7. Don’t buy a camera that doesn’t focus
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7. Don’t buy a camera that doesn’t focus

If you’re looking at compact point-and-shoot cameras, you should be aware of the difference between autofocus and focus-free. Autofocus is exactly what you think it is. Focus-free cameras have a small lens aperture and rely on depth-of-field to get your shot in focus. These cameras often don’t have much in the way of exposure control, either; they rely on the built-in flexibility of the color print film process to get good pictures out of close-enough exposures.

If the camera is a cheap plastic affair with a name you’ve never heard of, there’s a good chance it’s focus-free

Believe it or not, there were focus-free cameras made by big-name brands like Olympus, Minolta and Kodak as well as cheap-camera purveyors like Vivitar, Argus and Keystone. Most of these will say 'Focus Free' on the body. If the camera is a cheap plastic affair with a name you’ve never heard of, there’s a good chance it’s focus-free.

Photo: E Magnuson