By Christina VanGinkel
Many of us know what features we want in a digital camera, but that many more people do not. I remember when I purchased my first one, I did not have a clue what any of the technical information that I was reading with each camera I looked at even meant. I remember looking at a camera that had a digital zoom of 200, and I was thinking, wow, could I get some close up shots with a zoom like that. Little did I know that digital zoom was nothing more than a fancy way to refer to the cropping of a picture, and that if I wanted to zoom in on a subject, I needed to look for a camera with a good optical zoom lens.
Storage was another confusing factor. I had heard all this hype about never having to buy film again. This sounded great, and it is, but what I failed to understand to begin with was that I needed to add a memory card to my purchase, otherwise I would be able to snap about a dozen pictures, if I was lucky, before my cameras built in memory was full. No more picture taking for me until I downloaded the camera's pictures to my computer's hard drive and erased the memory. This was easily resolved by adding a large Secure Digital Memory card to my setup. Other cameras routinely use the Secure Digital, CompactFlash, or SmartMedia cards. You will have to read your camera's instructions or technical information sheet to determine which type of memory card is compatible with your particular camera.
If not all of this were enough to figure out when I bought my first digital, I needed to know what resolution I wanted to be able to take my pictures in before I could even determine which brands and models to look at. Resolution refers to how many pixels in a given area are printed on your finished picture, with the larger the number, the higher quality final output. Simple enough, once you understand that a low resolution, say, a 1.3-mega pixel camera is suitable for producing a photograph useful for viewing online, but to print out anything of a useable nature, the average recommendation is to go with a minimum of 3 mega pixels. Currently, with the lower cost of cameras, I would not purchase a camera with less than 3.1, but would aim for one with five mega pixels, allowing me to print an 8 X 10 with ease, even larger.
Batteries were one more issue I had to contend with when I bought my first digital camera and each of my subsequent ones. Some will only use disposable batteries, while others use a variety of rechargeable batteries. Again, read the manufacturers instructions or technical information sheet to determine what each camera is capable of using. Those that take a rechargeable battery are much easier on the pocketbook, especially if yours is a memory hog and eats up batteries. They may cost a bit more in short term, because most will require you to buy the battery and charger separately, but they will save you dollars in the long run when you do not have to constantly be purchasing disposables.