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Buying a Point and Shoot Digital Camera

Updated on October 15, 2009

Point and Shoot digital cameras are handy for taking spontaneous pictures. The cameras are relatively easy to use and small enough to keep out of the way when not being used. However, with so many different models and options available, how do you know which features to consider and which ones to ignore when you are looking to buy a point and shoot camera? Do you automatically get a better camera by buying the newest and more expensive model on the market? Or can your save money by buying a mid-priced model with less features than a top of the line model and still take great looking photos?

There are essential features that you will need for any decent digital camera to make good looking pictures, and there are all the other features that will make a camera either easier to use and help you get the pictures, or will be worthless but add to the cost of the camera. Some features are more useful than others that will help you take pictures that you will take pride in showing to other people and improve your digital photography experience. Here are some of the features that you should focus on when shopping for your digital point and shoot camera: 

Features to consider when shopping for a point and shoot camera

egapixels - Don’t believe all the hype about megapixels (MP). Just because one camera has a higher MP count does not mean the camera take better pictures than a lower MP camera. All things being equal, a camera with more pixels will capture images with more detail and allow you to print out a larger picture that a camera with less pixels. However, how sharp the enlarged printed image will be depends on other factors such as the quality or the sharpness of the camera’s lens and the ability of the camera’s image sensor in turning the original pixels into an electronic image. A digital camera with 4 to 6 MP is enough to give you printed photos up to 8x10” size. You can save money by buying a lower megapixels digital camera. An 8 MP camera will give you a sharp looking print up to 11x17”.

Optical zoom vs. digital zoom - Optical zoom uses the camera’s optics to brings a subject into larger view. Optical zoom is what’s important. Most entry level point and shoot digital cameras on the market today have at least a 3x optical zoom range starting around 38mm. Digital zoom on the other hand basically is onboard enlargement of the pixels using software, which results in the lowering of image quality. You can do the same process yourself at home on your computer by using an image manipulator to crop an image and then enlarge the cropped area of the image. You want optical zoom and not digital zoom.

Shutter lag - Shutter lag is the time between the shutter button being depressed and the camera capturing the image. A camera with a very fast shutter speed allows you to shoot action shots, such as fast moving animals, sports and children. Cameras with slow shutter speed can be frustrating to use and will increase your chances of missing photo opportunities. The industry average for shutter lag is currently at about 0.5 second.

LCD - Almost allcurrent crops of compact digital cameras only come with an LCD without the traditional optical viewfinder, so it's most important to make sure the LCD on the camera will be useful in a wide range of lighting conditions. The standard LCD size seems to be 2.5” and get as big as 3.5”. The decent LCD should have at least 230,000 dots of resolution with minimal motion blur. The LCD should have good contract so that you can see the image on the LCD even in direct sunlight.

Image stabilization (IS) - Most newer digital cameras came with some form of IS technology. Optical IS, which is more precise and is the preferred type of IS, uses a gyro-sensor to measure camera shake and the image sensor is moved to compensate for the shake to produce a shake free image. Digital IS, on the other hand, uses software to compensate for camera shake. However, digital IS is not as efficient as optical IS in ensuring high-quality photos due to problems with "noise" (stray pixels) in photos.

Face recognition technology - This feature enable the camera to recognize the human face person in the frame and auto-focus on the face to keep it in focus. Virtually all new cameras include some form of face-detection technology, although, this technology is still a work in progress. Some face recognitioncan recognize up to ten faces at a time.

Memory compatibility - If you already own other electronic gadgets, you may want to think about the type of memory card used by the digital cameras that is also used by the other gadgets to avoid buying a different memory card format. Most digital cameras will come with limited build in memory that can only hole a few images. Make sure you buy enough memory and have it with you on important outings. A good rule of thumb is to bring twice the memory you think you will need.

Battery - Finally, kind about the type of battery the digital camera uses. If you want a compact or subcompact camera, chances are that the camera will use a battery specifically made for that camera. You may want to think about buying and carrying an extra battery for emergencies. Some larger digital cameras still use the standard AA batteries, which are inexpensive and can be readily found all over the world.

Once you have given some thought as to what you want to do with your digital camera and the type of camera you want and the amount of money you want to spend, do some online research. Visit some of the sites that do reviews on different cameras to an idea about what’s available and which cameras in you price range are recommended.

Stay with the well-known names such as Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Panasonic. While not all the cameras make by these or any brand name companies are automatically good cameras, chances are you won’t get a ready bad camera. You will also need to visit camera stores to actually hold in your hands the various cameras that you are considering.

Digital cameras come in various shapes, sizes and designs. You should make sure the camera you are interested in fits in your hands comfortably and that the controls are easy to use. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as the best point and shoot digital camera. Buying a compact digital camera or any camera requires making compromises and accepting trade-offs. That is why when you are ready to buy the camera, give yourself plenty of time to weigh the various features on digital camera to get the best digital camera that meets you needs and to find the best deal.

Top Selling Point and Shoot Digital Cameras at Amazon.com

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