LEARN: How to Buy a Point-and-Shoot Camera

In this Guide

1. Types of P/S cameras
2. Features to consider
3. How to test before you buy
4. How much to spend
5. Quick facts

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How to Buy a 35mm SLR Camera

by David Scott Robertson

Early point-and-shoot (P/S) cameras had manual settings and a tinny voice that said, "use flash" or "check distance." Fortunately, modern P/S cameras offer more useful features. Selecting one is a matter of budget and your picture-taking needs.

APS camera drop-in film loading
Advanced Photo System (APS) models use a drop-in, worry-free 24mm film cassette

Two types of P/S cameras currently share the shelves: Advanced Photo System (APS) cameras and 35mm cameras. APS models use a drop-in 24mm film cassette. You choose the print size— 4 x 7-inch or panoramic—for each photo. The film cassette protects your negatives. In fact, with the cassette, you’ll never touch the film itself. Your APS film comes back from the photo processing lab inside the cassette, so you won’t have to deal with storing strips of negatives. APS cameras also offer you the option of changing film mid-roll, which is impossible on a 35mm camera.

However, there are some drawbacks to APS cameras. For one, you are limited in the type of film you can use: APS cameras accommodate only three speeds of color film (100, 200, and 400) and only one speed of black-and-white film (400). The negatives are also smaller than 35mm negatives and don’t enlarge as well.

Two Types of Point-and-Shoot Cameras
APS Cameras (Advanced Photo System)
24mm film cassette protects negatives
Available film speeds: 100, 200, 400
Mid-roll film change
35 mm Point & Shoot
Accomodates most available film types
Larger film size means better print quality

If you want more flexibility, choose a 35mm P/S camera. Most accept film speeds from 50 to 800 or 1600. Many cameras offer variable flash and exposure modes for daylight, indoor, portrait and nighttime photos. However, it is sometimes tricky to load film, and if you’re worried about storing your negatives, you might prefer the convenience of an APS cassette.

Features to consider, P.2 >>