Digital camera buyers' guide
When it comes to buying a digital camera, it's easy to get confused as there are so many options. Fear not. We're here to help. This guide will help you make a purchasing decision based on the specifications you'll need to examine closely (and the specs you can basically ignore) before you fork out your hard-earned cash.
Digital camera shopping tips
Here are our recommendations:
- Match Mp to your use: Most point-and-shoot cameras offer at least 5Mp, which is plenty for producing 11x14-inch prints. Cameras with more megapixels will yield even larger prints and allow you to blow up a part of an image with less likelihood that the print will be blurry. If you plan to make only 4x6-inch prints, you don't have to shoot at the camera's highest resolution - and as a result, you can fit more shots on your memory card.
- Look for rechargeable batteries and a charger: The cost of disposable batteries adds up over the long run. Some cameras can use AA batteries of any type - disposable or rechargeable. That capability can be helpful if your rechargeable batteries run out of juice and you don't want to wait while they replenish.
- Disregard digital zoom: Most cameras offer at least 3x optical zoom - and some boast an optical zoom as high as 30X. But sometimes vendors tout a high total zoom that includes digital zoom, which you should disregard: Digital zoom produces photos that are inferior to those produced with an optical zoom.
- Look for a low-light focusing aid: Some cameras have auxiliary lights that help them focus in dim settings. That's important for many indoor shots. A lot of cameras these days have backside-illuminated (BSI) sensors, which generally do a great job in low-light situations.
- Try the camera before you buy: Some cameras have commands and menus that are easier to use than others, a comparison you can make only with a hands-on trial. Also evaluate the lag time between when you press the shutter button and when the camera actually takes the picture. Try the zoom lens - does it operate quickly and smoothly? Find out how long you must wait between taking pictures. And try the LCD viewfinder - in the sun if possible - to determine how easy it is to read.
- Consider investing in a memory card reader or a camera dock: A memory card reader acts like an external hard drive attached to your PC or laptop, allowing you to download pictures directly from your camera's storage media. Many newer laptops have one or more memory card slots built in, as do some inkjet printers. Alternatively, some cameras come with a dock or offer one as an option, and some of these docks offer a dedicated button for uploading all of your new photos on a memory card. A dock also charges the camera's battery.
- Buy a second memory card: If you have a second memory card, you can keep shooting while the images download, rather than having to keep the camera hooked up to your PC. Also, you won't have to worry about running out of space (and missing your perfect shot) quite so quickly.