Buying a new camera can be a little overwhelming for the uninitiated. There are so many different models to choose from, with various colours, sizes, features and price points so we’ve put together a few pointers to look out for when buying a compact camera.
Are you a social snapper that mainly brings a camera along to parties and other events so you can take pictures of your friends and family ‑‑ usually so you can post them on Facebook afterwards? Or perhaps you’re more of an outdoorsy kind of shooter, and like to take photos while doing recreational activities like bushwalking, snowboarding and surfing? You might be looking to take your photography to the next level and want a camera that can give you better results than what your current compact gives you, or you could shoot a little bit of everything and need a camera that’s a good all-rounder.
Most buyers don’t really have a specific style of photography, and like to shoot a little bit of everything whenever the mood or opportunity strikes. If that sounds like you, you’ll want a camera that’s a good all-rounder, with image quality that’s good enough for large prints so you can frame the nicer pics of your friends and family.
The main thing you should be looking for is a camera with a good focal length range. This gives you the versatility to snap wide-angle shots of landscapes and group photos, zoomed up pictures of far-away landmarks and family members when they’re not looking, and everything in between. A wide selection of scene modes is also advantageous, as it lets you change all of the camera settings in one go
If you mainly use your camera at social occasions like parties, hitting the bars and clubs, and music events, consider yourself a social snapper. For you, compact size (also known as point-and-shoot) is usually a big priority as you’ll want to be able to fit it into your pocket or a small handbag - or even around your neck -- when you’re not using it. Style is another aspect that’ll probably play a big part in your camera choice, with extra points for distinctive colours and designs that go beyond the basic black and silver boxes.
For social snappers, it’s more about capturing the moment than capturing the best image quality, which means you can spend a little less on the camera and more on your bar tab and outfit -- especially since you’re more likely to post your photos on Facebook than print them. Good low-light performance is a must-have for shooting photos in pubs and clubs, and advanced face recognition features with things like red eye reduction, smile detection and blink detection are handy for getting all your mates in focus and properly exposed. Lots of automatic settings are also a plus, as the last thing you want to do while you’re at partying is spend ages fiddling with your camera!
Anyone that’s ever dropped a camera onto a concrete floor or spilled a beer over one at the pub will be able to tell you that they’re not the most durable of devices. The more expensive a camera is, the more likely it can take a beating due to the higher-quality materials and superior engineering, but if you’re going to be taking a lot of photos in tough outdoor conditions - whether it’s at the beach, in the bush or on top of a mountain - you’re best served by opting for a ruggedised camera that’s purposely built to survive a lot of punishment.
Ruggedised compacts are a special breed of camera that are purpose-built to handle harsh conditions. The three most common features these cameras offer are waterproofing (so you can take photos underwater), shock-proofing (so they don’t break when you drop them on a hard surface), and freeze-proofing (so you can bring it along to the slopes while you’re snowboarding and skiing). Even if you don’t do a lot of outdoor activities, the enhanced durability of a rugged compact can make it a better investment over a regular camera.
The image quality from compact cameras is getting better all the time, and for many people, they’re more than adequate for capturing everyday moments, precious memories, and everything in between. But it may be that you’re looking for something a little better than a compact. Or maybe you want a camera that gives you more flexibility with regards to changing different manual settings - many of which aren’t available on most compacts - to achieve a specific style of photo.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to upgrade to a bulky digital SLR to achieve either objective. In the last couple of years, camera manufacturers have figured out how to squeeze DSLR-quality components into shells that aren’t much larger than a compact camera, with the ability to swap out lenses just like a digital SLR. These sorts of cameras are called mirrorless compacts or interchangeable lens cameras, depending on who you ask, and while they’re not necessarily cheaper than an entry-level digital SLR, they’re a lot smaller, and are typically more user-friendly.
Source: TechLiving Magazine: Issue 10 – Updated Summer 2011