What to look for when buying a digital camera
Ilove digital cameras and think that digital photography is one of the new killer apps. You can take as many pictures as you like without spending a penny on film, you can mail your photos to anywhere in the world instantly, and you can post your visual masterpieces online for everyone to see. Also, as the industry has matured, prices have decreased and the technology has rapidly improved.
The only downside is that with all the models out there, figuring out what to buy can be confusing. To help you through this challenge, I've come up with some helpful pointers:
» The amount of megapixels a camera has is one of the biggest marketing ploys manufacturers use to hype their products. I'd say the sweet spot nowadays for a midrange user is six. This is more than enough if you're planning to do big prints (8"X10" or smaller). I'd be suspect of a camera that has more than 8 megapixels and a price less than $300. Manufacturers can get away with low prices and high megapixels by using low-end image sensors, which means you're getting pixels that are smaller but hold less data.
» As technology becomes ever more sophisticated, camera body size becomes less important to creating quality photos. One can great shots from models with small frames less than an inch thick or opt for larger SLRs with interchangeable lenses for professional quality. It's a personal choice--you'll need to consider the convenience versus the overall size and weight.
» Be wary of the term "digital zoom" or "overall zoom," which. like the number of megapixels, is another way to produce impressive looking specs that are really meaningless.
Digital zoom only refers only to computer-generated magnification. A 3X zoom is usually enough for the average user.
» The same goes for stabilization features. Go for optical rather than digital stabilization. It costs a bit more money, but if you have a history of consistently shooting blurry photos because of a shaky hand, it's an option you'll want.
» Running out of juice has always been a problem with digital cameras, so choose a model with long battery life. Be sure that the model you buy can handle a day's worth of shooting--especially if you're constantly using a flash or taking multiple shots in quick succession.
If you plan to take a lot of photos (100+) in day, a good idea would be to purchase an extra battery and have it at the ready.
» You'll also want to look at ways to store your photos. Picassa, which you can download free from Google, allows you to edit, share and organize your photos. It also provides an easy way to upload them on the Net on a free blog..
» Finally, consult some of the better online buyers' guides on the Internet for great unbiased product reviews. These include www.digicamera.com, www.cnet.com, www.megapixel.net, www.dpreview.com, and www.steves-digicams.com.
is general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org