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How to choose the right digital camera

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.

Battery life
Cameras use one or more of several types of batteries: AAs, either nonrechargeable alkaline or rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH) high-capacity disposable CRV3s or proprietary rechargeable batteries.

Some digital cameras quickly drain batteries - especially alkaline batteries - which can be expensive and annoying. Battery life and cost often aren't related; some inexpensive cameras have great battery life, and some expensive ones use up a charge quickly. Either way, it's a good idea to buy spare batteries.

Movies and sound
The majority of today's cameras can capture video as well as still shots, and some even record 1080p high-definition video. If you plan on shooting a lot of video with your camera, here are some things to consider:

  • Can the camera zoom in and out optically while filming video?
  • Can you use autofocus while shooting video?
  • Does your video-editing software support the format your camera records? Most cameras' video output will work with any video-editing program, but the AVCHD format is still incompatible with some software. That said, the AVCHD format will upload directly to YouTube.
  • Do you have a Class 4 or Class 6 SDHC card? You'll want to pick one up to make sure it can handle the speed of video capture.

If you're torn between a digital SLR camera and an advanced point-and-shoot model, check to see whether the DSLR you're considering shoots video. A growing number of DSLRs capture high-definition video, and the larger sensors and lenses mean that the video quality is usually phenomenal.

Exposure settings
All digital cameras let you shoot in fully automatic mode - just press the shutter release and you get a picture. Some cameras also offer aperture- and shutter-priority modes, in which you adjust the size of the lens opening or how long the shutter stays open, and the camera automatically controls the other variable to give you the proper exposure.

Typically, you'd use aperture priority to maintain control over an image's depth of field--for example, to blur the background of a shot while keeping the foreground sharp - and shutter-priority mode to capture fast-moving subjects. A camera that relies exclusively on full auto would attempt to keep both the foreground and background in focus in the former example, and it would probably blur the moving subject in the latter.

Usually, cameras that offer priority modes also provide full-manual exposure control, in which you set both variables. These modes make a camera adaptable to almost any situation.

NEXT PAGE: Menus

  1. Chose the camera that suits you
  2. Compact interchangeable lens cameras
  3. Pocket Megazoom
  4. Ruggedised Point-and-Shoot camera
  5. The specs explained
  6. Size, weight and design
  7. RAW Mode
  8. Battery life
  9. Menus
  10. LCD and Viewfinder
  11. Digital camera shopping tips

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