Cameras for Dads and Grads
By Nancy Hill
Cameras are great gifts for dads and grads, but deciding which one is the right one can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you make the best choice.
Film or Digital
This debate can get quite lengthy, and I use both film and digital. But I will make this easy for you: Unless you’re buying a camera for a professional photographer, go with digital. Digital is more convenient and there are no film costs. If your dad or grad falls in love with photography, he or she may eventually want a film camera as well. At that point, you can congratulate yourself for introducing someone into the wonderful world of photography. You can also be certain that from that point forward, your dad or grad will never be shy about letting you know exactly what he or she wants when it comes to photography equipment.
The first thing I advise you to do is to figure out what features your gift recipient will want. Here are some important features.
In digital photography, this is determined by how many megapixels the camera has. Megapixels do not determine the quality of the image; rather they determine the quality of the print size. The more megapixels, the bigger the enlargement can be without losing clarity. A three-megapixel camera will provide good prints up to 8 x 10. That will probably be sufficient for most dads and grads. However, getting more won’t hurt.
If your gift recipient is likely to use the photos online, you can get by with fewer megapixels.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that small and sleek might be ideal for a recent grad. If you hope to see photos of their new life, make it convenient for them to take a camera with them. It’s a lot easier to stick a camera in a pocket or purse than it is to carry it over your shoulder or around your neck. Cameras that need camera bags tend to stay in closets or under beds unless someone has a real passion for photography.
On the other hand, if you’re getting a camera for a dad who loves taking photos of kids playing sports or family vacation photos, a larger model might work better. The features are larger and easy to find and manipulate, and larger models often offer more options. (There are only so many options you can pack into a little bundle.)
If this is the first digital camera your recipient has had and he or she hasn’t ever shown any strong interest in photography, I’d avoid buying a 35 mm digital camera with interchangeable lenses. That could be overwhelming. On the other hand, if your recipient has shown a strong interest in photography and is forever e-mailing photos to friends and family members, it could well be time to get the 35 mm/interchangeable lens camera. You’ll be a hero!
Ease of Use
You know your recipient. If he or she simply wants to point and shoot, make sure you get a camera that has all automatic settings and will make every decision all on its own. On the other hand, if your recipient likes to fiddle with things and is a techno freak, make sure you get something that give him or her the ability to make manual adjustments.
Digital cameras have a variety of options. The ones I would make sure the camera has are:
• Optical zoom lens
• Ability to use rechargeable batteries
• Removable memory card (vs. strictly storing photos inside the camera)
• An ISO range of up to at least up to 400 (more if the person is likely to shoot in dim light) Note: ISO determines how light sensitive the camera is.
• A built-in flash (with a red-eye reduction feature)
• An LCD screen for viewing pictures
• A glass lens (rather than a plastic one)
Other features to consider include:
• Ability to set the camera to manual mode. This allows for much more creativity. Personally, I’d never give anyone a camera without this. It’s like giving someone a coloring book and insisting they “stay inside the lines,” vs. giving them a sketch book and inks, pastels, watercolors, etc.
• Video capability to make short movies. You aren’t going to get high quality here, but it can be fun.
• Close up mode. Nice feature that allows the user to take super close-ups of things like flower petals, stamps, bugs, etc.
• A timer. Nice to make sure the camera is steady if it’s on a tripod and useful it the photographer wants to jump into the picture.
• Ability to release shutter once and have it take a series of pictures within seconds. Great for someone who is going to be shooting sports or other action photos.
How to Choose
Do your research. Go online and do a search for Web sites that compare digital cameras. Ask someone you know with a digital camera whether or not they like theirs. Find out what they say they could live without and what they’d never give up. If they are knowledgeable, maybe they could help you decide. Go to a store and hold the cameras. What feels good?
Make a list of the most important features the person you are giving the gift to will want. Prioritize the features. Then search for cameras within your price range and match as many features as you can to a price you can afford.
Stick with brand names you trust. You can’t go wrong with a Nikon or Canon. (Personally, I have always used Nikons and wouldn’t trade them for anything.)
Look at the complete package. Some packages include memory cards, cables to hook the camera up to the computer, and rechargeable batteries. Some digital cameras have “ports” you set your camera in to recharge the batteries.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but for a grad who isn’t interested in learning all about photography, you’re well advised to consider appearance. Slick and sleek might be way more important that one with more features but that isn’t as cool looking.
Think of the ability to exchange the camera. If you buy a camera that doesn’t have a feature the recipient MUST have (and of course never mentioned to you), you will want to be able to exchange it for something the recipient will be able to use to capture the photographs he or she has in mind.
Digital cameras with 3 megapixels can start as low as $100 and go to thousands for professional models. When comparing prices, make sure you take into account the entire package that comes with the camera.
Shop around. You can find some great deals on the Internet from highly reputable camera stores. Watch inserts in the Sunday paper as well. Visit some camera and electronic stores.