How Do I Choose a Digital Camera?

5th September, 2008
digital cameras
J Adams asked:

A digital camera might look like a film camera but they are actually quite different. Both freeze light to make a photograph. Film cameras do this chemically using film. Digital cameras use a light sensitive CCD or CMOS silicon chip to convert light and digital information into pixels.

Pixels are the tiniest areas of light that your digital camera can recognize and change into information. The greater amount of pixels the more detail and higher the resolution the photograph. A low resolution color printout of tree will show that it is green but in a high resolution photograph the leaves and texture of the bark will be more sharply defined.

With digital photographs your have the ability to use software like Adobe Photoshop Deluxe and Microsoft Picture to edit photos and make corrections.

Choosing Your Camera

Important considerations when choosing a digital camera are: What do you want the camera to do? What features do you require? How much do you wish to spend on your camera?

There are professional high end cameras that cost thousands of dollars, cheap throwaway cameras and a huge selection of mid-level cameras available to choose from.

Will you be photographing images for the internet and for email? Will your photos be printed? For regular print size snapshots and web photos a one to two megapixel camera will do. In fact for the web a lower megapixel would be better as higher resolution photos are slow to download.

Do you want a point-and-click camera? Are you someone who just wants to get the picture taken with the least amount of bother. Do you want a camera that does everything automatically and you simply have to press a button? Or, are you someone who would rather figure out the best settings for your camera and make the adjustments manually? It’s always best to find a camera that suits your purpose, need and ability.

High or Low Resolution

High end, high resolution cameras are good for photographs that are to be printed. The greater the number of pixels the higher the resolution. High resolution does not make sense on the web as the extra resolution does not make images appear any sharper. Also, high resolution photos are slow to download on the web.

To print your photographs you will need a good quality color printer. If photos are to be printed, high resolution does make a difference depending how large you want the picture to be. High resolution will give a large print better definition. High resolution cameras cost more. Expect to pay more for high resolution. You also need to check that your printer can handle high resolution prints.


Low-end digital cameras have fixed focus lenses made of plastic. With these lenses everything is focused and you don’t need to make a decision what to focus on.

Variable focused lenses are made of glass or high quality plastic. These lenses focus on whatever object you are trying to capture in a photograph.

Most mid-range digital cameras come with auto focus and manual focus built in. Auto focus is for point-and-click photos of whatever is in the middle of the frame. Or, by turning the ring over the lens, you can manually focus the camera. These cameras allow users to switch between auto and manual focus.

Zoom Lenses

Digital cameras have optical zoom and digital zoom lenses. Optical zoom costs more, give a better quality picture, and works the same way as on non-digital cameras with lens adjustments. A digital zoom comes about when the camera makes calculations to manipulates the pixels. Digital zoom gives a less sharp image. Some cameras include both optical and digital zoom.

View Finder

The view finder is what you look through to see what you are photographing. The view finder on both digital and regular film cameras will approximate the picture your lens is viewing. Digital cameras will also come with an LCD display that you can use to check your photographs and decide weather or not to keep them.


When it comes to lighting you might not want the camera to make the decision automatically for you. On an auto setting you camera might not make the best lighting choice given the location and environment. At times like this you can appreciate being able to switch between manual and automatic settings.

Digital cameras allow you to test exposure and view a picture on LCD prior to pressing the button fully and committing to a photograph.


There will be a built in flash that comes with your digital camera. In addition, the better cameras have a location for a flash attachment. This is a good option for producing better quality photographs.

Connecting to Your Computer

You will need a PC USB cable, or for Mac’s – Firewire or Mac USB cable, to connect to your computer. You will also need a cable adapter for your camera’s CF (Compact Flash) or SM (Smart Media) card .

The CF or SM cards are removable high capacity storage cards for your photos. Your camera will use one type of card or the other. Not both. Check to see which type of storage card your camera uses.

USB connections are fast and easy to set up. Older cameras connect through a serial port. USB is faster and does not require that the computer be rebooted before it recognizes the camera.

Batteries and AC Adapters

Digital cameras often come with rechargeable batteries. It is best to have two sets of batteries. One set to use while the other is recharging. AC adapters make it easy to plug into an electrical outlet when you are near by one.

Main Drawback of Digital Camera

The main drawback of digital cameras is shutter lag delays when the camera delays responding after you squeeze the button. It is possible you may miss the moment when photographing moving objects due to shutter lag. Some of the newer cameras are beginning to address the problem.

Select a camera that does what you want it to do, has features you will use and is priced in the range you want to pay. This will be the right camera for you. If your experience is limited and you do not want to take a lot of time learning how to use the camera, go with a point-and-shoot camera. Something without too many features. If you are a camera enthusiast who wants to do more with your camera or is willing to take the time to learn how to use the feature then, by all means go all out.


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