Before, I proceed further if you want some good tutorial on Digital Cameras have a look at photo.net. There is another article at the same site on What camera to buy? You can check out a some tips here. A configurable comparison of the camera, prices based on their features is available here. Now is the time for you to make a choice, if you are a serious photographer, this post is not for you, if you need a camera just to capture those golden moments carry on.
Before proceeding ahead, please decide you need a camera and not a hand-cam. I am no expert in hand-cams and you would do better to ask someone else. I will take on one feature at a time, what I feel are important in the order of importance.
1) What kind of a human are you?
You lead a very peaceful life, and you need to capture those languid moments of life.
You are a party freak, and want all those nice girls in your album.
You are a back packer who hitch hikes at the word go.
You are an eternal romanticist with family and kids.
What the hell does this to do with buying a camera?
The answer to the above is very important. For example if you are the second type, you might need a ultra thin, large display, huge life camera. In the third case you might need a rugged, compact, dependable, huge storage and store pics in multiple formats, conserve power etc. The other two categories, you need to decide for your self. And I will help you deal with it as we go ahead. This guide is for any body who has no plans of turning pro.!!
2) What is your budget?
You are son of Ambani. (The world is yours, if your dad agrees)
You are like me, who has to slog for his daily bread. (hmm.. <20k)
You are a parasite who nourishes on someone else's blood.(<10k)
First decide how much you are willing to shell out, with a stretch limit. There is no limit that you can shell out on these gadgets, so know your limits. Also mind you, the budget should include not just the cost of the camera but also of all the accessories needed. (These days cameras need more accessories than mallika sherawat.)
3)How will you use the photos?
You will frame the photos in your hall.
You will blowup the photos for a present.
You will share it on Orkut.
Depending on what use you will put the photos to decide the mega pixels you need. In my opinion most of you just want to share them with friends and family. In that case a 5MP is good enough. It is sufficient for a 6x4 print.
If you have come this far, you have made the major decisions. Now there are a few things that everyone irrespective of where they fall need to take care. I will go about just as above, but its not according to the importance, all are equally important.
1) The battery is the most important part of a digital camera. Don't for one in which you can put aa cells, even if rechargeable. They just will not do. Go for lithium ion based or ni-cd based. They are compact easy to handle and generally last longer and mostly come with the charger or have an in circuit charging capability. Check the weight of the camera with and without the battery.
2) An extension to the above, see to it that the manufacture specifications specify the no, of shots/length of time the battery will last. The higher the better.
3) How many photos do you need? These days the camera comes with a laughable 16Mb internal memory. My cell phone is better in this regard. Make sure you it supports at least one of the formats, CF or SD. Ensure that you can add how much ever more memory you want.
4) Adding on to the third point. What all formats does your camera support, jpg, bmp, raw etc. This helps you to have some simple trade offs in quantity without a large trade off in quality. Ok Ok purists out there don't scorn at me, remember this is a practical guide for dummies.
5) What is the optical zoom? Every sales man talks about zoom (very cleverly hides the word digital). So make sure you know what the optical zoom, and don't carried away to be talked into that optical and digital zoom are same. 3x is bare minimum, and 5x will be great for our purpose. Though no harm in going for more, except a hole in the pocket.
6) How do you download the photos to your PC? It should have a USB connection. Many cameras have firewire (not as pre-levant as USB). Make sure you have the USB or at least an USB adaptor.
7) The screen is an important part of the camera, ensure it has good contrast, configurable time after which it switches off.
Screen all the cameras in the market based on the above criteria, I am sure you will left with hardly 0ne or two. This the time when you will be in a dilemma like I was some time back. At this point it's unto you, I have done my job of helping you find the Camera for you.
All the best shopping and yo! happy clicking.