This is what I usually say when my friends ask me about digital cameras:
There are so many models coming up so fast and I don't even try to catch up. Even reading the reviews is too time-consuming and confusing for most buyers. So, just find the cameras you are interested in and see the scores or "conclusion" at the end of each review on DPReview and Megapixel.net. DCViews is a great portal site. The page for each camera model includes the links to the review sites mentioned above.
The sample images on the review sites are taken by professional photographers in most cases and they don't reflect the kind of pictures you can take at a party with a shaky hand. Flickr Camera Finder is very useful because you can see the photos taken by amateur photographers.
Think about a digital camera from 4 or 5 years and how old it looks. If you get a digital camera and keep on using it, chances are you will replace it with a new one in 4 years ;) Don't spend a fortune as if this will be the last digital camera you would ever buy.
If you are buying a digital SLR and if you have a little more budget than the entry level body-lens combo, then spend the extra money on the lens rather than the body. Good photos only come from good lens. With today's technology, the body will become outdated faster than the lens. So, in a few years, it will be better to ebay the body and get a new one than keeping the body and replacing the lens.
In April 2007, I sold my Rebel XT (+ one lens and flash) and bought Nikon D80. There were a few reasons.
My point-and-shoot camera is Panasonic DMC-FS20 (10MP, 4x zoom, $179.95). For a $180 camera, the image quality is not bad. It's just one-inch thick and its response time is very quick. Perfect for a point-and-shoot to carry along. What amazed me was that Panasonic has so many models and they all seem to have very good user interface. I was surprised to see exposure compensation and auto bracketing on this camera.
Gary Fong's Lightsphere is basically a diffuser dome to put on the flash. For a $50 product, it works amazingly well, especially when the ceiling is white and not too high. I bought Lightsphere II P1 ("clear" for Nikon SB-800) from Amazon.
Digital Foci - Photo Safe II (PST-251) (160GB, $149)
Besides being a regular USB external hard drive, this product can suck all the photos from your flash memory card on the road. It can also work as a flash card reader when it's connected to the PC.
Lowepro - Fastpack 250 is backpack. Tamrac Velocity 7x Model 5767 is a shoulder bag. Both bags can be carried on your back and allow you swing the bag to the front and take out the SLR within a few seconds. The Lowepro backpack can also hold a laptop PC. The important feature of the Tamrac Velocity is that it opens toward you, not away from you, so the camera would never fall out.
Smugmug is the photo hosting site I use. You get unlimited store for $39.95/year. If you use my personal coupon code xgUN9VgfTELiI then it will save both you and me some lunch money but that is not the reason I recommend Smugmug. Look & feel is gorgeous and photo managing is very easy. Plus their staff are photo nerds like we are and they respond to your questions vigorously.
Flickr (Yahoo) gives you unlimited storage for $24.95/year. Google's Picasa Web gives you 10 GB ($20/year), 40 GB ($75/year), etc. These two probably are not going away but I'm not sure about other ones, especially the ones that are free. I believe they can do whatever they like (for instance, removing your photos) if their business climate changes. You can try Flickr or Picasa Web first before trying Smugmug. Smugmug has a migration tool called Smugglr [I love the name :) ] that would help you copy the photos from other sites.
April 19, 2009 - Komei Harada