I have been using digital cameras for about five years now. Over the course of those five years, I have learned a lot about what to look for with regards to buying a new camera. This article will outline what to look for when buying a digital camera.
Whenever I ask anyone about their new digital camera, they are always quick to point out the number of megapixels. When shopping for a new digital camera, I don’t usually put too much thought in how many megapixels a camera has. Why? Because digital cameras today have more than enough megapixels than I would need.
The digital cameras of today have more than 5 megapixels. This is more than enough to printout a good quality 8×10. Most people usually only print a 4×6, meaning a 3-megapixel camera would do the job fine.
Most high-quality pictures are printed at 300ppi (pixels per inch). For a 4×6 the number of pixels in both dimensions is 1200 (4×300) and 1800 (6×300). Multiply the number of pixels together to get the total number of pixels (2,160,000) in the picture. The total number of pixels for a 4×6 is less than 3-megapixels.
Digital zoom is well advertised by the camera companies for both digital and video cameras. In reality, this really isn’t a zoom at all, and unless you want a blurry picture, you should turn this off. All digital zoom does is enlarge a portion of the picture by cropping out the edges. The space that is filled by the cropped pixels is filled using a process known a interpolation. Interpolation uses the surrounding pixel tonal values to determine what the missing pixels should be. This results in an image that is not as sharp as the original.
The better option to the digital zoom, is to use a photo editing program. A photo editing program will allow you to crop a portion of the image and enlarge that portion to any size you want, essentially perform the same task as the digital zoom.
When comparing the zoom capability of cameras, pay attention to the optical zoom, and not the digital zoom.
The first digital camera that I owned was a Canon G2. I liked this camera, mainly because of the battery. The camera used a rechargeable Lithium-ion that could be charged right in the camera. I never once ran out of battery power with the camera.
My new camera is the Canon S3 IS, which uses four AA batteries. Depending on how many pictures I take with the camera, I sometimes run out of battery power. To avoid being unable to take pictures, I always carry a spare set of fully charged batteries with me. Once one set runs out of power, I simply insert the spare set. If I’m at a place that has electricity, I can charge the first set, which would then become my fully charged space set.
This brings me to my point about AA batteries: always have at least two sets of rechargeable batteries, and a charge with you at all times. They do come in handy at times.
Digital cameras store the pictures in files on a memory card, or in some cases a small hard drive. Some cameras allow for two types of memory cards to be used. The most common are SD (Secure Digital), CompactFlash and the Memory stick. There are other types of memory, but if you have one of the ones just mentioned, you won’t have trouble finding memory for your digital camera.
There is some debate on whether you should buy two memory cards or one. What I mean is, should you buy two 1GB cards or one 2GB cards. Some professional photographers like two because when they fill up one card, they can download the pictures, while still taking pictures with the second. I only have one card because I rarely take enough pictures at one time to fill up the card. Pricing could also affect your decision. If you happen to find a 2GB card that costs more than two 1GB cards, then pick up the 2GB card.
Make and Model
In my opinion, choosing a make of camera is a personal preference. Many people who own cameras are usually comfortable with a particular make. If you prefer one camera-maker over another, then stay with them. Chances are if you have a film SLR from one maker, and upgrade to a DSLR, many of your lens and flashes will work with the DSLR as well.
As for the model, you may want to research the various cameras to find one that suits your needs. At this point you should list what you are looking for in a digital camera, and then read reviews of specific models that meet your needs. A good place to start for reviews is Digital Photography Review. They have a lot of information about practically every digital camera ever made.
- Megapixels: Don’t worry too much about this. Any digital camera that has more than 3-megapixels can print out a high quality 4×6. The higher megapixels are useful for large photos.
- Digital Zoom: This isn’t really a zoom – it simply enlarges a portion of your picture. If you want more zoom, look for a camera with a higher optical zoom.
- Batteries: If the camera you want takes AA batteries, ensure that you buy at least two sets of rechargeable batteries, and keep them both fully charged. Just charge both sets the day before you plan to use your camera.
- Storage Medium: The most common memory types are SD, CompactFlash and the Memory stick. If you purchase a camera with either of these types of memory, you won’t have trouble finding memory for you camera.
- Make and Model: Camera-maker is a personal preference-stay with who you are comfortable with. The model would require some research. Determine what you are looking for, and compare cameras that have those features.