Unless you're Ansel Adams, most new consumer-grade cameras will provide you with enough pixels and therefore, sharpness for the images you need. So how do you select a camera? First off, you need to touch some actual cameras and think about a few things:
- How does it feel? Might sound silly, but if it's too heavy or large (or small), you might not use it.
- Shutter speed: digital cameras are notorious for shutter lag time, but they are getting faster. When you press the shutter, does your subject move before the shutter clicks? Do you have children? Do you like candid shots? Does this matter to you? Finally: How many blurry photos do you have?
- Rear Panel LCD (that’s the screen on the back of most digital cameras): Most people don't look through the tiny little viewfinder anymore: it's so much easier to frame the image through the LCD. Which camera has the best LCD?
- Zoom/Lens/Image Stabilization: How often do you use the zoom? If often, perhaps image stabilization would be a good feature for you, since the closer in you zoom, the less stable the image. Is the lens decent?
- Check Out The Interface: Does the software on the camera seem intuitive to you? What about all the buttons? Do you have the patience to sit down with the owner's manual? If not, get a super easy-to-use camera. How do you know? Use it in the store!
- Batteries: Are they rechargeable, or will you have to constantly feed your camera new batteries?
When you are clear about the features you want, check out CNET.com. It's like Consumer Reports for electronics. Amazon.com has consumer reviews as well. One more thing to remember: Most cameras don't come with decent-sized memory cards (that's where you store your photos). Make sure to invest in a large capacity memory card – I’m talking 2 gigs, (see Tech Lingo in Chapter 4), especially if you’re shooting video with that camera. That way, you won't have to download your photos/videos after every dozen shots.
Now for the video camera: You want video of your children at this age. You want to remember how they walk, talk and smile. Let's step back for a moment and think about how you are going to use this video, how you are going to store it. I have a video camera that I barely use because downloading the video is a bear and viewing it is difficult (if it's part of a much larger block of video, I have to search). And editing? I mean, really, who has the time?
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Most of my video is now shot from my digital still camera. It has great video capabilities and I have a 2 gig memory chip, so space is not an issue. I download the video whenever I download my photos and because each clip of video is separate when shot on a still camera, I can easily find the clip I'm looking for, once I've organized my inventory. Much, much easier.
So you want to know which camera I bought? I have a Canon PowerShot SD700IS. Why? It’s easy to use, it’s got image stabilization (I’ve got fast-moving toddlers), the price was right and the images look great. It’s my 2nd Canon in a row. My sister swears on her Nikon SLR because she can use her 35mm camera lenses with that camera. She turns her nose up to my Canon. To each her own.
Sidenote: What are you doing with your old digital camera? Why not give it to your kids so that they can learn how to shoot a camera? It’s a great project to do with smaller kids – they’ll feel quite accomplished when they see the images that they took all by themselves. You can even make a scrapbook – described later in this chapter.