Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How to choose your First Point and Shoot (P&S) Camera?

Since you’re reading this article I assume you to be a greenhorn in this field of digital photography. Probably you’ve banged your head all over the internet, reading a dozen of point and shoot (P&S) camera reviews to decide on which camera to buy and in this process confused yourself more than before, or, you’ve simply dropped here by the grace of search engines while casually contemplating on getting a new P&S camera. I understand how puzzling this situation can be for a beginner as I’ve gone through all these few years back. Current digital camera market has just too many features to lure you, actually more than what your need. Added to that, shrewd marketing strategy of promoting all least necessary features in a P&S camera like- overflowing resolution (Mega pixels), GPS, touch screen display etc is always there to eat your brain once you step into a camera shop. In this article I’ll explain you in layman’s words exactly what to look for in a P&S camera and how to narrow down your search and decide on a single camera- your first ever point and shoot companion!

<01> Ask yourself- what are you going to do with your new P&S camera? Do you want to shoot natural landscapes, people, animals, small objects, sports, children, documents, indoor parties, night scenes or everything around you? It’ll be more fruitful if you know your field of interest before buying the camera but for most of us it is our first ever P&S camera which helped us to discover this. Perhaps you’re looking for a camera which can shoot everything picture perfect… unfortunately, that won’t be feasible as every model has its strengths and weaknesses and there’ll be no model in the market that can keep up with your expectation of versatility in all shooting conditions. So, even though you’re yet to find your specific interest zone, it’ll be prudent to jot down your preferences of photography in descending order.

<02> Give priority to what you need rather than what you want. This is a purely psychological thing and hence easy to sort out. You may be located near the desert area of Rajasthan, still long to shoot penguins (when you have no means to travel abroad for the sake of photography) by getting attracted to few penguin shots of professional photographers. If you’re a workaholic, chances are less that you’ll leave your desk for photographing birds in a bird sanctuary, simply because in one fine New Year morning bird photos in a fresh calendar attract you! What I’m highlighting is don’t let your P&S camera selection be governed by rare possible uses you’re going to do with that. Find out the real life condition/circumstance that made you feel “I wish I too had a camera” and focus on that utility.

<03> Don’t get carried away by high Mega-pixels! Whenever you spot any P&S ad, first thing you’ll note in their highlights is a lofty mega-pixel value, like 16, 18, 20 MP and so on. Mega-pixel is nothing but resolution. It’s the number of pixels per square inch, i.e. greater the resolution, more details are captured by your camera senor, so, bigger the print you can obtain of your photograph! Here’s a catch, incorporating too many pixels in a small sensor (which is the usual scenario in our P&S camera with a 1/2.3 tiny sensor) is totally wastage of the picture quality and nothing more than a marketing gimmick! Keep it in mind, for your first point and shooter 10 to 12 MP resolution should be more than ideal.

<04> Opt for a wider angle in your P&S. Some company simply highlights it over the camera box as “Wide angle” or “Ultra wide angle”. Don’t rely on those. Check the camera specification chart and lookout for ‘Focal length’ which will be in format like 24-96 cm, 28-112 cm, 30-150 cm etc. Go for the one having the lower limit of range less than or equal to 28. This will help you to take a group shot in a congested indoor situation or capture a huge subject (say, monument) standing closer to it.

<05> Check the Optical Zoom only. P&S camera companies try to tempt you with a magnificent zooming factor by multiplying the optical zoom factor with its digital zoom. Digital zoom is nothing but digitally enlarging the picture while deteriorating the image quality. You got to check out the camera specification and locate your optical zoom. If you’re a casual snapper interested more on photographing family members you won’t need anything more than 4X optical zoom. If you’re into traveling cum casual clicking then 10-12X zoom is good enough. But if you’re into animal/bird photography go beyond 12X. Now a days, many camera companies offer you high optical zoo factors, even as much as 50X at an affordable budget!

<06> Choose your perfect size. It is you who can only decide which size of P&S camera sits in your fist most comfortably. Unless you’re aiming for Optical zoom of 24X or higher you’ll get cam easily that slips into your pocket giving you a great portability benefit. High end/zoom point and shooters (also called bridge cameras) will demand some extra space and prefer a camera bag to sling down your neck. So if you are among those who like to carry minimum of goods or keep forgetting things then a very compact P&S that can even accommodate itself in your shirt pocket will be the best bet. Otherwise going for a bridge camera is always a fruitful option.

<07> Confirm that your P&S model has Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). OIS feature will let you take shake-free handheld photographs in normal lighting condition and decrease the blur in a low light scene when your shutter speed falls drastically. Presently most of the digital cameras have this feature and you won’t be missing it unless you’re buying the cheapest model. Still, it’s a good idea to check OIS before buying the cam.

<08> Videography feature is often over hyped in the advertisement of a P&S camera. Had you been interested in video recording, a handycam/camcorder would have occupied your mind… right? So don’t be too happy or too skeptic about whether your still cam is recording HD video or not. A 720 p videography capability is more than your need and it’ll come handy if your camera can zoom in and out while capturing video. Mind it, video is a secondary feature in a still camera so it should come last in your decision flowchart.

<09> Ensure that your P&S camera doesn’t have noticeable shutter lag. All point and shooters suffer from this shutter lag issue, only the magnitude varies. It is the time difference between you pressing the shutter and its actual capture in the camera. Take some photos of different subjects, preferably moving persons in the shop and see how fast it appears as preview in your camera display. If you find blurring in a slowly moving subject as well then you should avoid buying that model. Actually this blurring thing is due to low shutter speed and weak image stabilization of your camera, but, once shutter lag co-exists prominently then the situation worsens.

<10> Make sure the P&S model you choose can give you shots in excess of 250 per charge. Currently most of the manufacturers are providing their camera models with rechargeable lithium ion battery which is good but expensive (and also, not so easily available in the market) if you want to carry a spare set with you. So, consider it a boon if your chosen model runs on rechargeable AA batteries. These are available anywhere and quite cheap! Nothing is more frustrating than running out of battery in an occasion where you have no backup.

Apart from these above ten points, there are few more things to consider which I intentionally omitted to keep the discussion simple for beginners. If you’re inclined you may check the size of the camera sensor (larger the better), ISO range (higher the better for low light photography), resolution of the LCD display (more the merrier) to mention a few. Explicitly inquire the seller about the manufacturer’s after-sales service quality in your location. You may nag the vendor for a free memory card or camera pouch/bag. Once you bring home your sweetie, be proud of her and make it a point not to stare at others’ ones. Hope I could guide you on your venture of choosing the right point and shooter for you. After you buy your first digital camera you might consider reading my newer article "Click beautiful Photos with your Point and Shoot Camera". Happy clicking!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank You for Viewing, Reflecting and Leaving a note for me to Ruminate!