Digital Camera Buying Guide at OneCall

Digital Cameras at OneCallWhether you`re looking for a simple point-and-shoot or something that allows more flexibility in the amount of effort you put into your photograph, these tips will help you find a model that suits your needs.

Terms To Know

    Megapixel

  • Megapixel describes the maximum image resolution offered by a camera, measured in millions of pixels. While megapixel refers to the rated resolution of the camera's image sensor, another term, "effective pixels," is a more meaningful measure of resolution because, for various reasons, not every pixel is available for use by the image sensor. Effective pixels therefore refers to the number of pixels that are actually captured.
  • Zoom

  • A lens with a 2X zoom can bring an object two times closer than when viewed the naked eye. Optical zoom refers to the physical zoom range of the lens glass. Digital zoom increases the size of available pixels to make an image appear larger. Optical zoom produces better image quality.
  • JPEG

  • This is the compressed image format used by most digital cameras.
  • CCD

  • A CCD is an image sensor found in most digital cameras; they convert light into electrical signals that can then be interpreted into digital images.
  • Point-and-shoot
    A point-and-shoot camera is a compact camera designed for simplicity and ease of use.

    Manual controls

  • Manual controls allow you to control operations such as exposure, the camera's focus and white balance. This adds greater control and flexibilty to photography.

Features To Look For

Lens

  • Fixed-focal-length lens -- No zoom capability, but this feature allows for ultra-compact designs.
  • Retractable zoom lens -- This feature is often associated with compact designs, though the zoom range is usually limited to 2X or 3X. It provides no support for lens converters or filters. The lens is protected in the camera when not in use.
  • Fixed zoom lens -- These models are bulkier, but they often accept lens attachments and can accommodates much higher zoom ranges.
  • Resolution Requirements

    • E-mail and Web-based images only: You can get by with 3.1 megapixels or lower
    • Retouching and editing, printing smaller than 8 x 10 -- You need 3.1 megapixels or higher
    • 8 x 10 or larger printing -- Printing large image such as this requires at least 4 megapixels
    • Multimedia

      Many cameras support video and audio capture. Purchase a high-capacity memory card for these uses.

      Connectivity

      • USB -- Provides a relatively fast transfer of photos to a computer or printer.
      • Firewire -- Provides a very high-speed transfer for many high-resolution pictures.
      • USB 2.0 -- This speed comparable to Firewire, and is available on many computers.
      • NTSC/PAL -- Offers image viewing on a TV or monitor.

      Power/Battery

      Rechargeable batteries offer the lowest long-term cost and best battery life.

      Auto-focus

      The autofocus feature on a camera uses sensors to determine the distance that an object is from the camera and then sets the focus. Many cameras use multiple points to analyze a shot that contains more than one possible subject; some let you let you manually select which of the points to use as the main focal point.

      Exposure Control

      Look for a model that offers manual settings if you want to have control over your exposures.

      Storage

      Choose from CompactFlash, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, or Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard.

      LCD display

      An LCD viewscreen is a small liquid crystal display built into a camera that can be used as a viewfinder and for reviewing images you've taken.

      Continuous advance (fps)

      Continuous advance, or continuous shooting, is a feature that allows you to shoot a continuous stream of frames by holding the shutter release button.

      Macro

      A macro feature allows you to take detailed photos when your subject is very close.

But Which Camera To Choose?

So many models, styles and brands. Without question choosing a new digital camera can be daunting. But there`s one simple question that can help you down the right path: How do you shoot?

Great Travel Buddies

For life on the go--and the spontaneous memories that result--small and lightweight is the way to go. Many of the top camera manufacturers offer a lineup of ultracompact or compact digitals, ideal for a pocket, purse or pack. You can choose just about any megapixel count you prefer, size has little bearing in that area. However, you`ll usually have to live with a 3x zoom lens, plus some limited digital zoom, since the camera`s size doesn`t allow for a stronger zoom. It`s a worthwhile trade off. Travel photography rarely demands a powerful zoom, and in this case your focus in on a camera that`s easy to use and won`t weigh you down.
  • Expert Tip: Traveling to sand or sea? Target a camera that`s at least water resistant, if not waterproof

Keys for Great Sports Photography

If the kids play field sports, you want zoom, and lots of it. Many cameras boost a 3x optical zoom with digital zoom enhancement. But that function also sacrifices some quality. Your ideal choice is a model that offers as much as 10x optical zoom--more than enough to get shots that fill the frame even when the action is across the field. A big zoom means a bigger camera, to a degree. You`ll find that even the largest digital cameras are compact compared to film-based cameras you used 10 years ago.
  • Expert Tip: If you`re really getting serious about sports photography, think about a digital SLR. Ultrafast shutter speeds, sophisticated autofocus modes and interchangeable lenses offer benefits that cannot be matched by a compact camera.

When Your Subject Is Wildlife

Powerful zoom is a key factor for effective wildlife photography. Nothing is more frustrating than a rare shot of Bambi sunning in the meadow, only to have the deer look more like an ant when you review the picture later. Big birds in the air; little birds on a limb--those are tough shots. A good zoom will help you get closer... without actually getting closer.
  • Expert Tip: Wildlife is often photographed in poor lighting conditions--dawn, dusk or shade. Using a tripod will allow you to utilize slower shutters speeds, which in turn helps you get properly exposed photos even under difficult conditions.

Getting Super Close-ups

The world of macro photography (a.k.a. super close-ups) can be creative and fun. Flowers, bugs, leaves and other interesting shapes make for interesting colors and compositions. If creative is your thing, look for a camera with a macro mode. Most cameras offer macro. Compare the specification of "close focus distance" to compare the close-up capability of models that interest you.
  • Expert Tip: If you`re into taking close shots of small, static objects, a tiny tabletop tripod is a photographer`s best friend. Keeping your camera on the tripod makes it easier for you to arrange or manipulate the subject of your picture.

Taking Group Shots, Sans Red-Eye

Are most of your photos indoor candids of people? Not every 3x optical zoom lens is made the same. A wide angle lens makes shooting in tight spaces quite a bit easier. They`re especially ideal for holidays, birthday parties and other inside fun. Here`s how to look for wide angle: Check for the actual focal length. Many 3x zoom cameras have a 7.8-23.4mm zoom (35mm equivalent = 38-114mm), but a 3x model with a 7.2-21.6mm zoom (35mm equivalent = 28-85mm) provides the wide angle you seek. And with a wide angle lens, you`ll find yourself backed into a corner less often.
  • Expert Tip: No one likes red-eye. To avoid this flash-caused reflection in the eyes, watch for photo opportunities where your subjects aren`t looking right at you. These "candid" shots often capture people--especially children--in their more natural behavior. If you shoot an SLR, red-eye is easily eliminated by using a flash attachment... a flash with tilt capability is especially effective.