Can You Give Me Some Advice On Buying A New Digital Camera?

cupofkindnessOctober 19, 2006

It's back to Christmas planning at the Cupofkindness household. Since my oldest daughter is always borrowing our camera, we thought we'd get her one for Christmas. But I don't know what to buy or how much I should expect to pay.

A good value is very important. It should be able to take short videos and upload things quickly to the internet. Also, a sturdy camera that can be dropped and still operate is desirable. I'd like a lot of memory and a good flash for indoor shots. Has anyone bought a digital camera recently and is very please with the purchase? Or perhaps you have a camera you regret buying? What are essential features and what don't I need for a beginner?

I like viewing products on Amazon because of the reviews that accompany so many of the items for sale. Plus, no shipping or tax.

Here is a link that might be useful: Canon Camera at Amazon

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I bought my camera about 4 months ago. I asked my son who seemed to know a lot about it and here's what he told me.

Canon is the best brand (don't know why, just repeating what he said)
Bigger screen on the back is better
Make sure to get a zoom where the lens actually zooms as opposed to the kind where it just crops the picture closer.
The more megapixels you get, the more memory it takes.
Elph is a word to look for in the camera name/description (again, don't ask me why, this is just what he told me)

My requirements included the camera being very small so that it could be easily carried in my pocket. I ended up with the 700 I've linked below. The only reason I got it over the 500 was because the price difference was so small. But as I was warned, that means I can't save as many photos in memory. That has not been a problem.

I really like the camera. You will have to get an extra memory chip - and they're not very expensive, especially through amazon which is where I bought my camera and all accessories. I got two extra batteries -- the no-names were like $7 compared with the name brand which was ~$30 and my son said there's no difference, get the noname so I bought two! Also got the carrying case for $10.

I've dropped it once with no problem.

Oh, and btw, my son actually bought a different canon camera, he wanted one that had the retractable screen which is better for people who are rough on cameras because there's less chance the screen will crack when dropped if it's closed. I don't know off hand which model it was.

Here is a link that might be useful: my cannon camera

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 2:58PM
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One of the best digital camera sites around is You can spend forever reading their reviews and forums. The canons are indeed highly regarded, but there are also many nikon and sony fans as well. Personally I'm a canon guy, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that they're hands-down the best in all areas.

There are digital cameras available in all price and quality ranges. It really depends on what you want to spend. I love the elphs like lowspark has, but you do pay extra for the small form factor. Canon has a range that's cheaper but larger, with similar quality in terms of lens and imaging.

You should generally plan on buying a separate memory card as the ones that come with the camera are pretty lame. Figure on getting a 512MB or 1GB card. The higher the resolution of the camera the better, in general, however there are some technical issues as resolution gets above 5 megapixel. So a camera with 7 megapixel isn't necessarily always better than a 5 megapixel camera. I'd generally look for a camera with 5 megapixel or higher, and a 3x or better lens in the range of 35-135 or thereabouts. Image stabilization is very nice to have; canon has optical IS, which is generally considered better than electronic IS.

Also important is speed in several areas. How long does the camera take to turn on? How quickly does it take the image once you push the shutter button? How quickly can you take multiple photos in sequence? How quickly does it focus? Those are things you can get a feel for by playing with the cameras in a local store. In general, you can't go wrong with canon, sony, or nikon.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 3:10PM
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chiefneil and lowspark:

Thanks for your replies. chiefneil, I will check the site your referenced. Is it a "Consumer Reports" sort of thing? And Lowspark, thanks for the idea of the retractable screen. Teens tend to drop things a little more often than I'd like, so this is a great idea.

This purchase is so complicated, because there are so many features to consider. And then I think: what if she loses the camera? Egads! In any case, thanks for taking the time to reply.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 7:58AM
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Cup about 6-7 mo. ago I was buying my first. I went with the Cannon SD 550. The 700 wasn't avail to see/handle only place an order at the time. I am sure the price on the 550 is greatly reduced. I love the camera and the major difference between the 550 & 700 was antishake feature on the 700. I am a novice and havent' had a problem without antishake so far.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 8:57AM
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Cup, dpreview is not a "corporate" site. It's an independent digital camera review site, but it has very active forums. The forums tend to be inhabited by tech types and perfectionists that want the absolute best image/camera, so take the comments with a grain of salt and don't get swept up in the details. In fact it's somewhat like a digital camera version of the kitchen forum, LOL.

If you're overwhelmed, just take a look at the canons in the top three rows of this chart and pick one in your price range. Just from browsing briefly, out of those I like the SD800 IS, SD40, A640, and the A710 IS (IS means "image stabilization).

A buying tip - keep an eye on Dell often runs coupons on their small electronics and you can stack the coupons. When I got my SD500 a couple years ago I stacked up a couple coupons and saved a lot of money.

Here is a link that might be useful: canon's digital camera lineup

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 11:47AM
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I have an older model Olympus. It takes great pictures but the speed issues that chiefneil mentioned are a problem. When it comes to action shots this camera is useless. I have to snap in anticipation of action because there is a delay. For my teen this is a big issue since he wants to document some of his finer skate moves. So definitly shop for a camera with fast imaging.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 12:11PM
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Hi Cup,

I had the same dilemma back a few months ago and went on all the sites and read the reviews. My cousin and 2 other friends went with the Lumix -- that's the Panasonic camera with the Leica lens.

I found them to be very nice but a bit heavy.

Canons get good reviews and I looked at them but just didn't connect.

But, a woman in my window treatments class at school brought in photos of her windows on her camera, which was a Casio. The screen was big and the color was gorgeous. It wasn't much bigger than her cellphone.

I went down to the discount area and got it for a great price -- $220. It's the Casio Exilim 7 mp. The battery charges very quickly. It gets good reviews as well.

My old HP camera took great pix though the color was always off and that was a 4 mp and required 2 batteries that I had to recharge often. But it was a warhorse I still use so I should mention the brand.

I also went to and got a 1 g media chip. If you want to take videos you need the storage. They have the best prices and fast delivery.

I've been very, very happy with this camera. The photos are beautiful, I can carry it in my purse at all times as it weighs nothing, the screen is bright and I can switch from videos to regular photos with no problem.

The 1 g chip lets you take a good number of, say, 1-2 minute videos. You can't upload anything longer than 10 mins and they take a while so you want to keep them short anyway.

It's worth taking a look and seeing how well you can do on the price.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 11:42AM
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