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How to Choose a Digital Camera

by Rachel Deutsch Posted on March 08, 2006

A Digital Camera has become the standard in photography. It's smaller than film camera, easier to operate, and holds many more pictures. On a digital camera you can click away as much as you want. If you don't like the outcome - just delete it. For a non professional photographer it's heaven. Instead of taking just one picture you can take 10 pictures - with and without flash, in different modes, from different angles. Later, at home, you can choose the best one to keep (You will probably just keep them all).

The problem at hand is how to choose the best digital camera. Here are some points to consider.


There are cameras at under $100, and well over $2000, the sky is the limit. How much should you pay? It all depends on your budget and on what you expect from the camera. Professionals and serious amateurs will not settle for anything but the latest, best model. The "Sunday photographer", who just wants to document a trip abroad, would probably not need these models. To get the best outcome of a sophisticated camera takes knowledge that not anyone wishes to acquire. Still, I don't recommend taking the simplest cheapest cameras. The cameras in the mid-price range ($300-$600), have enough "wisdom" built into them to compensate for beginner mistakes, and enough simplicity in the human interface for anyone to operate them.

Doesn't matter which digital camera you buy, it will cost less next week, when the new model comes out. The new model will be better, and will cost what you paid now. This is always true, and will be true next week and next month. Accept it. Don't wait forever for the ultimate model with the lowest price. Make the best choice possible today.

Remember also to check what the price of the camera includes. Usually you will need budget for some accessories such as extra memory card, batteries, battery recharger (make sure it works on 110 Volts and 220V), tripod, bag and anything else you would want.

Mega Pixels

This number appears first on all digital camera data sheets, and it seems like the higher the better. In a way, this is true, but how high do you really need it to be?

This number determines the picture resolution. Instead of film, a digital camera has a grid of electronic cells that read light and color information. Having a grid that is made up of more "dots" enables finer details of the picture to appear clearly. This sounds great - why not have as many pixels ("dots") as possible? First, because it costs more. You need more of these electronic cells in the camera, and you need to pay for them. Then, you need to save the information that all these cells produce. A picture taken by an 8 Mega-pixel camera will occupy twice the memory taken by a 4 Mega pixel camera.

Do you need such a sensitive camera? Depends on what you want to do with the pictures. If you are going to enlarge them into billboards, you will need all the details as fine as you can get them. If you are going to print the pictures out in standard size, even 4 Mega pixels is much more than enough. If you are going to look at the picture on your monitor, 4 mega pixels is very good.

Optical and Digital Zoom

Forget about digital zoom!! Ignore it, disable it, and never touch it. Your camera has this grid we talked about inside. The picture comes through the lens, and every point of this grid assigns a value of color and brightness to itself. This is what this points "saw". It cannot "look closer". Now, suppose you want to zoom in x4. The small processor on your camera takes 1/4 of the points it really saw, and smears them on your viewfinder. It has an algorithm that helps it "guess" how it should look. When you click on your camera's button, the camera saves information that is made up of a quarter of the picture, and the camera's zoom in algorithm.

If you don't use digital zoom, you can save all the information that your camera picked. Later, at home, you can display the picture on your monitor. Most of the graphic programs on PC will have more powerful algorithms to zoom in, and with a large view on the monitor you will be able to control the outcome better.

Optical zoom does matter. A good lens brings good information of a far view to the cells in the camera. This is actually one of the big advantages of digital cameras over film camera. The electronics is so much smaller than a film, that there is no need for huge long lenses. You can have 10 or 12 times optical zoom from a very small camera.

What is the downside? When you try to take a picture from a distance you need a tripod, of a good stabilizer in the camera.

Response Speed

When you turn the camera on it takes some time until you can take a picture. Most times it doesn't matter, but if you think you will need to draw fast - check this number.

Video capability

Most digital cameras can take short video movies. The length of these movies depends on the amount of memory you have, normally no more than a few minutes. The quality of these movies is not as good as the quality taken by video cameras, and some digital cameras don't allow zoom in or out while shooting video.

Interchangeable lenses

This is rather new, and now dropping in price. Until not long ago, these cameras were very expensive. Now, the Nikon D50, for example is coming to the $500-$600 price range.

Recommended Cameras

New cameras with better features are announced by the manufacturers every day. A great site that keeps track of all this is:

You can learn about what other people buy these days by checking out Amazon digital camera best sellers

Rachel Deutsch is the owner and writer of On this site, as in others, she shares her experience in travel, and the interest in Italy, its history and its pleasures.

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