Buying a Digital Camera: 8 Things You Need to Know

Everyone wants one these days. From teenagers wanting to snap candid shots of their friends to professional photographers wanting to gain a leading technological edge on the competition, digital cameras are all the rage. But there are so many types of cameras out there, how is one to choose? Read below on ten things that will help you decipher the best digital camera for you!


One megapixel equals a million pixels, which are tiny dots of color seen on a computer screen. The more dots you have, or the more pixels, the more definition, shading and continuity in lines. Thus, one could assume that the more megapixels the better the camera. Right and wrong. As with all things, the customer wants to buy the camera that is right for them and their needs. A professional photographer has very different needs than a regular consumer shooting snapshots.

Ask yourself what size you are going to be printing and how much digital modification are you expecting to do. Many customers automatically are drawn to the numbers game. They see a higher pixel number and assume that is the camera they need. If what you are shooting; however, is going to be printed on a typical 4X6, you don’t need the high number of megapixels as someone who was going to blow up the photos to a poster size.


Zoom is another concern for the digital camera purchaser. One of the things that buyers must remember is to be conscious of the zoom lens that is on your camera. Many cameras will advertise a high total zoom, which is the combination of the optical zoom and the digital zoom. The optical zoom results in physical movement within the lens of the camera, the result of which is the magnification of the image with no degradation of the quality. The downside to an optical zoom, however, is that the stronger the lens, the larger, and generally more expensive the camera body will be.

The digital zoom is when a camera re-samples the image to make it appear larger, in the same manner as the enlarge feature on a copy machine. The overall quality of the picture can be reduced, although this is a cheaper alternative. In addition, it doesn’t add anything to the size or the weight.

Size Does Matter

In addition to zoom or megapixels, you will want to concern yourself with size. There is no good or bad in this category. You just need to find something that can fit your needs. Consider the difference between those cameras that you can fit in your pocket and those that you have to put in a bag with other pieces of equipment.

On-Camera Features

On-camera features include image stabilization, in camera red eye fix, and numerous different scene modes. These allow you to narrow the field once you have decided on a zoom level, megapixel level and size. Some features such as manual exposure controls and different scene options are nice but rarely used; however, other features such as image stabilization can greatly improve a photographer’s chance of getting that spectacular shot.

Movie Modes

Most digital cameras these days can take short movies that can be played back on your computer. The quality varies and some cameras have much better movie modes than others; however, that these are not the quality of a camcorder and the quality of a movie mode will not affect the quality of a still picture.


Some cameras come equipped with proprietary lithium rechargables where as others use AAs. The plus of lithium ion rechargables is that they are long lasting and don’t require and additional purchase. Lithium ion rechargables can be difficult to find replacements for; however, and if your batteries start going dead in the middle of your son’s birthday party, you may be singing the blues.

Cameras that use AA batteries offer convenience yet can be expensive as they must frequently be replaced. This could add up to more than the cost of the camera itself. Generally speaking, a camera that uses rechargeable NiMH AAs offers the best of both worlds.


As a general rule, cameras made by camera manufacturers are typically of a higher quality than cameras made by general consumer electronic companies. Such camera manufacturers include Cannon, Nikon, and Olympus to name a few. Also, be wary of “No Name” cameras. If you have never heard of the brand, then be careful.

Service and Warranty

Be aware of the warranty that comes with you camera. Know how long the parts and the labor coverage lasts and be especially mindful that manufacturers warranties only covers defects that come from the assembly line. Also, while you might be tempted to get the best deals by shopping at discount stores or on the Internet, understand that you will most likely get better service after the sale from a more specialized retailer. Find a local retailer that you can trust with a sales staff that is knowledgeable about the cameras that they sale and will not charge you to teach you how to use it.

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