Kids grow at a rapid pace and not taking the time to get some good, quality photos is a shame. Though most parents follow their kids around with a camera (especially that first baby), I have met some who do not. I’m always surprised when I meet people who only buy the studio portraits of their kids. For me, capturing my kids in their everyday environment is a must.
I received my first digital camera the Christmas before my first baby was born. As I mentioned in my last column, I had always been interested in photography, but the expense of developing film stopped me from pursuing it as a serious hobby. My Sony point and shoot was more fun than I could have imagined. Compact cameras are lightweight, fairly inexpensive and their manufacturers are constantly improving them. That camera enabled me to experiment with some manual controls, and with the jpeg files that I downloaded to my computer, I could manipulate the images to some degree.
Compact digital cameras are perfect for people who want to take good photos, but they don’t necessarily want to learn the technical side of photography or do a lot of heavy editing to their images. I don’t recommend, however, that anyone go to their nearest retailer and buy the sleekest looking camera.
Quality varies, and there are many sites that offer reviews of compact and DSLR cameras. My favorites are cnet.com and dpreview.com. As I write this, the top two picks for compact cameras on CNET are the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 and the Canon PowerShot S90.
I don’t think my husband realized the monster he released when he bought me that little Sony. It didnít take long before my old passion reemerged, and I had the added bonus of the Internet, which provided a virtual schoolroom for photo enthusiasts like myself. The disadvantages to my compact camera soon came to light. They are not ideal for low light or action photos (like a high-speed toddler), and because they have smaller image sensors, the photo quality is not as good. In low light situations, you will find much more noise (or grain) in your photo.
Here is a good point to tell you that though many camera manufacturers like to advertise how many megapixels a camera has, this is not necessarily an indication that the camera will produce better quality photos. The only reason you might need a lot of megapixels is if you want to print large sizes or significantly crop your photos and then print those. I’m guessing the average parent like myself will want nothing larger than an 11x14. An eight-megapixel camera is adequate to print an 11x14.
If you are like me and desire better quality photos, you will want a camera with a larger image sensor. The image sensor is what captures light and digitizes the image. The bigger the sensor, the better able it is to capture the light. In general, DSLRs have larger image sensors than compact cameras, and the bigger and more expensive the camera, the bigger that image sensor is going to be.
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex, and besides having larger sensors, they also have interchangeable lenses, and they are faster. That is, they power up faster and you can take multiple photos in less than a second using the continuous shooting mode. (Very handy when following a toddler around and trying to get just the right expression!)
Now I’m using the Nikon D60, which is a consumer level (or entry-level) DSLR, though it has already been discontinued and replaced by Nikon’s D5000 and D3000. These are very similar with some added upgrades. All of them are ideal for beginning photographers. With this camera, I have finally learned the technical side of photography. I especially love the little graph of the shutter opening on my Nikon’s LCD screen, which has taught me exactly what each aperture setting looks like.
Again, if you want to purchase a DSLR, you should peruse the camera reviews on the Internet, but I think it’s safe to say that the most popular cameras among photographers are Canon and Nikon. (Sony and Olympus are close contenders.) One helpful site I found for consumers interested in buying a DSLR is www.digital-slr-guide.com.
Keep in mind that whatever brand you go with, you’ll want to stick with it because each brand has its own line of lenses and those lenses won’t be compatible with other brand’s cameras. You will also want to go to a store and feel the camera in your hand. This is what made the difference for me when I was choosing between the Nikon and the Canon Rebel. There was a slight difference in the feel of the cameras, and I loved how the D60 fit in my hand. Of course, now I’ve got my eye on that D300s!
Shelli Bond Pabis is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.