Looking for a Point and Shoot for the Holidays?

Early Point and Shoot

Lately, the most asked question from my friends is the hardest to answer: “Which camera should I buy?” I can answer questions about pro DSLRs, but when it comes to point and shoot cameras the field is too crowded to come up with a definitive answer. Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and Samsung not only offer a great variety of cameras but also a wide price range. To complicate things even more, the era of mirrorless DSLRs has now entered the market place. These cameras have interchangeable lenses and bodies that are as small as many point and shoots. But keep in mind, their size does increase greatly when you add a zoom lens, which is often larger than the camera body itself. The main advantage over the point and shoot cameras is that these cameras have larger image sensors and therefore produce better quality files. Next week we’ll look at some of the choices available in mirrorless, DSLR cameras. But for now, I will discuss the point and shoots. Here’s what you should look for in a point and shoot:
Megapixels: For a while, camera manufacturers were promoting the concept that more megapixels meant a better image. However with sensors the size of a fingernail, too many tiny sensor sites create very noisy images, especially as you increase the ISO. Canon’s G10 camera had 14.7 megapixels, yet it’s successors, the G11 and G12 have only 10 megapixels. A camera with 8 to 10 megapixel sensors is optimum for a point and shoot.
Shutter Lag: This is the delay between when you ‘push the button’ and when the image is recorded. Sometimes the delay is caused by the autofocus or the camera calculating the correct exposure but whatever the cause, you miss the moment. Therefore you should look for a camera with minimal shutter lag.
Zoom Lens: Many people are looking for lenses that zoom into a really super telephoto. I rarely use the telephoto part of my point and shoot zoom; it’s usually not very sharp or crisp. My preference is for a zoom lens that starts wide angle and zooms to three to five times. I try to teach my students not to be lazy but to ‘zoom’ with their legs – walk up to your subject, walk around it and assess the best angle and light. If you must have a zoom lens that extends far, look at the optical zoom number instead of the digital zoom, which just crops into the sensor and makes the image noisy and fuzzy.
Camera Controls: Check out how easy or difficult it is to change the settings on the camera. Many cameras now use extensive menus on the LCD screen to make changes. As a result, you may have to spend a lot of time digging through submenus before you find what you need. And if you put your camera away and don’t use it until the next birthday party or vacation, you will have a lot of trouble remembering where various settings are hiding in the menu.
File Type: If you plan to work on your files in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or another program, you will need a camera that has the ability to shoot in the RAW format. If you typically just use JPEGs, this won’t be an issue.
Size: If you find a camera that you like but feel it’s too large, then go with something smaller. There are many cameras small enough to fit into your shirt pocket. Usually though, these smaller cameras don’t have as great a zoom and have less manual controls than the larger cameras. Many of the smaller cameras do not shoot in the RAW format and the files won’t look as good at the higher ISOs. That being said, I would rather have some kind of camera with me, whether large or small than a camera that is left behind in my home or hotel.
Video: Many of the point and shoots have a video mode built in. The type of camera you purchase should take into account the amount of video you plan on shooting along with the level of high definition you require.
I asked Robert French, an equipment specialist at FotoCare in New York City what advice he gives to customers concerning point and shoot cameras. According to Robert, the top end point and shoots are the Nikon P7000 and the Canon Powershot G12. It’s interesting that they not only look alike but also have 10 megapixel sensors. These cameras are full size point and shoot and will not fit in your shirt pocket. Robert told me the top end smaller camera is the Canon Powershot S95, which has the same sensor as the Canon G12. The G12 and P7000 are in the $500 price range and the S95 is about $400.
If you are looking to spend less money, Canon has the SD1400 and 4000. For his clients looking for a camera with a long zoom lens, Robert suggests the Powershot SX210, which has a 14x optical zoom and the Canon Powershot SD4500, which has a 10x optical zoom.
If you have decided to move out of point and shoot cameras and want to carry something around that has interchangeable lenses with a reflex viewfinder, the Nikon D7000 and the Canon Rebel T2i are the way to go. This time of year there are great rebates on many cameras, so it’s a good time to buy.
And what do I carry around with me when I’m not lugging my big professional cameras? I’ve had all the Canon G series cameras through the G11 and I used to carry them around for a week or two before finally coming to the realization that they were just too large for me. Now I have the Canon S90 (the predecessor to the S95), which fits in my pocket.
For those of you who want to take pictures but don’t want to carry anything extra you can always purchase a mobile phone with a decent built in camera. See what the New York Times recently said about point and shoot cameras versus cell phone cameras.

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4 thoughts on “Looking for a Point and Shoot for the Holidays?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Looking for a Point and Shoot for the Holidays? « National Geographic Photographer Ira Block Photography Blog -- Topsy.com

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