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We all know how easy it is to get carried away when buying stuff, especially gadgetry as exciting as a new camera. Enticing as it might seem at the time, forking out for features you'll never use is pretty pointless. So here are a few important considerations to help you keep a clear head.
Finding the camera to suit you is all about how you're going to use it. Do you just want a quick and easy compact for snapping family and friends, which is easy to carry around? If so, make the most of the fact that you don't need to splash out on pricey pro performance kit. It could be that a camera phone is the best way to go. Just consider what's important to you, think how much you want to spend, and hey presto you're halfway there in the decision process already.
‘How many pixels have you got?' The question people wielding a camera get asked the most! It's what gives images their sharpness and clarity, so generally speaking the more pixels the better. However, if you're not going to want huge enlargements this becomes less important. For example, a four mega-pixel camera will give you great A4 and 8" x 10" prints.
If you're really interested in photography, or want to be, you'll need the option to experiment beyond the safety of fully automatic and basic picture modes. In that case look out for Av, Tv and manual options. With a digital SLR you can pick and choose your lenses, but on a compact camera a decent zoom lens is a top priority. Opt for a 3x optical zoom, or better, rather than digital zooms.
Movie mode can be a really fun extra to have on your camera. Sadly you won't find this option on most SLRs, but the majority of compacts now have it as standard, so make the most of it. Just be aware that movie making eats up memory, so be sure to have plenty of cards at the ready.
Snapping in RAW, rather than JPEG, gives you far more flexibility when it comes to editing your images. The downside is that RAW images need processing before you can print them. That makes RAW a favourite with professionals but certainly not something for everyone. If you always shoot RAW, or think it's something you'd like to explore, check the models you're considering have this feature.
If you're looking to upgrade your digital SLR it's important to ask whether the selection of lenses you currently own will be compatible with your new camera. Lenses are the most expensive part of a camera, so this is a really important point. However, you can always sell your lenses or negotiate a decent part exchange deal. The vital thing is to end up with the camera that's right for you. If your current memory cards and rechargeable batteries are compatible too that's great, if not they're cheap enough to replace without impacting on your pocket too much.
Finally, a few quick questions to think about to help you come away with the right choice. How do the various models compare on price, functions, size, weight, durability, and battery life. Which has the largest display screen? Instant appeal is important too. Which camera do you like the look of it and think has the most logical labelling and location of controls?