By John Steele
When considering the purchase your first digital camera you will discover that today's cameras contain a vast array of advanced features. Probably most of them will be features you're not familiar with, and by the time you finish reading this article, the manufacturers will have added a dozen new ones.
The type of camera you choose doesn't have to be a difficult decision. Here are five guidelines that can help you find the camera you need. Regardless of the options and capabilities of the camera your first real question should be.
1. How much do I want to spend?
This may sound like an over simplification, but using this approach will allow you to concentrate on the wide variety of cameras you can afford. Once you've answered that question, a lot of the other questions will be eliminated by default. There are some good inexpensive cameras available, but the great one's can get very expensive. Determine your price range first. Then compare the cameras that fall in that category.
You'll save a lot of time and frustration. It's probably worthwhile to mention that I have found some great buys on refurbished high-end cameras on ebay. Just make sure you check the seller's feedback, return policy, and warranty, on the camera. You can buy a lot of camera at an enormous discount on ebay if you've done your homework and know what you're looking for.
After you've determined what your budget will allow, it's time to compare features. The second question that naturally arises is.
2. Which features do I need, and which features will I never use?
Even though the list of advanced features on today's digital cameras is endless, they still fall into two basic categories; either DSLR (digital single lens reflex) or point-and-shoot. The comparison of DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras is beyond the scope of this article; there are just too many variables.
There are great camera comparison charts available on the web. But nothing beats going to your local photography store to hold the cameras and ask questions about their controls and capabilities. By physically inspecting the camera it's easier to decide if it's something your willing to carry all day; especially when comparing DSLR cameras which are often heavy and bulky. By looking at the features on the different models you will better be able to determine if you need a camera with manual settings or if automatic settings will be adequate.
If you are going to use the camera for more than just a hobby a DSLR is the obvious choice. There is so much more you can do with a DSLR, and you have far more control over the type of pictures you can take. The downside is they're expensive, and if you're unfamiliar with photography, they have a hefty learning curve. When buying a digital camera it all boils down to how it fits your lifestyle, and what you intend to use it for.
The third factor in the quest for the perfect digital camera is known as resolution. Although it may be considered a symbol of prestige to own a camera with the most mega-pixels, is it really necessary? Mega-pixels can be overrated.
3. Do I need high mega-pixels?
The resolution on digital cameras is measured in mega-pixels. The higher the number of mega-pixels the more defined the image will be. The problem that arises in this scenario is that more doesn't mean better. Five mega-pix is the typical starting point for most of today's digital cameras, and that is more than adequate for most pictures. Unless you are going to expand your pictures to a point they could be used for posters the extra mega-pixels are overkill. You don't need them. One caveat here however; if you plan submitting your photos to an agency a five mega-pix camera probably is not adequate, you need high resolution to meet the requirements of the stock photography agencies.
So you've found a camera you think you can live with and your ready to have some fun with it. You get it home and open the box only to discover you need accessories.
4. What accessories do I need?
Surprise! I've listed a few of the items your likely to find useful to go along with your camera. Though they don't appear to amount to much they can get expensive when added up.
Lenses (DSLR typically)
Spare Batteries / Recharger
Filters and Lens Caps
Photo Editing Software
The best way to buy the accessories is in a bundle included with the camera. Usually the manufacturers or the merchant offer some kind of an incentive to buy from them. This is another reason I like some of the camera packages offered on ebay. It's easy to get an expensive bundle of accessories included as a bonus in some of the camera deals offered there. At a minimum always try to get at least an extra battery and a charger as a bonus. Camera batteries lose their vitality quickly and are expensive to replace.
5. The hardest part is the research.
If you don't know what you're looking for, chances are you'll find it. Rather than just read about the cameras it helps a great deal if you take a little time to play with them at the store. I've found talking with sales people in person is far more beneficial than trying to communicate by telephone. Nothing will better help you decide which camera is for you than examining them.
Of course digital cameras are far more complex than what has been discussed in this article, and it's too easy to make a bad decision when buying online. That's why it's so important to get the feel of a camera before you buy it.
If you do find a camera you like and decide to buy it online, one a word of caution. Make sure you specify the little things like model number, warranty, place and date of manufacture, color, accessories, and so forth. It's easy to end up with a camera or lens you didn't want when buying from a vendor in another place. There are a lot of subtle variations in camera equipment. Be sure you know exactly what you're ordering and the return policy.
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