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Well, I've been a photographer for a while now, played with so many different cameras and finally found a few that I shoot with all the time. Through many differnt comparison I hope to give all the readers some tip about picking something that's best for you.
Let me just catagorized a few major types of camera for you.
Point and Click Advance photo system SLR (single lens reflex) Polaroid instant camera Digital camera
There's also several differnt formats of cameras.
Small format 35mm format (most popular and convient) 120 / medium format (used by pros and serious amature) large format (used mostly by fine art photographer for for large size output)
I would discuss mostly about 35mm because if you are into 120 and Large format cameras, you already probably have favorties of your own.
Point and Click
It's a simpliest camera they made so far. All you do is point and click on the subject you want and take it to your choice of photo labs. It's so simple that it doesn't really give you any control over the outcome of the image. It's inexpensive compare to other types of camera and can produce decent image.
Pros: -easy to use -inexpensive
Cons: -no way to focus the image -possiblities to crop out subject because of the view finder is off to the side -optic is cheap and sometimes distore the image a little -can not shot close up photograph
Advnace photo system
You might have seem the commercial on this where you just slide the cartidge in the camera and how simple it is. It takes away the time to load to film, besides that, it's just another point and click camera.
Pros: -easy to use -inexpensive -there are film scanners out there that has attachment for advance photo system
Cons: -can not focus image manually -can not shot close up -optic are not as good as SLR -sometimes it has color cast problems -can not print the photos yourself in the darkroom -short film life
Now it finally brings us to the more professional grade camera. SLR are the cameras that allows you to look through the view finder and see exactly what the lens sees. It was a mirror inside of the camera that angles in a way that project the image into your viewfinder. It allows you to focus your image for that partiular reason. Also allows you to have more freedom with it's funcion. Almost all SLR 35mm comes with standard manual functions where you could get the well exposed picture with working light meter.
-great control over image quality -better optics (it's even better if you buy the good lens) -more options over camera accessories -easy to crop and compose your image looking through the viewfinder
-more expensive than point and click cameras -more difficult on learning to use it -might be a lot heavier than point and click (depend on the camera you have)
Polaroid Instant camera
You see it almost everywhere. It's the camera and film that gives you instant result. I acutally do love the polaroid camera, although the film is very expensive, I still like playing around with them to experiment. I love polaroid film by itself using it with my own camera. I also used polaroid 35mm instand slide film which gives me great result. Even though it's 20 dollars per roll for that types of film.
-easy, no brainer -popular and camera don't cost much
-image can be out of focus (when it's shot with the polaroid instant camera) -expensive film -film live is short
Digital camera came out around 1996, and it's been a great media for the photographers. It ends up saving me so much money when I'm shooting pictures of my family. Itself can be divided into point and click and SLR. I have a Sony Cybershot 770 and it's the best digital camera I ever used. When it comes to choose a digital camera, you have to be careful and ask a few questions before you decide to buy it. The higher megapixel per image on a digital camera will give you better result when you print the photo out. It also gets more expensive that way. Also, if you get a camera that you can not shut off the flash option, it's going to overexpose most of your image. Also look for deals by checking various stores. I went to Fry's to get my Sony camera and it was half the listed price and I got a whole outfit with two 64mb memory sticks and 2 batteries and floppy adaptor for only 1300 dollars.
-save money on film -some of the camera of the instant viewing option -flexible (unless you get the really cheap ones)
-image quality not as good as film -camera itself can get really expensive -need to transfer the photo onto the computer if need to shot more pictures.
Here's are some tip on picking out the camera for you.
Pick a camera that has a way to shut off the flash option (if it has an attached flash). It's going to improve your photograph.
Look into some used cameras, the older cameras has been my favorite because they are well constructed and have great optics. I love Pentax for 35mm because they had a deal with Carl Zeiss optic back then and use all Carl Zeiss optic for their "Asahi" Pentax lens
Get a camera with working light meter. Light meter will tell you if you will overexpose or underexposed and you can adjust shutter speed or aparture to have a well exposed photograph. Also get a camera where you can still find batteries for. Some older camera use mercury battery which is not longer available in US, they are still sold in Canada though.