Tips for Buying Digital Cameras


Cost. Know your budget before you shop—most people don't need a top-of-the-line digital camera to get the job done. But, with that said, don't settle for last year's model just for the sake of saving a few bucks. Manufacturers are responding to the growing demand for digital cameras, and thus, they're producing more cameras (which lowers the per-unit cost) and improving camera features. In most cases, your best bet is to purchase a new model of camera within your budget instead of buying last year's higher-end but slightly outdated model at a discount store.

checkbox Automatic vs. manual. Digital camera features run the gamut, but if you're a beginner, make sure your camera has automatic and manual features. You'll probably want to use the automatic features at first to get the hang of digital photography. Then, after you're comfortable using your camera, you can start to experiment with the manual settings.

Megapixels. A megapixel refers to one million pixels, and it's a term used in reference to the resolution of graphics devices, such as scanners, digital cameras, and monitors. If you're buying a camera only for Web pictures, you can get away with a 1-megapixel camera, but if you want to use your pictures online and in print, you should get a 2-megapixel or 3-megapixel camera. Higher-megapixel cameras generally create better-quality pictures, provide more area for you to crop when you modify your images, and enable you to print quality pictures at sizes larger than snapshot size. If you want to take detailed close-up shots, make sure your camera includes a macro mode.

checkbox Memory cards. As you might know, digital cameras store pictures on small memory cards. Most cameras come with woefully inadequate cards, around 16 MB or 32 MB. When you purchase a new camera, you'll probably want to also buy a larger memory card. Make sure you find out the biggest memory card available for the camera model and how much memory cards cost.
checkbox Battery types and life. Cameras can burn through batteries. Make sure you understand the type of batteries required by the camera and the typical battery life before you buy. If you want to use standard rechargeable batteries, you'll be disappointed if you buy a camera that wants to snack on a special battery every other week.
checkbox Shutter lag. Most basic digital cameras require you to wait after each shot while the camera processes the image, especially when you're using automatic features. Most models let you shoot an image every few seconds, but some cameras can make you wait 5 seconds or more. To avoid unnecessary frustration, make sure the camera you purchase doesn't require too much time to process images.
checkbox Compatibility. A major point to consider when purchasing a camera is to determine how easy it's going to be for you to get the pictures out of the camera and into your computer or printer. Before you buy, understand the hardware and software processes and requirements. Make sure you're happy with the file transfer method before you buy. Transferring files should be a quick and easy.
checkbox Weatherproof. Last but not least, remember that digital cameras are basically handheld computers. If you're going to be taking pictures under all sorts of circumstances and conditions, make sure you choose a camera that's built to withstand the torment. If you're planning for some truly extreme photography, consider checking out some of the “weatherproof” models.