Thinking of buying a camera. Point me in the right direction.

I’ve always had this itch to take good photos of my family, the cats, my hubby, fall foliage & nature in general, and bridges (one in particular taunts me daily). I’d even like to take some artistic shots nice enough for framing. The thing is, I know diddly about cameras or technique. I’d like a REASONABLY- PRICED, user-friendly camera with cool features that I can use. Since I’m an amateur, I don’t know of any features besides zoom that I’d enjoy using. (What’s that one called? Fish eye?) That kind of thing appeals to me. What I don’t need are features that more advanced photographers look for. Heck, I’m sure I wouldn’t know what they are & how to use them.
Here’s my total camera & picture-taking experience:

-Taking the usual family function shots (borrrring) with Kodak disposables.

-Attempting to take pics of my black cats with my ultra-crap Logitech digital… I can NEVER get those to come out right- the cats just look like black blobs with evil, glowing eyes. I’ve tried to fiddle with flash/no flash, different lighting, etc. The best shots are found in my photobucket. Those cat pics came out ok because I was using sunlight in the afternoon, with no flash.

What I want to do is take close-ups of my cats, showing the detail of their fur, their eyes & ears, etc. I’d love to take shots at my mother’s gorgeous flowers & see fine details in the outcome.
I like the idea of having a digital camera. Printing only the good shots instead of a whole roll of film… Being able to manipulate color, etc.

I’ve got a bit of play money at the moment, and would like to invest some in a nice camera. Probably no more than a couple hundred bucks. Any suggestions? Also, do you have any tips for beginners on lighting, positioning the subject, using light in interesting ways, etc?

Help me go from “typical amateur” to “really good amateur” purty-please.

If you can get a notion of what features you’re looking for, I found this site to be a good one for comparing specific features:

You can make a big table of the features all the cameras you’re interested in and compare them side-by-side.

As a fellow n00b, though, I really don’t feel like I have the authority to give you specific recommendations. I got a Sony Cybershot DSC W-7 for Christmas. After Amazon screwed up on our order for a W-5, and a nice rebate offer, it ended up being in the couple-of-hundred bucks range. I’ve taken some fun close-up pictures of the cat. The features I was looking for were short shutter lag (that annoying pause between when you press the button and the picture actually snaps) and plenty of manual exposure controls. The DSC-W5 has similar features, but a smaller CCD chip, and is around $250 at Amazon at the moment. And, if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll screw up your order, too. :slight_smile:

Oooh, thanks for that link, Podkayne! This is proving to be very useful and informative. I’m actually learning about how different features work and learning the correct terminology for what I’m looking for! Many, many thanks!

Oh jeez… I’m reading reviews now and it’s like reading a foreign language. More research!

Hey, kid! You should also check out , an excellent website that compares and contrasts different digital cameras on the market, a la Consumer Reports. It was an invaulable resource when I was shopping around for my own, over two years ago. I chose a Canon PowerShot A70 (3.2 megapixels), which still works well for me. It’s a good small size, although I wish I had something smaller, like those Canon Elph models. The thing about having a small camera is that you’ll be more likely to carry it around with you, and have it when you encounter something worth taking a picture of. Now you could get one of those Elph models for between $200 and $300.

I think Canon makes great stuff, and they have excellent tech support. I highly recommend any of their models. Just don’t go below 3.2 megapixels (you can get something with 5 mp for around the same price I paid for my 3.2 mp model in December 2003), and know that optical zoom is important, but digital zoom is pretty much meaningless and useless.

Hey, Lou! I’m glad you’re recommending Canon because right now I’m checking out a PowerShot A520. Maybe that’ll be the one.

Definitely study those two sites, and also – I got much good info from all.

In '03 I made the same camera purchase as Big Bad Voodoo Lou and can vouch for the Canon A series. Its current successors (A510/520, A610/620) are attractive because they do give you the option to grow in skills – they have a full-auto-idiot mode, AND ALSO various progressively less automated modes up to full manual settings for aperture, exposure, speed, etc., for the customer to move into as s/he gets more familiar with the technical aspects – and even accepts some add-on lenses (but most people never get around to that at this price level)

Plus, their batteries and memory cards are NOT proprietary – AA cells and SD cards – which is something I greatly favor. But there are many equivalently endowed cameras from other makers, as Podkayne attests. My major prejudice with buying digicams is that if I’m buying one, I prefer a maker that has been in the camera business since the days of film.

Question: What is “image noise?” I’m assuming it’s the opposite of clear and crisp. I’ve got so many other questions… I don’t know where to begin!

