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How to Buy a Digital Camera

Are you buying your first digital camera? Well, you must be confused by the bewildering range of models out there. How do you know which model will suit your needs? To make things worse, digital cameras do not come cheap. Choosing a bad camera will easily cost you a few hundred dollars.

In fact, buying a digital camera need not be a difficult task. I'll highlight the key considerations you need to think through before making that purchase decision. Always, always remember to consider these factors when buying a digital camera:

  • Battery Life
  • Number of Megapixels
  • Zoom Lens
  • Exposure Control
  • User Controls

Battery Life
This has got to be one of the most overlooked features in digital cameras. I know many people who go for the latest and greatest digital cameras which are short in the battery life department. If you want to take good photos, your camera needs to powered for extended periods of time. I've found that cost and battery life don't go together - many cheap cameras have good battery life, while some high-end models drain your battery really fast. Make sure you choose a camera that has good battery life.

Number of Megapixels
The megapixel rating of a digital camera determines how much fine detail you can capture in your shots. Typically, the number of megapixels can range around from 2 megapixels to 8 megapixels. How do you decide how many megapixels you need? As a rule of thumb, if you're only interested in taking small snapshots to send via email or for posting on the Web, you won't need more than 2-megapixels. If you want large print outs of your gorgeous photographs, then you'll probably want to get 5-megapixel cameras and above. You may want to refer to this guide for more information.

Zoom Lens
You'll definitely want a camera with decent optical zoom. Now the keyword here is optical zoom (as opposed to digital zoom). Optical zoom physically moves the camera lenses to zoom in on a subject. Digital zoom, however, digitally averages and magnifies the image within the camera's microchip - resulting in poor picture quality. Many manufacturers' advertisements talk about digital zoom instead of optical zoom - so do be careful when choosing. I'd recommend getting at least 3x optical zoom in any camera you buy.

Exposure Control
The ability to control exposure settings such as shutter speed and lens opening is critical to professional photographers. Cheaper digital cameras only allow you to shoot photos in automatic mode - just press the shutter release and voila, your picture is taken. More advanced users prefer to tweak the shutter speed and aperture to capture fast moving objects or blur the image background. Choose a camera with good exposure control if you foresee yourself taking on photography as a serious hobby.

User Controls
If you are getting a point-and-shoot camera, make sure you find one that's easy to use. User controls to set resolution, macro mode, flash and exposure should be within easy reach. Of course, if you're a serious photography buff who wants to take the time to tweak all sorts of manual settings, then this many not be so critical. I prefer to try out the camera first in the store - play with the controls and get comfortable with them. Only then will you know whether it's comfortable enough for you.

Conclusion
Well, I do hope this article has helped you understand what factors to consider when buying a digital camera. A general piece of advice I can give is - if you're a total newbie, don't go for the latest digital SLR. It may be tempting to get that Nikon D70 right from the start, but I'd reckon its much better to start off with a cheaper camera first. Learn, experiment and build up your digital photography skills. Once you're more skilled, then proceed to upgrade to a better camera. Good luck and happy shopping!



Gary Hendricks runs a hobby site on digital photography. Visit his website at Basic-Digital-Photography.com for tips and tricks on buying digital cameras, as well as shooting great photos.

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