HomeElectronicsDigital CamerasDigital Cameras Buyer's Guide

Table of Contents   
Three Essential Questions
1.  Megapixels: How do you plan to share your images?
2.  Price Range: How much do you want to spend?
3.  Size: What size digital camera appeals to you?
Other Features to Consider
Memory

Optical & Digital Zoom

Computer Connectivity

LCD Monitor

Battery Life/Power

Digital Video Format/Movie Mode

TV Connections

Realistic Expectations
Summary
Summary

Digital Cameras Recommendations

About the Author

Other Resources   
Digital Cameras Glossary

Digital Cameras Wizard
Digital Camera Buyer's Guide Digital Camera Buyer's Guide  
  by Howard Creech Page 1 2 3   Next

Buying your first digital camera is easier than you think. The primary trade-offs for digital camera shoppers are between resolution (how many megapixels), features, and price. Answer three simple questions in this guide to select the right digital camera for your personal needs.

Three Essential Questions

1. Megapixels: How do you plan to share your images?

Digital cameras make it easy to share pictures both online and in print. However, not all digital cameras can produce prints of the same quality. If you plan to enlarge photos or print them, be sure to buy a camera that can provide the image quality you will need.

Image quality depends on the resolution of the digital camera. Resolution is a measure of image sharpness based on the number of pixels that make up the image. More pixels produce sharper, more detailed images. Digital camera resolution is measured in pixels. One million pixels equals one megapixel. Deciding how many megapixels you need is the first important step in finding the right digital camera for you.

If you only want to share images via e-mail or online photo albums, or use them for personal home pages, then a digital camera with less than one-megapixel resolution is all you need. Digital cameras in this category are inexpensive, very easy to use, and more than adequate for e-mail and online use.

If you want to make 4x6-inch prints as well, then you should get a two-megapixel digital camera. Cameras in this category are an excellent choice for e-mail, online use, and standard 4x6-inch prints.

If you think that you may want to enlarge some of your images to 8x10 inches, consider a three-megapixel digital camera. Cameras in this category provide excellent-quality images.

Digital cameras with resolution in the four to five megapixel range are capable of producing professional-quality images. These cameras are designed for serious amateur and professional photographers with advanced skills, and generally they are not appropriate for beginning photographers.

Understanding Image Quality   
Camera's Resolution Email &
Web Sites
4" x 6"
Prints
8" x 10"
Prints
11" x 14"
Prints
Browse
Under 1.9 Megapixels       View cameras
in this range
2 - 2.9 Megapixels     View cameras
in this range
3 - 3.9 Megapixels   View cameras
in this range
4 - 5.9 Megapixels View cameras
in this range
Over 6 Megapixels View cameras
in this range

For most digital camera purchasers, a three-megapixel digital camera will provide an excellent balance of features and exposure options without breaking the bank.
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2. Price Range: How much do you want to spend?

Digital cameras range in price from less than $50 to more than $4,000. Prices are based primarily on resolution and features. The newest consumer electronics products are always priced at a premium. The best bargains are usually found on last season's models.

Digital cameras with less than one megapixel are inexpensive, but they usually lack key features. For many consumers, this is an acceptable trade-off, especially if they are looking for a camera for their kids or want to experiment with digital photography without spending too much money.

Some digital camera features are only available at a specific price point. For example, digital cameras with interchangeable lenses, a relatively common 35mm film camera feature, are only available in digital SLR models with prices starting at around $2,000. The vast majority of digital cameras are "point-and-shoot" models with a single, non-interchangeable lens.

A $50 digital camera will not perform as well or provide the same features available with a $300 digital camera. Buying the digital camera that is best suited for your needs will help ensure that you will be satisfied with your purchase.


Understanding Prices   
Price Range What You Get Browse
Under $50 Less than 1 megapixel, very basic features, web photos and email only View cameras
in this range
$50 - $150 1 megapixel, better features, good quality for web photos and e-mail View cameras
in this range
$150 - $299 2-3 megapixels, optical zoom, good feature set, great for e-mail and 4x6, 5x7 prints View cameras
in this range
$299 - $499 3-4 megapixels, 3X-4X optical zoom, excellent feature set, great for e-mail and 8x10 prints View cameras
in this range
Over $499 Over 4 megapixels, excellent quality optical zoom, professional features, pro quality prints View cameras
in this range

A top rated camera in the $299-$499 range will provide three to four megapixel resolution and all the versatility and control you're likely to need.
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3. Size: What size digital camera appeals to you?

There are three basic "sizes" of digital cameras, and knowing what size camera suits your needs will make your search much simpler.

Compact Compact digital cameras are designed to provide a moderate feature set, stylish looks, and a tiny, "pocketable" size. The advantage is that you are more likely to have a compact camera with you when that "great" photo opportunity occurs. However, they are generally more expensive than standard-sized cameras with similar features.
View cameras in this range
Standard Standard digital cameras are similar to 35mm point-and-shoot models in appearance and features. Some are reasonably compact, but they are usually too large to drop in your pocket.
View cameras in this range
Professional If you care more about robust features like interchangeable lenses, flashes, and other accessories, you will most likely have to consider a larger-sized camera. This category includes Professional SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras, which are just like traditional 35mm SLRs. These cameras are designed for professional and serious amateur photographers who require manual control and the ability to change lenses easily. Only the most serious amateur photographer will demand the flexibility of these cameras, and they are usually larger and heavier than compact or standard models.
View cameras in this range

If you take pictures often and want the convenience of carrying your camera with you all the time, select a top-rated compact digital camera. If you care more about price and features than compact size, choose a standard size digital camera.
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