Digital Camera Buying Guide

Digital Camera Buying Guide
Digital cameras range from inexpensive, low-megapixel, fully-automatic models with limited features, to loaded devices that allow you to shoot videos as well as make lab-type color enlargements. This buying guide is designed to help you understand the products, identify your personal user needs, and navigate the large number of choices of digital cameras. In the end, you should be able to look at digital camera specifications and quickly recognize features, output, price, and level of sophistication.


A megapixel is a measure of a digital camera's resolution. One megapixel captures up to 1 million pixels, or points of data. Image quality depends on the resolution of the digital camera. Resolution is a measure of image sharpness based on the number of pixels that make up the image. More pixels produce sharper, more detailed images. Digital camera resolution is measured in pixels. One million pixels equals one megapixel. Deciding how many megapixels you need is the first important step in finding the right digital camera for you.

If you only want to share images via e-mail or online photo albums, or use them for personal home pages, then a digital camera with less than one-megapixel resolution is all you need. Digital cameras in this category are inexpensive, very easy to use, and more than adequate for e-mail and online use.

If you want to make 4x6-inch prints as well, then you should get a two-megapixel digital camera. Cameras in this category are an excellent choice for e-mail, online use, and standard 4x6-inch prints.

If you think that you may want to enlarge some of your images to 8x10 inches, consider a three-megapixel digital camera. Cameras in this category provide excellent-quality images.

Digital cameras with resolution in the four to five megapixel range are capable of producing professional-quality images. These cameras are designed for serious amateur and professional photographers with advanced skills, and generally they are not appropriate for beginning photographers.View our models here

Picture Storage - Memory

Most digital cameras support some form of removable memory for storing the pictures you take. Cameras will typically come with an 8 to 16 MB memory card. Depending on the resolution and compression setting you shoot at this amount of storage could hold anywhere from 10 to 200 pictures. Memory cards are small, removable storage that saves the images. When the card is full, you can swap with another card or download and erase the images from the card to continue shooting. A card reader that is attached to your computer will open and save image files outside of your camera. Memory cards come in many densities. The most common types are CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and Secure Data (SD). You must use the card type that is compatible with your camera.


Digital cameras often use up battery power in a matter of minutes. To avoid the expense and inconvenience of replacing the batteries, select a model with rechargeable batteries or buy rechargeable batteries and a recharger. For extra power, invest in a second set of rechargeable batteries.

AC Adapter

Most digital cameras do not come with AC adapters, so you should consider buying one. This is a valuable accessory that allows you to shoot from a tripod or remain tethered to a computer for as long as you want. AC adapters draw power from an electrical outlet, saving battery power and ensuring continued shooting.


Direct connection The most common method for connecting your camera to your computer to download images is with direct connectivity. Almost all digital cameras attach to a computer via a USB cable - older models might still use a serial connection. Professional digital cameras (and digital camcorders) may use FireWire, which is an even faster connection. If your camera uses the USB Mass Storage classification, it will be automatically recognized as a disk drive when attached to your PC. This lets you drag and drop image files from your camera to your hard drive under Windows without any special software or drivers.

Card reader This is a small, self-powered external drive that reads your camera's memory card. The card reader is attached to your computer through a USB port. Transfer your images from your digital camera to your computer by slipping the memory card into the reader. The computer will recognize it as a hard drive. Be sure your card reader is compatible with your memory card type and be sure to purchase a cable that is long enough to attach conveniently.

Dock A camera dock is the easiest method for connecting and transferring your pictures to your computer. To operate, you simply place the camera in the dock, press a single button (some work automatically), and it will interface with your computer and upload images and launch software for editing, E-mailing, and printing. An added bonus is that most docks double as battery rechargers. View our models here

Wireless Newer digital cameras have wireless connectivity built in or via add-on cards. This feature allows you to transmit images wirelessly from the camera to a nearby cell phone, laptop, or desktop. Of course, you must have a wireless receiver at the other end.

Price Range

Digital cameras range in price from less than $50 to more than $4,000. Prices are based primarily on resolution and features. The newest consumer electronics products are always priced at a premium. The best bargains are usually found on last season's models.

Digital cameras with less than one megapixel are inexpensive, but they usually lack key features. For many consumers, this is an acceptable trade-off, especially if they are looking for a camera for their kids or want to experiment with digital photography without spending too much money.

Some digital camera features are only available at a specific price point. For example, digital cameras with interchangeable lenses, a relatively common 35mm film camera feature, are only available in digital SLR models with prices starting at around $2,000. The vast majority of digital cameras are "point-and-shoot" models with a single, non-interchangeable lens.

A $50 digital camera will not perform as well or provide the same features available with a $300 digital camera. Buying the digital camera that is best suited for your needs will help ensure that you will be satisfied with your purchase. View our models here