Looking for a new digital camera for yourself or for a gift? If so, it can be quite confusing with all the various types of cameras, brand names, and features out there. However, you shouldn’t worry, because there are only a few things to consider when selecting the right camera. Answer the following questions and you’ll be much better prepared to start your camera hunt.
1. The Type of Camera. First, you should decide what kind of digital camera you need. Will you be primarily taking simple photographs? If so, then an inexpensive, automatic “point and shoot” camera will generally suffice, and they’re the easiest to use. However, if you are planning on taking professional quality photography, a digital SLR (single lens reflex) with more features can give you better control of your shots.
As far as prices go for the different types of cameras, here’s a general rule of thumb:
– Entry-level “point and shoot” cameras (subcompacts and compacts) – between $100 – $300
– Advanced “point and shoot” cameras – $350 – $600
– “SLR-like” cameras – $450 – $1,300
– Professional grade SLR cameras – $500 – $7,000.
2. Shape, Weight, and Size. Although point-and-shoot cameras will be smaller in size and weight, the heavier and bulkier digital SLR cameras will take much higher quality pictures.
You should be able to grip the camera comfortably. A smaller camera body is more difficult to grip properly, and all-too-many point-and-shoot cameras don’t have a grip at all. If they do, it should just fill the inside curve of your fingers to fit properly.
3. User Controls. If you’re looking for a basic point-and-shoot camera, be sure to find one that you feel is easy to operate. The main controls (to set picture resolution, flash options, exposure, picture resolution, and other modes like macro, automatic, or a self-timer) should be easy to locate and use. Although pros and more experienced photographers need to be able to make advanced adjustments like shutter speed and aperture settings, these particular features may not be all that important to you.
4. How Many Megapixels Do I Need? How much fine detail that can be captured in a digital picture is basically determined by the megapixel rating of the camera itself. A low-end megapixel rated camera (between 2 – 5 megapixels) is more than adequate for pictures that will simply be emailed or displayed on a web browser. However, for those photographers who need to capture the finest details for high quality displays or printing, a minimum megapixel rating of 5 is required, and can go as high as 12. Once you get into the higher megapixel ranges, though, a difference of a couple megapixel levels won’t be all that noticeable.
5. Optics and Responsiveness. Don’t obsess over megapixels, though. There are still other important issues to consider like lens quality and the responsiveness of the camera. Make sure you buy a name-brand camera with quality optics in it, like Zeiss or Sigma. It’s the combination of the lens’ quality and megapixel rating that primarily determines the quality of the image.
You will discover that inexpensive digital cameras can have a really long lag time between pressing the “shoot” button and the camera actually capturing the image. If you’ll be taking any “action” shots with the camera, like during live sporting events or your kids’ activities, you’ll need to look for a camera with a continuous frame rate of at least five. Slower cameras can make shooting action pictures difficult, if not downright impossible.
6. Zoom lens. There are different types of zoom lens – digital and optical. The digital zoom feature essentially magnifies and averages the center of the picture electronically, frequently resulting in a less than satisfactory picture. Optical zoom, on the other hand, is the best method of zoom available, as it physically moves the lens in or out to capture a particular subject. Camera buyers should try to get a camera with the highest optical zoom that they can afford.
7. Memory Card Format. The most popular storage card formats for digital cameras these days are SD (secure digital) cards, and you can find them in capacities of up to 32GB. For higher end SLR cameras, Compact Flash cards are generally the standard; they also come in up to 32GB sizes. Memory cards are getting cheaper every year, so don’t scrimp on this type of storage for your pictures and buy some extras.
8. Battery – Type and Life. Check out what kind of battery your chosen camera uses. Some cameras use their own proprietary type of battery instead of standard AA batteries. All batteries will stop holding a charge eventually, so be sure to keep a fully charged backup battery with you at all times.
Battery life will vary between digital cameras, with some cameras lasting much longer than others. See if the camera you’re interested in has a high picture count per battery charge rating.
9. Don’t Forget Accessories. Each camera kit generally comes with some accessories, so see what they offer. Unless your camera expressly prohibits it, buy some rechargeable batteries and a charger. A card reader for reading your storage cards is also nice to have. Small color printers for printing photographs is also a useful item to pick up if it’s not in the camera bundle.
Hemante Garces is a photography enthusiast who has spent a lot of time and money coming up with solid requirements for a digital camera purchase. He put this digital camera best to buy list together to assist others also in the market for a digital camera.