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Digital Camera Buying Guide

Digital cameras are perhaps the most widely owned "new gadget" but what kind do you need? This article aims to help you make sense of megapixels and zooms.

A Tale of Two Zooms

One of the major features of digital cameras is their ability to zoom. There are two kinds of zooms, one is digital, one is optical.

Optical zoom is just like the zoom on your normal camera, it uses optics to zoom in or out. This kind of zoom does not sacrifice image quality and you get a sharp picture no matter if you are zoomed in 2x or 10x.

Digital zoom simply uses software to blow an image up, the more digital zoom you use the more distortion you will have, you'll also be better off waiting and using software on your computer to blow up an image digitally (because the software on your PC is probably better). In all likelihood you'll never even use the digital zoom on your camera. The bottom line is that you shouldn't let yourself be taken in by claims of 600x digital zoom, because it simply does not matter.


A pixel is a simply a dot of color, a megapixel is a million dots of color, so if your camera is 5 megapixels then it has 5 million dots of color to make up your image. If you have more megapixels you will be able to take a sharper image because you will have more pixels that can be devoted to details.

Also, more megapixels require more storage so you'll need more memory if you have a high megapixel camera.

Removable Media

There are two main types of compact media, SmartMedia and Compact Flash. Either one of these will work, but do not get any camera with a different storage method as it'll be hard to find support. One thing you can do is look at printers and if you want to be able to print directly from the media then find a printer you like, see which kind of media it takes, and buy a camera that holds that kind of media. You can also take media price into account when buying your camera. A cheaper camera that uses more expensive media may not be worth it.

Another feature is USB connectivity. If a camera cannot support a USB connection to your computer, do not buy it. It is as simple as that.

As for how much storage you need, most camera's will mention on the box how many images can be stored on the various media sizes, I recommend buying something that can store atleast 100 pictures because even though the media is removable, most of the time you'll just leave it in there as permanent storage and use your USB connection to offload images. So it is much more convenient to have one large media card, than multiple small ones.

Battery Life

The final feature you'll want to look at is battery life. How long do the batteries last? Are they rechargeable? When you're on a trip and you're away from an electric outlet all day long battery life will become very important to you.

Recommended Merchants


Amazon.com is your best bet for just about any kind of consumer electronic. I recommend going to a store first and check out the cameras, feel them in your hands, see which one you like, then go online and look for the best deal. Also be sure to read the customer reviews on Amazon.
Links: Digital Cameras at Amazon.com, Amazon.com Coupons

This article was written by Chris Beasley.