As with any type of electronics, such as computer notebooks, printers, or a computer desktop, buying a digital camera presents you with a myriad of choices. Each digital camera manufacturer has more than a dozen offerings, ranging from the more basic "point and shoot" camera to the top of the line professional single lens reflex digital camera. So, it's important to consider a number of factors before you buy. Here's a primer to get you started.
Digital Camera Cost
Just a few years ago, inexpensive digital cameras had terrible optics and were an overall disappointment. Not anymore. Today, even a $149 camera has more features than a $799 camera had in the past. Of course, you can pay more than $10,000 for a camera, but for most casual photographers a camera under $500 will have everything you want and then some.
It wasn't that long ago that a three-mexapixel digital camera was considered state-of-the-art. Today, fairly basic consumer models are seven- or eight-megapixels, which allows you to considerably crop any photo and still get a high-quality print. For that reason, don't consider buying a camera that's less than five megapixels.
It may not seem like the most important part of a camera, but the size of the LCD display will make a big difference while you're shooting your photos. A two-inch LCD is great, but a three-inch is even better since you'll be able to see at a glance whether the photo you just took is fuzzy or if it's a keeper. Beyond size, make sure that the LCD display is clear in all lighting conditions - indoors, outdoors, and at night. If you can't see the photo you just took, it defeats the purpose of having a digital camera.
Many digital cameras offer a variety of shooting modes as well as manual settings. Many of the ultracompact consumer cameras, however, do not have manual overrides, and you must choose among the shooting modes provided. If you're in the market for a "point and shoot" digital camera, that's no problem. On the other hand, if you want to be able to change the aperture or shutter speed, make sure you buy a digital camera that allows you to do manual settings. Similarly, if you'll primarily use your camera in a specific environment (at sporting events, for example), make sure that the digital camera you select has that specific mode. Keep in mind that some digital cameras even have underwater capability or an "eBay" setting for taking photos of items you want to auction on eBay, so don't assume the way you'll use your camera is unique.
Unfortunately, there's not an industry standard when it comes to storage cards. Make sure that you understand the type of film card your camera uses, and that you have a reader that will allow you to transfer your photos from your camera to your computer desktop or laptops. Alternately, many cameras come with software (usually on a DVD) that will allow you to plug your camera directly into your desktop or notebooks and upload your pictures.
After You Buy
Once you've purchased your digital camera, take time to practice and play with the various settings. It's often said that digital cameras are more like computer peripherals than cameras, so keep in mind that there may be a learning curve. Once you've mastered it, however, you'll be amazed at the enjoyment you'll get from your new purchase.