Readers Questions

Hi Steve,
I'm looking for a new point-and-shoot camera and getting overwhelmed by variety of new models. I'd normally look at the design, number of pixels, and the size of the camera. Sony Cyber-shot T-Series are very much to my taste but I'm not sure about picture quality. I heard that the smaller the lens is, the more distorted pictures would be.
I am pretty clueless about technical stuff but I'm sure there should be something else I should be looking for in a camera (without sacrificing the design..I'm just a woman!) Advice in a nutshell would be appreciated.


Jodi –

This is an excellent question.  There are hundred of ‘like’ models out there and consumers are confused on which one is the best buy for their purposes.  I’m afraid I’m not going to be of much help.. ;o)

The vast majority of compact point and shoot digitals have image sensors which are very close to the same size and produce very close to the same image quality.  So what else is there?

Features.  Shop for features vs. price in a major brand and you probably won’t go wrong.  Features such as the size of the LCD, physical size and weight, if the camera takes memory card types you already own so you don’t need to buy them again, battery type and how many images you can take per charge, lens zoom range and speed, weather/water seals, included software, file type output (jpegs, raw), and what camera controls are available via dials and knobs vs. being forced to use the LCD and navigation controls (very slow).  Shop only for the features you know you’ll find use and find value in, and ignore the rest.

You mentioned “megapixels.”   Megapixels should be the very last thing you’re concerned with in a modern digital camera.  Read Ken Rockwell’s excellent article titled “The Megapixel Myth” and prepare to learn about one of the biggest marketing hypes in modern technology.

You also mentioned the size of the lens.  It would be too easy to say “size matters” but that’s only partly true.  Physically the faster lenses (wider aperture) which work better in low light must be larger.  The best quality DSLR lenses are certainly larger, anyone seeing me holding my big white 300/2.8 IS telephoto in my hands knows it must produce some great images to be worth it’s heft and girth.  But when it comes to compact point and shoot lenses size matters very little.  Its more how you use the lens than how big it is.  Instead of size look for the maximum aperture and zoom range.  Also look for the design of the lens.  You mentioned Sony and they often use the legendary Zeiss optical designs which are very good.

99% of compact digital point and shoot users use their cameras in fully automatic mode.  If you’re in that 1% who desires to get creative, use external flash, prefer raw files for their technical advantages, or want the best in low light performance.. then look carefully at the models the pros use for personal use such as the Canon G10, Panasonic LX3, and Nikon P6000.  You might find the premium features and control match the premium price.

I hope this helps.


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