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Choosing a Digital Camera

Above: sunset in Hong Kong taken with a Nikon D80 DSLR, one of the cameras used to take the photos in this site.

With so many brands and models of digital cameras, how do you choose? Here're a few tips for choosing one for traveling.

The main factors

  • Size - when you travel, every bit of weight counts especially when it's a camera because you would usually carry it around. And you would want to put it in your carry-on luggage since it is not cheap and it is probably best not to let it bang around in your suitcase which gets thrown around quite a bit.

  • Zoom - most cameras have a zoom feature nowadays. A 3X zoom is quite typical for a point-and-shoot camera. Anything higher than that will be a plus. With a 3X zoom, don't expect to be able to zoom in much. If a camera has a 6X zoom or more, it is quite useful.

  • LCD Screen - of course the bigger the better. Some can even swivel so that you can hold it up high above you and still see it well enough to frame a good picture, but usually this comes with a bigger camera.

  • ISO - this tells you how well the camera can handle dark environment. The higher it can go, the better it does.

  • Movie - this allows you to shoot a film clip. A 30 frames per second or higher capability allows the flim not to appear jerky. Some cameras has a limit on how long each clip can be, while some let you film as long as there is room in the memory card.

  • Batteries - in general some cameras use dry cells (AA's or AAA's) and some use batteries specially designed for it. With those that can take dry cells, you can typically use either rechargeable or disposable ones, which is convenient: you can have a couple of sets of the former and they are not too expensive. Even if they run out of juice when you are out shooting, you can still buy some inexpensive dry cells to tide you over. But if the camera only uses special batteries, you are stuck. So if your camera is this kind, buy an extra set of batteries if you can afford it. It is true that you could make sure your batteries are charged up every time you go out, but since they tend to have a "memory" (i.e. if you charge them before they are flat out, they will last for a shorter and shorter time), you won't want to charge them before they are completely discharged. (They say that some newer batteries don't have a memory, I haven't had any that don't.)

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