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November 22, 2006

DIGITAL CAMERA CARNIVAL: Okay, the entries are in. There were actually so many that I'm breaking this Carnival into two parts, with the second to follow tomorrow or Friday. (That also means that it's not too late to send one in -- just put "digital camera carnival" in the subject line so that I can find it.) But first, my own post in response to a reader email from Danny Glover (yes, that Danny Glover: the blogger!). Glover writes:

My wife and I are wanting a digital camera but don't really have any experience in that realm other than clicking a few photos of our kids on my Dad's camera. I know you've written about cameras regularly.

We not looking for anything fancy, but we don't want junk, either. Any recommendations on the best and most user-friendly options out there now for newcomers like us? Something in the middle tier that will take great pictures, interact well with our Dell Inspiron, etc.? Can you point me to some of your most useful blog posts on the subject?

The short answer is that it's hard to buy a bad digital camera any more. Most anything in the $200-400 range will be very good, and pretty easy to use. I'm quite happy with my Sony DSC-W7 pocket camera, and you could drop to the 5-megapixel DSC-W5 without sacrificing very much. Ann Althouse has this small Sony, and a look at her blog will illustrate that it does excellent work. Unlike mine, though, it uses a proprietary rechargeable battery instead of AA batteries. I like the flexibility of being able to pick up fresh batteries anywhere in a pinch, though in truth I seldom have to do that.

In this earlier post, Andrew Marcus explains why he favors the Canon Powershot A630 -- it's good, reasonably priced, takes AA batteries and has a swinging display screen that's handy for some shots. Things to look at: If your laptop has only one kind of cardreader -- my Dell has an SD slot but no other -- you might want a camera that uses that kind of card. It's not hard to hook up a USB cable, though. Also check video formats. If you've got a PC, you're better off with a camera that records video in MPEG; if you've got an Apple, you might prefer one that records in QuickTime, though this isn't a big issue if you're willing to spend 50-75 bucks on software. (More on digital still cameras and video here.) I also recommend checking out sites like DPReview.com, Steve's Digicams, and KenRockwell.com for reviews. (I notice that Ken has a holiday camera guide posted, too. He calls the Canon Powershot A530 the best buy of the season, and at $149 on Amazon, it would have to be.) The good news, as I've said, is that you can't really go wrong. Reader Allan McLane writes that he bought the Canon SD800 on Rockwell's recommendation and reports "I completely agree with his comments." He also recommends this photoblog.

Here's a new forum for discussing digital SLRs. And here's a cool surgical camera.

Clayton Cramer is posting pictures (with links to full 6MP images) from his HP Photosmart e427 camera.

Meanwhile, reader Trey Monroe stresses lenses:

My advice, get a camera that can use interchangeable lenses, and buy up a lot of the older lenses. I have a Nikon D50, entry level digital SLR. I have been buying old glass on eBay, I refuse to pay more than $40 including shipping. What I get are WONDERFUL old lenses that I can use manually on the camera. These lenses produce SHARP images with wonderful color. So far, I bought a 24mm, a 28mm, a 55mm macro, a 105mm, a 135mm, and a vintage 200mm with an original case. None cost more than $40 delivered. The differences in the images is visible even in 4x6 enlargements. The colors are better too! See if the Cannon cameras or other brands can do the same thing, then buy up the old glass, buy a handheld meter if you have to, and take pictures that will put those plastic zoom lenses that come with the cameras to shame. It is all about the lenses, garbage in, well, you know the rest.

Yes, I've noted before that my Toshiba 3.2 megapixel camera takes pictures that enlarge as well as many 6 megapixel images, because it has an excellent Canon lens. The glass does matter.

Speaking of glass, at Technogypsy there's a look at Macro photography and legacy lenses.

John Palmer posts several pictures from his new Canon SD700 -- plus a warning about shirt-pocket cameras' tendency to fall out of the shirt pocket if you're not careful. He adds by email: "Follow-up to that post. I dropped that camera into our hot tub and had to buy another one!" Beware.

My brother has a Panasonic Lumix with a smooth, slick body that looks great, but it's so slick that it's easy to drop it from your hand if you don't use the wrist lanyard. But it's otherwise a great camera. Hmm, maybe this is a marketing strategy!

Doug Landrum posts with suggestions to think about how you will use your camera. Good advice.

Some very cool balloon photoblogging here, with pictures by a Panasonic FZ4

Brian Leon looks at the question of filters vs. photoshop.

Phil Philpot sends a link to a 1500 Megapixel photo of Macchu Picchu. Can you say detail?

Eric Scheie still likes his Nikon Coolpix. It's stylish yet competent -- just like him. And his dog.

More later.

UPDATE: Disagreement on the AA battery issue, from Ann Althouse, with interesting discussion in the comments.