The quality of digital camera images is so much better than it was even just a few years ago. I see friends and relatives using digital cameras now that I never thought would end up using that kind of technology. There's just something so great about being able to see the picture you just took without waiting for film to be developed.
That is actually the first main reason for deciding to choose this type of camera. Most of us have been disappointed countless times by pictures we thought we captured only to find out that the film was defective. My own worst picture heartache story was when the place I dropped a roll of film off to develop lost the entire film.
That's not to say that a digital camera is fail safe because you still need to have a properly working memory card and you need to be sure to back up any pictures that you have stored on the computer. I suggest printing out your favorites even though you would not need to print at all. There is still that bit of old fashioned "have to see hard copy" gene inside of me, especially for important documents and pictures.
So if you are buying a digital camera for the first time, what are some decisions that you will be making? One of the first things you will notice is that the cost can range from something you will most likely consider very reasonable to something very high that makes you wonder what kind of futuristic bells and whistles this camera could possibly have to make it worth that price. Research the answer to that question before buying because some of the more expensive features are definitely worth the extra cost.
How many megapixels shall I buy? This is a question that no one else can answer for you. The higher the number, the sharper your pictures will be. At the same time, however, the higher the megapixels, the less number of pictures you will be able to take and save on one memory card. This is actually easily solved if you just plan to buy an extra card. For vacations when you are taking a lot of pictures, simply switch cards.
When deciding on the resolution for your new digital camera, you will probably want to buy at least 3.5 megapixels, but if you can afford to go higher, you will not be disappointed. Actually that is the first good rule of thumb: buy as advanced of a digital camera as your budget will allow.
You will want the higher megapixels also if you plan to print larger photographs. The number of megapixels is *not* the only thing to consider, it is only one factor. If the only thing that you will ever use the camera for is to share photographs online with family members and friends, you can get away with a lower resolution, but most of us at least want to have some prints and enlargements made at one time or another.
Make sure that your new camera is going to be comfortable for you to use. Check out where the buttons are and if you can feel comfortable with the placement of them as well as the overall size of the camera. It may seem like a small thing, but after hitting the zoom on one camera many times because it was where the "snap your picture" button should be, it will become more important.
The same thing goes for size. I have used a very small digital camera and it just isn't comfortable for me and I end up shaking much more than if it would have been a "normal" size for a camera. For some people the smaller the camera is, the more they like it, so that's individual preference.
A few other things to consider:
1. Digital camera batteries drain very fast. Think about rechargables.
2. You will probably want a glass lens as opposed to plastic.
3. Optical zoom is better than digital zoom (unless you simply can't afford either feature).
4. No matter your budget, you will want the LCD screen on the back of your digital camera. One of the nicest features of taking this kind of picture is the fact that you can see what you snapped right away and you won't need to be disappointed later from having missed a great shot.