Friday, December 12, 2003

The "Buying a Digital Camera" Guide

With the Internet at my fingertips, buying a camera became a research project more than just a simple chore of walking over to the nearest electronics store to select out of the limited options on display. After hours in front of the computer, long discussions with current owners and peers in the market for cameras too, I decided to write up my entire experience as a guide to others in my shoes. Here's what I'd consider are the first steps to go about drilling down possible camera options. This guide is by no means definitive and if you want me to add to it, send me email with your comments!

1. Determine the resolution of the camera you want to buy. I chose to go with 4 or 5 mega pixels (Mega == 1 Million).

The higher the resolution, the higher the cost of the camera, which brings me to the First Law of Digital Camera Shopping: Cost is directly proportional to Maximum Image Resolution

2. Now that you have determined the resolution, determine your budget. For a good camera that doesn't become obsolete before you've even received it in the mail you should look at spending anywhere between $300 and $400.

3. There are four extremely popular, respected and established companies in the market today making digital cameras: Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. The first three come from the conventional camera world and are included in this list not only because of pedigree but also because they've been the pioneers in the digital camera world. Sony, though a late entrant has improved it's line of cameras extensively. I decided to go with Canon - respected, best sales and service network and strongly recommended by friends.

This brings me to the Second Law of Digital Camera Shopping: Cost is directly proportional to Brand

4. Select 2 or 3 models from maybe one or two camera vendors and start comparing their features. I used many sites to do this comparison after which I came up with my definitive list of review sites:
a. Digital Photography Preview
b. Digital Camera Resource
c. Steve's Digital Cameras
d. CNet Camera Reviews

5. You want to consider the following features before you decide on the camera:
a. Lens Aperture
b. Lens Focal Length
c. Max Shutter Speed
d. Digital and Optical Zoom - the higher the Optical Zoom rating, the better the Zoom is. Digital Zoom is over-rated
e. LCD size
f. Battery life
g. Video recording mode and maximum video length
h. Included Memory Card Size

6. Now search for deals on the final 2/3 cameras you have short-listed. Here is the list of some of the cool sites I found:
a. Infinity Cameras
c. Bizrate @ Lycos
d. CNet
e. Froogle :)

Hope you find the right camera at the right price. The buzz is that the prices have been going up and up on the 5 MegaPixel cameras so if the person you are buying the camera for can wait till after christmas, you are sure to get a better deal on your purchase. If you can't wait, oh well, what's a few more dollars for the one you love...

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