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Buying a New Digital Camera

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Late this past summer we went to visit friends who live  around the mountains. It was a fantastic trip – we got to relax and unwind with the most stunning scenery around us. Their front porch was perfectly located so we got the best views of the mountains as we sipped on our coffee.

Being the perfect hosts, our friends lead us on a beautiful hike near their place and we decided to get some pictures of us by small waterfall. It was absolutely superb – until my husband had  slipped. He caught himself with the camera in his hand and it broke. after years of taking wonderful pictures for us, it was no longer usable.

We told ourselves that when we replaced it we’d make sure it be a good camera.

Believe it or not deciding what you want for your next big purchase is often the hardest part. Our last camera lasted almost 6 years and we wanted the next one to last at least just as long. For us that meant getting a list of features that we had to have with the camera and some extras that would be nice to have with camera.

To start us off, we went ahead and looked at how we used the last camera to get an idea for the next one. While we used our smartphones for many spontaneous family shots, now that we have a toddler who moves CONSTANTLY, the pictures are pretty much blurs of her. You can imagine the complaints we received from her grandparents.

We discussed this a bit as this was a gadget we’d both be using. I’m proud to say I also finally convinced my husband to share his thoughts on what he was looking for in a digital camera in his own words here on Couple Money. 
Megapixels?
At least 8. Well, the last camera had 8 and that was nice. So no need to go below that, right?

Note: Number of pixels doesn’t tell the whole story. An 8-megapixel mobile phone camera will probably be worse than an 8-megapixel point-and-shoot camera, because the mobile phone camera has smaller components (smaller lenses, smaller sensors, etc, so less light gets to the sensors and therefore the picture is grainier).
Touchscreen?
Touchscreen could give a nice interface, but, on the other hand, means the screen will get smudged up more. So, the touchscreen would have to be really good in order for it to be better than separate buttons. On the other hand, the cameras at the store were off, so we wouldn’t have been able to test the interface.

Note: The last camera’s touch interface was not that great. It worked, but it didn’t have any advantages over a “normal” interface. For example, we had to use arrows to scroll instead of flicking.

The basic camera functions on an Android phone (and, I assume, iOS) make much better use of the touchscreen, though the quality is worse.

Zoom?

We found the 3x optical zoom of our last camera to be too limiting. So we went higher this time.

Storage?

We found that the proprietary Sony memory sticks were annoying. Standard SD cards work in so many more places.

Extra Features?

We just want to take clear pictures of our baby! And maybe video. Anything else is gravy. Any editing can be done on a full computer, so the selection of special effects doesn’t really matter too much, as long as the camera can take good pictures of our baby.

We were pretty much on the same page on the major feature. I probably was looking at zoom a bit more than he did. My reasoning being that while we do go to concerts on occasion  we usually get cheaper seats, so having some power with the zoom will help us get some nicer pictures.

If you’re shopping for your next digital camera, here are some questions to consider when narrowing down your list:

  • What do you need the camera for?
  • What type of photography will you be doing?
  • What experience level do you have with cameras?
  • Do I want to use it to shoot video as well as take pictures?

Depending on your answers, you may want a subcompact, point and shoot, or SLR (single lens reflex)  camera. While we have been trying to improve on our photography skills, we’re such amateurs that getting SLR camera wouldn’t make much sense, especially considering the prices.

Researching the Best Digital Camera Options for Us

Now that we knew what we looking for, it was time to find cameras that fit the bill and had good reviews. I started by using our Consumer Reports subscription and checking out their rating on the different camera. We specifically honed in point and shoot cameras that were versatile and rugged.

For those that are looking at buying a digital camera in the near future, here are a couple of top cameras recommended:

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS10 was recommended as rugged model and had a price listed of around $190.
  • Nikon Coolpix P310 was a top pick for compact camera that offered a bit more than simple point and shoot options. the listed price was $280.
  • Nikon Coolpix S9100 had super-zoom which is a handy feature for us. the retail price given was $200.
  • Canon EOS Rebel T3i is an SLR camera that Consumer Reports listed as best buy choice. As a camera for those needing advanced features, the price was listed as $700.

I also checked out photography sites like Digital Photography School to get reviews on the models we were looking at. We also considered feedback from our friends about which cameras worked well and which didn’t. Part of us wanted to go for a really nice (as in lots of advanced features), but the time needed to learn the techniques just didn’t justify going for a top of the line camera.

Finally, we went ahead to a local store to see and hold the cameras for ourselves. One of our favorite spots is Best Buy as one of their stores is fairly close.  Just from checking them out at the store, a few cameras were knocked off our list as I thought they wouldn’t hold up with our toddler should she accidentally grab and drop it.

Finding a Great Deal on a Digital Camera

After narrowing the list down to 3 cameras, we then decided to shop around to see how much the camera normally costs. With Black Friday approaching, we figured we could snag a lower than normal price. It worked out well for us as we checked out prices online. Many stores were offing $100 or more off on the regular prices of the phones we were looking at buying. (Rant: I absolutely hate when online retailers won’t tell you the price until it’s in the cart. )

We also checked our local stores to see if they had any deals on the cameras we wanted. Sometimes you can not only find a great deal at local shops, but the customer service can be unmatched.

Found Our Perfect Digital

In the end, we went with a Nikon Coolpix S9300 as our family camera. It had all of our essentials and many extras as well.

  • 16 Megapixels
  • 18x optical zoom/4x digital zoom
  • 3″ TFT-LCD monitor with antireflection coating
  • 1080p HD video
  • GPS and electronic compass
After shopping around different places, we found the best deal at Amazon. We received our order in 2 days since we are Amazon Prime members and took with us for a weekend trip to see family and friends. Overall it did a great job as we

Thoughts on Picking Up a Digital Camera

I’d love to hear from you and any shopping tips you have for electronics like digital cameras. How many of you are picking up a digital camera soon? What models are you looking at? What deals have you found?

Photo Credits: Amazon and Us

by Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

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  • http://twitter.com/WhatMommyDoes Lena @ WhatMommyDoes

    I went through this same exact process last year. My husband ended up getting my digital SLR (a Canon Rebel XS) plus lens kit at a crazy price on Woot.com right before Christmas. Until then, I was willing to wait for a good deal because I was paralyzed at making a decision! LOL

    Believe it or not, I have yet to take this stinking thing out of the box! I kept telling myself that I first need to learn how to use a nice camera so I don’t waste my time taking horrible pictures with it. That, and my iPhone 4S already takes really good pictures, and I’m addicted to Instagram! :)

    Anyway, I found the photography class I’ve been looking for – by the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. It’s a weekend seminar where I can get the basics of shutter speeds, understanding exposure, learn lighting tricks, how to photograph people, etc. It’s coming to town in January, so I will be breaking out the camera between now and then!