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Digital Cameras

Updated: 24-06-2019 22:53

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Buying Guide

Buying Guide - Digital Cameras

Hunting for a digital compact camera? Be prepared to enter a confusing world of megapixels, lens types, shutter lags, shutter speeds, and other technical specs that’ll make your head spin. Buying a digital camera can be a challenge, especially if you aren’t quite sure of what you’re looking for. That’s why we made this digital compact camera buying guide to shepherd you through the chaotic and confusing world of cameras.

Forget the Megapixels

A few years ago, you couldn’t walk through an electronics store without half a dozen camera manufacturers aggressively advertising the megapixel count of their digital cameras. These ‘megapixel wars’ are a thing of the past now, and it’s nearly impossible to stumble upon a digital camera that does not boast of more than 10 megapixels. For the consumers, this is a good thing. It means you can safely buy any camera and at least be assured that the megapixel count will be up to par. But of course, without the safety of megapixels to fall back on, you’ll also have to do a lot more research before you make a purchase decision.

Size Matters

Since this guide is focused largely on compact digital cameras, let us leave the DSLRs out of the equation. In the compact camera game, size matters, but smaller does not always equal better. Smaller cameras often compromise on features and battery life to accommodate all that hardware in that small form factor. When it comes to a choice, always pick features and price over size.

LCD Screen

Digital camera LCD screens had immense ‘wow’ factor a few years ago, but are a standard feature on every camera these days. A 2.5” screen is the norm and works perfectly for most purposes. Larger screens offer more real estate for framing and browsing through pictures. A lot of compact digital cameras also have touchscreens these days which can make the camera easier to operate, though this usually comes at a price.

Zooming In

The zoom is an essential feature of every digital camera and usually comes in two flavors – optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom is the preferred variant since it involves moving the lens forward, which results in better picture quality. Digital zoom is usually found on cheaper cameras and works by cropping and resizing the image digitally. The end result is the same as optical zoom, though the image quality suffers. When in doubt, pick a camera with optical zoom over one with digital zoom.

Battery Life

Most buyers tend to overlook battery life, which usually results in the camera dying out in the middle of a vacation or an extended photography session. This is perhaps one of the most important features of any digital camera and careful attention must be paid to it before you plop down your money. Needless to say, the longer the battery life, the better.

Battery Type

Inherently tied to battery life is the battery type. A camera can either use a rechargeable lithium battery, or alkaline batteries. Lithium ion batteries require external power to charge up, while alkaline batteries can be easily removed and a new pair popped in place. Consequently, alkaline batteries are more appropriate for long photography sessions since you can easily carry a spare set. Rechargeable batteries on the other hand, tend to be more economical in the long run.

HDTV Compatibility

You should be able to hook up the camera directly to your HDTV to show off your photography skills. High resolution pictures on the HDTV makes for a stunning experience.

Shutter Lag

Shutter lag can be defined as the time required to take a picture – i.e. the lag between pressing the shutter button, and the camera actually taking the picture. A lower shutter lag value allows you to take pictures more spontaneously. If you want to catch a friend performing an impromptu dance move at a beach vacation, or catch your son hitting a ball straight into the goal post, you should look for a camera with low shutter lag values.

Full High Definition 1080p

Full high definition pictures at 1920x1080 resolution is the holy grail of compact digital cameras, promising images that will pop out and capture all the details in any landscape. If your budget allows it, always pick a camera that offers 1080p resolution.

Video Capabilities

Cameras are used for far more than taking merely photographs these days. Your camera should allow for at least 15-20 minutes of video recording, preferably in high definition at 720p resolution.

Software Features

How easy is it to operate the camera’s software? Does the software offer any options for editing the photo on the fly, or adding interesting effects such as motion blur, sepia filters, etc.? Ask these questions before you set down your money for a purchase.

Other Features

Facial recognition, image stabilization, scene recognition, noise reduction – this list can go on and on and be quite disorienting for the lay buyer. Focus on the above features, and once the camera passes all these basic tests, start comparing things like facial recognition, etc. These are nice additions to a digital camera, but you should never base your buying decision on them.


Last, but not the least, you’ll most likely use the camera outdoors in trying conditions. Features like weatherproofing, and durability become important in this regard. For instance, some camera LCD screens are made from Gorilla Glass these days. Ruggedness is always a welcome feature in any camera.


Buying a digital compact camera isn’t an easy task, given the number of variables one has to consider. Hopefully, this guide will help you tread in the right direction.

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