Almost everyone agrees that digital cameras offer plenty of advantages over film cameras, and consumers are voting with their wallets as they continue to buy digital cameras in record numbers. Some of the advantages of digital cameras over their film counterparts is the ability to immediately see the images you have taken instead of waiting to have film developed first, and also being able to transfer your image files to your computer where you can edit, print and store them as you see fit. But what should you look for when buying a digital camera?
Well, first of all decide how you plan on using the prints that you will make. Will they mostly be 4 X 6 snapshots, or do you plan on making enlargements on up to 11 X 14 or so? This will determine how much resolution that you need to buy when you get your digital camera. For snapshots, a 4 -6 megapixel camera should do the job just fine, but if you want to make larger prints you may want to look for a 6 - 8 megapixel camera instead. And if you plan on doing lots of photo editing that can involve zooming in and cropping a small portion of the image, you may even want a 10+ megapixel camera for that kind of heavy duty work.
Most fixed lens digital cameras come with a zoom feature, but you should know that there are two different types of zooms that are used. One is an optical zoom that relies on the lens for it's magnification, and the other is the digital zoom that enlarges the image already captured by digital means instead. The optical zoom is far more preferable than the digital zoom as it will produce sharp and clear zoom shots throughout it's entire focal range. The digital zoom is only magnifying the resulting image and so it can produce less sharp, grainy pictures instead when used at the higher end of the focal range. So try to get a camera that has as much of the zoom range that you want being handled by the optical rather than the digital zoom.
If having the best image quality is important to you then you want to look for digital cameras that save their files in TIFF, GIF and RAW formats as these do not sacrifice any image quality when compressing the image file for storage. On the other hand, the JPEG image format that many cameras use will cause some loss of image quality in the file compression part of saving the image file.
When deciding what digital camera to buy, much of your decision will revolve around how you plan to use the camera and the resultant image files, and what features are most important to you and the way you shoot your photos. The tips given above should help you though to be more informed about how to select the digital camera that fits your photo style best.