I have the older W1 camera, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. The presets and autofocus work well, and you can set everything manually if you want. It’s not a professional camera by any means, but it takes pretty good pictures. Here’s one I took in Yosemite (Photobucket resized the picture to a much lower resolution than the original).

Another vote for the imaging resource website: I especially like this page where you choose a category at the top (‘enthusiast’, ‘travel’, ‘sports’, etc) and it gives you a list of about a dozen cameras that are best in that category.

I’m going to go against the general flow of opinion that you’ll find on the internet and say that ease-of-use is more important than image quality. The reason that many web sites devote so much attention to the latter is that 1) it’s easy to measure and 2) ease-of-use is so subjective. I’ve used mainly DSLRs because I like:

-a real viewfinder (not LCD)
-low shutter lag
-prime lenses
etc etc.

So you have to decide what you prefer when taking photos. Looking through a viewfinder or looking at an LCD? Being able to take lots of shots quickly? Being able to zoom in from a long way away? Being able to take photos in low light?

The best way to find out is to go to a camera store and try out a few models. Having bought quite a few digital cameras over the past few years, I’ve become convinced that getting the picture ‘in the box’ is more important to getting good photos than having an extra few megapixels (and I’ve found this out the hard way!). To put it another way, the image quality of almost all modern digicams is sufficiently high that it’s not going to be the limiting factor in your photos.

To answer your earlier question Kitchen Wench, the best way to describe “image noise” is a certain colored graininess to the image, in particular, when zooming in. Image noise can show up in a lot of different ways, but most of the image noise that is discussed in digital camera reviews has more to do with the internal workings of the chips (in the digital cameras) than anything. Generally speaking, image noise is not desirable in your source images, since there are a lot better ways to add “noise” later. It is important to note that depending on how you print the images, the noise may not be apparent, but if the reviews mention that image noise is a problem, i’d recommend looking at alternative models/brands.

broken… You came out of hiding just to answer my question? I’m honored!

Ok, I made the purchase late last night. I got the Canon PowerShot A520. And broken, they did mention image noise in the review but everything else sounded good. In fact, like JR said, it sounded perfect for me: has idiot mode, but it will allow me to play with settings and such to learn about camera stuff. And even if the image noise is uh, really loud… The A520 will be a HUGE step up from Kodak disposables and my Logicrap webcam!

I managed to find a place selling this model for $152, so I’m happy about the price.

My best friend knows a thing or two about cameras and photography, so I’ll be his Grasshopper. He was explaining aperture to me last night, and I think I get it. I believe I’ll better understand things when I have the camera in hand and can manipulate settings to see different outcomes… I’ve always been a hands-on kinda chick.

I can’t wait to take pictures of this one old bridge a few miles from my house… My goal is to get shots in all four seasons, at different angles. Honest, it was that bridge that spurred me on to buying a camera. Oh, and I want to take photos of my small flowering tree in the front yard this spring… The nosy neighbors will probably think I’m nuts for lying down under it for a pic. But I don’t care! I’m so excited! :smiley:

Oooo, good on you. I’m pretty sure that the one I got too. It has a setting for extreme close-ups (the little flower icon) which helped me a lot in getting details like the ones you’re looking for. The red-eye eliminator doesn’t always work for me though.

sturmhauke, that is a gorgeous photo! Thanks for sharing it!

Have fun with your new camera, Kitchen Wench.

That’s the right attitude! :slight_smile: At first I was really self-conscious about taking pictures where other people might see me, but after a while, I stopped caring and it was ALL ABOUT THE SHOT. I’ll contort myself into any weird position, soak through the knees of my jeans, and freeze my fingers half off to get the picture I want.

Yep, I’ve been fantasizing about this for so long that I don’t think I’ll be bothered with strangers seeing the fat chick rolling on the ground, acting goofy with a camera. I won’t hear their giggles- I’ll be in my own little world.

I saw The Bridge again today… And to it I said, “You’re mine, you beautiful rusty beast!”

Why, thank you! I have more I could post. Also, I found this other photo thread which looks interesting.

Let me join in – that’s absolutely great.

I’ve got a few more photos to share from Yosemite. Well, I have lots, but I think these are the best:
Bridal Veil Falls
Half Dome as seen from Glacier Point
a sunset through trees

Those are all great shots, sturmhauke. Especially Bridal Veil Falls. Stunning!

Mrs. P recently bought a A620, and although it’s mainly been used for kitty pictures (oh, HERE , kitty-picture-obsessed hooligans) so far it’s proving quite a good unit. I’d be interested in hearing your opinions on the A520…