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The Perfect Digital Camera – For You!

written by: Brian Mosoff•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/12/2009

With hundreds of digital cameras on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? How much money do you really need to spend to buy a great camera? I've done all the research and tested all the brands. Keep reading to discover the 4 best digital cameras out there waiting for you.

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    So you've come here looking for advice on buying a new digital camera. Most people don't do ANY research before spending a few hundred dollars. Research before buying is extremely important. In a world filled with hundreds of products, how do you know which is right for you? Luckily for you, I've done all the research, spent tons of hours annoying in-store employees and played with every point-and-shoot (P&S) camera I could get my hands on!

    Here are the 4 best digital cameras with varying price tags to suit whatever your budget may be.

    Nikon Coolpix L11 – 6MP -$93.99

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    Initially, I was apprehensive about this camera. I was looking for a camera under $100 and there were a few sitting nearby with greater megapixels (MP).  There were a few things however that gave Nikon the advantage.

    Nikon is one of the two biggest manufacturers of cameras and lenses in the world. The computer chip inside and glass on their lenses are second to no one. These two elements define picture quality beyond MP count. Having a quality lens and camera body far outweighs a high MP count by an unknown company.

    The test pictures I took were sharp, colorful, and nicely exposed. The user interface was very friendly and easy to use. The design was slim and could easily fit into a pocket, making it ideal to travel with. The rear LCD was 2.4 inches compared to a lot of 2 inch LCD competitors. For me this was important. I view every picture I take right away and the bigger the LCD, the easier I can observe fine detail.

    One con I will mention is the battery. For under $100 I couldn't find a camera that came with a built in battery system, meaning you'll have to invest in AA's.

    RECAP: 10MP, optical stabilizer minimizing blurry photos, great for picture editing and manipulation, sharp and colorful images and built in long lasting battery.

    Sony Cyber-shot10.1 MP - $299.99

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    Aside from the high MP count and sleek design, there were a few things that make me want to preach this camera. First of all, for under $300 a lot of cameras are selling the super slim design, which is great for a night on the town, but not so good for image quality.

    Super slim cameras usually mean the lens has to somehow fit inside the camera body. Most sleek designs feature a tiny lens that doesn't protrude from the frame. This results in a very small piece of glass needing to render a lot of fine detail. Typically, the end result is the foreground and background elements appear in focus, resulting in flat looking images that lack depth. The Sony Cybershot however - although relatively slim - is one of few cameras in this price range to feature a proper lens that protrudes out of the body. All of the pictures I took came out sharp, colorful, and contained enough fine detail for picture editing.

    The camera has 5x optical zoom, a high quality lithium-ion battery for lots of shots on a single charge, and a large 2.7 inch LCD screen. To me this camera is the ideal high quality camera with a sleek design.

    RECAP: 10.1MP, 5x optical zoom, long lasting battery on single charge, slim design, and great picture quality.

    Canon Powershot G9 12.1MP - $469.95

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    The camera of all cameras. The king of the beasts. What doesn't this thing have? Heck, I seriously debated picking one up (until I remembered a VISA bill sitting on my desk at home). On top of having 12.1MP and a world famous Canon lens, this camera is as close to taking professional pictures as one can get without splurging over $1000.

    The camera has a 6x optical zoom lens, making it ideal for shooters who want to take pictures of things far away or close up without using digital zoom, it’s also great for cropping later on the computer. It has a built in optical stabilizer to minimize blurry photos. There are 4 key features that really set this camera apart from the rest:

    1. The DIGIC Image III processor. This chip is inside all of Canon's most professional cameras. It's featured in their brand new Canon 1d MkIII (selling for a whopping $8000!). What's so special about it? Well, this processor has the best color reproduction, clarity, and noise handling. This means that the camera can shoot without a flash in very low light and produce stunningly colorful and grain free images.
    2. It has a 3 inch LCD which is bright and great for reviewing your images. The LCD is colorful, sharp, and makes fine detail easy to see.
    3. The camera has a professional hot-shoe mount on the top of the camera, allowing you to stick on a pro grade flash. Built-in camera flash quality is typically harsh because it's coming from a small area. This is why studio photographers use flashes with big diffusion boxes on them. The larger the area of light, the more texture it can provide. By adding an external flash to the hot-shoe it allows you to aim the flash at a ceiling, or a wall, softening the light and creating more realistic looking lighting conditions.
    4. The camera has the ability to shoot in RAW mode. For semi-pro photographers, RAW is an invaluable feature. Although the file sizes are much larger, RAW allows you to 'develop' your pictures on the computer, instead of in the camera. This means you can adjust white balance and saturation without losing quality. Most importantly, RAW captures so much information from the sensor that you can even correct a poorly exposed image and get great results. I've done this a number of times when an image was too bright or too dark and RAW saved the day.

    RECAP: 12.1MP, 6x optical zoom, DIGIC Image III processor for grain free images colorful images, hot-shoe for external flash, large LCD, and the ability to shoot in RAW for post processing.

    In my search I looked at over 60 digital cameras. Remember that when buying a digital camera it's important to play around with it in the store before taking it home. At the end of the day most people use their camera to do one thing and that's taking pictures. Ignore those extra features and focus on the camera that feels great in your hand, and takes the best quality picture. Good luck and happy picture taking!

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    Nikon Coolpix FrontNikon Coolpix BackPanasonic Lumix FrontPanasonic Lumix BackSony Cybershot FrontSony Cybershot BackCanon G9 FrontCanon G9 Back