Buying a Digital Camera
In the following guide, you will find the information you need to know in order to select the right digital camera.
Having a clear understanding of these easy steps will give you the tools to face any digital cameras salesman!
Step 1: How Many Megapixel Do I Need?
The resolution is a measure of how sharp your image will be, the number of pixels is in an image.
A Pixel is one of the tiny points that make up an image. You may also see "ppi" which means Pixels/points per inch.
Megapixel are simply one million pixels, (the prefix "mega" signifies one million), and most digital cameras range from 2 to 8 megapixels (can be higher than 8).
The more pixels you have, the better quality the final prints will be.
Resolution determines how big you can print and how much you can crop your pictures. The higher the resolution, the greater the cost.
With a 3 or 4 megapixels digital camera, the quality of your 6 x 4 and 5 x 7 will be fantastic.
One advantage of 5 and 6 megapixels cameras is the ability to crop the images with photo editing software and still print them out full size. If you anticipate editing your pictures this way, then a higher resolution camera is worth the money.
One of the best advantages of the digital camera is you can easily email your pictures to your family and friends, a high resolution digital camera is not needed to email pictures.
You won't see a difference on your computer screen between a 3 and 7 megapixels digital camera.
Image quality is largely a function of the camera you choose. Resolution is important, but so are the other camera features, don't buy a digital camera based on resolution alone.
Step 2: Zoom Factor: Digital vs. Optical
The lenses are the heart of a camera. The lenses are a deciding factor for the image quality.
Consider the optical zoom first, as it is the true zoom range of the lens. For example, a 3x zoom will get you three times closer to your subject.
With a digital zoom, the camera is electronically cropping into the picture (like zooming on a computer).
Digital zoom are good but don't be fooled by the longer range. Your images will lose sharpness and clarity.
The optical zoom is the real deal, giving you genuine close-ups.
Most digital cameras offer excellent quality lenses. Most of the cameras have a 3x optical zoom. This is plenty of range for most everyday photo opportunities.
A special warning applies for the zoom. Sometimes camera stores advertise digital cameras with a 10x zoom without specifying if it's optical or digital. Make sure you verify which zoom they are talking about.
Choosing a digital camera with an optical zoom range higher than 3x does limit your option as there are only a handful of such models on the market but as technology is improving quickly, more cameras are available with an optical zoom higher than 3x at affordable price.
Get a camera with enough zoom range for your typical shooting habits. Most digital cameras are equipped with a 3x optical zoom which is most of the time what you need.
Step 3: Keep it Simple. Shooting and Scene Modes
Most digital cameras are now offering a variety of shooting modes. Specialized scene modes such as automatic, night exposure, landscapes, portraits and even movie mode.
These modes are great because you will take a lot of shots out of proper exposure and under difficult conditions, the specialized modes are doing all the thinking for you and will get terrific results.
For a camera that the whole family can enjoy, look for models that offer lots of programmed scenes modes. Even if you are not a beginner, these programmed shooting and scenes modes are excellent.
Step 4: Memory -- You will need a lot!
Memory cards are used to store your camera's pictures. The storage capacity of the card is measured in megabytes (MB). The larger the capacity, the more photos can be stored.
Larger capacity memory card can be expensive. You may consider buying several smaller cards rather than one large one. That will provide you some sort of insurance in case your card is lost or stolen so you won't loose all your photos at once.
You can choose different size of memory card: 64 MB, 128 MB, 256 MB, 512 MB, 1G, 2G etc.
Most digital cameras come with a 16 or 32 MB memory card. As the megapixels counts grow, you need a higher capacity of storage.
It would be wise to budget for an additional memory card when you are shopping for your new digital camera.
For example, if you buy a 3 megapixels digital camera, you usually get a 16MB memory card with the camera. With this memory card you will take approximately 15 pictures before having to empty your memory card!
With a 512 MB will be able to take approximately 400 pictures with a 3 megapixels camera.
Memory cars are getting cheaper and you can find them almost everywhere.
Step 5: Size Does Matter
How big (or small) should your digital camera be? This is a personal preference but deserving serious consideration.
If you are buying a digital camera primarily for vacation or for special occasion, a small camera that you can easily fit in your pocket is ideal.
There are a number of very small digital cameras available that offer a good set of controls and adequate resolution.
Even those digital cameras not considered ultra-compact are still relatively small. Bigger digital cameras deliver top resolution and high performance features. They also have a bigger control interfaces easier to handle if you have large hands.
Look for a digital camera that fits your lifestyle. If your camera fits easily in your pocket, you're apt to take it along more often.
More serious photographers may opt for a longer zoom ranges, close focusing capabilities and system accessories.
Step 6: LCD Screens
The LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen is probably one of the biggest plus of digital photography. Being able to review your photos as you shoot is fantastic!
A 1.5 inch color LCD screen is standard, anything larger is a bonus.
Some are stationary and other swivel, rotate and flip to give you a clear view even when the camera is pointed up, down, sideways.
Some are easy to view in bright sunlight and others require you to be in indoor environment or in the shade to view clearly. LCD also makes menus more readable which is great.
The swiveling, rotating and flipping LCD is a really terrific feature that you will adopt very quickly!
The only downside I can see about the LCD is their power consumption, and as you can imagine, the larger screen use more power. The best digital cameras have an additional small monochrome LCD that displays basic shooting info when you need to save power.
Step 7: Battery
A digital camera's memory card, flash, zoom and LCD screen will use a lot of energy so you need a good battery.
The best cameras come with a lithium-ion (Li-ion) rechargeable battery. The charger is usually supplied.
Sometimes you don't even need a charger as you can recharge your battery while the battery is in the camera. Very handy feature.
Other cameras work on AA batteries, if so, you should opt for long lasting Ni-MH rechargeable batteries, they will cost you more up front but you will save money in the long run.
Whatever types of battery your digital camera takes, having a back up is a good idea. It's never a pleasant experience when your LCD screen goes blank halfway through a day out!
Step 8: Quality Camera = Quality Pictures
Pictures speak a thousand words and images last forever. Bells and whistles will not help you make a sharp, well exposed image.
Look carefully at features such as lens quality, durability, ease of use and the brand's photographic expertise.
Personally I like the big players in the photo industry especially Canon and Nikon.
Most professionals are using Canon and Nikon products such as lenses and cameras. But don't get me wrong, other brands are also offering excellent products but I like to use what professionals are using!
Step 9: What About Your Computer?
The reason I am asking about your computer is because it will play an important role in your enjoyment of your new digital camera.
First your computer needs to be equipped with an USB port and preferably a minimum of 128 MB + of RAM.
It's even better if you have a CD burner, it's very handy to save your photo album on a CD for future reference and back up.
When you purchase a digital camera from one of the major brands, they always include in the price of the camera pretty good software package such as Adobe Photoshop or Photo Stitch that can easily install on your computer to edit your pictures.
You will also need a good bubble jet printer to print your pictures. The printers are very affordable and they can produce prints of an amazing quality assuming you are using the proper paper.
You don't need a computer to buy a digital camera, but it will make the experience much better. Without a computer you can't edit your picture, you have to go to a photo studio to develop your pictures etc.
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