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Digital Cameras Buyer's Guide

Digital CamerasDigital Cameras

There are three main types of digital camera on the market today. The most popular is the standard pocket sized point-and-shoot camera which most people use, the second is an SLR camera which is used by professionals and costs a bit more, these digital cameras are larger and offer more professional features as well as allowing you change the lens on the camera. The third is a mixture of the first two and is called a hybrid. Hybrid cameras are the size of the SLR cameras and allow extra features not found on a standard camera they also usually offer a larger optical zoom setting, the lens on these cameras cannot usually be changed.

Point and Shoot Digital Cameras

If you're looking to buy a standard point-and-shoot camera, the size and weight of the model you pick is critical. If a digital camera is too big or heavy, you'll end up leaving it at home, while the images from small or ultra-light models can suffer from any shaking in your hands.

Usually the higher the megapixel count of a digital camera's sensor, the more detailed the images it can produce. A 3 megapixel camera is fine for printing your holiday snaps at 4 x 6in and even 5 x 7in, but you'll need at least 3-4megapixels for good 8 x 10in prints. Most digital cameras at the moment seem to come with around 5 megapixels as standard.

If you want to print out anything larger than a 8 x 10 inch print then you should go for a camera with 5 megapixels and greater.

Most digital cameras offer both optical and digital zooms. The optical zoom is one of the most important settings on a digital camera, as an optical zoom actually zooms in on the subject, bringing things closer, showing more detail and retaining the quality of the image. Standard optical zoom rates can be 3x to 10x, but the higher the better. The digital zoom simply enlarges parts of the image, and this feature can be reproduced using a computer program with the image. Digital zoom also deteriorates your quality of the image after a certain point.

Digital cameras almost always feature a selection of automatic or pre-set picture modes for standard shots, portraits, night shots and landscapes, plus 'macro' modes for close-up photography. Most digital cameras now seem to come with similar settings so once you have mastered one camera any other should be very similar.

Movie modes are interesting but not essential, and at best the results are nowhere near as good as even a basic camcorder. But they're fine for short movie clips to play on your PC so, if you're interested in this function, check how many frames per second (fps) they offer. Many may be 15fps, but the best setting to look for is 30fps, as this will give you flicker free video, but watch out because video consumes a lot more memory on your memory card. Many cameras also let you record sound to go with your pictures.

All digital cameras should come with a built-in flash which are fine for everyday shots, and many include a red-eye reduction mode.

Battery life is a big issue with digital cameras. Many models come with NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) rechargeables, but those with lithium batteries will typically last longer, but the lithium batteries may be more expensive to replace and purchase as they are usually specific to the camera. Shooting video and using a lot of flash will drain your batteries a lot faster and so will using the rear screen on the back of the camera, so to conserve battery life you ca usually turn this off and use the optical viewfinder on the camera instead.

Smaller cameras often mean smaller capacity batteries. Make sure your camera comes with a charger, and budget for a couple of spare batteries, then keep them charged so that they are ready to go when you need them.

Some digital cameras feature a limited amount of internal memory, this can be used to hold a few photos, but they will also use removable media.

While each format of removable card media has its merits, the standard 16MB or 32MB cards usually bundled won't hold many images - often fewer than 10 at higher resolutions.

It is worth purchasing an additional 256MB or 512MB or even 1GB card as soon as possible and beware generic brands, as they may save money but can have a slow data transfer rate which can put paid to rapid, continuous shooting.

There are many different types of removable media so donít get confused by them, but make sure you purchase the correct type for your camera. The three most common data cards are XD Cards, Compact Flash Cards and SD Cards.

A lot of digital cameras are also sold without camera cases; it is worth investing in a camera case which fits your camera perfectly as it will keep it safe when transporting it and hopefully improves the life of your camera.

Hybrid Digital Cameras

The hybrid digital cameras should have at least all of the features already discussed above, in addition they should provide a greatly increased optical zoom feature, usually up to 10x or 12x zoom. They will also come with a hot-shoe for larger external flashes will allow much greater illumination and control over lighting if you want to experiment.

Your hybrid camera may also have an external flash connection so the timing of your camera taking the picture will trigger external lighting umbrellas etc. Some hybrid camera also can use more than one removable media cards; some of the Fuji models take XD or Compact Flash.

Hybrid digital cameras also may come with a super macro mode as well as a standard macro mode. Super macro mode will enable you to shoot images very close to the subject matter without loosing focus on the object. This may be very important to you if shooting close up items such as nature, or products for sale.

If you are to be using your camera indoors for product shooting or anywhere near an electricity supply then we have to recommend purchasing a mains adaptor for your camera, as this will save you time and money and allow you to forget about rechargeable batteries.

The only disadvantage to a hybrid digital camera is that they are very large, as they are usually the size of an SLR camera, but they are good value for money and usually do not cost much more than a point and shoot digital camera. So if a high zoom rate, super macro and some professional features are important, then maybe go for a hybrid digital camera.

SLR Digital Cameras

SLR cameras are the pinnacle of digital photography, as they offer all the features that we spoke of before, as well as very high quality lenses for optimum photographs. SLR digital cameras will also have lots of professional features on board, but the most important is the option to change the lens on the camera to various other lenses including wide angle lenses, massive zoom lenses and telephoto lenses.

SLR cameras are the cameras that the paparazzi use to get the photos for newspapers and magazines, all professionals will also use this type of camera in studios. Some major manufacturers to look out for when thinking of an SLR digital camera are Canon and Nikon.

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