A quick guide for choosing your first digital camera
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A quick guide for choosing your first digital camera

The ABC's of buying a digital camera

By Courtesy of PMAI (Photo Marketing Association International)

There's good news for consumers who are interested in purchasing their first digital camera. First, as the quality of digital pictures is going up, the price of digital cameras is coming down.

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  • Second, digital cameras are becoming easier to operate; most offer one-touch, automatic operation. Third, getting pictures from the camera into computers for enhancing, printing and e-mailing has never been easier.

    All this good news means more and more people are getting into digital photography. In addition, more and more manufacturers are offering several models, from simple to sophisticated, to meet a wide variety of picture-taking needs.

    With so many models from which to choose, how do you pick the camera that is just right for you? Here are things to consider when you go window or Web - shopping.

    Megapixels. Digital cameras record images on image sensors made of up pixels short for picture elements. As the number of pixels increases, so does the quality of the image.

    Digital cameras make taking people pictures more interactive because the subjects can see themselves immediately on the camera's LCD screen. When choosing a camera, consider your needs and your budget. (Photo/Courtesy PMAI)
    If you want a camera only for posting pictures on the Web and for e-mailing photos to family and friends, then a 1 megapixel camera will do the job. If you want to make prints up to 8x10 inches prints on your Inkjet printer, then you need either a 2 or 3 megapixel camera the latter giving you a better quality image. For larger prints, there are 5, 6 and 7 megapixel cameras professional and advanced amateur cameras that cost much more than 2 and 3 megapixel cameras.

    Zoom lens. Zooms in digital cameras are not alike. Optical zoom lenses are true zoom lenses they move as you zoom without a loss in image quality. Digital zooms don't move the lens. Rather, as you press a zoom button, the camera enlarges (magnifies) the frame digitally. That usually results in a loss of image quality, which you may not notice when you are viewing pictures only on the Web, but will probably notice when printing an enlargement.

    Some cameras offer both optical and digital zooms. Before you use the digital zoom, you may want to use your feet as a zoom lens, and take a few steps closer to your subject.

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    Battery type. Early digital cameras "ate" batteries at an alarming rate especially when the camera's LCD screen was used for composing a picture. Some camera batteries went dead after just a few minutes.

    Many of today's digital cameras use rechargeable batteries that don't need recharging so quickly. That's due to battery design and improvement in camera power consumption.

    Some cameras accept AA alkaline and AA rechargeable batteries. Virtually all come with AC adapters.

    When choosing a camera, consider where you will be taking pictures indoors, outdoors, close to home or in a distant land. If you don't have a power outlet handy, for example, rechargeable batteries may not be the way to go. If that is the case, you can still use rechargeable batteries you'll just need to pack more of them in your camera bag.

    In any case, it's a good idea to have extra batteries on hand. You never know how many pictures you might take. And, keep in mind that using the LCD screen, optical zoom and flash all drain battery power.

    Ease of hook up. There are several ways to get your digital pictures into your computer: USB cable, docking station, memory card reader, memory card adapter. When choosing a digital camera, ask the salesperson if your computer has an available USB port or the right kind of memory card slots for the camera you have in mind. He or she will need to know the make and model of your computer and what's already hooked up to it via the USB port or ports.

    Camera controls. For snapshots, all you need is a camera with point-and-shoot operation. For more creative pictures, you may want a camera that offers white-balance control, manual and automatic exposure control, different color modes (saturated color, black-and-white and sepia) and manual control of ISO settings. As camera features increase, so does the cost.

    Memory. Memory cards, memory sticks, floppy disks and even mini-hard drives (called micro-drives) are used to record pictures in digital cameras. Think of these devices as digital film.

    Different cameras, however, use different types of digital film. Therefore, if your family plans to have more than one digital camera, say one for dad and one for the kids, it's beneficial to choose cameras that accept the same type of digital film.

    Budget. Digital photography is lots of fun. Once you get into it, you may buy additional memory cards, accessory lenses and imaging software. Printing your own digital pictures is cool, too. . . so you will probably want to purchase an Inkjet printer, paper and ink. Before you buy a digital camera, consider all the other fun accessories that are available.

    Take all these factors into consideration, and you should be able to pick the camera that will give you the most versatility and the best pictures from your investment.

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