Buying Guide | Digital Cameras


In order to choose the right camera--one with the right set of features at the right price--you'll need to figure out what you'll be doing with it. Match your needs to one of these user profiles.

User profiles: Snapshooter | Trendsetter | Business user | Serious amateur | Budget buyer | Undecided

Snapshooter

I want to take photos that I can e-mail to friends and family, post on the Web, or print in sizes smaller than 8x10 inches. I'd like a digital camera that is easy enough for the whole family to use and small enough to take anywhere. I'll be printing on an inexpensive, all-purpose inkjet printer or getting photo prints from the local drugstore, though I'll consider buying a photo printer if I like the pictures enough. The specs that matter Resolution It doesn't matter. Most cameras on the market today have sufficient resolution for your needs. Price $150 to $300 Lens type Zoom (range encompassing at least 38mm to 114mm, 35mm equivalent) Storage media Internal memory, CompactFlash, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, or Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard Photo file format JPEG Interfaces USB, NTSC/PAL television connection Exposure controls Automatic, programmed scene modes, exposure compensation (for tweaking the automatic exposure) Focus controls Automatic Flash modes Automatic, fill, red-eye reduction Software Photo stitching, photo album, slide show Multimedia VGA (640x480), 30fps video-clip recording with sound Cool features to look for Direct-to-printer (PictBridge) output compatibility, in-camera red-eye removal, automatic exposure fix, optical or mechanical image stabilization, face detection » Back to top

Trendsetter

I like to buy the newest, shiniest toys before anyone else does. I want to impress my friends and business associates with the latest technologies and coolest features, but not if it makes the product too complicated to use. I care about how much I spend, though it's not one of my top concerns. The specs that matter Resolution 8 megapixels or greater. Price Less than $1,000 Lens type Zoom (range encompassing at least 36mm to 108mm, 35mm equivalent) Storage media Internal memory, CompactFlash, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, or SD/HC Photo file format JPEG Interfaces USB, HDMI, or component HDTV television connection Exposure controls Automatic, programmed scene modes, exposure compensation (for tweaking the automatic exposure) Focus controls Automatic Flash modes Automatic, fill, red-eye reduction Software Photo-stitching, photo album, slide show Multimedia 720p (1,280x720) video-clip recording with sound and functioning zoom during video Cool features to look for Ultracompact design, Webcam capabilities, voice recording, Wi-Fi support, 3-inch LCD, simultaneous video and photo capture, 12X or greater optical zoom, optical or mechanical image stabilization, face detection » Back to top

Business user

I need to be able to shoot onsite or in the office, photograph products and people for ads and publicity in print and on the Web, and get professional-looking results without hiring a pro. I need to get prints in a variety of ways, including from a color laser printer or quick-print shop. I have to share the camera with my coworkers. The specs that matter Resolution 7 megapixels or greater. Price $400 to $700 Lens type Zoom (range encompassing at least 36mm to 130mm, 35mm equivalent) Storage media CompactFlash, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, or SD/HC Photo file format JPEG or TIFF Interfaces USB, NTSC/PAL television connection Exposure controls Automatic, aperture- and shutter-priority, manual, choice of metering modes, bracketing Focus controls Automatic, manual Flash modes Automatic, fill, red-eye reduction, external flash compatibility Software Photo editor; collaborative image sharing Multimedia Voice recording, built-in speaker for audio playback Cool features to look for Support for digital security, Wi-Fi, text-capture mode, world clock » Back to top

Serious amateur

I want to use creative effects when shooting and manipulating images, have professional-level control, output prints that are 8x10 inches or larger on a high-quality photo printer, and use accessories and different lenses. The specs that matter Resolution 8 megapixels or greater. Price $400 and up Lens type Supports lens converters or interchangeable lenses or zoom with widest focal range possible Storage media High-capacity CompactFlash, Hitachi Microdrive, or SD/HC Photo file format JPEG, RAW Interfaces USB 2.0 Exposure controls Automatic, aperture- and shutter-priority, manual, choice of metering modes, bracketing Focus controls Automatic with selectable focus points, manual Flash modes Automatic, fill, slow sync, hot shoe or contact for external flash Software Full-featured photo editor, software for PC-controlled capture Multimedia Voice annotation Cool features to look for Compatibility with existing 35mm-camera lenses and accessories, customizable user modes, dynamic histogram display, optical or mechanical image stabilization » Back to top

Budget buyer

I want to find a basic digicam costing less than $200 that will let me post snapshots on the Web; e-mail them to friends; print them in small sizes (4x6 or smaller) on my inexpensive, multipurpose inkjet printer; and get me up and running quickly without requiring me to read the manual. I want a camera that will satisfy me for a few years. The specs that matter Resolution It doesn't matter. Most cameras on the market today have sufficient resolution for your needs. Price Less than $200 Lens type Zoom (range at least encompassing 38mm to 76mm, 35mm equivalent) Storage media Internal memory, CompactFlash Type I, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, or Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard Photo file format JPEG Interfaces USB, NTSC/PAL television connection Exposure controls Automatic, exposure compensation (for tweaking the automatic exposure) Focus controls Autofocus or fixed focus Flash modes Automatic, fill, red-eye reduction Software Basic photo editor Cool features to look for Webcam capabilities, automatic scene modes, continuous-shooting mode, autofocus assist lamp » Back to top

Undecided

I want a camera that's easy to use but that I can grow into if I get hooked on digital photography. I want to be able to print good-looking photos at sizes smaller than 8x10 inches on my inexpensive inkjet printer, but I'd like prints that will look OK if I decide to print larger or get a better printer. I want to spend less than $500. The specs that matter Resolution 7 megapixels or greater Price $300 to $500 Lens type Zoom (range encompassing at least 34mm to 136mm, 35mm equivalent) Storage media Internal memory, CompactFlash, Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, or SD/HC Photo file format JPEG, RAW Interfaces USB, NTSC/PAL television connection Exposure controls Automatic, aperture- and shutter-priority, manual, choice of metering modes, autobracketing Focus controls Automatic, manual Flash modes Automatic, fill, slow sync Software Midrange photo editor Multimedia VGA (640x480) 30fps video-clip recording with sound Cool features to look for Remote control, dynamic histogram display, compatibility with lens converters and accessories, built-in help features, mechanical or optical image stabilization, face detection, 720p or better HD movie capture, HDMI or component output to HDTV » Back to top

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