Seven tips for buying the right digital camera

IT'S easy to be bamboozled when buying a digital camera.

There are so many options, so much jargon and a new 'never-to-be-repeated sale' every weekend.

But looking around, one thing is perfectly clear: you get far more bang for your buck than you ever have.

Digital cameras packing more megapixels and huge optical zooms that were thousands of dollars only a few years ago are now in the hundreds.

Even the price of DSLR cameras used by professionals is now within reach of us amateurs.

So what should you look for in a camera. Here are a few tips:

1. First decide on what you really need the camera for. Do you need a point-and-shoot which can fit in your bag?

Or do you want something with a decent zoom lens that is going to capture your kid playing soccer on the other side of the field?

Do you want something that is really simple to use or do you want something where you can play with the settings to get different types of shots? What sort of money do you really want to spend?

2. Megapixels and zooms. Generally, the bigger the number the bigger you can blow up your print.

But if you are doing normal pics or posting on Facebook, anything over four or so megapixels is plenty.

On the zoom front, make sure you look at the optical zoom, not the digital zoom. Five times is pretty standard for a compact these days while there are some great cameras with zoom lenses of 30x-40x plus.

3. Look for bundle deals. You can get more kit if you negotiate to get things like a camera case, memory cards, a spare battery or recharger, a tripod etc at a discounted price. Remember there are big differences in memory cards, especially when shooting video, so you should try to get the fastest card possible, depending on your camera.

4. Digital SLR or point-and-shoot? Top camera makers like Nikon and Canon are producing an incredible range of options to choose from. While compact point-and-shoot cameras are great for simplicity and portability, they don't cut it with longer distances.

A good compromise might be a mid-range camera which has an optical zoom of 20x or greater. You can get those for $400 to $500.

5. Read up. If you are going to fork out a few hundred dollars on a camera it's worth checking out some reviews about the cameras you like. There are some great websites that review in detail models as they are released.

One site Digital Photography Blog ( collates the reviews of many sites from around the world, giving a snapshot of each.

6. Shop around. Don't be afraid to tour different camera stores. Find the ones with staff that actually know what they are talking about (often specialist camera shops) and make sure you ask to have a play with the models you are interested in. Try to be specific as possible about your needs so they have a better idea of the camera to suit you.

7. Talk turkey. Don't be afraid to haggle on price. All of the major retailers are looking to do a deal. Even their cameras on special can come down a little. Most will match competitors' prices and even internet prices. Shopping locally obviously helps provide jobs and provides back-up should something go wrong.

Once you get your camera, have fun and play around with the settings. You won't break anything, they are designed for dummies like us.


DSLR: Digital Single Lens Reflex, the cameras used by professionals. They can generally shoot faster and in lower light.

MEGAPIXELS: The resolution of digital cameras is measured in megapixels, millions of pixels. The more pixels, the more detailed the picture.

SD CARD: Secure Digital, one of the most popular forms of memory card.

OPTICAL ZOOM: Often called the true zoom of a camera, it uses the lens in the camera to draw the image closer. Digital zoom expands the image without bringing it closer or adding new data.

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