3 things you REALLY need to know when buying a digital camera.
Have you ever been shopping for a digital camera and the sales person has approached you and started boasting about the various camera features? Have you ever had that panicky feeling that you only understand about half of what the sales person is saying? This is why I started this list. A list of three things to look for to help you decide what you really need when buying a digital camera.
1. Megapixels. This is one of the big selling points. More megapixels means better photos, right? Well, it does mean extra details, which means each of the photo files will be larger in size. Larger file sizes means more hard drive space is used. A Megapixel means that the resolution of the image is more than 1 million pixels in size. So take the number of pixels tall and multiply by the number of pixels in width and if it is around 1 million, it’s 1 megapixel.
Now you need to decide, what am I going to be using this camera for? Posting items for sale on eBay? Printing the usual 4×6 snapshots? Maybe enlarging to 8×10 or 11×16?
Here’s what you need to know. For decent quality printed photos, you will need to assume 300 ppi (pixels per inch). This will ensure there’s enough detail so the image isn’t all boxy.
Now look at the size of the photograph you would like to print.
4×6? Take 4(inches)x 300(ppi)=1200 pixels
6×300=1800. Then take the 1200 x 1800 for the resolution. That turns out to be 2,160,000 pixels or about 2.1 megapixels. That’s all you need to print a decent 4×6 image.
8×10? Do the same calculation. 8×300 and 10×300= 2400×3000. That means for a decent 8×10 photo printed, you would need 7.2 megapixel camera to get the optimum quality.
2. Zoom-a-bility. One of the specifications that camera manufacturers love to tout is the zoom on a camera. If you saw two cameras side by side and one had 10X zoom and the other had 100X combined zoom, it would seem logical to go with the larger of the two. There are two types of zoom: Optical zoom and Digital Zoom. The important spec that you want to look for is the Optical zoom. This is the level of magnification for the optics in the camera. Digital zoom is basically the camera enlarging the image to make it appear larger, but this includes increasing the size of the pixels.
Be aware that most small cameras have a 3x optical zoom. If you want more, be aware of the terms you are looking for and don’t be fooled by the moniker Combined zoom.
3. Batteries. Many people overlook this item when purchasing their cameras. There are a couple things to be aware of.
- Using batteries specific to that camera will be more costly up front to purchase, but typically the batteries last longer.
- A camera that uses conventional AA or AAA batteries is great if you need an emergency pack which can be purchased in a wide variety of locations, but those batteries do not tend to last as long.
There are two kinds of batteries: Disposable and Rechargeable.
Pros of disposable: They tend to be less expensive
Cons of disposable: They don’t last very long in many cameras.
Pros of rechargeable: They can be reused and tend to offer power for longer periods of time
Cons of rechargeable: They are expensive and difficult to replace.
My recommendation is to stick with rechargeable batteries, and buy a second battery when you buy your camera. This will ensure you always have power when you need it.
Following these three simple steps will ensure you can decide on the three most important qualifications of a digital camera without becoming overwhelmed. After all, that’s why you bought the camera to begin with, to capture those fun moments forever.