Digital Camera Buying Guide

Capturing precious moments in the camera is something we have all grown up seeing. However, when it comes to our own turn to buy a digital camera, the numerous choices tend to confuse more than give options. Following is a detailed description of all that matters while shopping for a digital camera.

 

The Megapixel factor

 

This is the number one question most of the digital camera buyers ask. How much of a Megapixel clarity should the camera lens have? The answer completely depends on your requirements. Simply put, the more megapixels a camera has, the clearer the image would be at a magnified level.

 

For instance, if you are taking photos that need to be printed or re-touched, a 7-12 megapixel camera is the ideal requirement, since the extra pixels would surely help you in printing. And in case you are going for poster size images, you might even want a more advanced camera, depending on the amount of clarity needed. In case it is a regular image, a 12-14 MP camera would do, but if the image has text, or some visual patterns that are minute but need clarity in display, more megapixels is clearly what you should be looking for. Similarly, if you are to use a scaled down version of the photograph, or even use a regular 8X10 print, a 7-10 MP camera is more than sufficient to do the job effectively, since a smaller size would automatically mean better detail.

 

Types of lenses

 

There are many kinds of lenses that are available in today’s digital cameras, and one needs to know his exact requirement to find out which one of these would suit the purpose.

 

Fixed focal length lenses

 

These type of lenses do not offer any optical zoom, and a user should look for auto-focus and selectable landscape & macro modes, instead of a fixed focus.

 

Pros

  • A wider angle of view is provided, which is optimum for landscape shooting.
  • Cameras featuring this type of lenses are not too expensive.
  • Ease-of-usage is highest.
  • Cameras are sleeker.

 

Cons

  • It is generally the lowest optical quality.
  • Due to lack of zoom, you can’t shoot distant objects clearly.
  • The lens doesn’t accept converters for focal lengths or filters in most cases.

 

Retractable zoom lenses

 

Cameras having this type of lenses have the zoom coming out of and retracting in from around the lens.

 

Pros

  • There is an in-built cover for the lens.
  • Cameras are very sleek and stylish.

 

Cons

  • The lens extension has a tendency to increased the camera’s start-up time.
  • Lens converters or filters are not supported in most cases.
  • There are very few manual control buttons/switches.

 

Folded Optics lenses

 

This type of lenses fold sideways inside the camera to deliver a stylish, compact look.

 

Pros

  • Ultra-slim and sleek cameras.
  • The lens is always protected due to an in-built cover.

 

Cons

  • Support for lens converters or filters is lacking.
  • Offer a lower optical quality and/or higher price as compared to cameras having external lenses.

 

 

Fixed Zoom lenses

 

This type of lenses are fixed to the body. There is no retraction or protrusion for zoom.

 

Pros

  • The lens is more often than not threaded to accept lens converters and filters.
  • There are more advanced controls in the camera
  • Upto 26X zoom can be provided, with more precision in the quality, thanks to manual focus control.

 

Cons

  • The controls are a bit more complicated for amateurs to handle.
  • The camera is on the heavier side.

 

Interchangeable lenses

 

Digital SLR cameras use interchangeable lenses that allow the user to detach the lens from the body and use another compatible one in its place.

 

Pros

  • One doesn’t need to buy a new camera to improve picture quality.
  • There is utmost flexibility for handling all types of image requirements.

 

Cons

  • These camera lenses are very huge and bulky.
  • There is a significantly higher cost of implementation and purchase.
  • There are different focal lengths for the same lens that is mounted on a film camera. This leads to confusion and may cause vignetting.

 

 

Storage cards

 

The basic media of storage in digital cameras is obviously a removable one, as they come with only little internal memory or a card with very less of the same, and leave it to the customer to purchase additional card(s) depending on his requirement. Following are some of the major kinds of storage media :

 

CompactFlash

 

Pros

  • Large capacities are offered
  • Pricing is not too heavy on the pocket
  • Transfer and storage rate is fast

 

Con

  • The largest among all flash memory options

 

Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC)

 

Pros

  • Small in size
  • Transfer and storage rate is fast
  • Pricing is competitive
  • Extremely frequent in use among other consumer electronics

 

Cons

  • SDHC cards are not compatible with old SD or MMC slots.

 

xD Picture Card

 

Pros

  • The smallest among all the storage media

 

Cons

  • Its capacities are not currently matching up to those of a Memory Stick, SD and CompactFlash

 

Hitachi Microdrive

 

Pros

  • Transfer and storage rate is fast
  • Large capacities are offered

 

Cons

  • CompactFlash is a much better option in terms of storage capacity
  • Pricing is not too competitive according to the capacity offered.

 

Battery types

 

There are various kinds of batteries being used in digital cameras these days, each having its own set of application. However, one thing that can for sure not be neglected is the fact that you need to see them from a purely utilitarian angle, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach here.

 

Proprietary/Model specific batteries

 

These are the batteries that are packaged with the cameras. These mainly comprise of either the Lithium-Ion version or the Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) version.

 

Pros

  • Small in size and hence make it possible to manufacture compact cameras.
  • Battery status displayed on the screen is more accurate.
  • Life is the maximum among other battery types.
  • More economical than disposables over a period of time.

 

Cons

  • Can’t be used on other models, since each one has its own specifications.
  • There are hardly any alternatives except keeping spare batteries.
  • Can’t be recharged without electricity.

 

Disposable batteries

 

These are standard AA-size batteries, and use Lithium/alkaline or oxy-alkaline

 

Pros

  • The lithium ones last as long as proprietary batteries.
  • Make cameras work faster.
  • Easily available.

 

Cons

  • The Alkaline version doesn’t last very long.

 

Rechargeable batteries

 

They are standard AA size batteries of the Nickel-Metal Hydride type.

 

Pros

  • They can be used in a variety of models.
  • They are easily available.
  • They are more economical than disposables over a period of time.

 

Cons

  • Generally, there are two units needed to operate a camera, thus resulting in extra weight.

Additional Features

There is a lot more that digital cameras can do besides capture stunning pictures. Following is a list of the accomplishments and features of today’s digital cameras

·        Video recording

A majority of today’s cameras can record video clips, although it definitely isn’t as good as a dedicated video camera, but the quality is sufficiently good. The highest quality is achieved through 1080p HP, although a 720p quality is more commonly available. Certain cameras even give the user the flexibility to record clips for as long as the capacity of the memory card allows. Further, sound recording is not included in these videos in most of the digital camera, so make your choice accordingly. Also, some cameras give you the provision of playing HD movies directly from the instrument, with component output and cables.

·        Sound recording

Some cameras allow the user to record voices along with photographs, with a select few even allowing for hours of voice recording depending on the capacity of the memory card. Further, if your want to ensure that you can also hear the recorded sound, ensure that the camera has a speaker as well.

·        Video conferencing

Digital cameras are also doubling up as webcams for video conferencing, and the user should prefer models that come with a microphone, so that there is no need for him to attach a separate one.

·        Music

Few cameras have the capability of playing MP3 and other formats of audio files, although neither the photo quality nor the sound controls are as good as specialized devices for these two

·        Editing

A significant number of today’s cameras allow the user to edit images before transferring them to the computer. Some cameras also have the provision of editing small video clips!

·        Wireless transfer

Some cameras allow for transfer of images wirelessly to a PC or similar device with the desired compatibility, or to upload them to a photo-sharing service via a hotspot. There are also some wireless transmitters attached to professional SLR cameras that need to be attached to facilitate the transfer.

 

 

Do remember to keep all these points in mind to purchase the right digital camera for yourself. It’s a significant investment; make sure you get it right the first time!

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