Home Back

Review:Buying A Digital Camera

In may ways the process of buying a digital camera can be compared to buying a computer. Many of the principals, such as available memory and storage devices are the same, and the prices of digital cameras seem to get lower as more and more features are added. A camera that sold for nearly $1000 last year can probably be had, with even more features, for around $500 this year.

Just as when buying a computer, you need to give some consideration to what you will be using the camera for. Different features result in higher or lower image resolution, and different storage options determine how many images your camera can hold before it has to be unloaded.

There are also speciality cameras, such as underwater models, that serve specific purposes. Here is an overview of the most common questions that you should ask yourself before going out to buy a digital camera:

1. What is your budget?

It doesn't make much sense to start examining features if the ones that you want are out of your price range. Digital cameras run between $99 to as much as $10,000 and up. Set a realistic budget first and you won't wast your time looking at models that you can't afford.

2. Will you be taking a lot of zoom shots?

Digital cameras come with either a digital zoom or an optical zoom. A digital zoom lens works via an internal process whereby the camera actually magnifies a section of the image by using half of the pixels which are located at the center of the camera's CCD sensor and ignoring the rest. This results in the appearance of a zoomed image although the resolution, and overall picture quality, suffers as a result. Digital zoom capabilities are present in most all of the low and medium-priced digital cameras.

A digital camera that is equipped with an optical zoom works exactly as a film-based camera's zoom lens does. The image is actually magnified by the lens, and not the digital camera's circuitry, which results in the available light being evenly spread across the camera's CCD sensor. Optical zoom is a "true" zoom and produces a much higher quality image.

Optical zoom is generally more expensive and is preferred over digital zoom if you want to take a higher quality photo.

Will you want to print your photos on just send them by email?

Digital camera image quality is measured using the term "resolution". Resolution means the pixels that are used to make an image. This measurement is referred to as mega pixels and is calculated by multiplying an images width times height plus the total number of pixels that the image contains.

For example, if you have an image that is 2048 pixels wide and 1536 pixels high, then you would multiply 2048 x 1536 to come up with 3,145,728 pixels. This would be represented as 3.1 Mega pixels). The higher your digital camera's mega pixel rating, the larger the maximum size of the image your digital camera is capable of producing.

There is a direct correlation between your digital camera's maximum image size and the size of the photo that you are able to print.

Here is a quick reference chart:

Resolution Maximum Printed Photo Size

640 x 480 Wallet size only, 1024 x 768 4 x 6, 1152 x 864 5 x 7, 1600 x 1200 8 x 10

How many pictures do you want to store without having to either unload your camera or switch storage cards?

A digital camera uses memory like a traditional camera uses film. Images are stored in memory and, when the memory becomes full, the card either needs to be removed for later unloading or, in the case of permanent storage, the camera has to been unload to your PC or other digital storage device.

Here are some things to consider when deciding what type of memory scheme works best for you.

Less expensive digital cameras do not use removable memory. This means that you are limited in the number of photos you can take and your camera has to be unloaded when it becomes full. if you are traveling, and you don't have your PC or notebook computer with you, then you camera becomes useless once it is full.

Most people prefer a digital camera that uses some sort of removable or extended memory. Current options include replaceable memory cards, small PC-like hard disks, CDs, and even floppy disks. The advantage of removable media is that when one device become full you can simply unplug it and slip in an empty one. Storage capacity is only limited by the number of spare memory storage devices that you own.

Will you want to capture sound and/or make digital movies?

Many of the mid class and higher digital cameras enable you to record sound and make MPEG or AVI movies with MPEG (or MPG) being the preferred format. Movies take up a lot of storage space so you'll want to make sure that you have plenty of removable storage available if you plan to shoot vacations or sporting events.

Unlike traditional VHS movies you can edit your digital movies with any of the widely available digital image editing packages.

In Summary

These are the most important basic digital camera features that you'll want to consider before plunking down your hard-earned money and coming home with a digital camera.

Check on line for cameras that offer the features that you want most and then start looking around for the best prices. Before you know it you'll be part of the digital camera revolution!