Which digital camera to buy?

As a professional photographer, I am constantly asked what consumer grade camera is the best. I know you’re probably like me and you hate answers that start with “depends.”

And no, I’m not referring to the product to safeguard against incontinence.

Best” in my book translates to how easy the camera is to use so that it doesn’t just sit in the closet at home.

On a matter of practicality ease of use also depends on how tech savvy the owner is.

If the intended owner doesn’t even own a computer, then it’s best not to even think of that piece of hardware.

The lower prices of digital picture frames may have rendered computers unnecessary for the common folk who have no ambition to learn photoshop or tweak their images.

This is the market that digital picture frame makers are targeting–folks who just love shooting pictures of their families and friends.

With that said, because digital photography has become so consumer-friendly, it is likely that many folks outgrow their first digital camera very quickly. Before you know it, they want to do more.

Read on if you’re the more ambitious type and want to learn more.

So for my money, here are some features I look for in a camera. These features are not mentioned in any order of importance but they should be considered.

  1. Ability to shoot both RAW and jpeg simultaneously is a great choice.
  2. RAW refers to the digital file that camera records in the camera manufacturer’s native format. Canon calls this format with an crw. Nikon names theirs NEF, Olympus and so on.

    What each manufacturer calls their raw file type isn’t important. What’s important is the file gives you the maximum resolution in megapixel and that the image has not been processed by the camera.

    JPEG which stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group format is a compressed file. It is what you get when that huge megapixel file is processed by the camera’ sensors.

    For my personal day-to-day pictures, I tend to shoot just jpegs. But on assignment I have my camera set to shoot both.

    I never want to be in a situation when a client absolutely loves a picture I made and wants something made into poster size print but my jpeg file is too small to be enlarged without loss in quality.

  3. A camera which doesn’t use a strange sized memory card like a mini- secure digital found in camera phones.
  4. My desktop where I my computer lives is cluttered with enough hardware devices. If I have to plug in yet another card reader for another strange size card, it will surely send me off the deep end.So stick with compact flash cards or secure digital cards.

    Imagine your entire workflow being crippled because you forgot to pack that particular special card reader or your cord for your camera to download your images.

    No thank you.Related to this, only buy a digital camera that allows you to expand the internal memory storage.

    Earlier or low-end digital cameras didn’t allow you to swap out memory cards. This limitation is obvious. Who wants to have to stop taking pictures once you’re out of space. You want to swap out the memory cards and keep going.

  5. Good battery life. This is a big deal. What is the use of a camera which is a power-hog or has some strange proprietary battery that is hard to find?
  6. Proprietary batteries are not necessarily evil. Some actually last longer. The downside to that is you’re going to have to remember to bring yet another piece of proprietary charger.

  7. Weight. Related to ease of use, a light weight point-and-shoot camera will see more use than a heavy digital single lens reflex camera.
  8. Manual override capability. For those instances when automation is unreliable, having a manual override is a necessity. There will be times when autofocus doesn’t work like when you’re shooting through glasses or trying to shoot through a wire fence. While the majority of cameras today have very accurate metering, having some sort of override when you can tell the camera what is important and you want that to be correctly exposed, is a very good feature to have.

So having owned and used a Canon Powershot G3 point-and-shoot, I have no hesitation in recommending their latest, the G9. Retailing for about $450, remember you’ll probably want to pay for an extra battery and a larger SD (Secure Digital) memory card. The stock SD card is a joke because of its teeny capacity. So that will probably mean you’re be looking at close to $600 plus tax.

I recently bought my mother-in-law a Canon G9 and she absolutely loves it. Although I don’t own this particular camera, what I’ve read about its specs and features tells me it’s a good value for its price tag.