Topic: What to look for in a Digital Camera
Date Written: April 05, 2004
Written By: Webmaster Christopher Beley

     This is a guide for the consumer who wants to buy a digital camera for general purposes, and doesn’t know very much, if any thing about digital cameras… 

    To start us off, we should first talk about some of the general terms concerning digital cameras.  The term you probably hear most often is "Mega Pixel".  All this is, is the quality of the picture the camera will take.  If you want to get a little more technical, it actually specifies how many pixels are in one square inch.  For example, a 3 Mega Pixel Camera has 3 million pixels per inch.  As for what a pixel is, it is kind of like a dot of ink or data that make up a picture. 

    Another term you will probably run into is resolution, which is the size of the picture, and nothing more.

What To Look For In A Digital Camera

    The most important thing in a digital camera, is how many Mega Pixels it is (NOTE: Technically, I should say that the most important thing is how many Mega Pixel pictures a camera can take.)  As a rule of thumb do not go less than 2 Mega Pixel unless you plan on not having your pictures printed.  However, a 2 Mega Pixel camera would be OK for some people.  If you plan on bringing all your pictures to a developer like Wall-Mart, you will probably be satisfied by the quality of the pictures.  However, if you plan on printing them out on your printer, a 2 Mega Pixel picture may not look as nice as you would want it to be.  The reason they may look better when bringing them to wall-mart, is because they don't just print your digital pictures out, but use some other technique which I will not discuss in this article. 

     If you are concerned about quality, you are going to want to go with a 3 Mega Pixel and up camera.  Just remember, that the more Mega Pixels you have, the crisper the picture will look, and the higher the price will be.

     Another thing to take into consideration when buying a digital camera is the resolution.  As I said before, the resolution is the just the size of the pictures it takes.  So why is this of importance to you?  Well, if you plan on printing out any 8 x 10’s, and not just 4 x 5’s, you are going to want a higher resolution.  However, I wouldn’t worry about this too much since most digital cameras are going to have decent resolution.  Instead start reading some digital camera reviews off the web.  You could also tune into TechTV's fresh gear, because they sometimes review digital cameras.

The mysteries of "Zoom"...

     Chances are, you have probably noticed two types of zooms on digital cameras; digital zoom and optical zoom.  So you probably want to know what in the world is the difference between the two.  Well, digital zoom is when you take a picture, and the camera then makes your picture bigger within the camera, itself.  Still don't get it?  Think of it like this...You see this awesome picture on the web and you decide you want to make it bigger.  So, you go into your favorite image-editing program and enlarge it.  You then notice that it looks very pixilated and after trying everything you can think of to make that picture look nice, you eventually give up.

    You see, digital zoom isn't really a zoom at all, but actually just a built in enlarger in the camera!  What does this mean?  It means, that the more digital zoom you use, the more distorted your picture will be!

    Optical zoom works just like your traditional camera's zoom.  It uses actual lens to magnify what you see.  If you want an example, it kind of works like binoculars.                   

    So which is better?  Well, optical zoom is definitely the best, because there is no quality loss, but it will cost a little more than just having digital zoom.  However, I would recommend that no matter what, you should get optical zoom.  You will greatly regret it if you get a digital zoom only camera.  However, having both optical and digital zoom wouldn’t hurt.               

Look mom!  This toy has a secret apartment and a really cool laser that shoots out of it!!!!     

     Many of you have probably noticed that a lot of cameras come with all kinds of fancy features and what not, but what do you really need?  In a nutshell, you don't need any of it.  Things like filters (which allow you to turn pictures black and white, distort the colors, etc), built in cropping and what not can all be done on your computer.  As a counter argument to this statement, you may say that you want to bring your digital camera's memory directly to Wal-Mart (or other similar place) and have your pictures printed by them without ever connecting your camera to your computer.  Well, you will notice at places like Wal-Mart you are able to edit your pictures using their special machines before having them printed.  What I am trying to say, is DON'T buy a camera based on it's extra features that you really don't need.                                      

Final Comments

    As for the other things to look for in a camera (like brand, how the camera looks, etc) are for you to decide.  My one final recommendation is to do your research!  Don't just buy a camera that you see in a store right away!  Go to places like my site or do a google search for the camera you are interested in and read all you can about that particular camera from specifications to reviews.  Good luck;-)

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