- Determine what you need. A mistake I see some digital camera buyers making is that they get sucked into buying cameras that are beyond what they really need. Some questions to ask yourself before you go shopping: What do you need the camera for? What type of photography will you be doing? (portraits, landscapes, macro, sports) What conditions will you be largely photographing in? (indoors, outdoors, low light, bright light) Will you largely stay in auto mode or do you want to learn the art of photography? What experience level do you have with cameras? What type of features are you looking for? (long zoom, image stabilization, large LCD display etc) How important is size and portability to you? What is your budget?Ask yourself these questions before you go to buy a camera and you’ll be in a much better position to make a decision when you see what’s on offer. You’ll probably find the sales person asks you this question anyway – so to have thought about it before hand will help them help you get the right digital camera.
- Talk to others. A recent study showed more than three-quarters of American households own at least one digital camera, so you should take advantage of the knowledge others have gained. Friends and family can be a great resource for learning about which digital cameras work well and which don't. You'll also be able to figure out which features are important to them, which may spark some ideas for you. Opinions posted on the Internet are OK, but face-to-face opinions from people you trust and know are much better.
- Consider the resolution. Nearly all digital cameras use CCD's as the sensing element. This is what takes the place of film. The resolution is the number of pixels in the captured image. Computer images are divided into little dots called pixels. The more pixels, the more detailed the image can be. Here is a guide to choosing resolution, estimating the size print you can make from each:1.3 Megapixel = 1280x960: Great 4x6's, acceptable 5x7's.2 Megapixel = 1600x1200: Pretty good 8x10's.3 Megapixel = 2048x1536: Great 8x10's, good 11x14's.4 Megapixel = 2272 x 1704: Great 11x14's, and acceptable 16x20's.5 Megapixel = 2560x1920: Pretty good 16x20's.6 - 10 Megapixels = At this point you are usually limited by the lens, not the pixels. Casual photographers are satisfied with bigger prints from each size, while those who like to look at 8x10's from a distance of three inches think I am being too generous in the above evaluations.
- Compare additional features you might want: interchangeable lenses, steady-shot, burst mode, auto exposure, automatic white balance, voice memo, variable shutter speeds, manual focus and self-timer.
- Memory card format: SD or Secure Digital cards are the most popular card format in consumer cameras, they are available in capacities of up to 32GB. It should be noted that some older models are not SDHC complient, so they can not use SD cards larger than 2GB. Compact Flash cards are the standard in higher end SLRs, and are available in capacities up to 32GB as well. The Compact Flash card format has been in constant use since its inception in 1994, Compact Flash drives and related software drivers are compatible with nearly all operating systems.
- Consider the power. All digital cameras use batteries for power although many digicams are also able to plug right into house current with an optional AC adapter for battery free (tethered) power. There are more varieties of digital camera batteries currently available than there are excuses for FEMA’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina. Batteries and chargers are included with most cameras. Digital cameras draw their operating power from two basic sources – available anywhere AA-size batteries or proprietary and model centric lithium-ion batteries. Travelers, particularly those who travel outside the U.S. , should choose a camera that uses AA batteries. When a camera that uses a proprietary battery runs out of power – users must either insert another battery (buying an extra proprietary battery will typically add from $30 to $100 to the final cost of your digital camera) or stop taking pictures until they re-charge the camera battery. If you are outside the U. S. this process requires not only an available outlet, a battery charger, and a power converter, but anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours to fully charge the battery. When AA batteries are exhausted they can be discarded and replaced with fresh set of easily obtained available almost anywhere AA batteries. Smart shooters will bring along a couple of sets of long-life Energizer E2 Lithiums AAs, but over the counter Alkaline AAs will do fine in a pinch. Canon’s A series digicams like the A2100 IS (and several others) use AA batteries.
Compiled from various sources.