So your Scout is going to summer camp next year, one of the high adventure experiences that BSA has to offer, an international scout program, or just “Being Prepared” for the 2013 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Obviously you want to see pictures of everything he or she does there. What to do? Get him or her a digital camera for Christmas! You say, “Great! That will take care of two birds with one stone.” This is where you are at a complete loss. No need to worry because here are 8 quick checklist items to help you find that perfect digital camera for your Scout.
Item 1: Determine what your Scout needs.
Think about: the type of photography (landscape, portrait, night shots, sports, etc.), your Scout’s experience with photography, the size of the camera, and especially your budget. The biggest camera isn’t always the best. Plenty of small compact models offer great results on a budget. Don’t overlook the waterproof and rugged model from Panasonic for the less than careful Scout.
Item 2: Megapixels do not matter as much anymore.
Megapixels used to be a big deal, but digital cameras today offer 5 megapixels at the minimum. A 6 megapixel camera is usually more than enough for printing quality up to 8×10 photographs. Keep in mind that the higher the megapixels, the more disk space each picture will occupy on your digital storage device.
Item 3: Bear in mind accessories may be required.
A camera does not come with carrying bags, tripods, extra batteries, or high capacity memory cards, UNLESS it is sold as part of a package. Packages are a good way to get the essentials all at once. Just make sure that packages include accessories your Scout will need rather than less than useful extras. For a great tripod, the Gorillapod is a flexible tripod that can be wrapped around tree branches or tent poles.
Item 4: Check for compatible gear.
There are parts or gear that you may already possess that your Scout could use with the new camera. This awareness will help you cut unnecessary costs. Search for compatible battery size, bags, lens, filters, memory cards, etc.
Item 5: Decide on a point-and-shoot or DSLR.
Your Scout’s backpack will be filled with other necessities and could be quite heavy, even without the camera. A point-and-shoot will suffice 9 times out of 10. However, if your Scout has an affinity for DSLRs, has demonstrated the skills of maintaining a DSLR, has a long term plan to develop his photography skills, and you have the budget to invest in a DSLR, then that’s your choice. Nikon’s D3100, Canon’s EOS Rebel T3, and Sony’s Alpha A230L are great beginner DSLRs which produce stunning images easily, while offering features to keep your Scout’s skills growing.
Item 6: Optical zoom is a double-edged sword.
Higher optical zoom capabilities allow your Scout to capture images he or she wants captured without the need to get closer. However, the closer you zoom into the object, the more pixelated or distorted the object becomes. Be sure to use a tripod when zoomed in. Digital zoom on the camera is the same as enlarging a photo on the computer. It is always better not to use your camera’s digital zoom and instead crop, resize, and edit your photo on the computer where it is easier to see.
Item 7: Do your own research, try several cameras before you buy, and shop around.
Buy the camera you want and not the one someone else insists that you buy. A Camera can become a very personal piece of equipment. Always test out a few cameras that appeal to you at a local store. Each camera will feel different in your hands. Once you have found the one, you can often find one cheaper online, but support your local stores if the sales people were helpful and knowledgable. Make sure you buy from a reputable seller which will honor warranties and repairs.
Item 8: Your Scout should get familiar with the new camera and its functions.
It is quite common for people to buy a camera and neglect to learn about all the different functions it has to offer. So experiment with the new camera with your Scout. What an opportunity to earn the Photography Merit Badge!