Compact Corner – The Family Camera

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How do we define Family Photography? While any description of photo styles is somewhat loose we define Family Photography in these terms: Events, gatherings and milestones. These three terms are at the foundation of Family Photography. Graduations, birthdays and reunions get equal coverage with vacations or a day at the beach. Family Photography is a personal history made up of both candid and formal moments.

A Family Photographer is a jack of all trades and anyone in this group needs a camera that can keep up. While it would seem that any compact camera could be called a Family Camera there are two traits that make this group of compact cameras stand out.

Cameras in the Family Camera group can first be identified by their lens. For the most part, cameras of the Family group will shoot pictures as often in living rooms as anywhere else. For this reason a good Family Camera will have wide angle lens coverage equivalent to a 28mm lens or wider.

Wide angle view is important for shooting in tight spaces. In most home environments the size of the rooms limit how far the photographer can step back from the subject. If we need to shoot a picture of three people on a couch for example, a lens equivalent to 28mm or wider will permit us to get the shot.

It is important that we ask what the widest angle setting is on a compact camera. Zoom lens power is something we have become accustomed to using when comparing cameras. We intuitively understand that a 7X zoom lens should be more powerful than a 3.3X zoom lens. But there is a hitch; zoom power is measured as a multiplier of the lens’ widest setting.

Comparing two Canon cameras can help illustrate this point. The Canon Powershot A3300 has a 5X zoom lens with an equivalent view of a 28-140mm lens. The Canon 300HS also has a 5X zoom lens but the view is equal to 24-120mm lens. Both lenses are described as having 5X zooms but we see that the 300HS has a much wider angle of view. When we compare cameras sometimes it is important to ask about the numbers behind the numbers.

Another important feature of a Family Camera is pocketable size. Family Cameras need to be compact enough to comfortably go anywhere but not so small that it is difficult to handle. If the camera is too big and bulky the photographer may be tempted to leave it behind. Family photography opportunities are often spontaneous and unplanned and if a camera isn’t handy the moment is gone.

The two key traits of zoom lens and physical size actually work hand in hand. Because smaller is better in a Family Camera, most models that are in this category will have zoom lenses between 4X and 7X in length. Zoom lenses that fall in this range don’t generally add to the camera’s physical size.

If you think that your style fits the Family Photographer category, using these suggestions can help you narrow the wide variety of available cameras down to a more manageable group. Ask to see compact cameras with zoom lenses between 4X and 7X as a starting point. Add and subtract features until you have found the camera that is an ideal fit. And since you began your search from a logical starting point you are far more likely to find a camera that you will be happy with over its useful life.

See Porter's Selection of Family Cameras HERE

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