Saturday, October 29, 2005

Knowing your Wants and Needs before Buying a Camera

By Christina VanGinkel

It seems like this time of year, in the last two or so years, has brought out the people who want to purchase a new digital still or video camera, and want the recommendations from those of us who have already made the plunge and purchased one, or even two for ourselves. They are the ones who want the ease of owning and using one, but do not want to spend the time learning the differences from one camera to the next. There is nothing wrong with this scenario, except that I have to tell each of them that they really need to know what it is they want to use the camera or video recorder for, what computer equipment they already have, and do they plan to use the two together.

This will often draw blank stares from them, especially from those who do not use their computers for more than a bit of Web surfing or the occasional email. Heaven forbid I go so far as to ask them what type of printer they have, and if they want to be able to print their photos at home. I will try to explain to them that if they plan to store family videos, say on DVD, they need to know if they have a DVD burner on their computer, I can even elicit replies back from them that could not be printed in a family friendly forum such as this is.

Knowing someone's' needs and wants from a digital still or a video camera these days is important though. If all they plan to use their digital still camera for is the odd picture for posting on a website such as Ebay, paying out several hundred dollars, even near to a thousand, for a camera with five or eight MP, or even more, is a waste of money. Especially when something as low as 1.3 MP would be more than adequate and can be purchased for less than fifty dollars.

If you are getting ready to buy your very first digital still camera, ask yourself the following questions.

What and where do you plan to use the camera? Does it need to be waterproof? Will I want to be able to print the pictures I take, or will they be strictly for Web use? What size prints do I want to be able to print? Do I intend to print them at home? If so, do I have a printer that is capable of printing quality photos, or will I also need a photo printer? How many pictures do I want to be able to take at once? Does the camera come with adequate memory, or must I also purchase an additional memory card? Will the camera plug directly into my computer, or do I need a media reader? Is my computer current enough to recognize my camera? (Some older computers may not.)

For video cameras, the questions are similar, but you also need to know if you plan to download your video to edit on your personal computer. If so, is your computer capable of doing so, and if you plan to burn DVD's from your finished videos for easy sharing with family and friends, do you have a DVD burner? While it is possible to burn to CD's, keep in mind that the concept is not as easy when sharing those with family.

This is truly one of those times when knowledge can go far in both saving you money, and assuring you that you purchase what you need. Take the time to answer these questions and you will find a camera that both fits your budget and your wants and needs. Have fun this holiday season!

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