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For a casual photographer and non-technical person, who has some capacity and interest to learn but correctly recognizes she needs simplicity more than she needs a wealth of capabilities, for a person who's happy to pay for the device that will best suit her, what simple camera with these characteristics will qualify for her consideration?

Believe me when I tell you I tried to search for this myself. I found so much ambiguous, even conflicting information, I just gave up looking at the varying, sundry Google results and came here to ask.

She wants a good zoom length and a sharp image, so, that means a good CCD and good optics are important to her.

She wants a long battery life. When she picks the camera up, she wants it to be ready even if the last time she took a shot was months before.

The camera should be easy for her to handle. If only she could set it to "take a great photo that we'll all like". Short of that, she wants to not have to be consumed with multiple settings and a jungle of menu commands. It would be great for her to have on-screen directions.

Physically, the camera should allow her small hands to confidently hold, support and manipulate it. You may not be able to suggest the right sized camera, but please warn her away from those that are too large or too small, too light or too heavy.

She wants to be able to transfer the photos to her computer without complication. The last camera she had, years ago, was inexplicably and frustratingly difficult to download.

She wants to be able to capture video, too, as much and with as high a quality as possible. I reminded her she's researching a still camera, but she countered, what is the best video available to me?

Perhaps even the simplest DSLR would be more than she wants. Probably, she has to veer towards a point-and-shoot. Is there anything in between? Thanks a lot for sharing the benefit of your experience.

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be aware of blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/qa-is-hard-lets-go-shopping when looking at the answers you get. I think this question is a good one with a lot of value for many people, but if you're looking for specific "buy this model!" answers, you may be disappointed. –  mattdm Mar 27 '11 at 21:38

1 Answer 1

A bridge camera sounds like the right choice for you. As the name suggests, these are halfway between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR. They are also called compact system cameras. They generally have longer lenses (i.e. 'more zoom') which are also better quality, and, as well as the usual auto modes, plenty of manual settings. These allow you to experiment with taking more control of the camera, as you would with a DSLR. They generally look like an SLR, but smaller and more compact.

They are generally a little larger than a point and shoot, but not as big as a DSLR, so you should have no problem using them.

Some of your worries may be based on preconceptions born from not owning a camera for some years. Battery life is generally much better nowadays, with the advent of Lithium Ion batteries (though few batteries last months if you leave them in the camera; the charge will 'trickle' out. Just take the battery out if you don't plan on using it for a while).

Transferring photos is also very simple nowadays. Most, if not all, cameras have a simple USB connection; plug the camera in, and the computer recognises it and will ask if you want to transfer - and away you go.

Almost all bridge cameras have a movie function; nowadays they are usually HD as well, and can yield very good results.

There are many bridge cameras on the market. Budget is the first factor to help you narrow down the range; from there you can decide on features etc. Perhaps the most popular camera in this category is the Panasonic Lumix. It is almost an SLR, in that it has interchangeable lenses, but also has more user-friendly features like touch screen controls. There are various others: all the major manufacturers have their own versions. Canon have the SX and Powershot series, Nikon the Coolpix range. Sony, Samsung and Olympus are also major players.

Have a look at Amazon, as they generally have a good range and lay out the main specs logically. The review system is also useful. However, don't go ahead and order anything without first going to a store and actually handling and using a few cameras; this is the only way to be really sure of getting the camera you want.

Good luck, and don't forget, if you get your camera and have any questions about using it, this is the place to come!

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Thanks for this. This has helped my wife a lot. –  Shellsunder Mar 28 '11 at 17:07
    
Welcome. Hope she enjoys using whatever she goes for. –  ElendilTheTall Mar 28 '11 at 20:12

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