/? = Blurry Background
On the lens itself, it will also have an aperture measurement called the f-stop. Aperture helps control how much light gets into the camera, but what most people want to know is that it controls how much of the picture is in focus (everything in a nature scene versus a face that’s in focus in front of blurry Christmas lights). For example, if you want a blurry background there are two ways to get it:
- Stand back really far and zoom in on what you want to be in focus, or
- Have a lens that has a low aperture number (3.5 or lower).
The lens that comes with the camera (or one you may be purchasing separately) will have the range (that’s the first thing I wrote about) and then the lowest aperture setting. It will look something like this: 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 or 50mm f/1.8.
PRO TIP: Sound like you’ve been doing this a while talk about a “background that’s knocked out” rather than a “blurry background.” 😉
I’m not so up-to-date on my instant messaging shortcuts, but with cameras this one means Frames Per Second. When you see the FPS rate, it’s how many pictures your camera can take in one second. For example, when I try tapping my finger quickly on the desk, I can only get about 3 taps into a second. Most cameras can do at least 3-5 pictures in a second when you hold the shutter button down for a few seconds. When would that be helpful? When you’re trying to catch a reaction or a child tearing open a gift that will happen so fast and you want THE best expression to choose from in that moment.
Body Style & Weight
Even if you order online in the end, you should still get into an actual store and hold different camera models. You want something that will comfortably fit your hands and controls that your fingers can reach. Will you be carrying your camera a lot? A hefty camera may fatigue you more quickly if so. Make a note of the size and weight of the camera that works best in your hands so you have something to compare it to when you are looking for the best deal online.
If you are investing in a camera, you should be able to use it quickly. And… You should be able to advance in your skills at your own pace. So even if you aren’t ready to shoot in manual now, you should get a camera that has a control dial on the top so you can have easy control over all the camera settings when you are ready to take that step. This is the round dial on the top that has letters like M, A, S, P, or AUTO. Don’t worry about what other letters or icon may be on that dial – just so long as it has those options!
A lot of cameras come equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and/or GPS connectivity. The only reason you may want GPS is to have a geographic tag of where you took the photo. Linguists use this a lot when they are in a remote tribe to remember how to get back. Oh, and avid travelers will also use this. If that’s not you, then don’t worry if the camera has this feature or not. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth gives you a way to share the photos to your phone or tablet and then upload them to social media.
Personally, I like to download them to my laptop and do some editing first. That being said, does the storage media on the camera match what you have available on your computer? SD, miniSD, Compact Flash, Multi Media Card, Sony Memory Sticks, xD-Picture cards… You can look on the side of your computer and it will have the media card types printed next to the card slot so you know what to look for in a camera.
Accessories to Consider
At this time of year, cameras often come bundled with more than one lens or a larger media card. Take advantage of that, if you can! Here are some other things to be looking for deals on to go with your camera:
- A sturdy tripod designed for a heavy camera
- A padded camera bag (TIP: search Etsy for some really attractive camera bags, but keep your camera’s dimensions in mind. There are lots of camera bags for point-and-shoot cameras out there.)
- A larger media card that can hold more pictures (at least 16 GB)
- A camera strap that matches your style (again, Etsy is a great source for some really fun camera straps)
Where to Buy
Definitely choose a reputable store or web site to buy your new camera from (Best Buy, Ritz’s Camera, Norman Camera, Costco, Adorama, or B & H Photo, just to name a few)!!!! Wal-Mart and Amazon have too many third party sellers, so I would stay away from them for the main camera purchase. They are fine for buying accessories, though. If you find a deal that’s too good to be true, then it probably is and there will be no warranty in the United States. If you are buying used, make sure there are no scratches on the lenses and camera sensor.
TIP: Start looking at the prices now so you’ll know the deal when it comes! Usually the deal is the camera that is bundled with more than usual at the same price as the just the camera.
Feel free to contact me with questions about a certain camera you may be considering. I’m happy to help! It’s just one of the ways I’m putting a smile back in the world.
- Posted by hellobabs
- On November 1, 2018
- 0 Comment