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Megapixels, DSLRs, and ISOs, Oh My! Why You Probably Don’t Need A Big, Expensive Digital Camera

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So there I stood, professional photojournalist, in line at Best Buy trying to return an iPod case, and in front of me stood a mom, her young child, and her husband the weekend after Christmas. She had a new Canon Rebel XSI in her hands (which I had been looking at to buy for myself) and I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with it, what fatal flaw did this shiny new camera have? I thought to ask her, but she was called to the counter before I could.

There she started to go on about how the camera just didn’t work. Nothing she did would work (and she was really good with electronics too, or so she said). The sales representative opened the box and took out the camera body with the cap still on it, but with no lenses attached. He took the cap off the body and proceeded to turn the camera on and try to take pictures. “Is it charged?” he asked, “Is the memory card in the camera?” to which she maintained a baffled expression saying the words, “The instructions didn’t help all!” Before I died of internal laughter I tried to say something to the women and employee. All I got out was “Hi, I’m a photog…” when she cut me off “You don’t know anything about this!”

Fine! I thought she could just go ahead and ruin a perfectly good camera by flinging it around without a lens on. Then I felt bad; in the line she was telling her husband that it wasn’t his fault he bought her a broken camera, he got the best one on the market and that’s all that matters. I felt bad because that lady had no idea what it means that her camera was “the best on the market” (which it isn’t). All her husband saw when he bought it was OOO! 12.2 mega pixels. Fast 9-point AF system! He has no way of knowing that he doesn’t need all that in a camera, and neither does his wife. They couldn’t even put the lens on for goodness' sake!

This is actually a common issue that I see all the time. I can’t even count how many times I have been shooting an event for the paper and someone comes up to me with their DSLR camera that they just bought and can't get to work. They always end up saying, "I don’t even need all this; I just want to take good photos!" So here is my solution, what you really need in a camera, depending on what you plan on doing with it.

Mega Pixels and Why You Don’t Need That Many

Basically all a mega pixel is referencing is the resolution, and the sensor inside the camera, used mainly when printing. My cell phone has 1 mega pixel, which doesn’t print the best quality, but it could print a wallet size just fine. My Canon XT has 8 mega pixels, and can print a medium size poster just fine. The lady in front of me had a canon rebel XSI and she could print one of her photos poster size or slightly larger. The thing is, smaller “point-and-shoot” cameras can have a high number of mega pixels, too; the nice DSLR (digital lens reflex) cameras are made (but not marketed) for people who don’t need special modes on their camera like fireworks mode, or moving child mode. The camera companies are still going to market some DSLRs to the general public even if they don’t understand them. What most of the soccer moms need is a good point-and-shoot with the capability of a low and high ISO.

This means quality of photo. The higher the ISO the more grainy a photo has the possibility of being, the lower the ISO, the better quality. It’s the digital equivalent to film speed. Here is the thing about ISO, if your ISO is very low, say 100, then your shutter speed will be slower than it would if the ISO were, say 1600. You can adjust your ISO very easily on DSLRs and you can do it on point-and-shoots, too! There are hardly any non-DSLR camera on the market right now that you cannot adjust the ISO on so again, the point-and-shoot has the same qualities that a DSLR does.

So why would anyone ever want a DSLR? Well, there are a lot of manual options for other camera settings to change on DSLR. The thing here is that most of the people buying DSLRs because they are “the best on the market” won't know how to use manual settings and will run the camera on auto anyway, completely defeating the purpose of a DSLR.

Another thing, I am willing to bet that if that lady ever figured out the lens thing she would be mildly disappointed that the camera didn’t have all those fun features her friend's camera has like selective coloring, fireworks mode, and video mode. I guess this is the downside to DSLRs; they don’t have fun features because they are supposed to be used for something else, more professional.

In the end, a good point-and-shoot is all most people need. Some even have waterproof features and are drop damage resistant, something they would never have in a DSLR. Still confused? Here are a few examples of what is considered a good point-and-shoot.

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About Christina McGinnis

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Nice Article…

    I bought a 7.2 Megapixel Sony Cyber-Shot because I thought I was going to love taking pictures. Turns out, I would prefer taking video and the Cyber-Shot is almost okay for casual stuff but I wanna get serious. So, it looks like I am going to be purchasing a digital video-cam.

    Anyways, my point, I know what you mean. That lady was probably only going to take pictures of her cat never mind being concerned with an accurate preview of framing close to the moment of exposure.