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Some of these inexpensive 3-megapixel units may skimp on certain features their predecessors offered. You may locate a better bargain in an older model whose price has dropped since release.
Some justification for the "buy refurbished" motto, although that expands an already dizzying array of choices.
If the prices are that low, maybe it's time to buy one. I still don't have a video camera, and the digital camera I do have is such crap it's pathetic.
But I should have something so my grandchildren can one day make fun of their parents.
Really, it doesn't matter much what media your camera uses, IMO... as long as you get a card reader for it, or the camera has a USB image download interface you can always move the images onto a different storage medium when the need arises.
1. If you are seeking 'basic' point and shoot pictures of children and want the fun of seeing the pictures immediatly, I guess you can't go wrong with a good digital camera of around 3Megapixels.
2. If you consider that:
A. Children are always moving (I know, I have 6 kids), and the autofocus systems of small camera's (digital and analog) are very slow.
B. You can't change the lens of a basic camera, digital nor analog.
C. The lens of small camera's only captures very low light, so you'll use the flash many times. Besides draining the batteries, flash makes lousy pictures.
If you want really good pictures of your children, choose a good reflex camera with an excellent zoom lens (ex. 70-200 f2.8 or f4). It really is worth the investment, because the cost of an excellent reflex camera + lens is the same as an average digital camera, but the quality of your picture will be much much higher. Not only because of technique, but thanks to the higher quality of the lens, the minimum use of the flash, and the speed of the autofocus.
I'll purchase a camera next month. My strategy is to buy a very good (analog) reflex camera + lens. When the reflex digital camera's will come down in price (they cost 2.000USD now), I will sell my analog reflex to buy a digital, but I will keep my lens because it will fit on my digital reflex. At least that is the case for Canon and Nikon. Keep in mind: besides the shooter, the most important part is the lens, NOT the camera.
If budget is not a problem, you can buy an reflex + lens AND a digital camera of course... :-)
If you want 8x10 prints, don't settle for anything below a 3 megapixel model. You can still squeak by under $500 for a decent camera...
But once you get hooked on digital, those $1000+ models start looking really good, really fast. ;)
At work I use an older Nikon Coolpix camera that produces lower resolution images but are also very high-quality. The problem with it is the battery life-- it uses 4 AA batteries that die within 15 minutes if you don't turn the camera off between shots. Nikon fixed this problem in some newer models but I think the problem persists in some too. If I were to buy a new one I'd get a model with a rechargable.
The ultimate baby has to be the forthcoming 6 megapixel Nikon D100....Mmmmmmm, sexy!
As for the original point. Buy whatever you need and can afford today. You will always end up waiting for the next technology.... It won't be too long before 5-6 megapixels with full movie modes are just a standard spec.
Out photos are primarily for memories and to show to/share with others. I like high quality pictures, and I do not doubt that 35mm SLRs can take a better picture. BUT, this does not mean that you will end up with better pictures! Invariably, someone blinks, or the lighting is not right, or something else goes wrong. The film-shooter can only guess that everything was right - or shoot the picture multiple times ($$$) just in case. The digital photographer can simply check the display to see if the result is what was desired - and/or simply take many pictures (no extra cost) of each subject to later select the keepers from. We commonly shoot the same subject with and without the flash to get the best shot.
Have you looked at your 10 year old photos lately? They are starting to yellow and look bad. Another 5 years and that wonderfull 35mm quality will be totally gone. You could get them reprinted from the negatives, but I've been told that negatives don't last very long either. And the reprint cost will be high. Your digital photos however will be on 100(?) year life expectancy CD-Rs and able to be displayed or printed as well as the day they were taken. Or copied for each of the children as they leave the house to start their own families. I won't get into the life-expectancy of the medium formats here, but digital originals should be copy-able onto the next big medium format.
Before I bought the digital camera, I tried using a medium-high end film scanner. The image results were very nice, but it took LOTS of time to get them - and to get the dust out of the resulting image. I do not have enough free time to scan all of the pictures we take.
You should plan to get a CD-R drive or a DVD-RW drive if you do not have one. You MUST backup your photos if you have more than a passing interest in them. Keep a second backup copy off-site (try your parent's house). My current procedure is to store photos in monthly folders and to back them up periodically (With the monthly copy permanently archived to CD-R). I also recommend a second camera battery (or set of batteries) and a large capacity media card (we are using a pair of 128MB CF cards). A PCMCIA CF card reader works very nicely if you are using a notebook - no cables to attach, just pop the card out of the camera and into the laptop and copy/move the images from the drive that Windows installs for it.
We take a lot more pictures now - from an average of 25 per month to about 500 a month now. Many more memories are being captured. Oh yeah - I didn't mention the movies. They are not your digital video camera quality, but most digital cameras can take small, cute memory-saving movie clips.
If you do not own Adobe Photoshop, get a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements for tweaking your digital photos. Amazon.com has it for about $30 after rebates (if you can upgrade from something). It has most of the features digital photographers use that the full Photoshop software has.
The African trip sounded fun. Thanks for sharing!
The X3 chip from Foveon is going to give traditional 35mm film cameras a run for their money. This is all I will say for now. Check out the Foveon Web Site [foveon.com] for yourself, look at the image comparison and get ready for something really exciting in the digital imaging sector.
For all of you out there that are into stocks. The company you want to get involved with is National Semiconductor (NSM). They own 49% of Foveon and are going to produce the chips. forbes magazine says this could possibly turn out to be the stock of the decade! It is on their Top 10 list.
My wife has always been interested in movie making, and hankers to try her hand at an independent film. So I am going to get her this one, which may fullfill 'my' need for high quality stills [canondv.com...]
We will get the canon first, that way I can see if I still want to spend money on the still camera also. With the canon, I will also be able to create our own footage for some new commercials, and the video snippets for our website.
The best I get with the DV camera at the office is 640x480 images with really unpleasant effects on any bright spots in the image. bleah.
I also have an older Sony Mavica - 1.something megapixels and a floppy drive - love it, used it when I did some freelancing for newspapers ... but it's too big to carry around regularly.
Good luck! Just about anything out now is probably decent - my choice of the Nikon was based mostly on size & aesthetics.
reason behind the price drops is a company called Foveon
I was going to bring this up too. Basically, I would not buy anything right now except a cheap digital unless I were a pro and needed a good one (in which case, though, I would have one already wouldn't I?).
You can already buy one Foveon-based camera, and more will be shipping by Christmas. They are expected to hit the sub-$500 price point in about 15 months.
The buzz from those who've seen Foveon-based photos is that anyone who wants decent photos will throw away even the best CCD/mask cameras once Foveon is widely available. Then you'll get really cheap used cameras