Pay Only for the Digital Camera Features You Need

Before shopping for a digital camera, be sure you know enough about the key features so you buy only what you need. Although friends, family members and reviews are good sources of information to consider before shopping, here are the basics to start with.

The term megapixel is used often with digital cameras, because of the direct relationship with the quality of the photo. A digital image is made up of dots called pixels, with one million pixels equaling a megapixel. Most consumer models range between two and five megapixels.

Generally, the more megapixels the sharper the image, but enlargement is the critical issue. Up to an 8×10 photo, you will be fine with three megapixels, but you’ll want more for larger photos. You do get what you pay for in this regard, but don’t spend the extra money if you won’t be enlarging the photos or if you will use them only online.

The next consideration is the lens. Cheaper models typically have fixed lenses, which means you can’t zoom in or out. What you see is what you get, no matter how far away you are from the subject. That’s why zoom lenses are worth the extra cost unless you’re happy with very basic photos. A 3x zoom is a good compromise for general photography, though if you’re thinking of taking wildlife shots a 10x will be much more useful. It’s important to get an optical zoom instead of a digital zoom, which simple enlarges the pixels and therefore harms picture quality.

Professional cameras have interchangeable lenses. These are expensive, but produce great effects, including wide angle and telephoto capabilities.

How you will use your digital camera is another consideration. Both video and still pictures can be made with some models, although with the less costly cameras the video will be quite short — 30 seconds or less. For more money, a combination model gives more video time.

Size can be an important consideration. If the camera is too large, you may not want to carry it. A compact model that fits in your purse or jacket pocket will probably get more use than a larger model. The larger models have slightly better quality in the images, but unless you’re a professional it’s not enough to make a difference.

Memory sticks or cards are used with almost all digital models to store images. Because most cameras come with limited memory, you will need to purchase more to hold fifty to one hundred images. Ensure that additional memory is available at reasonable cost for your model.

All digital cameras make heavy use of batteries, particularly if you are using the LED screen often. And some brands have proprietary batteries that aren’t cheaply replaced. The ideal is a battery system that’s generic and easily recharged.

You will be given software with your purchase to download images onto your home computer. This software allows you to store pictures on your computer, email them to family or edit pictures for a variety of projects.

For more professional projects or to correct problems with your images, such as red eye you may want to purchase additional software, such as Photoshop. Make sure your computer will support the software included with your camera.

Gareth Lenzy writes for the Camera site YO Camera. Register for the Camera newsletter at .


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