How to Buy the Right Digital Camera for You

digital cameraby Barb Hopkins

Digital cameras offer high-quality photography with user-friendly features. Today’s digital camera continues to evolve, often surpassing the features available on even the most technologically advanced mobile phones. The best digital camera for you will be the one that fits your photography needs—from candid shots of friends and family to action photos at sporting events and panoramic vacation scenery.

Types of cameras

Digital cameras come in many different types. Some are small and fit easily into the back pocket of your jeans, while others have interchangeable lenses for advanced photography projects. Consumer Reports divides basic digital cameras into four categories: the sub compact (also known as an ultra compact), the compact, the rugged and waterproof models, and superzoom cameras. These basic cameras are considered point-and-shoot models.

The compact digital camera is larger than the ultra compact and may have a higher zoom capability. Rugged and/or waterproof cameras are good choices for outdoor activities, while superzoom cameras have higher zooming capabilities, ideal for capturing images at great distances or the tiniest of details.

A digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera features interchangeable lenses and advanced manual controls. This type of camera is larger and heavier than basic point-and-shoot and requires some photography knowledge to operate. Some advanced point-and-shoot cameras also may have manual controls, but will not have detachable lenses.

Digital camera features

When shopping for digital cameras, compare and consider several of the common point-and-shoot features. These include pixel counts and resolution technology, optical and digital zoom, LCD screen size, video capabilities, memory and the ability to share photos wirelessly through social media.

Pixel count

All digital images are comprised of tiny squares or tiles—think mosaics. One megapixel (MP) equals one million pixels or tiny tiles. The more megapixels, the sharper the picture quality may be.

Optical and digital zoom

The optical zoom is how the lens focuses in and out on an object. Digital zoom reduces part of the screen image to a smaller size and enlarges that image to fit the screen. Imagine you take a picture of your cat, and the image is the cat’s full body. However, you want just a picture of your cat’s head. You could crop the picture to feature only the head using digital zoom. Often, digital zoom generates a lower quality picture. If you need to crop a picture and then enlarge it, consider doing this with photo editing software.

LCD screen size

For most amateur photographers, an LCD screen sized 3 inches works great. This size is large enough to see picture details before sending it through social media or to print. Larger LCD screens may drain a digital camera’s battery quicker than smaller screens. If the camera is video capable, you can view it on this screen.


Some point-and-shoot digital cameras feature SD (secure digital) memory cards, smart media memory cards, memory sticks or multimedia memory cards. Multimedia cards are about the same size as a SD card but don’t have encryption features. The number of pictures you can store on a digital camera’s memory card will vary depending upon the card storage size and the settings of the camera.

Some digital cameras have wireless social media sharing capabilities, while others require the camera to interface with your computer to share pictures online or work with them in a photo editing program.


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