It’s a great time to buy a new camera. Five things to consider.

In honor of Black Friday and the official beginning of the shopping season, I thought I would suggest a few things to help you buy that new camera.  I know Sammy’s Camera is having a no tax weekend in CA, and Canon and Nikon are running instant rebates until Sunday.

We could make this really complex, but we should not.  If we could have a conversation, I would ask you more questions, but I think these 5 are the most important.

1. What kind of camera are you using now? What do you like about it or not like about it?

2. What kind of photos do you take or want to take?  People – family and friends, parties, social gatherings and portraits.  Travel, nature, and landscapes.  Sports and animals?

3.  Does the size of the camera matter?

4. Will you photograph in bad weather?

5. What is your camera budget?

I think we often times start with the last question, which I think is a big mistake.  You might spend way too much money and get too much camera, just because you have the money, and it may be too hard to use.  Or, you are ambitious in your wants and needs, but you under buy and end up with a camera that does not perform like you want and desire.

So, if you want a camera for social gatherings and posting on-line, you do not need a lot of megapixels, but you will want a built in flash and some low light capability   You will also want the camera to be small and easy to use.  Any of the small Canon PowerShots will work for you.  My favorite under $500 is the PowerShot ELPH.  If you are willing to pay a little more, the PowerShot S110 is the best small camera in the Canon line-up.  These cameras are quite small and easily fit in a shirt or coat pocket.  Mary uses this camera.

If you want to do the above and have some more flexibility to shoot basic sports, landscapes and nature shots, and have more control over the camera, including built in HDR, for about $500 you can get a Canon Powershot G15.  Now, you get more camera, but you also get size.  This camera does not fit into any pockets I have, even a jacket or suit pocket.  I use this camera with a wrist strap and it comfortably fits in my hand.

If you are willing to carry a DSLR with interchangeable lenses you start to have more choices and will also be spending more money.  What you start to get is 18 megapixels on an APS-C sensor and ISO speeds that are up to 6400.  For around $1500, you can get a Canon 7D which is the camera for sports with fast focusing and 8 frames per second..  For about a $1,000, the Canon 60D is the best basic Canon DLSR with a magnesium body for all around shooting.  The Canon Rebel T3i and T4i give you all the power, but in a plastic body, so they are not weatherproof and may break if dropped.

Finally, if you are ready, or have a loved one ready to be a serious photographer and enthusiast, you will want to seriously consider the Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III.  These are currently Canon’s top of the line amateur cameras.  The Mark II is currently around $2000 and the Mark III is at $3,500.  At 21 and 22 megapixels and a full frame sensor, these cameras can take very large and sharp images.

Of course, once you go DSLR, you will need lenses, too.  I only have one piece of advice here.  Buy the absolute best and most expensive lens you can.  A great lens on a so-so body will make great images.  A so-so lens on a great body will make so-so images.  If I had to have only one lens, it would be the Canon 24-105 f/4.  There are other intermediately priced lenses that will work for you, especially if you will not be printing and only posting on-line or electronically.

Finally, do not fall for the “lots of megapixels” advertising.  Image quality is about megapixels, but also about sensor size.  Buy the biggest sensor that you are willing to pay for and biggest camera body you are willing to carry.  This is one of those times when bigger really is better.

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