Daniel posted a blog entry with a lot of valuable tips about shooting with the limitations of using a digital compact camera – most of it is common sense, but if you’ve never thought about any of it, it’s definitely worth a quick read. Some of the points he brings up is using a low ISO to reduce noise, using custom white balance, using program mode, getting in close, and take a lot of pictures, to increase the chances of getting the shot.
The man’s got a lot of great points, although for one of them, I don’t quite agree:
When your camera is fully zoomed out, it is at wide angle and will cause some distortion in your subject. If you are taking portraits, you definitely will want to step back and zoom in so that your kid, or spouse, does not look like a chipmunk.
While I am happy to admit that most compacts aren’t great for barrel and pincushion distortion, it’s a minor problem, compared to light loss. Cheap lenses, and especially those in digital compacts, lose an incredible amount of light once you start zooming in.
In fact, my Canon Digital Ixus S500 (also known as the Digital Elph in the US) has a f/2.8-4.9 lens over a 3x zoom. That means that while you get f/2.8 at full wide-angle, you lose nearly two stops of light just by zooming in. Most of the time, it ain’t worth it – leave your camera fully zoomed out, and rather crop the image to size!