Evaluate Digital Camera Features
The type of digital camera you buy will depend on how you intend to use it. Will you be viewing and sharing your pictures on a computer or do you plan to make a lot of prints? Are there specific features you'd like, such as a powerful zoom for close-ups or even a video-recording mode? Consider the following features to determine your needs.
An important feature to consider when assessing a digital camera is its resolution, or image quality. A camera's resolution is determined by pixels: the more pixels, the higher the resolution. And the higher the resolution of a digital photo, the more you can enlarge it without losing image quality. Camera resolution is measured in millions of pixels, or megapixels. Simply stated, the more of them, the better-and the price of your camera will reflect this.
Cameras with less than 2 megapixels are considered adequate for sharing pictures online. Go with higher resolution if you plan to enlarge pictures or make a wide variety of prints. Here is a rough guideline that shows resolution and how it correlates to print size:
Most digital cameras use external memory: a memory card that you can remove when it's full. With this type of removable storage, you can simply insert a memory device card, shoot until the disk is full, download it into your computer, and then resume shooting.
Memory cards are available in a range of formats-iincludng CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SecureDigital, SmartMedia, and xD Picture Cards-and storage capacities, measured in megabytes. Many cameras come with a low capacity card (8MB-16MB), but it's a good idea to invest in additional, higher-capacity memory cards-especially if you're doing a lot of shooting.
On average, shooting at the best quality (high compression), you will need a 48MB card to capture 24 pictures. If you reduce the quality of the images (if you compress them less), you can double, or even triple, the amount of pictures you can take at a time.
Digital cameras drain batteries extremely quickly. Look for a camera that accepts rechargeable batteries, and then invest in two sets of them so that you always have a spare. Many cameras work with popular, rechargeable NiMH batteries. They are inexpensive and environmentally friendly while giving you plenty of pictures per charge.
Most cameras come with an AC power adapter. Use the adapter if possible when using intensive battery functions such as image viewing and downloading.
The Zoom (telephoto) function can either be digital or optical. Both allow you to get a closer view of your image before you take your picture. Though cameras do use both types of zoom, it is preferable to have a higher optical zoom to increase the quality of the image. Digital zoom will definitely also do the job right, but more often will enhance the magnification the optical zoom has already done. Here's how it works: Optical zoom changes the magnification of images with the actual optical glass before the images reach the imaging sensor: a true zoom. Digital zoom is essentially an artificial zoom, whereby a fixed area of pixels is enlarged (either before or after the picture is taken) to appear as though the camera has zoomed in on the subject. It essentially does the same thing as increasing the size of an image using computer software, resulting in a slight loss in resolution.
All digital cameras come with at least an optical viewfinder: the kind you look through on traditional film cameras. But many digital cameras also come with a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screen built into the back which you can use as a viewfinder.
The LCD screen permits you to both preview and review pictures and access advanced camera feature menus. While this is a very appealing feature, it's important to remember that LCD screens can rapidly consume battery power.