When digital cameras first made their appearance, all you had to do to make the best purchase was to choose the camera with the highest number of megapixels. The camera with the most megapixels usually also had the best other components and features. Over the last few years, however, digital cameras have changed so rapidly and the number of megapixels has increased so dramatically that the number of megapixels is no longer an adequate indication of camera quality. In this tutorial we will show everything laypersons need to know before buying a digital camera.

Digital camera purchasers will rejoice in the improvements and number of new features that digital cameras now offer. However, they will also find that making a decision of which camera to purchase has become much more complicated. We set out to explain some of the intricacies to help you choose a digital camera.

Today’s digital camera come in three basic types:

  • Compact: These are also called point-and-shoot cameras because they have automatic settings so that you don’t have to fool with changing the settings – you can just point the camera at your subject and press a button to take the picture. Some of these cameras allow you to change various settings, but some do not have much flexibility. There are many different types of compact cameras, including those that are considered ultra-compact like the Nikon Coolpix 5600 that we reviewed recently. These cameras have an LCD screen that is used to compose the shot, review the picture, and change the settings.
  • Advanced digital cameras: These are often called “Prosumer” cameras. They are aimed at a photographic skill level higher than the average consumer but lower than the professional photographer. These cameras are larger than the compact variety, but are still considered point-and-shoot cameras because they don’t have interchangeable lenses. The features of these cameras vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. For an example, see our review of the Olympus SP-570UZ.
  • SLR (Single Lens Reflex): These cameras have a lens finder which lets you see the image through the same lens that is used to take the picture. They also have interchangeable lenses and many other features. The camera settings are all completely adjustable. They are top of the line cameras that can be expensive, but prices have dropped dramatically recently. While the SLR has appeal as the most expensive and most robust type of camera, SLRs are not for everyone. The complexity of the settings and controls requires a good solid understanding of photography and is best left to the professional or knowledgeable hobbyist.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.