There are hundreds of camera buying guides. All written by very competent, knowledgable photographers. But if you are like me, you aren’t all that knowledgable when it comes to navigating the technical reviews and ensuing photo geek talk. We want affordable, dependable, easy to use cameras that allow us the ability to capture our travels. Where I lack in technical knowledge, I make up for in experience having used a variety of different point and shoot cameras capturing many photos that have been widely shared over social media and even published.
So born is the following easy to understand guide with the goal of enabling you to identify your ideal camera. Note that we are going to focus on the ‘point and shoot’ style camera which is the general purpose work horse camera.
Amazon.com has a really easy search feature that will enable you to enter a few basic criteria and guide you to your ideal camera. Amazon.com Camera Search
Here is my easy to follow advice for each of these criteria.
Max Resolution: If it’s been awhile since you bought a camera, you probably remember debating megapixels (MP). Times have changed. Select “12-23” which is plenty adequate. I use a 16MP camera and it is perfect even when cropping or printing. An iPhone6s is 12MP for a baseline reference.
Dustproof– Nice feature if you plan on shooting in dry, arid and sandy environments but not necessary for general use. I used a non-dustproof camera to shoot the Namibian sand dunes with no issue.
Image Stabilization– Generally a standard feature now on all cameras
Waterproof- Consider if you plan to use under water (diving) but not necessary for general use. The camera I use is not waterproof and has held up to multiple shoots in heavy rain and high humidity.
Wireless- I never understood why I’d need this feature until I bought a camera that had it. It is an awesome feature that allows you to upload pictures to your phone using its own wifi connection. I recently was in Iceland and was able to edit photos while relaxing in my tent at night. It also allows you to have duplicate photos in different devices in case something were to happen to one.
Viewscreen display size: Personal preference. I wouldn’t check a box as a limiting criteria.
Minimum/Maximum ISO: ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light.The lower the number, the lower the sensitivity and finer grain in the shots you’re taking. 100 ISO is generally accepted as ‘normal’ and will give you crisp shots.Higher ISO settings are generally used in darker situations but yield more grainy photos. Of course most people leave their cameras in auto-mode which self adjusts based on lighting conditions so no need to worry. 1600 on the top end is sufficient for basic point and shoot photography. For search purposes, I’d leave this blank and then go back and use to compare and narrow down your choices.
Auto-focus points: Autofocus points are locations in your camera’s field of vision where the camera will focus.’0-9′ is all you will need.
Optical Zoom: This is in my opinion one of the most important criteria for you to determine as it will broadly eliminate categories of cameras. If you plan to use zoom (Safari trip, bird photos, covert spy agency work, etc), make sure you look for at least 20X zoom. Remember that typically the more zoom you get, the bigger the camera will be. Use 20X as your baseline.
10x- Smallest in size, limited ability to capture distant objects
20x- Larger in size, solid zoom capability, good all purpose choice
30x- Largest in size, best ability to capture distant objects
Remember that ‘optical zoom’ is different from ‘digital zoom'(optical being superior in quality).
Viewfinder type: Think optical= old school viewfinder you look through. LCD= video screen. LCD works fine for me.
Sensor Type: CCD- Once superior, heavy power use CMOS- Lower power use, more processing ability. No need to use this as a limiting criteria, leave this blank.
Video resolution: Choose 1080p unless you don’t plan to take any video.
Brands: Leave blank. No need to prematurely limit your choices based on manufacturer.
Price: Last but certainly not least, enter your budgeted range or leave blank for full results and comparison.
Yay! You now have a listing of cameras that will certainly meet your need. Here are some additional considerations and Tips to help you narrow down your choice.
Size: Do you want to tuck your camera away in your pocket? I generally try and narrow down my choices to smaller sized cameras.
Removable Battery: I highly recommend making sure you check to see if the camera you are considering has a removable battery and if so, be sure to purchase a spare battery. Regardless of the camera I have used, I always seem to exhaust the battery rather quickly. In addition to carrying a spare battery (which is small and can tuck into your carry case) , I also always carry a portable battery charger. These chargers have saved my butt on many occasions not only for my camera but also my phone while out on remote adventures.
Scene Modes: We aren’t professional photographers so scene modes can help you quickly and easily set up for an optimal shot. Pay particular attention if you plan to shoot sunsets, low light conditions or any artistic effects. Most cameras in your list will have similar scene selections but it is worth checking to see if the camera has for example ‘selective color’ mode if you like taking these types of photos.
Controls/Ergonomics: I prefer cameras that have manual dials for selecting different modes as opposed to navigating digital on screen selections (I often will shoot scenes in different modes so speed of changing modes is important). This is a personal choice but one that plays heavily in my selection process.
So there you have it. Now it’s time to plug in your own criteria:
Start your Camera search HERE
So what camera do I currently use?
I am currently using a Nikon Coolpix S7000. It checks all of the boxes for me. Before the S7000 I used a S9600 which is very similar but has a 30X zoom.
I bought both actually using Amazon’s advanced search feature and found the posted reviews to be generally accurate. When reading reviews, I like to not only read the positive reviews but also the worst of the negatives. Here are the links to both of these cameras which I personally recommend based upon my experience.
Check Price: Nikon S7000
Hope this is helpful!