Buying a Digital Camera by Mary_jMenintigar


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									                   Choose the Digital Camera That's Right for You
                                      What to know before you buy
 Know the jargon
 Know how you'll use a digital camera and images
 Know how much you can pay
 Know your shooting habits and preferences
 Shoot lots of pictures

Know the jargon
If you're new to digital cameras and you start shopping without understanding the basic terms, you'll be
confused very quickly. While it may seem that digital imaging has its own language, you don't have to learn
all of the language to take advantage of digital imaging. Just get a good grip on the following basic

In simple terms, resolution is a measure of image quality: the higher the resolution, the better the image.
Likewise, the better (more detail in) the image, the larger the print you can make. On digital cameras,
resolution has traditionally been determined by the number of pixels (small squares) on the camera's digital
image sensor. The higher the number of pixels on the sensor, the more detail you'll get in the image. Newer
standards for resolution measure lines per picture height, with most 3-megapixel cameras being capable of
resolving approximately 1,100 lines per picture height. Some of the newest cameras have a 5-megapixel

Technically, megapixel means millions of pixels. (A pixel is one of the small squares in an image, and each
pixel is assigned color and intensity.) In nontechnical terms, the higher the megapixel number, the finer the
detail will be in your pictures and the larger the print you can make from it. Ultimately, megapixel numbers
matter because they determine how large you can print the images you take. Note: You can print at less
than 300 dpi and get a good picture. In fact, almost all camera reviews say that a 2- to 3-megapixel camera
will produce acceptable 8" × 10" prints. However, for the purposes of this article, we use 300 dpi as the
norm for photo-quality results.

Optical vs. Digital Zoom
In oversimplified terms, Optical Zoon is the magnification is from the (lens) glass, not from software inside
the camera. Digital zoom, on the other hand, is not a result of lens magnification. Digital zoom crops the
image so the center appears larger or more magnified. Predictably, digital zoom reduces the overall size of
the image. The result with some interpolation programs is visible pixelization (noticeably jagged pixels),
while other programs produce smoother edges. The photo results are always better with optical zoom but
Optical zoom also costs more.

Removable Storage Media/Memory Card
A media or memory card is a small reusable card that stores digital images—the digital equivalent of film.
The common varieties are: CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick . After you fill up a card with
pictures, these handy cards can be plugged into a card reader or adapter that plugs into your computer, so
you can offload images from the card onto your computer. They come in different sizes, from 4 or 8
megabytes (MB) to 356 MB or higher. Most new cameras come with a 16-MB card, but you'll want at least
one or two cards with higher storage capacity.
Know how you'll use a digital you're considering.
One way to look at how you'll use the camera is to decide what you want to do with the images. If you want
digital snapshots so you can send pictures to friends by e-mail, post them in an online album or on a
personal Web site, and occasionally print small-size prints, (4”x6”) then a camera that can resolve 1 to 2+
megapixels is good enough. If, however, you also want prints larger than 4" × 6" from your digital images,
then shop for a 2- to 3-megapixel or higher camera.

Know how much you can pay.
With the current frenzy of sales, you can pick up a real bargain on a digital camera. This means you have
more cameras to match your shooting preferences. The following table shows how much camera you can
get in different price ranges. Note Prices and features are constantly changing.

  Price range       Type      Megapixel                              Features
  $300 and        Compact     1 to 3+       Fixed and zoom lens, fully automatic, internal memory
  under                                     and memory card slot, built-in flash, optical and digital
  $300 to         Compact     3 to 5        Noninterchangeable zoom lens, built-in flash, automatic
  $500                                      and some manual settings, audio and video recording
                                            (some models), ability to buy add-on accessory lenses.

  $500 to         Compact     3 to 5        Noninterchangeable quality zoom lens, accessory lens,
  $700            to zoom-                  built-in or external flash capability, automatic and manual
                  lens                      settings. May include image stabilization and noise
                  reflex                    reduction for hand-held and long-exposure shots.

As you calculate your budget, be sure to figure in accessories, including extra memory cards, a card
reader or PC card adapter, AC charger/adapter, cables (if not included).

Know your shooting habits and preferences
Now factor in the kinds of subjects you'll be shooting, personal preferences, and the camera's design.
In day-to-day use, this translates into how easily and quickly you can get to the settings you change most
often. Take an afternoon to visit a camera store and try out the cameras you think you'd like to buy. Does
the camera fit in your hands comfortably? Is it heavy enough to provide some stabilization as you shoot?
If you are taking photos of sporting events does it shoot fast enough? Are the controls easily accessible?
How long is the shutter lag time, (the time difference between when you push the shutter button and the
camera takes the picture )? Make a list of your preferences and prioritize them.

Shoot lots of pictures
Once you've chosen your digital camera, take the time to read the manual thoroughly. While digital
cameras resemble their film counterparts in most respects, there are differences. If you don't read the
manual, you'll miss some of the cool features. Then shoot lots of pictures. It's only by taking pictures that
you learn. And with the digital camera, the learning accelerates at a pace that will amaze and delight you.

This tip sheet is adapted from an article by Charlotte K. Lowrie it has been edited
for space considerations. About the author: Charlotte K. Lowrie is managing editor of editorial content
for MSN Photos. Her writing and photography have been published in magazines, including Quill (Society
of Professional Journalists), Walking, and Texas Highways, and the Dallas Morning News.

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