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How to Buy a Digital Camera

When I'm asked for advice by people on what camera to buy, the best and easiest answer for anyone is --- "it depends". This is very true when looking at the purchase of a digital camera. The most important thing to understand BEFORE you purchase your camera is 'what are you going to do with it'. You probably wont need the $8,000 11.1 Megapixel Canon EOS-1Ds to take pictures of your cat to email your Aunt Trixie. Then again, you probably wouldnt be able to use an inexpensive Aiptek Mini pen cam and hope to have your picture published in a high-end photography magazine like Nature Photographer.

Let's first focus on what people actually do with digital cameras. There are 2 different types of photographers out there - professional and serious amateur photographers, then there's the rest of us 'people that take pictures'. Most people can't be considered to be photographers. When considering what you will be doing with the camera, you're looking at the most important aspect of the camera - the megapixel rating. There's 2 main options for how you'll use your digital images - electonic use and printed. From here there's an additional breakout under each use:

Electronic Use
e-mail
web pages

Printed use
Standard snapshot sizes (3 1/2 x 5 and 4 x 6)
Big Snapshots (5 x 7)
Enlarged photos (8 x 10 or larger)

Be sure to check out How to Buy a Photo Printer

Combined Electronic/Printed

e-mail
web pages

Standard snapshot sizes (3 1/2 x 5 and 4 x 6)
Big Snapshots (5 x 7)

The combined user example is the typical user, someone that wants to email and wants to print out pictures like you get from Clark Photo from your point-and-shoot camera. For more info on the use of the camera, click here.

Please click on the links above for more information concerning the uses and how to make your decisions -- there's just too much information for 1 web page.

The other important feature in the camera to consider is the zoom. First, DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO DIGITAL ZOOM. This is a feature that is a throw-back from the digital camcorder world. It's one thing to have a 15X digital zoom on a moving image since the eye can't detect just how bad the image is, but when you are looking at a snapshot of a moment in time the image quality associated with the digital zoom is just terrible. A big digital zoom factor will do nothing but create a big image made up of big boxes - click here for an example.

Based on the above statement, it's obvious that you should only consider the OPTICAL ZOOM when you are looking at cameras. The current state of the digital camera market allows you to purchase between 2.5X and 4X optical zooms. The best advice that i can give is for you to buy as much as you can without putting yourself into the next price category. The difference between 2.5X and 4X is pretty significant. A standard point-and-shoot digital camera rating starts at 35mm, so a 2.5X zoom is equivalent to 88mm and the 4X zoom is equivalent to 140mm (just for information the 3X is equivalent to 105mm).

Please note that the optical zoom and digital zoom ratings of cameras only apply to NON-SLR type cameras. SLR type cameras use detachable lenses and are not rated in this fashion.


We've included a section to help you search for a digital camera or any gadget. To see everything, click here.

All Digital Cameras 2 Megapixel Cameras
3 Megapixel Cameras 4 Megapixel Cameras
5 Megapixel Cameras Over 5 Megapixel Cameras

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