If you are ready to get a digital camera, which is the best one for you? The answer is "it depends". There are a wide range of cameras available at many price levels. The best camera is the one that you can afford which gives you most of the features that you need. Luckily the technology has been advancing rapidly over the years. Basic introductory digital cameras now include capabilities that were professional quality just a few years ago. While there are several models of digital cameras made by famous makers such as Nikon, Kodak, Sony, Pentax and more, the cameras made by Canon are quite excellent and highly recommended. Three of the top four most popular cameras most used by Flickr photographers are Canon units. Five out of five most popular point and shoot cameras are Canon. Flickr contains a tremendous number of submitted images so it is a useful gauge of popular cameras.
Evaluate Your Needs
To figure out what is the best digital camera to buy, you have to analyze your needs. This is a fairly simple process of determining what you will do with the camera. If you just want to take some photos and post them on the Internet, just about any camera will do. If you want to take portraits, you need different abilities in your camera. For total control, you will need one of the modern, high end cameras. Often your needs are changeable. This can mean that your camera will fulfill some of your needs but will be problematic for others. By checking out the digital camera features compared to your uses of the camera, you can determine which is the best digital camera for you. Be aware that most cameras do not come with a memory card. You should buy an 8MB card for under $20 for your camera. 16MB cards are available as well but cost more than twice as much.
Digital Camera Uses
Internet posting - low end camera will be acceptable.
Internet posting, group shots - middle range camera will be acceptable.
Group shots, portraits, landscapes, artistic photography - high end or digital SLR will be required.
Digital Camera Capabilities
In the early days of digital camera technology, the ability of cameras was measured in "megapixels". This refers to the number of pixels, (picture elements), expressed in millions, that make up an image. If the digital camera has a photo sensor that is 1,000 pixels across and 1,000 pixels down, a grid of 1,000,000 pixels will be used to take an image. This would refer to a 1 megapixel digital camera. More megapixels allow more flexibility. They also add cost to the digital camera purchase price, generally. As improvements have been made to digital cameras, even the toy models will have at least 2MP. High end models will have 8MP and higher. With higher megapixels, the photos can be enlarged and printed as poster images.
A high megapixel rating is not required for Internet posting. Even the lowest megapixel rated camera will allow a decent photo to be posted on the Internet. This is due to the small size of most on screen images. They are typically just a few inches square. Nearly any picture will look acceptable in this small format. A benefit of larger megapixel ratings, however, is in zooming in and cropping pictures. A large number of megapixels will allow the image to be zoomed in and fine detail will be preserved. The image can be cropped to show just the fine detail; all other parts of the image would be discarded. The portion of the photo is saved as a new file in an image editing program. It would then be posted on the Internet or printed as usual.
The optical zoom feature is also worth noting on your digital camera. With it, you can zoom in on distant items and frame them in your shot. You can do this in software later, depending on the number of megapixels provided by the camera. Optical zooming gives you creative control during your photo shoot. The feature does make image stabilization more difficult for the camera, especially for lower priced units. Digital zoom is available on cameras but is generally less useful for most photographers. Instead, use the optical zoom and use the photo edit features on your computer.
Ultra Top End Cameras
Digital cameras are now available at every price level. The ultra top end professional units are made by Leica, Hasselblad and other top camera manufacturers. They can cost $30,000 or more for the camera, lenses extra. These models are in a class by themselves. While they may be the best digital camera to buy for you, you should seek the assistance of extremely knowledgeable salesmen if you intend to buy one of these units. This article is limited to those cameras generally available for less than $1000.
Top End Cameras
Modern high end cameras are available in 12MP, and higher, point and shoot models for fairly low prices. Those photographers who want additional photo composition control can choose 10MP, and higher, digital Single Lens Reflex, (SLR) units. These emulate the old 35mm film cameras. In some cases, they even accept lenses that were made for the film cameras. Prices are about $300 for 12MP+ point and shoot cameras such as the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS. This unit is actually a 14MP model with 14x optical zoom and it has the ability to create HD video recordings. It also has image stabilization. For the SLR models, a good high end unit is the Canon EOS Rebel T2i, priced at just under $1000. It has 18MP, top of the line image stabilization and an impressive number of photo shooting modes, including HD video. For a more reasonable price, the Canon EOS Rebel XS is available for about $500. It has 10MP, great image stabilization and many features similar to the EOS Rebel T2i model. The Nikon D90 is also a strong contender for the best digital camera to buy. It is available for under $1000 and is the most popular camera in use by Flickr photographers.
A good middle performance camera is the Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at about $150. It has 12MP, 4x optical zoom and image stabilization. It comes with a rechargeable lithium battery. There are fewer shooting modes. The imaging screen is smaller than high end models. It is, however, a very good performing camera and is a good value at about half the cost of the top point and shoot cameras.
At about $100, the Canon PowerShot A490 is a great low end performer. You can buy cheap, no-name digital cameras for perhaps $30 or $50 but these will have limitations in functionality and/or software and may have no support to help you with problems. The Canon PowerShot A490 has 10MP, image stabilization and 3.3x optical zoom. This makes this camera quite a capable unit. Costs have been kept low due to the lack of HD video support and the use of regular batteries rather than a rechargeable lithium pack. It also does not include a memory card. For many people, this is the best digital camera to buy for the combination of money and features.