Buyer's Guide to Digital Cameras. 

Wolf Camera

So you want to buy a digital. But whether looking online or in stores, there are so many features, colors, designs, etc.! Where can a person even begin? Fear not! All you need is to educate yourself on just a few basics about digital cameras in order to figure out what will work best for you.

The first thing you need to think about is what purpose will you digital camera serve. Will you only use the camera to take pictures of friends and family? Will you be traveling and taking pictures of landscapes? Do you want to experiment with settings so as to create artistic effects? Do you want to make money shooting portraits, graduations, or weddings? For most purposes, average point-and-shoot cameras these days have plenty of features that will suffice. If you are trying to make money or make photography a serious hobby, though, a pricier, higher-quality item will be right for you. So let's dive in and examine some features of digital cameras.

First of all, think about resolution. Resolution has to do with the number of pixels the camera has. Each pixel represents a site on the camera's sensor where a part of the scene is captured. One megapixel is equal to one million pixels. So what does that mean in English? Pixels are related to quality of the photograph, so the fewer pixels a camera has, the less detail and clarity it can capture. Anything below 3 megapixels will look poor in quality for any type of use. Most smart phones now have at least 3 megapixels in their built-in cameras, which often produce decent results. On the other hand, don't be fooled by marketing ploys that would have you believe you have to have a ton of pixels crammed in your camera to take a good picture. Too many megapixels can begin to detract from image quality, especially in low light. For a recreational photographer, 5-10 megapixels will work just fine. On a tighter budget, it won't hurt to stay on the lower end of the scale, but if you really desire quality for the photo albums, stay above 6 megapixels. For a more serious photographer 10-12 megapixels is what you need.

Consider, also, the lens you will need, specifically if you need a zoom lens. When looking for zoom in a camera's lens, the number that matters is the magnification factor. The magnification factor will be displayed in terms of 3x, 8x, etc. Some may not really find a need for a zoom lens, but they often come standard and can be rather useful. 3x is ideal for recreational use, shooting family events, landscapes, etc. The the serious photographer, who may need to photograph wildlife or sports, may want a greater magnification, possibly up to 10x. Although for a very serious photographer who is willing to invest more money in a camera, a DSLR camera, with a separate lens(es) that can be attached is more appropriate. But the same principles apply when looking at the features, be it point-and-shoot or DSLR.

You may additionally want to think about the battery type that may be more convenient for you. Most either require AA batteries or a lithium ion battery pack, which must be recharged frequently. It really makes little difference other than pure preference. Just make sure to find out how long the batteries last, and don't get caught at an important event with a dead camera and no backup batteries!

There are also a few extra features that many cameras have that you should decide if you want to use. Many come with video capabilities, voice recording, music storage, in-camera editing, image modes, world clock, wireless transfer, etc. Most of these features a person rarely uses, but if you think you'll find use for one or more of these, be sure to look for it in the camera you choose.

My suggestion is to make a list of the individual features that you prefer in a camera based on the purpose it will serve, along with a reasonable budget, and you should be able to find a camera that suits your needs. If you are worried that you will pick the wrong brand, be sure to read through some product reviews online and find out if other consumers had any problems with particular brands or styles. And of course, I recommend never purchasing a camera until you have stepped into a store and held it in your hands to test it out. You don't have to buy it there, but there's nothing like getting a feel for the camera in person!

Camera shopping can be quite confusing, but by remembering the pointers in this buyer's guide, you will be snapping pictures in no time with a camera you love.



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