the Right Digital Camera
Choosing between the vast array of digital
camera models can
be an overwhelming and sometimes frustrating task. There are
so many models available with so many features, bells and
whistles. How do you choose which camera to buy?
If you were hoping I'd tell you the exact
brand and model to
buy, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I can't do that because
there are just too many cameras out there... and too many
people with different needs. But I will tell you what to take
into consideration to help you make a good decision.
Here are some factors that are important
to consider when
buying a digital camera:
Remember, not enough megapixels limits the size of the print:
- A 1-megapixel camera or under is only
good for emailing and
posting on the web.
- A 2-megapixel camera is nice for snapshots,
photos, and prints up to 5x7.
- A 3-megapixel camera will
do all the above but prints up
to 8x10 nicely.
- 4 or 5-megapixel cameras
will give you larger prints,
posters, and let you crop a small section of a larger photo and blow it up
without getting blurry or "pixilated."
- 8 megapixels will allow you to print much larger photos, posters
Bear in mind that a camera that takes
5 or more megapixel
images requires huge amounts of storage. Some owners of 6 to 8
megapixel cameras have separate computers just for their
digital pictures. If you don't have the storage capacity and
don't want to purchase it right away, you might be better off
with a 3 or 4 megapixel camera for the time being.
Get a camera that accepts standard Flash memory cards. CDs are
also good (but slower). A digital camera without external
memory is extremely limiting and frustrating. Don't be tempted
to spend less here.
Forget the digital zoom and opt for at least 2X optical zoom
(3X or more if you can afford it). Newer models offer higher
levels of optical zoom.
Camera Speed, Size, Weight, and Design:
Beyond megapixels, it's important to consider how fast the
camera records your pictures and how long the shutter lag is.
You can lose out on a lot of great shots waiting for a slow
camera to finish recording. But cameras are getting faster
every year and this is becoming less of an issue.
Do you want a small, ultra-thin, featherweight
camera you can
tuck into your pocket and take anywhere? Or a larger, more
ergonomic model you can wrap your fingers around? The pocket
camera may be very portable, but are the buttons too tiny to
use or the print too fine to read?
Is the camera designed well or does your
cover the flash because of the shutter button placement?
The camera may be a snap to use, but
if it doesn't have some
manual controls, it may only take good pictures in one type of
lighting at a certain distance, and terrible pictures in all
other situations. If you want to take close-ups or distant
landscape shots, you'll need to get a camera with the features
that allow you to do that. That would include manual or semi-
manual focus, exposure, aperture, and white balance controls.
Ease of Use:
- How easy is it to get to the menu(s)
and the common settings
like flash, resolution, macro, white balance and exposure.
- Are there too many buttons?
- Are the settings easy to access or do you have to remember a
complicated sequence to get to them? If so, you can easily
get frustrated trying to find them.
- How small is the print in the menu? If it's too small, you may
not be able to read it.
- Are the buttons comfortable for your fingers, or tiny, awkward,
A good LCD screen is an important part of digital photography.
You can check your composition, look at the menu, and review
the photos you take on the LCD. But many lower-end cameras
don't include one. Of those that do, quality varies. Some are
too small, others fade away in direct light or become grainy
and turn gray in low light. Others change colors or fade if
the camera is tilted.
Do you regularly take fast-moving action shots and need
multiple frame burst mode? How about panoramic stitching so
you can take glorious landscape shots? Or do you long to take
intense macro close-ups? Do you want video as
well as still shots?
Is the scope, versatility and creativity
offered by 8
megapixel cameras super important to you? Do you crave having
a collection of high-end lenses to get the shots you see in
your mind's eye?
These advanced features may be nice extras
important to you. Only you know your lifestyle and needs.
Many cameras come with handy image editing software that
allows you to reduce red-eye and edit your photos or manage
your photos, like Adobe Elements or digital image software.
It's a big savings if this is included in your package.
Last but not least, stay within your budget. Try to get the
best deal for your money from a reputable dealer. Be on the
lookout for sales and rebates (which can provide terrific
Needless to say, don't buy the first
digital camera you see
(or the first one you see on sale). Know your needs before you
buy and take your time in making a decision. Read as many
reviews as you can on the models you narrow your choice down
to. The best way to be happy with your purchase is to buy only
when you're certain.
In the next lesson, we'll take a step
back and take a look at
the whole pricing picture... and what you should expect for
your money. You'll definitely want to read this!