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How to Buy a Camera

You peruse the postcards available at each port of call on your cruise, and then you examine the pictures taken with your point and shoot camera, and you come to the conclusion, "There must be a better way!" Stepping up to better photography needn't be difficult. But it does require some knowledge.

THE SINGLE LENS REFLEX CAMERA (SLR) Beyond the point and shoot camera is the domain of the SLR. This camera offers great flexibility and capability, in a package not much bigger than a telescopic point and shoot. SLR's have the following in common with point and shoot cameras:

  • Easy film loading and powe rewind.
  • Automatically adjustment for the film speed being used, when DX- type film is used, virtually universal in film nowadays).
  • Auto-focusing.
  • Pre-programmed exposure modes which make them easy to use.

SLRS' ADDITIONAL FEATURES:

  • When you look through the viewfinder, you are actually looking through the camera lens, so what you see in the viewfinder is the picture.
  • The lenses are interchangeable, allowing , wide angle and telephoto lenses.
  • Built-in electronic flash, with an opportunity to use more powerful, detachable units.
  • The capability of utilizing a wide range of film speeds and types.
  • Optional lens filters to improve photographs and add special effects.
  • Light meters built in are more sophisticated, allowing better exposure.
  • Faster motor drives.
  • A wide variety of exposure modes to compensate for different shooting conditions.

THE RIGHT CAMERA There is a vast array of quality SLR's available from the major manufacturers, including Minolta, Canon, Pentax, Olympus and Nikon. Each offer SLRs that range from simple amateur units to highly sophisticated cameras suited to photography enthusiast and professionals. Your first SLR should be capable of doing everything basic and still have enough flexibility to grow with you as you become more experienced. This may mean bypassing the least expensive camera in a product line for the next step up. I also recommend an SLR that uses 35mm film. This film format offers the greatest variety and is available everywhere. Remember, even the least expensive SLR offers far greater picture taking capability than a point and shoot camera.

Your new camera should feel like an extension of your body, comfortable to hold with grips, with a body contour that fits your hand. It should allow you to easily manipulate the control and be lightweight. Go to a reputable camera dealer with selections from a wide variety of manufacturers. Try the different cameras out. A good retailer will take time to let you "play" with each model, and explain each camera's features. Every dealer is partial towards one manufacturer or another. Ask for their reasons. Often a camera shop may not be the cheapest place to purchase a camera, but the personal service and the assurance of having someone local to help out when you need it is a big plus.

A major part of the SLR camera purchase is the lens or lenses. Often the manufacturer will offer a package including the camera lens. Almost all lenses offered with cameras are zoom type lenses. A zoom does exactly what it says. It changes the angle of view from wide angle to telephoto, either getting more into the picture or getting a close-up. Typically zooms come in three different ranges:

  1. Wide angle to moderate telephoto, from 28mm to 80mm. This is the most common type included in a camera package, usually of fair to good quality. Purchasing a package eliminates a decision for you. As a first lens, it offers good flexibility at a reasonable price.
  2. Telephoto zooms range from around 75mm to 200mm. They are used less frequently than the wide angles but allow you to bring distant objects close-up and to closely frame a subject.
  3. All-in-one zooms, the newest type, offering great zoom ranges, from a wide angle of 28mm to a telephoto of up to 300mm. They can truly be the only lens you ever purchase. Because they use more sophisticated glass and lens elements, they are usually more expensive than either of the above.

You have two choices of lenses: those made by the camera manufacturer and those made by independent lens manufacturers. Lenses made by the camera manufacturer will coordinate with the camera body and are usually good quality. Lenses made by independent companies may be of comparable quality and have more features at the same or lower price. Often, independent lens manufacturers offer lense types unavailable from the manufacturer. This is a time where a good camera dealer can simplify your selection.

Finally, buy a couple of rolls of film with your camera purchase. Make one a 12 exposure roll, to make sure your camera is functioning properly. Take pictures both outside and inside with the flash, and check the pictures you get back very caredfully, well before your cruise.

SUMMING UP Will your first pictures taken with your new SLR look like a postcard? Probably not. But you now have a tool that will give you pictures far better than you ever thought you were capable of taking. Your memories will have a beautiful companion-- an 8 x 10 glossy of you dancing the cha-cha with the captain!!

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