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Abundance of Choices Is Enough to Make You Shutter

November 14, 1987|ROBERT LACHMAN | Times Staff Writer

Have you ever walked into a store to buy a camera but been so overwhelmed by the choices that you just turned around and walked out?

Today's cameras have every imaginable feature. Manufacturers use terms that can confuse even an experienced photographer. Get used to such phrases as electroluminescent LCD display glow, super low dispersion glass, arc-form drive, silent ultrasonic focusing, built-in superfocus spot beam and TTL flash or amazing trap focus.

Every manufacturer promises superior quality. An example is Olympus, which advertises that its OM-77-AF is so close to infallible that the manufacturer guarantees your photos, giving you $1 back on pictures that are not perfectly focused or exposed.

Some manufacturers practically promise that their product will ignite your creativity, enrich your life and get you a date with Madonna.

But not everyone wants or needs this much information. Your purchase usually comes down to one factor--price. Your decision is what features you can get within your specified budget.

Cameras generally come in three price categories:

Less than $100: These cameras are less sophisticated range finders with modest features and a low-quality lens.

$100 to $200: This group includes cameras for those who want quality photos without the hassle of carrying around a lot of heavy and rarely used equipment. Most cameras in this category include automatic focus, built-in flash, automatic exposure, automatic winding and rewind and a higher-quality lens. The upper range of this category may include cameras that are waterproof or feature wide angle and telephoto lenses.

$200 and above: This category includes single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras with interchangeable lens and larger-format cameras. This classification is for the serious amateur and the professional photographer.

Here are a few of the features to consider:

Automatic focus: A valuable feature when you are shooting quickly or at night, when it is tough to focus. This feature just keeps getting better with today's cameras. Highly recommended for the novice and advanced photographer. The more expensive cameras give you a manual override.

Built-in flash: A great convenience. You always have light when needed. Some of the disadvantages are less creativity and the chance that your subject will appear to have red eyes, due to the strobe's closeness to the lens.

Automatic film load, advance and rewind: This feature adds to the convenience. Gone are the days of sticking your film into the take-up spool. Just put the film in and let the camera do the work. The winding is automatic. This also allows you to take a series of pictures without the hassle of advancing your film. Also look for cameras that rewind your film.

Automatic exposure: In the lower-priced cameras, the exposure is automatic. This is great for the snapshot photographer who does not want to fool with settings. Look for cameras that will even read the film's exposure index (film speed). As you change to different types of film, you never have to worry about changing the setting on the camera. When you take the jump to the more expensive cameras, you usually get a manual override of these features that gives you some flexibility and creativity.

Interchangeable lenses: Look for this feature on the higher-priced cameras. This is a must for the serious photographer, providing the versatility needed for those long telephoto or wide-angle shots.

Self-timer: It will enable you to include yourself in those family portraits. This is usually found in cameras above $100.

You should have some idea of which features you want before heading to the camera store. This will save a lot of time and aggravation. It also may save you money in the long run.

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