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Saturday, March 2, 2013

How to choose the right camera for child photography

The most challenging photographs are not taken by the immensely talented photographers at National Geographic.  I reckon that these photographs are instead taken by parents all over the world.  The subject matter? Kids! Kids that are not sitting still.  Kids that refuse to listen to your instructions.  Kids that think that running away from a camera is a sport.  Kids that are just, being kids.

In a bid to capture lovely moments of our kids growing up, many of us would have believed in at least one of the following myths when it comes to choosing a camera for child photography:

1.  The more expensive the better

It's a logical conclusion isn't it?  You do get what you pay for, right?  Well, while it is generally true that the more expensive a camera is, the more features it would have and the better quality the pictures are, but as most of us would never print larger than 4R (i.e. 4 x 6 inches), we would end up paying too much for quality and features that would never make a difference in the final output.  Do you know that for a 4R print, a resolution of 1800 x 1200 pixels would suffice?  There is no real need for that top of the range camera with a gazillion megapixels.  Better to save the money for other things!

2.  The bigger the better

Everytime I see someone raise their hefty DSLR to take a picture, others around would try not to get in their way or line of vision.  So big! Must be professional leh!  While DSLRs provide excellent picture quality (owing to their larger sensor sizes), they are usually too heavy to hold up for extended periods of time.  High quality lenses would add even more to the total weight of your set up.  Unless you turn green when provoked, your hyperactive child is probably going to outlast your shaking arms.

3.  The more popular the better

Parents who believe in this myth are also the ones who would queue hours for food that they have never eaten before.  Long queue leh... must be sedap!  Unfortunately, not all cameras are alike, so the most popular camera might not give you the features that you actually need for child photography.

So should parents turn to drawing their children instead?

Of course not!  I will tell you exactly which are the key features you need to look out for in a camera.

1.  Big aperture and high ISO

Simply put, a big aperture (i.e. small f-number like f2.0) would allow more light to reach the camera's light sensor.  This in turn allows for faster shutter speeds, which freezes the fast movement (i.e. 佛山无影脚) of your kids.  ISO measures how sensitive your sensor is to light.  The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your sensor is.  Thus, high ISO also allows faster shutter speeds to be used, reducing the number of blur photos.

2.  Wide angle

Having a camera with wide angle lens (i.e. small number like 24mm) means that you don't have back up too far to capture shots of your little one.  At wide angles, camera shakes and movements are also less obvious.  The best thing about the wide angle?  You can take pictures of your entire family (of 3 or 4) without external help.  Best for cam-whoring!

3.  Faster start-up time and less shutter lag

How many times have you seen a lovable look on your children's face and by the time your camera is ready to capture it, he/she has already changed his expression (sometimes faster than 变脸)?  You will need a camera with a fast start-up time, and more importantly, little or no shutter lag.  Shutter lag is the delay between triggering the shutter and when the photograph is actually recorded.  In plain parent language, it is the difference between capturing a megawatt smile and a shot destined for deletion. Generally, DSLRs would have an advantage in this area.  However, if you look hard enough, some point and shoot cameras are competent enough.

So remember to look for these features the next time you look for a new camera.  Happy snapping!


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