Whether you are a professional photographer, a serious amateur, or just a mom who wants to take pictures of the kids - we all need a good point and shoot camera from time to time. But how much camera do we need for each situation?
I've operated my photography business for over 15 years and have owned tons of cameras - both film and digital. However, even a pro needs a compact camera every once in a while. When you carry around a big pro camera all day, you aren't always anxious to do that on vacation! The trick is finding a compact camera that will create acceptable images - but without all the bulk and weight. When you head out shopping, here 5 features to look for.
1. Most important is the lens. I don't care if the camera claims to be 20 mega-pixels - if it has a lens the size of a pencil eraser, you are not going to get good images. Of course, as the lens gets bigger, so does the camera - but there are several pocket-size cameras that still have a decent size lens.
2. Go with a reliable camera maker like Nikon or Canon. There are hundreds of companies making digital cameras, but I would suggest going with Nikon and Canon. They are the leaders of the pro camera industry, so they know their stuff. Each offers a wide variety of cameras for all budgets.
3. Make sure it can shoot video too! Why carry around a camcorder AND a camera when you can get a camera that shoots video? Sure, it won't have all the features of the full-blown camcorder, but it will be perfect for those quick, fun shots. If you are going to something important, like a graduation or wedding - then just pack the camcorder. For all the minor events, just use your point and shoot!
4. Go for Optical Zoom vs Digital Zoom. Optical zoom is actually bringing the image closer - that is the kind of zoom you want. Digital zoom is basically just cropping the image to make it appear closer. Avoid digital zoom.... trust me on this one!
5. Insist on a good LCD. With digital point and shoots, it is all done with the LCD on the back. You compose the shot, view the image, go through menus, etc. Having a slightly larger viewer on the back can make things a lot easier on you.
The main thing is finding one that feels comfortable to you. Go to the store and pick up several of the cameras and try them out. See which one fits your hand or seems easiest to operate. Choose the right point and shoot partner carefully, because you will probably share lots of memories of the next few years!