Sears Digital Camera Buying Guide

If you're planning to upgrade your camera to a newer digital model, it can be difficult to decide from among the thousands of models in the market. Knowing what's essential and what you don't need to worry about can dramatically simplify the process.  For example, it's important to understand the camera features that will help you take the best photos for your needs. Here's a quick guide on digital cameras.

Point-and-shoot vs. DSLR

Cámaras digitales come in two primary models: point-and-shoot and DSLR.  Each type of camera has distinct pros and cons. Point-and-shoot models are easy to use and the features are fully automatic; all you need to do is set up your photo and snap the shutter.  Point-and-shoot cameras tend to be less expensive, more compact and still produce good quality images for everyday use.

DSLR stands for digital single lens reflection. These cameras are more sophisticated, and use a technology that allows a single camera body to accommodate a variety of lenses. The big advantage of a DSLR is that you can purchase one camera and it will work with everything from a wide-angle lens to an ultra-zoom lens. Creatively, this gives the photographer an incredible amount of freedom. It's worth noting that DSLRs tend to have bigger bodies, can be more expensive and require the purchase of accessories such as lenses.

What features make a good camera?

Whether you choose a point-and-shoot or a DSLR, there are a number of important features to consider that relate to image quality, overall performance, storage, design and additional options. No single camera fits everyone's needs, but having a better understanding of how these features work can help you choose the camera that's right for you.

Image quality: The top priority for most people when purchasing a new camera is its ability to produce great quality photos. Defining what "great photos" means for you is key. What type of photos are you taking? A camera that's being used for family vacation shots has a different set of requirements than a camera that will be used to capture your beloved cat at play or a honeymoon in an exotic locale. One indicator of image quality is megapixels, which tells you how high the resolution of the final image will be. High resolution photos are needed for printing and reproducing images at larger sizes. A camera with a minimum of 5 to 7 megapixels will allow you to print clean 4" x 6" photos. Go with a camera with higher megapixels if you want to print much larger photos.

Overall performance: Most name-brand cameras on the market today perform well. But there are two key features to look for when choosing a camera for maximum performance.  The first is a fast start-up time.  Ideally, a camera should be ready to shoot within two seconds of you powering it on. The second is the shutter speed or bursts. If you're planning to take multiple shots of the same subject or event, such as a baseball game, the ability to take several photos in a row ("burst mode") will help ensure you get that perfect shot.

Storage: Does your camera have internal storage, and if so, how much? If the camera requires external memory, it's important to factor that into your cost of ownership. Depending on the megapixel count of your camera, your photos may use more memory. High-resolution photos can quickly eat up space on a smaller-storage camera. A camera that combines both internal and external memory gives you the flexibility to take images if you forget your memory card, and to expand the available memory when you're planning to take a large number of high-quality photos.

Design: When you're purchasing a camera, make sure the design works for you. In addition to liking the overall look and feel, you should be comfortable with the size and shape of the camera. Is it comfortable to carry around? Does it easily fit in your hand? Test the layout of the buttons for any manual controls to make sure they're easy to use. Consider the size, shape and placement of the viewfinder to make sure it's easy to compose your photos when you're shooting.

Additional options:  Today's cameras often come with many more features than those required to actually take pictures. A common option is the ability to shoot short videos with your camera, sometimes in high definition. Other cameras have built-in wireless or internet which makes it easier to share your images on social media and to email them to family and friends. Finally, some models feature GPS units that allow you to tag your photo with dates and locations to later make it easier to figure out where images were shot. Depending on how you use your images, these features might be very important to you or completely irrelevant.

Purchasing a camera can involve a lot of research, testing and decisions about the type of photography you're likely to do while you own it. No matter which model you choose, Sears' photography department offers a wide selection of DSLR and point-and-shoot cameras to fit every need.

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