I Can't Decide
We get a lot of questions from readers about what to look for when choosing a digital camera. The following questions from Bob are a good summary of the decisions you face. Colorado Bro guides you through the considerations.
[Bob]: I am interested in purchasing for digital photo capability. I have many questions about lighting and flash abilities (e.g. distance and red eye strobe and indirect light flash, etc.) as well as view finders and methods of downloading to the computer. I realize that lens problems may be fixed post-shoot in the computer if the detail of the shot is high.
You do have a lot of questions! Most digital cameras have built in flash, typically good for about 12 feet, and many if not all, have red eye reduction capability. You just need to remember to use it, unlike yours truly. I can't answer specifics about flash distance and red eye reduction for each camera on the market. For those answers you should research the web or camera magazines. Look for a camera with an optical view finder. It's cool to compose your shots on the LCD screen, but it eats batteries and can be hard to use in bright sunlight.
As far as downloading to your computer, keep the future in mind. If your camera doesn't have a USB 2.0 port, as most newer computers do, you might want to get a card reader, which will transfer photos to your computer much faster than using a cable connected to the camera.
As for lenses and zoom capabilities; pay no attention to the digital zoom specifications of a camera. Optical zoom is the only kind that really means anything. Digital zoom merely saves a portion of the image that hits the camera's CCD (the "film" of a digicam). Thus, you end up with a low resolution image. Optical zoom uses lenses to magnify the image that hits the CCD producing a full resolution close up. Likewise, look for optical, not digital image stabilization, if you have shaky hands or like to zoom in a lot.
[Bob]: I haven't had a need to purchase since a 1980 Olympus A1 (the only real advance was automatic focus, and that was not really perfected yet). I plan on buying something that may be useful into the future in a similar way now. Could you be of assistance in my search?
I bought an Olympus XA around 1980 myself, and still have it. It's great to get a camera that doesn't become obsolete quickly. Don't necessarily expect the same from a digital camera. I don't know what cool new digital features might be introduced in the future. With pocket-size cameras reaching a resolution limit, due to their small image sensors, consider a digital SLR if you really want to approach the image quality you would get with film. You might find you'll keep a digital SLR if you're getting higher resolution pictures and can switch lenses. But keep in mind, you can't take pictures if you don't want to carry your camera. We're much more likely to carry a pocket-size camera along with us when we're out and about.
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