Buying Guide: Digital Compact Cameras

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What Is A Digital Compact Camera?

It's an automatic camera that takes still digital images (some also capture video). Unlike a digital SLR, a digital compact camera is small, light and simple to use – just point and shoot.

Are All Digital Compact Cameras The Same?

Nikon Coolpix camera

Compact digital cameras come with a range of features, to suit different users. Some are smaller and thinner than others, which makes them easier to carry. Some offer more optical zoom, while others are waterproof and shockproof.

Choosing The Right Camera Size

This comes down to personal preference, but it's important to match a camera's features to your lifestyle needs. Ultra-thin cameras will fit into your pocket with ease, which is great for travellers. Regular-sized digital compact cameras are still small enough to fit in a handbag, but often come with more features.

How Does The Camera Store Photos?

Instead of using a roll of film, digital cameras convert images into digital files, which are stored on internal memory or removable memory cards. This lets you take hundreds of photos in one session and delete the one's you don't like.

Verbatim 2GB SD Card

Memory Cards

The storage capacity of memory cards is measured in gigabytes (GB). The more GB, the more photos you can store. The different types of memory cards available are:

  • Compact Flash (CFC): Mainly for digital SLR cameras
  • Secure Digital (SD and SDHC): Most common and can be used across devices like video cameras, DSLR and computers
  • Memory Stick: Sony products

What Are Megapixels?

Pixels are the small dots that form a digital image. One megapixel (MP) equals one million pixels. The higher the megapixel count, the bigger the images can be printed without losing quality (pixelating).

As a guide:

  • A 3MP camera should produce A4-size prints without pixelation
  • A 5MP camera should produce A3-size prints without pixelation
  • A larger image sensor will also increase image quality. The cameras we have on offer start from 10.1MP and go all the way up to 21.1MP, so it doesn’t matter what model you choose – each one can deliver high quality A3 prints

What's The Difference Between Optical Zoom And Digital Zoom?

Optical zoom (true zoom) delivers a closer image, while retaining image quality. On the other hand, digital zoom reduces image quality. This is because digital zoom digitally enhances an image by cropping then enlarging a section of the image, while optical zoom uses the lens. Basic cameras have optical zoom starting from 3 x, but advanced models can go all the way up to 60 x! As a rough guide, anything over 7 x will be more than enough for most people.

Are Display Screens Important?

The LCD display screen on the back of the camera shows a preview of the photo you're about to take. It also displays previous photos and allows you to scroll through the camera's functions. In digital photography, a bigger display screen is easier to use. Some LCD displays offer touchscreen control and menu functions.

What Type Of Batteries Do Digital Cameras Use?

Most compact digital cameras come with custom-fit rechargeable batteries, while some budget models and super-zoom cameras run on AA batteries.

Nikon digital camera

Features To Look Out For

  • GPS: Automatically logs the location of each photograph
  • Face detection: Automatically finds and focuses on the faces in the photograph
  • Shooting modes: Use the predetermined automatic settings for great results in different situations: night-time, portraits, sport etc.
  • Video: Capture video on your camera
  • White balance: Create more natural colours when shooting in artificial light
  • Manual functions: Some of the top compacts offer manual adjustments of shutter speed and aperture, for greater control over your photography

What Accessories Do I Need?

  • A carry case or soft pouch will prevent scratches and other damage
  • Extra memory cards are handy, especially when travelling
  • At least one spare battery. You'll kick yourself when the battery runs out at a crucial moment

Recommendations for Different Users

Parents and Grandparents: Record every magical moment of your family's lives:

  • High Definition Video: Relive those special moments with a clear video recording you can keep on a computer
  • Zoom: Get closer to the action with 10x optical zoom or above
  • Image stabiliser: Helps prevent blurry pictures caused by unsteady hands on the camera

Travellers: Record the spectacular scenery and events on your next trip:

  • Wide-angle lens: Perfect for picturesque landscapes. Look for about 25mm
  • Zoom: Try to get as much optical zoom as you can afford; 7x optical zoom or more is great
  • Size: The smaller and lighter the camera is, the easier it will be to carry around

Kids: Nurture creativity with a durable, easy-to-use camera:

  • Shockproof: Kids are tough on gadgets, so buying a shockproof model makes sense
  • Waterproof: Another good idea is to ensure that the kids' camera can handle liquid hazards
  • Colours: Cameras come in a range of fun colours

Simple Digital Camera Choices

  • Megapixels: Anything over eight megapixels will deliver enough picture detail for the average person, printing over A3 without pixellation
  • Zoom: Look for optical zoom over digital zoom, as it brings objects closer without distortion
  • LCD display: Larger display screens make it easier to compose and view photos

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