I still am considering buying a digital camera for the first time. Has any of the info changed since your Dec. 2003 article?
This question was answered on August 26, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Much about the digital camera world has changed since my last column, but most of the buying guidelines have remained the same.
For the casual photographer, what hasn’t changed much is that digital cameras have relatively slow response times, the LCD displays suck the life out of the batteries and the output is still not as sharp as film, although they continue to get better.
If you plan to take pictures then e-mail them, post them on web sites and print 5x7 images from a mid-priced inkjet printer, than you can do just fine with a 3 megapixel camera.
If you want to be able to work with the images in a program such as Photoshop (especially if you want to be able to zoom in and crop a lot) or if you plan on printing 8x10’s, than be sure to buy at least a 4 megapixel camera
The pixel count is not everything, but the more you have to work with, the more you can do with the image Since almost every software adjustment that you will ever make (in your computer) is going to reduce the number of pixels in the final version, more is always better
Stay away from ‘fixed focal length’ lenses as they don’t have the ability to zoom and typically denote lower quality optics.
Ignore any ‘digital zoom’ specs (simply crops the image inside of the camera) as opposed to an ‘optical zoom’ which is a true lens adjustment toward the subject (the higher the better – 3x minimum).
If you have a larger budget, look for an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera that will allow you to interchange the lenses (just like the film versions).
The type of battery used is critical as ‘inopportune dead battery syndrome’ distresses every aspiring digital photographer
The best case scenario is a camera that comes with a rechargeable battery and can use disposables in a pinch The worst battery systems are the ones that require expensive proprietary disposables (like the one in my wife’s Minolta!) that can cost you an arm and two legs on vacation
The type of storage system used is important as it can have a large impact on the final price The included memory card is generally so small (16k to 32k) it can only store 20 to 30 images at the highest resolution Check the price of 128k and 256k memory cards for the cameras that you are considering, because some of the newer storage technologies are very expensive.
One of the biggest benefits of digital photography is the ability to take lots of shots and delete them in real time Give yourself the room to take lots of redundant shots to ensure that the lighting and especially the focus are good on those special shots
Out of focus images are hard to detect on the small LCD screens unless you zoom all the way in, so make that a habit as well.
Finally, make sure to pick up and play with the camera before you buy it to ensure a good feel
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Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on August 26, 2004