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How to Pick a Digital Camera

When looking at how to pick a digital camera there are four main factors which need to be considered and measured against your needs as a photographer.

Resolution

The first piece of information you will be presented with will almost certainly be the resolution figure. The resolution figure is the number of pixels captured by the semiconductor that has replaced film. It is estimated that, what many consider to be old fashioned, film captures the equivalent of a 20mp image so photographers who produce very detailed photos still use this ‘old’ technology. 

You will need to choose between a range of mega-pixel sizes varying from 1.3pm to 10mp or more.

Consider what size prints you will want to make. If you are happy with the 5"x7" images we used to collect from the photo processing lab then a 1.3mp camera will be all you need. If you are likely to want to print off anything larger you’ll need a higher resolution camera.

You could of course simply opt for the highest resolution on offer - the downside of this is the cost and the storage capacity you will need as the more pixels you have the larger the image file sizes.

Only you can decide what the acceptable trade off is for the type of photography you want to do. As you become a digital photography enthusiast you will quickly realise that most digital photographers have different cameras for different purposes.

Aperture

The aperture is the maximum open size of the lens. The larger the aperture, the more light can be collected, which in turn allows photos to be taken in poor lighting.

The lens aperture number will be offered to you as an f number but the numbers are not intuitive - in fact the smaller the number the larger the aperture.

The advantage of having a large aperture is that you can take photos in poor light without the need for flash and this is obviously an advantage if you are going to be doing a lot of your photography indoors.

Lens

There are two factors to consider with regard to the lens. One is the zoom range and the other is the quality.

A zoom lens changes the focal length or magnification capability of the camera. For landscapes, panoramas and vistas a short focal length is best but if you want to capture the image of the brown bear on the horizon you’ll need a telephoto lens with a long focal length.

When assessing options ignore anything described as digital zoom this is not what you are interested in. The figures to concentrate on are the optical zoom options.

If you opt for one of the super-zoom cameras think about how you are going to hold the camera still. To get the best images with such a camera you’ll need a camera stand or tripod. Some of the more expensive cameras do compensate for camera shake so you could check to see which models offer that facility.

Lens quality is not something that can be assessed by numbers. Professional photographers only buy their cameras from camera companies as they know this is the best way to ensure good lens quality. Many ordinary electronics companies moved into the cameras market when digital cameras were launched and they simply do not pay the same attention to lens quality. If you want a quality lens buy a camera manufactured by a camera company. It is that simple.

Storage

Some manufacturers (Sony comes to mind) use their own storage media, which means your files are not easily transportable between devices. Others use either Compact Flash or SD (Secure Digital) cards.

It is worth investigating what other devices you have which make use of this portable storage media and perhaps stick to one type otherwise there is not a great deal to choose between them.

Hopefully this will give you enough guidance on how to pick a digital camera - all you need to do now is think about your needs as a photographer.