Originally Posted by crank
My wife wants a good digital point-and-shoot. She found a Sony that Consumer Reports liked with 13 million megapixels. It has 3x optical zoom and I'm thinking she would be happier with a longer lens. So my question really is can I sacrifice megapixels for a longer lens? I mean isn't 10 mil. or even 8 fine enough resolution for crisp clear prints?
I'm trying to keep it in the low-mid 200$ range. Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks.
So, what everyone is trying to tell you is: Yes, go ahead and sacrifice pixels for a longer lens.
This isn't to say that the longer lens won't have disadvantages of its own. In general, though, your expectations from a point-n-shoot just can't be terribly high. If she wants to get serious, you'll do some more research (maybe a lot
more research) and end up with a good DSLR.
If she's asking for a compact point-n-shoot, she probably wants it to be easy to use and small enough to bring along on a whim. If she's sharing pictures by e-mail, the resolution requirements are actually very low.
As has already been pointed out, compact cameras have small sensors. Small sensors have serious limitations compared to larger ones. The recorded image will require more enlargement to achieve a given print size, so any weaknesses in the lens will be magnified. In addition, high pixel counts lead to smaller pixels, which, in general, tend to generate more digital noise, especially when the photographer cranks up the ISO (sensitivity).
For casual snapshots, none of that may matter very much.
Again, she wants it to be easy to use and small enough to throw in a pocket. It wouldn't hurt if it's waterproof or at least water resistant. Almost anything you buy will make 4x6 prints that are acceptable to the casual eye and good for passing around to friends, either in hardcopy or electronic form. She'll bring home pictures she wouldn't get otherwise. Some won't come out very good, but most will be fine for their intended use.
Instead of the ultimate megapixel count, you might look for one with a longer optical zoom range and good reviews for exposure accuracy, flash range, ease of use, ruggedness, etc. Maybe the Sony is it; maybe there are others that would be a better fit.
By the way, we note that Canon makes (or made until recently) a full-frame DSLR that was very well reviewed and could be used to produce spectacular large prints. It is (was) only 8 MP. But they were big pixels on a big sensor with either very good in-camera processing (JPEG files) or no in-camera processing at all (RAW files - roll your own with Photoshop or other similar pixel twiddler afterwards). The camera was big and heavy and expensive. A casual snapshooter wouldn't drag it along too often, and might avoid using it entirely. Result: no pictures at all.
You can get much better cameras, but no camera works very well sitting in a drawer at home. Whatever you get, make sure it's something your wife actually wants to use!