Picture Perfect—The Best Camera for Those Memorable Moments

April 2015 View more

Finance_iStock_000021428091_XXXLarge_800pxWith prom, graduation, and wedding season nearly in full bloom, choosing the best camera to capture those important family memories should not break your budget. From the convenience and simplicity of your smartphone camera, to a more expensive digital SLR camera, there are more choices available than ever before.

The Right Choice

The first step in choosing a camera is to determine how you will use the camera. Assess your needs before deciding on a price range or camera model.

“If you are just looking to capture family moments and add them to your scrap book, I believe you can stay on the lower price range,” said Alicia Johnson, photographer and owner of Alicia’s Photography in Naperville. “If you are a hobbyist you may want to invest a little more in your camera, considering you will be creating art. You will need a more versatile camera that allows you to adjust your settings and be in control of your camera. These DSLR cameras are more of an investment but absolutely worth it if you enjoy photography.”

Focus on Features

When purchasing a camera for everyday use, focus on a few features that are important to you.

“Some features to look for are image stabilization which can help reduce blurry images, long battery life so you don’t miss important shots, and sturdy construction because you’re going to drop it at some point. Other features to consider are HD video and Wi-Fi for easy file uploads,” said Johnson.

You can save some money when it comes to resolution or megapixel values. Instead of looking at the megapixels, Johnson says compare the image sensor size. A larger image sensor can capture more light and produce higher quality images.

The camera lens can also make a significant difference in the quality of the photos and the cost of the camera.
“If you’re buying a camera with interchangeable lenses, buy the best lens you can afford. The lower the F (aperture) number, the better. For point and shoot cameras,  compare the optical zoom and not the digital zoom number,” said Johnson.

A Smart Choice

A smart financial choice might be to use the camera in your smartphone. Technological advances in camera lenses have made these small and portable cameras a good choice for point-and-shoot pictures.

“The one big advantage a smartphone has is that you usually have it with you. And, depending on the lighting, you can get some pretty good shots. However, because of its fairly small sensor and lens, it can never match the quality of a good digital camera under difficult lighting conditions. There is a reason that the professional cameras are more expensive,” said Johnson.

More expensive professional cameras provide more versatility and better picture quality. However, a large, expensive camera isn’t much use if you leave it at home because it’s too big to carry around. A smaller less expensive camera may be all you need for the type of photography you intend to do.

Try it before you buy it

Before you invest in a camera, take it for a test run. Make sure the camera fits comfortably in your hand and that it’s not too big or heavy. It should provide quick access to the most commonly used functions, and menus should be simply structured and easy to learn. Some touch-screen models allow for greater functionality, but they can also be frustrating if the controls and menus are poorly organized.

Types of Cameras

Compact Digital Cameras: Perfect for portability and general photos, also known as point-and-shoot cameras.
Digital SLRs: The most versatile and advanced with bigger sensors, interchangeable lenses, and the favorite
of professional photographers.
Mirrorless Compact System Cameras: SLR-sized sensors and interchangeable lenses, but in a smaller, lighter, and more user-friendly design.