Choosing the Right Camera for Your Family

Film vs. Digital

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With the vast selection of great and affordable cameras available today, choosing the right one to preserve priceless memories isn’t always an easy task.

Becoming a mom can mean trading in your Prada handbag for an Eddie Bauer diaper bag, sacrificing those cute high-heeled boots for comfy sneakers, and packing away the Chanel lipstick and being grateful if there’s time to use mouthwash. But the one accessory no new mom can do without is a good camera for capturing the precious smiles that make parenting all worthwhile. With the vast selection of great and affordable cameras available today, choosing the right one to preserve priceless memories isn’t such an easy task.

Going Digital

One thing parents never have enough of is time. Who can spare the time to run out—not once, but twice—to the one-hour photo place, or has the patience to wait for a roll of film to be developed? Therein lies the biggest benefit of digital cameras—instant gratification. As soon as you snap the shot, you can view it. If it’s blurred or if Junior blinked at the last minute, you can delete it and try again. And if it came out just right, you can head straight for the PC to email it to Aunt Betty or print it for your wallet.

How do you choose which digital camera is right for you? Check out CNet’s Digital Camera Buying Guide to profile which type of user you are and get their suggestions on the brands and models that suit your user profile. Having this information in hand will better equip you to make a good consumer choice when you’re ready to head to your local camera shop or peruse online listings.

Doing some homework can also help you decide how many megapixels you need—the more megapixels your camera offers, the higher the resolution of your digital images. CNET recommends using a camera at three megapixels or higher if you plan to make prints. If your images will be strictly digital, a lower resolution is fine. CNET’s buying guide can also help you weigh the pros and cons of different battery types, camera lenses and storage options.

Viewing a picture of your cuddly bundle on a screen isn’t nearly as rewarding as holding a photo you can kiss, but getting prints from your digital camera is getting easier all the time. There are great printers on the market that you can insert your camera’s memory card into or connect to your PC. Most of these allow you to view and edit photos on screen before printing. There’s also cool software available at office supply and computer stores for making greeting cards, magnets, or printing sheets of wallet-sized photos. If you don’t want to invest the $300 or so for such a printer, you also have the option of uploading digital shots to websites like Ofoto and ordering low-cost prints that come to you in the mail in just a couple of days. Retailers like Wal-Mart and CVS also have digital photo stations for selecting and making prints in the store. And of course, you pay only for the prints you want with no rejects in the batch.

“I only use digital in my business now,” says Michael Perrini, a New York-based portrait photographer who specializes in headshots of authors and musicians. “When we finish a sitting, the client can see all the shots, pick the ones he likes, indicate what retouches he wants done, and order prints right away. Not only is it the fastest way to get the headshots to the client, it’s also the easiest way for me to retouch shots and deliver a really perfect finished product.”

Taking Pictures the Old-Fashioned Way

Everything seems to have gone digital these days, but an old-fashioned 35-millimeter film camera is as good as ever for snapping photo after photo of your pride and joy. Even the most affordable 35 mm cameras come loaded with goof-proof features like red-eye reduction, telephoto capabilities, and even timers so you can include yourself in the photo. Film cameras allow you to indulge in the time-honored tradition of opening an envelope of just-developed photos, exclaiming over each one, and finding shots you’d forgotten you took. You can send the doubles to friends and grandparents and paste the rest into your scrapbook. You can tuck the best ones into your purse for on-the-go bragging. There’s no doubt about it, holding photos in your hand is uniquely satisfying.

For the artistic parent, there are manual cameras for which there are hundreds of different lenses and filters to help you create artfully composed, professional quality shots. Many photo buffs swear by film cameras when it comes to capturing the full spectrum of colors and the nuances of light and shadow. Another unique benefit of film: nothing captures those dimples like black and white photographs.

Some film lovers also find that the quality of film prints is still superior to digital prints. “Film cameras still produce the highest quality images and are the best way to preserve your memories,” says Dave Alter, manager of Hudson Camera Craft in upstate New York. “You can get excellent quality photos with a very reasonably priced camera. Don’t get sucked into buying a pricey camera with lots of features you’ll never have time to learn to use. As long as you can zoom in for close-ups or out for wide-angle shots, you’ll be able to capture what you want.”

Do Your Research

Whether you decide on the convenience of a digital camera or the old-fashioned satisfaction of film, you’ll want to do your research well. Amazon and Yahoo help you create charts to compare cameras based on cost and special features, and you can read product reviews posted by other consumers. You want to be sure that you purchase the right camera for your needs—after all, you’ll spend years using your new camera to capture priceless memories, and preserve family events and fleeting childhood memories forever.

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