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Digital Camera Shopping Guide

Determining which digital camera model and design is right for your needs can be very trying, especially when you're approached with hard sales pitches, manufacturer claims, and customer reviews. Before you make your purchase, let Dealio help eliminate the frustration that comes with purchasing a new camera. From Canon, Nikon and Kodak to Sony, Olympus and Casio, this step-by-step guide, will help you narrow your search and find the best digital camera for your needs.

Megapixel count

The megapixel count is extremely important to most shoppers in the market for a digital camera, and this is why most manufacturers highlight this feature in bold on their packaging. The most important thing to know about megapixels is this: the greater the megapixel count of your camera, the higher quality images you will be able to take.

If you plan on printing quality 4x6 or 5x7 photos, or you're interested in taking mostly small images to publish on the Internet or send to your friends through e-mail, you'll probably want to invest in a 1-2 megapixel camera. If you would like to print 8x10 photos, you will need a 2-3 megapixel camera for higher resolutions. If you're a more serious photographer or have a larger budget, any model with 4 or more megapixels will provide excellent quality prints.

Price

It's important to know the price range of digital cameras, especially if you are working within a specific budget. Generally, the price of a camera is directly related to the megapixel count and other features it contains. A 1-2 megapixel camera generally ranges in cost from $100 to $200; a 3-4 megapixel camera ranges from $200 to $500 range; and a 5-6 megapixel camera ranges anywhere $500 to $1500.

Size and Weight

A large majority of consumers prefer small, compact cameras because they are easy to carry around. Often times, this feature can be more important than the megapixel count itself. However, smaller the camera is, the smaller the buttons and dials, which can make it's functioning capabilities difficult for some users. Be sure you test out the different sizes of cameras so that you don't wind up with a style that you don't like.

Battery Life

If you've ever owned a digital camera, you know how quickly they can use up batteries. Having to constantly purchase new batteries can be rather costly and extremely convenient. With that being said, it's important that you note the type of batteries the camera accepts, which can be anything from non-rechargeable or rechargeable AAs, disposable CRV3s, or rechargeable batteries provided by the camera manufacturer. Whenever possible, we recommend using rechargeable batteries and having extras on hand just in case - running out of battery life at an inopportune time can be very frustrating.

Zoom Capability

Why is it important to have a zoom lens? If your camera does not have a zoom lens, you will need to use image software to crop the image around your subject (since zooming was not possible when you captured the picture). This forces you to lose some of the image's resolution and overall quality, even if you took the image using a camera with a high megapixel count. If you are going to take detailed images of specific subjects (e.g. nature, art, automobiles, etc.), and a zoom lens is required, we recommend that you choose a camera with an optical zoom, which allows you to zoom in on your subject while maximizing the camera's available resolution. You can also opt for a camera with a manual focus, which gives you the most flexibility when taking extreme close-ups.

Storage Capacity

Storage capacity is defined as the amount of space on the camera's memory card. There are many types of memory cards and it's a good idea to consider what type of memory a camera uses before you make your purchase.

Many digital cameras offer removable memory cards, which is a great feature because it allows you to continue taking pictures indefinitely, assuming you have extra cards that you can swap out. Other digital cameras do not offer removable memory cards, which means you have to upload your images to a computer once you have taken up 100% of your memory card's space. Because many cameras only allow you to store a few high-resolution images, there is great value in purchasing a camera that allows you to swap out flash memory cards.

LCD Quality

Low-end camera models often omit an LCD screen, which is necessary for reviewing images you just took. A quality LCD screen is essential for knowing whether you got the shot you wanted and it can also give you an indication of whether the picture was properly exposed. LCD quality varies widely — many wash out in sunlight or become grainy in low light, or the image may change if you tilt the camera slightly. If you can, try to test out a camera outside before you make your purchase.

Options

Every digital camera manufacturer works hard to market the different types of settings their cameras offer, but the truth is, the more settings your digital camera has, the more time you'll waste trying to figure them out. A good rule of thumb is this: you can still take amazing photos if you keep the settings simple. Just because a camera has multiple buttons, dials, and settings, does not mean it is the best camera for you.