Even when you try to do your research before buying a piece of electronics, often you end up learning more about what you should have been looking for well after the purchase has been made. In this digital camera and video camera buying guide, we’ll attempt to walk you through some of the key functionality you should be looking for when deciding which device is right for you. Keep it in mind when shopping to ensure you get the best price, product and features for the money.
A pixel is but one dot in an image file, and a megapixel represents a million of them. So while even a camera that has offers pictures of 1 megapixel or 2 megapixels may seem like a lot, the truth is they are so tiny that you need to get above 5 megapixels to even have a snapshot that is a decent resolution.
The amount of megapixels a camera claims to have is the maximum – it doesn’t mean you have to take pictures that use all of them. The more megapixels in your picture, the higher the resolution, and the higher the resolution, the bigger the file. While cheap memory and large memory cards are making this less and less of a concern, large files are still difficult to share online as they take longer to upload and download.
So if you’re looking to make physical prints of photos at all, or simply want to be able to be some detail while zooming in, we recommend a camera that has at least 8 MP, and if you have a need for larger prints, then go for something bigger than that.
A camera’s magnification capabilities are represented by a number followed by an X. This essentially means that from the starting point to the zoomed-in endpoint, that is how many times more magnification you are getting. For example, a camera with a 20mm to 200mm range has a 10x zoom because 200mm is 10x 20. Although it’s tempting to get caught up in the “X range” of a camera’s zoom, it’s actually not even one of the two most important things to consider when looking at zoom.
The most important you should note when looking at zoom is to look at the low end of the camera’s zoom range. If a camera has a zoom range from 24mm to 240mm, it means that at its most zoomed out setting, it will take a picture at 24mm. Other cameras that can shoot at 18mm or 15mm will be able to provide a wider view of the setting, and thus contain more information.
The other important thing to note about zoom is the Optical Zoom setting vs. Digital Zoom setting. The Optical Zoom is the key indicator – it’s what is actually being done by the camera’s lenses. Digital Zoom is all done electronically, and doesn’t offer any enhanced picture quality or focus.
Perhaps the most common question many camera-buyers wonder about is whether they are ready for a SLR camera. SLR stands for single lens reflex, and it means that your camera only has one lens that it has to worry about, so you can quickly and easily alter your shooting angel. One of the other great advantages that digital SLR cameras (dSLR) offer is nearly instantaneous digital photos to be taken and your camera is quickly ready for another shot.
SLRs will cost additional money over standard point-and-click cameras, but if you take a lot of pictures of sporting events or nature, you may covet the versatility and speed that SLRs offer.
3D and HD Cameras
While even most camera and many phones now shoot in HD, you’ll want to check the specs of your video recorder to see what kind of HD video you’ll be shooting. You’ll be looking at not only the resolution (higher numbers offer more detail), but also the type of HD, either 720p, 1080i or 1080p. 1080p. The “p” and “I” in these numbers stand for progressive and interlocking, and it indicates whether each line of refresh from a TV image (or recording) is renewed from every scan on top to bottom, or whether every line is refreshed at a time. Progressive scanning is preferred as it means that for every frame of video you have a new line of data for every part of the image, and since 1080 is higher than 720, it means more lines of info. So 1080p is the preferred HD format for most video aficionados.
You’ll also need to decide whether or not to invest in a camera that does 3D videos. It’s a feature that will cost extra money and may not provide much extra bank other than the novelty effect which will wear off. Plus, you’ll need to make sure you’re playing any 3D recordings back on a 3D enabled device.