The top 10 Considerations in Choosing a Digital Camera

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1. Am I looking at photos online and making small prints?

The first spec listed on most digital cameras is the resolution, typically listed as the number of megapixels. Higher is better to a degree, but you could easily end up spending too much and getting “too much camera” if you simply go with the highest number. If you are primarily using the camera for small 5" by 7" prints or online slide shows, you don’t need more than two or three megapixels, making for some really inexpensive options.

2. Will I make enlargements?

On the other hand, if you think you might turn those holiday snapshots into nice 11" by 14" display prints, anything less than five megapixels could turn out pretty grainy.

3. How long will I go between photo downloads?

It’s tempting to save some money and pick a cheap camera with 32MB of built-in memory. The box probably says you can take about 80 pictures. That’s probably fine for capturing the kids’ hockey games and downloading the photos each week. But it’s not going to be enough for a two-week vacation. Better to upgrade to a camera with larger removable memory cards. That way, you can double the length of time between downloads.

4. How tech-savvy are all the camera’s users?

Even low-end cameras often have a range of settings and options, allowing the user to decide among a small range of light and speed settings. This gives many photographers at least some control over their photos. However, if you can’t remember what the settings all mean and don’t want to keep testing and switching around, you might go with a really simple model that is truly just point-and-shoot, leaving all the decisions to the camera’s “brain.”

5. Can I find power outlets to recharge my battery?

Your battery options are usually the basic AA or specifically designed rechargeable batteries. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.

AA batteries (or other common sizes) do not last as long, but can easily be replaced, especially during vacations where souvenir shops are more plentiful than compatible power outlets. Your camera will burn through rechargeable AA batteries particularly fast, especially because the batteries lose power with each charge.

Continue on to page two of this digital camera buying guide to learn more questions you should ask yourself before choosing a camera.

6. Can I afford to wait for a battery to charge?

The other option is the camera manufacturer’s rechargeable batteries. These usually last longer, but can be inconvenient. They can’t be used in your other digital toys.

You also may have to stall your photo shoot or download process while you charge the battery. An extra battery can help solve this problem, but you need to factor in the price of a battery and charger into your camera cost.

7. Do I want an AC adapter?

I’ll make it simple. The answer is yes. Plugging in your camera is a quick way to avoid annoying delays during downloads.

8. How far will I be from whatever I am shooting?

Zoom is another spec listed on a camera box. You need to consider both words and numbers for this listing. Look for the word optical. Digital zooms are an alternative, but optical zooms offer higher quality. The number is the magnification. Most low-end cameras have about 3X, or 300 percent, zoom.

Pricier cameras will have about 10X zoom. If you’re really serious about zoom (for instance, if you are considering a paparazzi career), you’ll want one of those huge lenses you see on the sidelines at football games. You can’t just snap them on to your little point-and-shoot, though. For serious magnification, you need a professional-grade camera.

9. How much weight can I carry?

The weight of a camera is often overlooked, but can be a serious consideration. If you really need a professional-grade camera, you better plan for a lot of weight in your hands and around your neck. On the other hand, if you are backpacking and counting every ounce, a lightweight camera can allow you to pack some more food.

10. Is my computer compatible with the camera?

There’s no sense in buying a cheap camera only to find you need a new $2,000 computer to download photos. Check that your computer has USB ports if your camera relies on this type of interface. The camera box should also list the necessary computer specs.