Buying Guide: Family Digital Cameras
Capture your special family moments with a digital camera. Consider this: do you need a compact camera or DSLR? And which camera functions should you look out for? This guide to buying a family camera will help you break down the choices.
It's important to think about the size and weight of your digital camera because where you take it will help determine which camera to choose. A family that is always on the go might choose an ultra-light, compact camera that fits in a pocket. Families with budding sports stars might need to compromise on portability for the control and interchangeable lenses of a digital SLR.
Which Type of Camera?
Compact: Digital compact cameras are portable (some will fit in your pocket) and can be used as point-and-shoot, or with pre-set functions.
Intermediate: Some digital compacts offer manual controls to go with the automatic settings. This means you can have some of the versatility of a DSLR, without the bulk and ability to change lenses.
DSLR: Digital SLR cameras offer the most versatility and control for those who are a bit more serious about their photography. DSLR cameras offer:
- Interchangeable lenses.
- Larger image sensors (for more detail and contrast).
- A range of added features that achieve more professional results.
The Megapixel Debate
Unless you plan to have your photos printed above A3, a camera with over five megapixels should be up to the job. Anything over eight megapixels is fine for the average person.
LCD Screens are Easy to Use
An LCD display will make your digital photography much easier when you're composing your photos. A touch screen menu makes scrolling through functions a breeze, too.
Tips for Adventurers
Some digital compact cameras are built tougher than others. If your family likes to go camping, takes the boat out on weekends, or just likes to get active in the great outdoors, it's a good idea to look at shockproof or waterproof cameras.
Functions That Make Life Easy
Image Stabiliser: An image stabiliser steadies the image (to eliminate blurring caused by camera shake) by compensating for camera movement, either within the lens or with a digital sensor in the camera. This is great when you're on a train or simply have unsteady hands as your photos could end up blurred, especially in low light, or if you've zoomed in a lot.
Face Detection: Automatically focuses in on faces, even on a busy background. This means your smiling family will always be in focus. Some face detection systems allow you to focus on multiple faces, and some even let you focus on one particular face in a crowd.
Timer Delay: A timer delay is great for when you want to be in the photo with your family, or for when you want to eliminate camera movement while using long exposure on a tripod. Simply select the time delay, set up the photo and press the shutter. The camera will automatically count down using the timer before taking the shot.
Shooting Modes: Different automatic modes change the camera to pre-determined settings to achieve great results in different conditions. The pre-sets help you take great shots in different situations, like low light, action, and when taking portraits.
White Balance: Cameras can often be tricked by artificial lighting, like fluorescent light. Adjustable white balance helps you achieve more natural colours in a range of pre-set light modes.
Manual Functions: Some digital compacts offer manual adjustments of shutter speed, aperture and focus, for greater control over your photography.
Continuous Shooting: Not to be confused with action mode which reduces shutter delay, continuous shooting mode allows you to keep your finger on the shutter to keep shooting frame after frame. This can be great when taking photos of your children playing.
Points to Consider With Digital SLR Lenses
- Beginners: Choose one or two zoom lenses, like an 18 to 55mm and a 75 to 300mm.
- Portraits: If you want to take great portraits look for large aperture lenses (f/2.8). Lenses with a focal length of 85mm or 135mm are great starting points for beginners.
- Sports: If you want some shots of the kids playing sports, look at good zoom lenses; a focal length of 70 to 200mm is a great place to start.
Essential Accessories for Your Family Camera
Regardless of whether you choose a compact, intermediate or DSLR camera, consider:
- Tripod: Levels and stabilises the camera, for better portraits in low light.
- Memory cards: Always have at least one spare memory card.
- Batteries: Spares are crucial.
- External flash: For DSLR and hot shoe-equipped.
- Camera bag: Protect your camera equipment.