Digital cameras have found their way into a cellphone, but those are best if all you need is a quick click for the phonebook. For something lasting and memorable, you are better off with a proper camera. A phone camera, no matter how high the megapixel count, can rarely match the quality of a regular camera. The main reason for this is the optics involved. Cellphones are small and cannot accommodate the complex optics required to enable proper zooming, the optimal capture of colours and tones and other details. This becomes evident when you zoom into the photo from a cellphone camera or try to print it bigger for that nice bedside frame.
Optical vs Digital Zoom
Megapixels in a digital camera are not the be-all-end-all of digital photography. Eventually, it is your budget that will restrict your buying decision. And just because you got a camera with only 4 megapixels doesn’t mean that your photos will be bad. One of the main things to look out for when buying a camera is the optical zoom. In most consumer cameras, it is 3X or 4X at the most. What this means is that the lens of your digital camera can zoom up to three or four times its focal length.
Manufacturers often label cameras as having “20X Zoom” and “30X Zoom”. But read the fine print and you will see that this figure is arrived at by multiplying the 3X optical zoom and 8X (or 10X) digital zoom. So what is this digital zoom?
Of the two types of zooming available, digital zoom crops into an image already captured or if you are zooming in digitally before shooting, it will start removing details from the outer sides of the framed view. In effect, you are cropping away your photo and just enlarging the image from the centre out. This reduces the quality since the detailing is now spread over an area it is not optimized for.
Digital cameras today start at as low as Rs 4,000. But these are limited in their capability and features. Way ahead of the pack are cameras from Nikon, Sony, Canon and Kodak. When buying any electronic item, it is important to note how good a company’s after-sales set-up is. Apart from these brands, there are cameras from Casio, Fuji, Samsung and Olympus that are worth your while. Here are some of the best buys in two entry-level price categories. Also worth noting is that we have listed cameras that have at least 2X digital zoom.
Nikon Coolpix L4
Price: Rs8,500 (approx))
If you are just entering the world of digital photography, look no further. The Coolpix L4 is one of the easiest-to-use cameras available at the moment. With a 3.9 megapixel sensor, this camera is good enough for all your personal photos. Printing is easy and photos taken with the L4 can easily enlarge up to 4x6 inches (the standard size one normally prints). And with a 3X optical zoom lens, it is good enough to deliver on all that it promises.
Kodak Easyshare C533
Price: Rs9,500 (approx)
At first glance, the Kodak Easyshare series may not appeal to many. But these cameras definitely pack a punch when they shoot! The Easyshare C533 is one of the best cameras available in this price range and with 5 megapixel sensor, it does add to the value it delivers. The digital zoom is also higher, but like we said, restrict this to check photos after you have shot. A robust camera, it also has 16MB internal memory to go with whatever capacity card you choose.
Canon Powershot A430
Price: Rs 9,200 (approx)
Canon has beefed up its entry-level portfolio considerably over the last couple of years. And some of the newer cameras that have made it to India are among the best. Like the A430. It not only has a 4 megapixel sensor like most cameras in its class, but also boasts of 4X optical zoom. More power to the photographer! And just for that, it is worth paying a little extra. And the icing on the cake is that it can also shoot 320x240 pixel videos.
Rs10,000 to Rs20,000
Casio Exilim EX Z60
Price: Rs17,500 (approx)
An ultra-compact digital camera that has all the frills associated with a price tag of Rs17,500, the Casio Exilim EX Z60 is a head turner! The Exilim series of cameras from Casio have all been absolute stunners and managed to pack in a lot in a very small package. The Z60 is no different and is packed to the brim with features.
Powered by a 6 megapixel sensor, the Z60 has a 3X optical zoom lens and 4X digital zoom. The camera also allows for more manual control (for advanced users) than some others in this range. Additionally, it includes 8MB internal storage. This was a feature available only in some Kodak cameras thus far but now Casio is also bundling it. On the whole, if you want a sleek and sexy camera that also shoots as well as it looks, this is worth considering.
Sony DSC T50
Price: Rs18,500 (approx)
Speaking of sleek and sexy, if that is a must to have in a camera, you simply must pick up the Sony DSC T50. All of 7 megapixels at your disposal with a 3X optical zoom lens and looks that could kill! An ability to shoot videos at 640x480 pixels puts it in a different league altogether compared to normal consumer cameras. Plus your investment on a memory card can be controlled with 58MB internal memory. This is one of the few cameras that can make you and your photos look good!
Nikon Coolpix S10
Price: Rs16,000 (approx)
The second coming of an earlier design of ‘twisting lens’ camera, the S10 is a superb camera to have if you are more than just an occasional photographer and would like to take photos that go beyond the ‘group snap’. Why is this is a worthwhile investment?
Because it has a 6 megapixel sensor and its lens can twist 180 degrees. What the lens allows you to do is experiment with some interesting compositions when shooting people, landscapes or just about anything. And add to this a whopping 10X optical zoom lens and you have a winning combination of innovation and power. And at the price of just Rs16,000 (approx), this is indeed a superb buy.
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