How to Choose Digital Camera
Are you trying to figure out how to choose a digital camera?
The winding sound from your camera makes people stare. Your brother in law laughs at you when he sees your canister of film. If one of your photo prints gets ruined . . . it matters. You've seen the commercials, and the thought is nagging at you: maybe it's time for you to join the modern age and switch to a digital camera. With all the brands and features, the first thing you need to do is figure out how to choose.
In the past five years, digital cameras have come down in price while going up in usability and quality. If you're buying your first one, the many features of digital cameras can be either dazzling or overwhelming, depending on your personality. What are pixels? How important is memory? What is digital zoom?
Let's start with something more comprehensible: your needs. There are a lot of terrific digital cameras out there (and quite a few clunkers, too). But which one is right for you? Answer these questions to start narrowing down your choices:
- Do you take formal, posed shots on special occasions, or do you snap lots of shots on the go? There are two considerations with this question: size and weight. Smaller, lighter cameras are more portable. Will you carry it your purse or pocket? Will you stash it in the glove box of your car? The newer digital cameras are lighter than their predecessors, but there is still a weight range.
- What kind of prints do you like, and how do you use them? What you're looking at here is megapixels, which define how much detail the picture has captured. A three mexapixel camera will give you a great 5"x7" print, and a good 8"x10" print. "Good enough," you might say, but you also need to think about how you might use your prints. As digital technology has improved, even the most casual photographers are comfortable doing basic photo editing, including cropping. You may never want a 13"x20" print of your child playing in the rain, but you may very well find that you want your 4"x6" cropped close-up of her muddy toes to be vivid and sharp.
- How hard are you on your belongings? Consumers don't often think about this until too late. If you have a tendency to drop things or leave them around where they can be bumped, you need a hardier digital camera than someone who tidily tucks things in their proper place as soon as they're done with them. If you see a camera you like, take the time to read consumer reviews for weaknesses, and think about buying purchase protection.
- What features would you really use (and how do those compare with your budget)? The newer cameras have some exciting features—settings for different situations, video options, onscreen editing . . . the list is endless and growing. But which features would be fun novelties, and which would be really useful? First, you want optical zoom. That is the physical movement of the camera that will allow you to zoom in. Digital zoom is a useless feature which allows you to narrow your shot to a smaller area, but doesn't capture any more detail and gives you terrible pictures. For people who don't have a video camera, it's nice to be able to switch to the video feature to capture those occasional special moments. The settings for different situations are fun, but most casual users end up using "auto" most of the time anyway. This is another thing you should research before you make your purchase. Educate yourself about features and don't get caught up in the dazzle of features you'll never use.
There's a lot to know about all the cameras out there, but you don't have to learn it all or understand how it all works. If you know what you need and are willing to do a little research, then you know all you need to know about how to buy digital camera.