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Digital cameras buying guide


Whether it’s a perfect sunset over that alpine lake or an action shot of your troop drenching the Scoutmaster with a bucket of icy river water, capturing the moment lets your memories live on in vibrant color.

Not so long ago, you had to carry lots of film and have plenty of cash to get your pictures developed. But things have changed. Just plug the digital camera into your computer. It’s like your own home photo lab.

“Digital makes photography easier and cheaper than ever before,” says professional adventure photographer Corey Rich. “Your ability to grow as a photographer is much greater now because you can see the photos instantly and there’s no limit to how many you can shoot.”

Sounds simple enough. First, though, you need a camera. Digital technology is changing so quickly these days it can be tough to keep it all straight. So we asked Rich to give us tips on how to shop for a new digital camera. Here’s what you need to know.


“The idea behind making great pictures is having the camera with you all the time,” Rich says. “If a camera is big and cumbersome, more often than not it’ll get left behind.”

Stick with pocket-size cameras, also known as point-and-shoots. Look for a camera that’s compact but still packed with plenty of features and a quality lens.


Digital images are made up of millions of tiny dots or pixels. In general, the more megapixels, the better the image quality. So that’s one common way to compare digital cameras. If you’re looking for quality prints from your images — especially those larger than 8 inches by 10 inches — avoid cameras with just 1 to 3 megapixels.

“Bottom line: you shouldn’t even consider a camera with less than 4 megapixels,” Rich says.


If you plan on taking photos of wildlife, consider getting a camera with an adjustable zoom lens. Look for one with a minimum optical zoom of 3x. Some cameras boast of having “digital zooms,” but that just means the camera can crop the image down — not actually zoom in closer to the subject. For shooting close-ups, make sure your camera also has a macro focus mode.


One of the most frustrating problems with some digital cameras is a thing called lagtime, or the amount of time the camera takes to shoot the picture once you’ve pressed the button. It might not seem like a big deal, but even a second of lagtime is a big bummer when shooting action shots.

“If you’re really out there trying to capture moments, you don’t want lag time,” Rich says.

Pick a camera with a burst mode that lets you shoot multiple pictures in a row.


“Look for the most automated camera you can find,” Rich says. “It just makes your life easier.”

There’s nothing glorious about fiddling with manual controls, and fortunately many cameras let you choose from preprogrammed functions that will provide quality photos from most any environment or situation.


If you plan to bring your camera on outings, look for one that is dust- and shock-resistant — maybe even waterproof if you’re around water a lot. If the camera says it’s weatherproof it should be able to handle rainstorms but not underwater photography. Also, some cameras can be paired with protective sleeves or cases for added durability.

“Most point-and-shoots are really designed to handle abuse,” he says.


Prices continue to drop on digital cameras, so you should be able to find a quality one for less than $200. Look for better deals online but stay away from used cameras, like some you will find on eBay.

Digital cameras store images on memory cards (also known as flashcards). Your camera will probably come with one, but you’ll want to buy at least one or two extras so you can shoot lots of photos without always having to delete or download shots to empty your card. Rich recommends sticking with name-brand cards such as those made by Lexar and stick with flashcards with one gigabyte of memory or less.

“Don’t get lured into buying gigantic flash cards,” Rich warns. “It’s better to buy two. That way if one card breaks or gets wet, your pictures on the other card will be safe.”

16 Comments on Digital cameras buying guide

  1. C143 EasyShare Kodak Camera is an awesome camera! It has 14 megapixels, 3x optical zoom, and it takes great pictures with a long-lasting battery! Automatically adjusts its setting to capture the scene that you are in!

    • The Man with the Banjo // May 16, 2011 at 6:11 pm // Reply

      My mom has a kodak easyshare. But my sister has a fujifilm jz500 it takes some AMAZING close ups of the smallest bugs you’ve ever seen.

  2. If you are going to be taking pictures in caves or hiking with a lot of dust and dirt, it would be better to get a camera with an internal lens. The zoom isn’t as great, but then the dirt won’t get stuck in between lenses.

  3. Also, you are probably better off buying electronics new. You know that nothing bad has been done to it and if there is a problem, you can take it back to the store and get it taken care of.

  4. I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40, and although it is large
    (18 ounces), I like it because the image quality is very good and has 24x of optical zoom (25-600mm equivalent). I look forward to taking it camping and getting some cool photographs.

  5. A digital camera would be nice, but considering some of the trips I go on, I don’t know if could survive! I just use those Kodak disposable cameras. Once I get back from my trip, I take it to Wal-Mart or Walgreens and get it developed and put on a CD, so I can have a digital copy on my computer to send to people or post on facebook.

  6. I have the Nikon D5000 ($650)it is my favorite digital camera.I also have a Nikon Coolpix S8100 ($250) and a Canon Canon PowerShot SD1300 ($100).All of them are very well made and I highly recommend them.

  7. Fire Dragon! // October 4, 2010 at 5:36 pm // Reply

    I have a Panasonic Lumix zs1. It is really great. ($200-$250)
    It has 12x-21.4x optical zoom, depending on what resolution you have it set at. It has resolution, quality, white balance, timer, sunset, fireworks, and many other great settings. It is about the size of your whole palm, and about 1 1/2 inches thick. It is a very good camera for its price. I love it!

  8. Many newer digital cameras provide a large LCD screen as its only viewfinder. It looks great indoors. But in bright sunlight, it is virtually useless. It becomes very difficult to see as the LCD image gets washed out by the bright light. Trust me on this one, be sure to get a camera that also has an optical viewfinder you can look through.

  9. I have the Kodak EasyShare C182 (about $80) and it’s great! I also have the Sony Cybershot DSC-S700 ($200) and Sony MHS-PM1 digital camcorder ($150). I like them all.

    • Sony has new models out. Find out more at the Sony website

    • I got a Canon Powershot for only $1 at Goodwill, an it takes great pictures, they don’t even go grainy when you zoom in really far.
      Cybershots are good, though their zoom is wimpy at 3X and they look weird

  10. The Power shot D10 is great:
    good burst mode to capture fast stuff
    12.1 megapicles
    lots of diffrent modes to use and program if you bother to learn how to use it
    only X3 optical zoom though.

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