Tips on Buying Point and Shoot Digital Cameras

Compact Digital Cameras

There are hundreds of digital cameras on the market with different features and prices ranging from cheap and simple, compact point and shoot cameras, to expensive and digital single lens reflects cameras. And it seems as if camera makers are turning out new models every year. Picking out one compact digital camera to buy that comes with the must have features and is not too expensive can be a time consuming task, especially if you are a new to digital photography.

Here are some tips that should help you cut down the time you need to spend finding a point and shoot digital camera that meets your needs, budget, and level of photographic experience.

1. Price Tag: Price alone is not a reliable indicator of how good a digital camera is, where a good camera is defined as one that is user friendly, capable of taking very good pictures and reliable and well constructed. There are cameras that cost $250.00 that are just as good as $500.00 cameras and one camera that is in the same price range as another one could be five times better. So don’t just use the price tag to compare different cameras. The only time to use price is when you decide on a budget for your digital camera and which cameras to consider within that budget.

2. Pixel: Like price, a camera’s pixels, by itself, is not a good indicator of how good the pictures that camera will produce. How many mega pixels (MP) a digital camera can reproduce tell you only how much you can enlarge the photo and how much you can crop the photo without making the photo useless. A camera’s lens, the camera’s settings and the conditions that the photos were taken under are more important factors in producing quality photos.

If you plan to make enlargements of the photos you take and the largest print size you’re likely to print are 8×10 inch or less, a decent 4-mega-pixel camera will do the job. In fact, even a 3 MP camera with a good lens under ideal shooting conditions will do a good job most of the time. If you want to blowup (enlarge) photos to 16×20 inch prints you will need an 8MP camera. Even an older 2 MP camera will be sufficient if all you want to do with your digital camera is to take pictures for viewed with e-mail or as thumb nails on web sites. You’ll save a lot of money.

3. LCD and Viewfinder: Choose a camera with a large and bright LCD. A brighter LCD will allow you to better see the LCD image in bright sunlight. Having a large LCD screen will help you compose and review your images on the camera. If you have a chose, get a camera that comes with a LCD and a viewfinder. No matter how bright the LCD is on a camera, it will most likely be useless in bright light. And a swivel LCD is a plus, which will allows you to take pictures without being directly behind the camera.

4. Zoom Lens: Almost all digital cameras on the market today come with zoom capability. If zoom is important to you, make sure your consider only optical zoom and ignore digital zoom. A camera’s optical zoom uses its lens to magnify an image. Digital zoom uses software in the camera to magnify an image, which result in a loss of image quality. You can do digital zoom at the time of ordering prints for your photos or if you have a photo manipulating software, such as Photoshop or Grip.

5. Internal Lens: Consider cameras such as Fuji FinePix Z33, Nikon CoolPix S60 or Sony Cybershot T90 that has the lens build inside the camera body instead of telescoping out from the camera body. There are no external moving parts. You are less likely to damage the camera by knocking the lens elements out of alignment if the lens is protected into the camera. This is a great feature if you are going to be active while using the camera.

6. Setup Speed: In addition to being less prone to damage, cameras with internal lenses also tend to take less time to setup between shots. Look for a camera that takes 4 seconds or less to get ready to shoot and 6 seconds or less between shots. This is a great feature if you are going to be taking action shots.

7. Batteries: Unfortunately, almost all digital cameras on the market use proprietary batteries instead of the common AA or AAA. Some digital camera manufactures make claims on battery life and how many pictures you’ll get from one charge. It’s always less then what they say because people don’t just take pictures, they like to review them right after they take them. If you buy a camera that uses a propriety battery, consider buying extras to bring with you when traveling with your camera.

When comparing the cost between cameras, be sure to take into consideration extras, such as rechargeable batteries and charger, and memory cards if the camera does not come with enough memory.

8. Memory Cards: Digital cameras store images either to built-in internal memory or external memory cards. Most digital cameras come with very low capacity memory cards, such as 32MB, so you should include extra memory cards in your camera budget. Buy more than what you think you need. There are several types of digital camera memory cards in use and it’s a good idea to consider what type of memory a camera uses before you buy your first digital camera.

SecureDigital (SD) is the most popular format. In addition to being used in digital camera, SD is widely used in PDAs, cellular phones, GPS receivers, MP3 players and video game consoles. Its small size allows camera designers to design very compact digital cameras. Standard SD card capacities range from 128 MB to 4 GB, and for high capacity SDHC cards from 4 GB to 64 GB as of 2009. Some cameras are limited to the capacity of the memory card. Make sure that the camera you are interested in can support the SD memory card capacity that you are buying.

MultiMediaCard (MMC) cards and SD cards are nearly identical in shape and size; but not all digital cameras that use SD cards can also use MMC cards. In general, SD cards’ transfer rates are faster than MMC cards’ transfer rates. SD cards also include a switch on the side of the card that allow locking the card so that data on the card can’t be accidentally written over and erased.

CompactFlash (CF) is a standard format used in cameras that produce large image files. All digital SLRs and most high-end digital cameras use CompactFlash to store images. The main benefit of CompactFlash over SD is that CF has a memory controller chip in the card that allows faster data transfer. Most consumer cameras or point and shoot camera are not designed to take advantage of this extra speed.

CF cards come in two different physical sizes that are designates as CF Type CF Type II and I. Type II is 1.5mm thicker that the Type I. Cameras with Type I slots cannot use Type II cards. Cameras with Type II slots can use either. Type II CompactFlash usually available in higher memory capacity.

Sony developed Memory Stick and the offshoot Memory Stick Pro and Memory Stick Pro Duo, for their Cybershot cameras and other personal electronic devices. Other than Sony, the Memory Stick format is only used by a very few digital cameras makers.

xD-Picture Card was developed by Olympus and Fujifilm and is used mainly in Olympus and Fujifilm digital cameras. However, some Fuji and Olympus cameras also use other memory card formats. Other companies also manufacture the xD-Picture Card format and market the cards under varies different brand names. The xD-Picture Card is the smallest digital camera memory card format in use.

9. Ergonomics: While a compact point and shoot is great to carry around, make sure the controls are not too small or placed in sure a way that make using the camera difficulty. Look for cameras that have at least a few large buttons that are easy to reach and press that operate the most common functions.

Buy a camera that has a user-friendly menu. The camera menu should be intuitive to use. You shouldn’t have to memorize complicated steps or refer to the manual when you want to change the camera settings.

10. Manual Settings: If you don’t know a lot about cameras, and only wants a point and shoot digital camera for causal use, don’t buy a camera that has a lot of modes and manual settings to cover all shooting conditions. Don’t pay extra for features that you won’t use and that makes the camera more difficult to use.

Remember, it will take time and practice to learn all the ins and outs of a new digital camera, so before you pass judgment on how good your new camera is make sure you’re spend enough time to use the camera correctly and know its limitations.