Buying a digital camera – 5 things to keep in mind

If you’re in the market for a new compact digital camera, you might find that it’s harder than ever to narrow down your choices. If this is you, here are five pointers to help you get the best camera for you.

1. The Megapixel Myth

Since practically forever, camera companies and salespeople have been telling us the benefits that more megapixels brings to the table. It started with 5-megapixel cameras saying you’ll obtain bigger images. Then 8 and 10 megapixel cameras arrived, with the advice now about how the game had changed, the colour was better and the image quality would automatically help you take better images.

What you need to know is that “The Megapixel Myth” is exactly that: a myth.

Megapixels don’t make the image better, they only make it larger, and unless you plan on printing to poster size, there’s no reason to unload over 12 megapixels. The better colour and quality come from other parts of the chip design, and don’t factor in when you’re talking about megapixels.

In fact, for most people, 6 megapixels will be plenty to work with. These days however, you’re pretty lucky as you can buyt 6 to 12 megapixel digital cameras for around the same price range.

After you’ve dealt with the megapixel myth, it’s time to think about the important things like…

2. What features do you want?

There’s a different tool for every job. In carpentry, you have a saw, hammer, and a whole bunch of other bits that I couldn’t tell you about because I review cameras and not home hardware.

But like saws and hammers, cameras too come in different classes, with different features, because everyone has different needs.

For instance, you can get the slim fashionable cameras that are easy to pocket and look sexy. These are thin and light, include options like face tracking.

Then there are what people call “advanced point and shoots” – larger and heavier, but include features similar to that of a digital SLR. These cameras take images faster and work better in low-light, often making for a perfect traveller’s camera. Models like Canon’s PowerShot G11, Nikon Coolpix P90, and the Pentax X70.

If you’re looking at one of these, instead consider looking at a smaller digital SLR. In these two styles of digital camera there is a proximity in price, but in the digital SLR you’ll make a gain in image quality.

There’s even the jack-of-all-trades, the camera that can essentially do everything and is neither sleek and small nor is it large and bulky.

Every camera has a feature set and this is something you’ll have to look at. Some you’ll definitely want, like face tracking and high sensitivity for shooting in low light. Others might just be gimmicks for you so if you see GPS as a feature, or a ruggedised camera, or WiFi, ask yourself if you’ll really use these specific features. If the answer is no, you’ve just saved yourself some money.

3. How does it feel in your hand

Strangely, the most important rule about buying any digital camera isn’t about the megapixels, the colour, the features, or the lens quality. The most important factor to think about when you’re buying a camera – any sort of camera – is how it feels in your hand.

Remember that you’re going to be using this thing where ever you want to take a photo, so how it feels to you is the most important thing.

You could have all the technology in the world sitting in the most expensive camera ever and still not end up with good images, because the tool just didn’t feel right when you pulled it out.

So when you’re looking for a camera, always see if it feels right for you. Like a new car or a pair of shoes, you’ll know it when it feels right.

4. Go with brands you trust

No matter what anyone says, no one can take away the experience brands have left you with in the past. If Brand X burned you, don’t buy Brand X. It’s as simple as that.

Photographers generally stick to the rule that you buy a camera from a company who makes cameras, but as companies buy out other companies, this line is becoming muddled. Instead, it’s so much easier to buy from people you’ve heard good things about, which brings me to my next point…

5. You get what you pay for

There’s no getting past the simple fact that you will always get what you pay for. No matter how good of a value that $99 camera seems, it’s still not going to be very good.

Oh sure, it may have 12 megapixels and face detection plus a whole bunch of other features that the sales guy said makes it perfect for you, but at a price point like that, don’t expect it to be brilliant. Because it won’t be.

The models further up in price will likely have better video features, high quality glass which gives you clearer images, and more speed to name but a few things. For a lot of people, this won’t be that big of a deal, but for those of you looking for a camera to last you a while, you will want to keep this in mind.