Top 10 Things to Think About When Buying a Digital Point & Shoot Camera

Lately, several friends have purchased new digital cameras and I have been happy to help them through the process. It’s actually kind of fun, like a puzzle, to match up the right camera with the right person. But there’s also just some overall concepts I ask anyone and everyone (who will listen to me) to think about.

Top Ten Things to Think About When Buying a Point & Shoot Camera

I own both a DSLR (a digital version of the typical old 35mm camera with interchangeable lenses) and a “dummy” camera (as my photography teacher in college used to call them). The latter being what is typically now called a “Point and Shoot,” and typically what people are looking for with a run of the mill camera. If you are thinking about a DSLR, that is another post.

In general, when buying a new camera – think about these 10 things and figure out which is most important to you, what aspects you like about each, and so on.

This isn’t as big a factor as it used to be, seeing as most cameras now have a gazillion megapixels plus a bag of chips thrown in for fun. But, when you are looking and comparing – keep in mind that you really could make due with just 3 megapixels if you had to, and that 5 megapixels will print up to 8×10 just fine. But yes. General rule of thumb is – the higher the megapixels, the better. The other beauty of higher megapixels, of course, is that you can crop in tighter and still maintain sharpness. Meaning you can shoot sloppy and crop pretty later.

I don’t think this gets talked about nearly enough in non-pro circles. But PLEASE. Do me a huge honkin’ favor. Buy a camera from a company who is known for good lenses. This means Canon, Nikon, Olympus… to name a few. If the glass is crap, your pictures will be too. Even in a point and shoot. So, when looking at cameras, please think of the companies who have been around for a while and have a good rep. For their lenses.

3. LCD
The LCD is the large-scale viewfinder, found on the back of the camera. If you can, get the biggest and best LCD possible.

Do not, I repeat, do not, ever buy a digital camera that only runs on 2 AA batteries. You will continually be frustrated with the length of time for the flash to charge, and the speed at which the batteries drain. Now, AA’s vs. the more powerful lithium-ion style batteries? The beauty of getting a camera that takes 4 AA’s is that if you blow through them on vacation, you can whip into the 7-11 and pick up new power in a snap. The beauty of getting the lithium-ion style cameras is that the Li batteries will indeed be more powerful. Last longer. Charge faster. In that case though, I recommend purchasing a second Li battery and always having them alternating through the charger.

Think about what you plan to shoot the most and whether zoom is important to you. For example, if your kid plays soccer and he’s always across the field? Well. Zoom is pretty important to you. Keep in mind that there are really 2 different types of zoom. Optical zoom is when the lens actually uses the glass to bring our little soccer champ visually closer to us. Digital zoom then goes in and enlarges upon the information that is already there, effectively “cropping” the image for you in the viewfinder. Not to imply digital zoom is bad, it’s just that some people don’t understand that it’s not a true “zoom” in conventional photo terms. These two types of zooms put together is what is sometimes called “Combined Zoom” which basically means the total zoom you can get out of the camera.

6. FPS
Frames. Per. Second. This is what everyone complains about, yet doesn’t really know what they are complaining about. It’s the wait time between shots. Anything over 5 fps is reasonably fast. Another feature that will make the camera move faster is “continuous drive.” This is where you keep shooting {click, click, click} and the camera waits to store all the photos at the end of your “burst” of photographic genius, rather than storing in between each and every shot {wait, wait, wait}. That way you catch Junior scoring the goal, instead of cursing, waiting for the camera to be ready for you.

Don’t underestimate the pre-loaded modes that come with cameras these days. During our blizzard season this past year, I got some really nice shots in “snow mode” with my point and shoot – because the camera knew how to correct for all that bluish-white glare. These modes can really help you get the shots you want without having to understand how to manually adjust things like white balance, shutter speed and all that crap. OR do a lot of editing later. Yessss. Embrace the shooting modes. I promise I won’t think any less of you.

Really think about this one. Explore it. Go visit the store and actually hold the thing in your hands. Will you carry the camera in your jacket all the time? In your purse? Many people don’t give this enough thought and then are frustrated when the camera doesn’t fit into their routine. And then the camera stays in the drawer at home – and what good does that do? If you need this thing to slip into your pocket, pay for the one that is slim, sleek and weighs about 4 ounces. But if you are continually lugging a backpack full of crap… what’s adding another pound or two of camera, right?

Duh. Get the one you can afford. But also keep in mind that prices drop continually. So, once you buy, stop looking. Because all you will be is pissed.

Your instincts are always right! So after you have thought about it, played with it, drooled over it… the one that feels right is probably the one that is right for you.


This article has 11 comments

  1. JennyMoose

    I have a bachelor’s in photography from University of MD, and people are always asking me about buying cameras. This is a fabulous guide! Especially the part about the LENSES. MUCHO IMPORTANTE, and usually ignored. Listen to Aimee here guys! Any fool can see by her photos she knows what she is doing for sure!

  2. Shell

    This is really great. I too get so frustrated when printer companies bundle a camera with their product. Hello…you are good at making printers-that doesn’t mean you make good picture makers too. (Of course you explained that point so much more eloquently ;)!

  3. monstergirlee

    good info Aimee. As you may remember, I’m in the market for a new digital camera. I’m currently saving for a DSLR myself.

  4. Anonymous

    Thanks so much to advice! I am printing it out and filing it for future reference!

  5. g-man

    Well said. I have told people one or two of those things in the past, now I can just point them here. 🙂 I am hoping for a Nikon D200 for Christmas 🙂

  6. mar

    As someone who has used Aimee for advice on most big purchases (camera, computer, Element;) i can say this woman is truly the woman to listen to!!

  7. TxGambit

    Brillant!!!! As a total wannabe, this is just what I needed to know. I will admit my camera right now is just a cheaper than cheap one so I could get by for a while, still getting pics of the kids but nothing special…. oh I don’t know, like the Grand Canyon.

    I still may email ya with questions but this is awesome!

  8. aimee / greeblemonkey

    awww, you all are making me blush! thanks! :)))

  9. Omaha Mama

    Found you here because I read Alpha Dogma. She is a thinking blogger! Love your pictures and I’m impressed! Do you use a point & shoot for those? What brand? Just curious. Photography and scrapbooking is kind of a hobby and my pictures are nowhere near so great!

  10. aimee / greeblemonkey

    Welcome Omaha! I have a point in shoot (Canon Powershot A95) but I generally use my Canon Digital Rebel DSLR for most photos. And my hubby was kind enough to get me a wonderful Canon macro lens for Xmas this year which really helps too!

  11. dddterp

    Always been impressed since the ole high school days! Thanks for the advice! Fondly, Carrie (Miller)

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