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How to Buy a Digital Camera

If you’re still buying film for your camera, it’s time to join the 21st century.


  • Step 1: Set your budget Decide how much you want to spend.
  • TIP: Your goal is to find the best camera in your price range.
  • Step 2: Think about your needs Think about what you want to do with your digital camera. Do you want to be able to take pictures at night? Make large prints? Carry it with you everywhere?
  • Step 3: Shop Visit a camera store—online or brick and mortar—to narrow down your choices. Find the largest selection possible.
  • Step 4: Decide what kind Decide if you want a 'point-and-shoot' camera or a 'digital SLR' (single-lens reflex) camera. Digital SLR cameras are larger and more expensive but usually have more features and interchangeable lenses.
  • TIP: A digital SLR camera is a great professional camera but probably unnecessarily expensive for the amateur photographer.
  • Step 5: Decide what resolution Figure out what resolution you want, known as the 'megapixel' rating. Basically, the more megapixels a camera has, the larger the picture you can print and the higher quality the image will be.
  • TIP: A five-megapixel camera has sufficient resolution to print out a high-quality 11' by 14' picture.
  • Step 6: Focus on batteries Look for digital cameras that use rechargeable batteries, and find out if you need a separate charger.
  • Step 7: Consider optical zoom Decide on how much optical zoom you need. The higher the zoom, the steadier your hand must be. Most people would rather have a higher zoom than a higher resolution.
  • TIP: Don’t worry about digital zoom. All it does is magnify a photo, meaning the higher you zoom, the lower the picture quality. Optical zoom is what’s important.
  • Step 8: Consider the features Consider what built-in features—like low-light focusing or red-eye reduction—are worth the expense for your needs.
  • TIP: A fast-acting camera is key to avoiding so-called 'shutter lag,' which is the delay between your pushing the button and the camera taking the picture.
  • Step 9: Consider video Decide whether you want video capability, but realize your filming length will be limited and will fill your memory card quickly.
  • TIP: If you want to digitally record video, you’re better off investing in a digital camcorder.
  • Step 10: Consider comfort Don’t forget that comfort counts. If you’re planning to carry the camera around a lot, a smaller, lighter camera will be best.
  • Step 11: Buy memory Most cameras don’t include enough memory, so purchase a memory card or stick. Most cameras come with a 16 MB 'standard' card, but you’ll most likely want to buy another larger card so you’ll be able to store lots more pictures on it.
  • Step 12: Consider LCD screen size All digital cameras have LCD screens. They vary in size; larger screens make the camera easier to use but will probably drain the batteries faster.
  • Step 13: Buy a case Whatever you end up choosing, be sure to buy a case for it. Digital cameras can be easily damaged, and you don’t want your investment going to waste.
  • FACT: In 2004, Kodak stopped making new film cameras.

You Will Need

  • A budget
  • A general idea of what you want to do with your camera
  • And time to comparison shop

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