As a prospective new buyer, you need to check on these basic must haves in a digital camera.
Effective pixel count
The effective pixel count is the number of pixels that are actually used when a picture is taken. A few years ago, a digital camera with 6 megapixels (million pixels) would have been high-end professional stuff, but today it is in easy reach. Even mobile phones boast of a 3 megapixel camera these days. For a budget digital camera, anything between 6 and 10 megapixels is good. The more megapixels there are, the larger the prints you can make off the picture. In 99 per cent of usage, that is the sole benefit of a higher megapixel numbers, so don’t get locked in on the megapixel count. At an A3 size image, you cannot tell identical images shot on 5 to 13 megapixel cameras apart.
Optical zoom involves a zoom lens, just as it would on a traditional camera. A camera with an optical zoom of 3X can actually give you a picture that’s three times closer than the basic, unzoomed image. Digital zoom on the other hand takes a real optical image and “zooms” it by blowing up each pixel. This decreases an image’s clarity and sharpness. The thumb rule is that a bigger zoom range (say 5X) will allow you more latitude.
This is the ability to shoot short movies that are saved in the MPEG format on expandable memory cards. This is a useful feature to have if you want to shoot a short video of your child blowing out the birthday candles and put it on youtube.com. Don’t expect TV quality footage though.
Battery capacityThe flash and the LCD display use a lot of battery power. For this reason most digital cameras need rechargeable batteries. Budget for an extra set of batteries as well. When buying extra rechargeable batteries look for a number suffixed with AMH. The bigger the number, the more powerful that battery is. Aiming for a 2200-2500 AMH battery is a good idea. If your camera uses a proprietary battery format, this option may not be available to you, but those batteries are usually a lot more powerful anyway. Also check the physical size of the charger. No point in a half-pint size camera if the battery charger occupies half your cabin baggage, right?
Ability to address
SD/MMC memory card capacities of more than 2GB are common these days. Usually, today’s crop of digital cameras can support memory cards with capacities of more than 2GB, but don’t forget to verify that. Since prices have fallen down to sub-Rs 3,000 for memory cards with 4GB capacity, cameras should have the ability to use these card’s full capacity. Budget for at least 1GB extra memory.