Comparison Best Digital Cameras

There is no doubt in my mind that a good 3 megapixel digital camera can produce printed results that beat APS film and a good-quality 4 megapixel can rival conventional 35mm film.  I have prints to back up that statement.  I hung up my film cameras in March of 1999 and haven't shot on film since then.

Comparison Best Digital CamerasIn many cities, a good digital camera can now effectively replace 35mm point-and-shoot and APS film cameras.  If you're using a 35mm SLR, this can still be true, but you'll loose a little functionality from your SLR (on the other hand, you'll pick up some new functionality with a digital camera too!).  The reason I say "in many cities" above is because for a digital to truly replace a 35mm P&S camera, the "end result" and the way you get to the end result has to be very similar....and now it is.

To put things into perspective in terms of cost, let's analyze what you really end up with in typical photography.  If you're a film user, you pay about $5 for a roll of Comparison Best Digital Cameras35mm negative film, you shoot the roll (say, 24 prints), then take it to the corner drugstore for $7 processing (single prints).  So now you're in a cycle of $12 for a finished set of 24 prints, or 50 each.  But here's the rub: of the 24 prints you got back, only 6 of them (25%) are "keepers" (and that's on a good day, isn't it?).  So you've paid $9 for 18 prints that are duds and will end up in a drawer or in the trash; effectively, you've paid $12 for 6 good prints, or $2 for each good print.  Your 35mm point-and-shoot camera costs less than $200 (a low fixed cost), but you're paying $2 for every single good shot (a high varaible cost).  At some point, it's going to catch up to you, depending on your shooting volume.  With digital, you print only the shots you want, and I typically pay only 16 for a 4x6 print at Sam's Club.  You may have a camera that costs $500 (high fixed cost), but you'll pay 90% less for desirable prints (low variable cost).  But if you shoot only two rolls of film per year, you should obviously stick with film.

However, I recognize that there are different types of photographers these days.  In terms of "type of photographer" here is how I group people:

  1. The "Shooter": This type of photographer just cares about the end result: prints.  This is the "soccer mom" of photographers, always on the move taking photos at the kids' games and plays, plus the obligatory birthday party and holiday photos.  The "Shooter" is not very particular about photography or print quality...to them, it's more of a convenience and not a primary purpose of life.  The "Shooter" will eventually lose or throw away the film negatives once the prints have been cataloged into a frame or scrapbook.  Convenience is a very big deal to the Shooter.

  2. The "Sharer": The Sharer is very similar to the Shooter, but will tend to keep up with negatives, maybe not permanently, but long enough to make reprints or enlargements.  The Sharer typically orders "double prints" as standard practice and gives away the second set to friends or relatives.  The "Sharer" is typically more persnickety about photography and print quality (everyone dreads "red-eye"), and might take extra steps to gain a little more quality over the process.  For the "Sharer", film negatives may or may not end up getting permanently cataloged or stored.

  3. The "Serious": The Serious shoots a tremendous volume of photographs and carefully catalogs and stores negatives...you never know when you'll need them again to enter a photo contest.  Additionally, the Serious is very picky about the printed results and will not hesitate to "send them back" to the processor if they are not up to par in terms of printed quality.  Finally, the Serious wants to have as much control over the entire process as possible, from equipment to composition, to output.  The Serious reveres his photo gear like a 2 handicap golfer reveres his set of golf clubs.

Personally, I fall into the "Serious" category.  You decide what category you fall into, and then read on...

SHOOTERS: If you fall into the category of folks who use cameras simply as a convenient means of getting photos to frame, share, or put into a scrapbook, but you do NOT want to fool with a computer, then you can go digital today...if you have access to a local place that will do digital prints.  As you read further into this site, you'll come across my "Getting Prints" chapter, where I reveal that there are many places where you can take your "digital film" to get glossy or matte prints that look as good as (or perhaps better than) your 35mm prints.  The only hurdle you have to overcome is the cost of "getting in"...if you're currently in a position of replacing your old film camera, you should very seriously consider getting a good digital camera (3 megapixels, minimum).

SHARERS: If, in addition to the above, you want to have the ability to email photos to friends and family, then digital is definitely your thing.  If you still want to avoid downloading photos from your camera to the computer, you're in luck!  The same places that make your prints will also put the "digital negatives" onto a CD for you (usually for a minimal charge)...it will be up to you to put the CD into a safe place in case you need it again.  The best part about being in the "Sharers" category is that you have a choice to use or not use a computer to deal with your photos.  If a Sharer ends up with the dreaded "red eye", she can always pull it into the computer and zap it.  Flexibility is the name of the game for Sharers.

SERIOUS: You're going to need to climb a learning curve and spend some $$$ on beefed up software and equipment, but you'll have total control over the entire process...start to finish.

To summarize this briefly, here is what each type cares about:

Shooters = Convenience
Sharers = Flexibility
Serious = Control

 

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