WHEN was the last time you saw a kiosk selling rolls of film? It’s a measure of how universal the digital camera has become that those little yellow Kodak boxes have all but disappeared.
Digital cameras record images on to cheap, reusable memory cards, and they’re small enough to fit into your pocket. But with so many on the market, how do you choose the best one? Here are a few tips.
PIXEL PERFECT: Cameras are priced according to the number of pixels, or picture elements, they use to produce a photo. One megapixel equals one million pixels and it’s generally held that the more megapixels, the sharper the image..
Megapixels do determine the maximum size at which you can print a picture before the quality starts to deteriorate. A 10x8-inch photo is the most you can squeeze from an uncropped three-megapixel image – but that’s ample for most of us, most of the time. Nevertheless, cameras with 12 or 14 megapixels have become the norm.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? The brand name is probably the best clue to a camera’s quality. Familiar makes like Nikon, Canon and Sony will serve you better than the anonymous Japanese-sounding brands that actually hail from China. A camera with a cheap lens and inferior image processor will never take great snaps.
ZOOM IN FOR A CLOSE-UP: Make a point to look for a zoom lens. Retailers are sometimes cagey about this, often using the term “digital zoom” to describe cameras that can blow up an image electronically (usually with dire results) rather than those with traditional moveable parts that can do it optically. Always insist on an optical zoom of at least 3x magnification.
POWER UP: The cheapest cameras use one or two standard AA batteries, which are convenient but can soon cost you more in replacements than you paid for the camera itself. Choose instead a model with a rechargeable unit – and pick up a spare if you can.
DON’T PAY TOO MUCH: You can get all those features, plus a decent-size electronic viewfinder and more pixels than you need, for less than £100 at high street prices. Basic cameras cost much less.