Digital Camera Buying Guide

Digital Camera Buying Guide

Does digital camera jargon like “megapixels”, “optical zoom” and “face detection” scare you? We’ll help you make sense of photography lingo in this digital compact camera buying guide. 

What is a Digital Compact Camera?

It’s an automatic camera that takes still digital images (some also capture video). Digital compacts are small, light and simple to use – just point and shoot.

Are All Digital Compact Cameras The Same?

Compact digital cameras come with a range of features, to suit different users. Some are smaller and thinner than others, which makes them easier to carry. Some offer more optical zoom, while others are waterproof and shockproof.

What Size Camera to Choose?

This comes down to personal preference, but it’s important to match a camera’s features to your lifestyle needs. Ultra-thin cameras will fit into your pocket with ease, which is great for travellers. Regular-sized digital compact cameras are still small enough to fit in a handbag, but often come with more features. 

How Does the Camera Store Photos?

Instead of using a roll of film, digital cameras convert images into digital files, which are stored on internal memory or removable memory cards. This lets you take hundreds of photos in one session and delete the one’s you don’t like.

Memory Cards The storage capacity of memory cards is measured in gigabytes (GB). The more GB, the more photos you can store. The different types of memory cards available are: 

  • Compact Flash (CFC): Mainly for digital SLR cameras.
  • Secure Digital (SD and SDHC): Most common and can be used across devices like video cameras, DSLR and computers.
  • Memory Stick: Sony products.


What Are Megapixels?

Pixels are the small dots that form a digital image. One megapixel (MP) equals one million pixels. The higher the megapixel count, the bigger the images can be printed without losing quality (pixellating).

  • A 3MP camera should produce A4-size prints without pixellation.
  • A 5MP camera should produce A3-size prints without pixellation.
  • A larger image sensor will also increase image quality.


What’s the Difference Between Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom?

Optical zoom (true zoom) delivers a closer image, while retaining image quality. On the other hand, digital zoom reduces image quality. This is because digital zoom digitally enhances an image by cropping then enlarging a section of the image, while optical zoom uses the lens.


Are Display Screens Important?

The LCD display screen on the back of the camera shows a preview of the photo you’re about to take. It also displays previous photos and allows you to scroll through the camera’s functions. A bigger display screen is easier to use.

  •  Some LCD displays offer touchscreen control and menu functions.


What Type of Batteries Do Digital Cameras Use?

Most compact digital cameras come with custom-fit rechargeable batteries, while some budget models and super-zoom cameras run on AA batteries. Features To Look Out For

  • GPS: Automatically logs the location of each photograph.
  • Face detection: Automatically finds and focuses on the faces in the photograph.
  • Shooting modes: Use the predetermined automatic settings for great results in different situations: night-time, portraits, sport etc.
  • Video: Capture video on your camera.
  • White balance: Create more natural colours when shooting in artificial light.
  • Manual functions: Some of the top compacts offer manual adjustments of shutter speed and aperture, for greater control over your photography.


What Accessories Do I Need?

  • A carry case or soft pouch will prevent scratches and other damage.
  • Extra memory cards are handy, especially when travelling.
  • At least one spare battery. You’ll kick yourself when the battery runs out at a crucial moment.

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