The Beginner Buyer's Guide To Digital Cameras, Or The Ins And Outs Of Megapixels.
The most important part of buying a digital camera is making sure that the one you select meets all of your needs.
Digital Camera 101
Better digital cameras uses a chip called a "Charged Coupled Device" (CCD) instead of film. Light enters the camera, through the open shutter, and strikes the CCD where it is converted to digital data before being stored in the camera's memory.
While that is the simple description, things can get pretty complicated from there.
Megapixels & Resolution
Resolution is a measure of how many pixels are used to make a digital copy of an image. Pixels are tiny dots of light that make up a digital image.
The quality of a digital camera's image is usually measured in 'Megapixels' where each megapixel represents one million pixels.
Here's how to determine how many megapixels you'll need depending upon the type of photos you will be taking and what you intend to do with them.
Almost obsolete, you might still find these in cell phones, PDAs, and desktop "web" cameras. They're OK if you only intend to email pictures to other people and those people aren't going to be printing them.
1.1 to 2 megapixels
Only slightly better than the 1.0, this resolution is OK for an average 4x6 snapshot, but it isn't going to be a production quality image.
2.1 to 3 megapixels
This is the beginning of the decent camera range. You get very good 4x6 images and reasonably good 5x7 images. These cameras are low cost and provide a good platform for beginners.
3.1 to 4 megapixels
You are qualified to say that you have a "pretty good" camera. You get professional quality 4x6 images, real good 5x7 and 6x9 shots, and somewhat decent, but not great 8x10 images.
4.1 to 5 megapixels and up
People will be saying "Hey, great pictures!". You can count on professional images all the way up to 8x10's. Of course, as the megapixel count goes up, so does the price.
If you are only going to be viewing your pictures online, such as posting them at a photo site or using them on your web pages, keep your money in your pocket and pick yourself up something in the 1.5 megapixel range.
If you will be shooting pictures that will be printed at a print house, such as for brochures, postcards, etc, then you will need at least a 5 megapixel camera if not higher. Of course, you'll also need to have a fat wallet or a lot of open to buy on your credit card because, even thought prices are steadily falling, these puppies aren't cheap!
Once you've solved the megapixel puzzle, the rest of a digital camera's features, such as lens types, storage capacity and shutter speed are pretty routine and easy to understand. You shouldn't have a problem deciding on those features.
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