Choosing a Digital Camera

Today it seems digital cameras are ubiquitous – they are incorporated into our phones, our PDA’s and even our vehicles! This may be fine for some, but you may desire a digital camera equipped with more “stuff” than your camera phone can provide! After all, digital cameras can do things film cameras cannot: displaying images on a screen immediately after recording them; storing hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of images on a single small memory device, recording video with sound, and deleting images to free storage space.

Did you know that the Hubble Space Telescope is essentially a specialized digital camera?

While you may not require the same components as the Hubble Telescope in your own personal digital camera, there are some important criteria to consider before making your purchase. After all, the digital camera you buy should reflect your needs, which may change over time.

o Needs – Consider what you will be photographing. Are you a world traveler, taking photos of historic places and beautiful landscapes? Are you a sports enthusiast, and therefore take action shots? If so, you probably want to consider a digital camera that can shoot at high speeds. Additional considerations include:

– Where will you be photographing? (indoors/outdoors/low or bright light, etc.)
– Your experience level (will you primarily use the “auto” mode for things like flash and, aperture, or do you plan on exploring the art of photography?)
– Features – do you know what you want? (Optical zoom, large LCD display, image stabilization, etc.)
– Size and transportability of your digital camera
– Compatibility – do you already have devices – a camcorder or PDA – that use a specific type of memory card? You may also have accessories from previously purchased cameras that can be used with the new one you are considering. Not just memory cards, either. Batteries, rechargers and lenses (many film camera lenses are compatible with digital SLR’s from the same manufacturer!)

o Budget – Once you’ve assessed your digital camera needs, it is good to determine the amount of money you want to spend, or at least, a spending range. This will help “narrow” your search.

o Megapixels – It already sounds intimidating. Don’t let it be! It all has to do with printing your images. For casual use and simple photo-sharing (your 2-yr. old nieces’ birthday party 4 x 6 photos), a basic, 2-megapixel model works just fine. The good news is that today, most new cameras are being introduced with at least 5 megapixels. Only if you are going to be blowing up images – often – should you consider investing in a digital camera with greater than 5 megapixels.

o The Zoom – Optical or Digital? – Digital zooms enlarge the pixels in your image, but they do not make your subject look bigger; only more pixilated. If you are considering a zoom lens, choose an optical zoom. Today, most digital camera offer them at least 3X in length. That means your subject will look 3X’s as big.

o Research – both online and in the store. There are hundreds of reliable, free websites available at your fingertips. You can get real-time feedback on the digital camera(s) you are considering buying. (This is also an excellent way to do some comparison shopping!) Certain blogs even allow you to interact with customers directly to ask questions. Once you have narrowed down your search, visit a digital camera shop and ask to see the digital cameras you are interested in. “Handle” the camera to make sure you are comfortable with its weight, accessibility and ease of use. No amount of internet research can replace the “hands on” experience.

o Extras – in addition to the cost of your “basic” digital camera these add-ons should be considered in your overall purchase:

– cameras case
– memory cards
– extra batteries
– recharger
– filters
– lenses (if you are considering a DSLR)
– reflectors/external flashes
– tripods

o Warranty – consider purchasing an optional warranty on the digital camera you choose; but before doing so; check out the vendor’s website, because the factory warranty may suffice.