It's just amazing how far digital cameras have come. In a few short years they progressed from being costly, cumbersome toys to serious, powerful yet inexpensive cameras with lots of features. In case you haven't looked at all that is available these days, check your favorite camera house. You'll be surprised.
Among the questions asked by a lot of people are these: "I want a new camera, but I don't need anything fancy. Which of those cheap digital cameras is best? And what should I look out for?"
The answer to all of those questions is that it depends on your needs, your budget and what kind of pictures you want to take. There are, however, a few things you should know about the current status of compact, inexpensive consumer digital cameras:
1) Resolution hardly matters anymore as even the least expensive digicams now have 8 megapixel and more. At this point, anything between 8 and 12 megapixel or so is just fine. Even 8 megapixel is more than enough for a nice, big 8x10 print. The advantage of having 10 or 12 megapixel is that you can crop to your heart's content and still have enough pixels for a high resolution picture.
2) Prices have come waaaay down. You can now get a very nice compact digital camera at your friendly camera house for less than half of what they cost just a couple of years ago.
3) Get the largest LCD screen you can afford. With optical viewfinders rapidly disappearing, having a good LCD is crucial. Go for at least 2.7 inches and at least 230k resolution.
4) For compatibility's sake, I always prefer cameras that can handle SD cards. The SD card format has won the war. SD cards are cheaper and fit into more computers than xD-Picture cards or the various Sony Memory Sticks.
5) If you like to zoom in, go for a 4X or 5X optical zoom instead of the standard 3X. Digital zoom doesn't really count (it just magnifies). If you REALLY like zooming, there are special high-zoom cameras that cost more.
6) If you take a lot of pictures indoors or of people, get a camera with a zoom that starts "wide." A "normal" zoom is marked as approximately 35-105mm equivalent. One that starts at 28mm is slightly "wide" and I prefer that.
7) Don't agonize over the latest, greatest in-camera tricks. Face recognition, smile and blink detection, color replacement, cute frames and similar features are nice but really not needed. The same goes for dozens of scene modes.
8) In terms of overall quality and performance, you rarely go wrong with Canon, Pentax, Nikon, Casio, Panasonic or Olympus.
9) Things like touchscreens, shake/tap operation, or other novel features all work fine, but they aren't very useful and can be confusing. Simplicity is best!
The above applies to those sleek, cheap digital cameras that cost anywhere from around $100 up to about $450 for premium models. Note that digital SLRs are a totally different story. They cost more, are much larger, and the cost of good lenses often exceeds the cost of the camera. So now head on to your favorite camera house (or camera house website)! You'll be surprised at just how many new digital cameras there are, and how much they offer for very little money.
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Chris Robertson is an author of Majon International, one of the worlds MOST popular internet marketing companies.
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