What should I take into account when shopping for a digital camera?
Determine what you need. A mistake I see some digital camera buyers making is that they get sucked into buying cameras that are beyond what they really need. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you go shopping:
What do you need the camera for?
What type of photography will you be doing? (portraits, landscapes, macro, sports)
What conditions will you be largely photographing in? (indoors, outdoors, low light, bright light)
Will you largely stay in auto mode or do you want to learn the art of photography?
What experience level do you have with cameras?
What type of features are you looking for? (long zoom, image stabilization, large LCD display etc)
How important is size and portability to you?
What is your budget?
Ask yourself these questions before you go to buy a camera and you’ll be in a much better position to make a decision when you see what’s on offer. You’ll probably find the sales person asks you this question anyway – so to have thought about it before hand will help them help you get the right digital camera.
What are these megapixels really all about?
A photograph produced by a digital camera is a collection of tiny dots. Each dot is called a pixel. The image that you see is created out of millions of pixels: hence, megapixels.
Problems emerge when you increase the size of a digital photograph. The more you increase the size, the more you begin to notice all of the tiny dots. The digital image is revealed for what it really is.
This is especially true when you want to print your digital photo. While you may not be able to see the individual pixels on your computer monitor, you will definitely notice them when the image is printed. Printers require a LOT of pixels to create a decent photographic print.
This table shows the relationship between megapixels and print size:
Megapixels Print Size (inches)
2.0 4 x 6 [standard]
3.0 5 x 7
4.0 8 x 10
5.0 9 x 12
6.0 11 x 14
8.0 12 x 16
What's the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom?
Not all ‘zooms’ are created equal.
When you’re looking at different models of digital cameras you’ll often hear their zooms talked about in two ways. Firstly there’s the ‘optical zoom’ and then there’s the ‘digital zoom’.
I would highly recommend that you only take into consideration the ‘optical zoom’ when making a decision about which camera to buy. Digital zooms simply enlarge the pixels in your shot which does make your subject look bigger, but it also makes it look more pixelated and your picture ‘noisier’ (like when you go up close to your TV).
If you’re looking for a zoom lens make sure it’s an optical zoom (most modern cameras have them of at least 3x in length – ie they’ll make your subject three times as big – with an increasing array of ‘super zooms’ coming onto the market at up to 12x Optical Zoom).
Do more Megapixels translate into better photo quality?
One of the features that you’ll see used to sell digital cameras is how many megapixels a digital camera has.
A few years back, the megapixel rating of cameras was actually quite important as most cameras were at the lower end of today’s modern day range and even a 1 megapixel increase was significant.
These days, with most new cameras coming out with at least 5 megapixels, it isn’t so crucial. In fact at the upper end of the range it can actually be a disadvantage to have images that are so large that they take up enormous amounts of space on memory cards and computers.
One of the main questions to ask when it comes to megapixels is ‘Will you be printing shots’? If so – how large will you be going with them? If you’re only printing images at a normal size then anything over 4 or so megapixels will be fine. If you’re going to start blowing your images up you might want to pay the extra money for something at the upper end of what’s on offer today.