What Camera is Best for Photographing my Artwork

Q. I plan to photograph my artwork soon, but first I need to find a camera. The problem is that I have very little knowledge of cameras and their features. Anytime I venture into a camera store I feel overwhelmed, and despite the knowledgeable sales people, I am still worried about being talked into getting something with more bells and whistles than I need (or can afford). Can you suggest the minimum features I will need?

 
 A. Buying a camera can almost be as intimidating as purchasing a computer these days.  The good news is that you really do not need a bunch of special features to get good results.  In fact, visiting a camera store is an excellent way to start. Many of the sales people are familiar with the features which each camera offers. Another thing to consider is that many times you will be stuck with features you do not need, simply because that is how cameras are made.
 
Because you do not have a camera currently, you do not have the benefit of opening the manual to find out how to do things such as setting white balance, so I would suggest you make a list of the things you need to be able to control, and be ready to present it next time you go camera shopping. To get you started, here’s a few things to consider when choosing features: 
     
  1.  Megapixels. If using the photographed artwork for the purpose of making prints, how large do you intend the prints to be? A high resolution is likely important and your cameras ability to produce high resolution images depends on how many megapixels your camera is.  The last thing you want to do is produce poor quality images which are pixilated or blurry.
  2. Optical Zoom.  If you see the term “digital zoom” on a camera, you might mistake that for a good thing because you see the word digital. But  digital zoom basically just enlarges the picture without adding clarity of detail – and even Microsoft Paint can do that. This is just another way of saying that a point and shoot camera won’t do the job. You want anywhere from 2x-4x on your lens, depending upon the space you have to shoot in as well as the size of the artwork.
  3. Manual Focus.  It is probably not a good idea to rely on auto focus for something as detailed as artwork. And if you wear glasses or contact lenses, be sure your prescription is up to date. Believe it or not, many times an image is perfectly focused in the viewfinder because the lens is working in conjunction to your eyeglasses.
  4. LCD Screen.  This should be a given, and it is unlikely you’d find a camera with all the needed features for a project like this without an LCD screen, but just in case – it is definitely something you want to have on your camera.
  5. Manual Features.  Although you may never come close to using half of these, your goal in having manual features is the ability to set not only focus, as mentioned above, but also white balance, shutter speed, and aperture speed. Since you will be doing still photography, the main thing to concern yourself with is the manual white balance. This is most important in determining what colors your camera believes it is seeing.
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