Choosing a Camera

I am often asked what digital camera do I recommend. I have a hard time answering that question because it depends what you want to do with your camera. What I want to do here is explain some of the factors I consider.

Size: Where are you going to take your camera? I have one camera I carry with me all the time in my pocket. So it has to be small. Women often carry purses so they can at times carry a larger camera. If you are using your camera around the house or some one else house then size doesn't matter. Also, it is important that it feels good in your hands. Can you easily reach all of the buttons? Can you hold it still? Etc.

Megapixels: This is very hard to understand. The first thing people refer to is a chart on what size image you can print from cameras of various megapixel sizes. Here are two references I found: (MP=Megapixel)

Image Size as it relates to Pixels
2 to 3 Megapixels - 5"x7" Print
3 to 4 Megapixels -8"x10" Print
5+ Megapixels -20"x30" Print
Source Best Buy
Image Size as it relates to Pixels
1 MP -4"x6" Print
2 MP -5"x7" Print
3 MP -8"x10" Print
4 MP -11"x14" Print
5 MP -12"x16" Print
6 MP -16"x20" Print
Connected Newsletter, April 2004
Using those charts your decision might be "Well, I never print an image larger than 8"x10" image. So I only need a 3 MP camera." I have heard sales people in computer stores tell people to make their choice based on that issue. I wish that was true.

You need to remember that no matter how many megapixels your camera has the image is 72 dots per inch (dpi) the difference is how big the image is not the resolution. Confused yet? Why this is important, is that when you have a large image and you reduce it size using a good photo editing program like Photoshop Elements, you can increase the dots per inch. For example, I reduce a 31" wide photo take with a 4 megapixel camera to an 8"x10" image. When I did that the dots per inch went up to 228 dpi. Why is that important?

Your computer screen only supports 72 dots per inch, so your image will look great on your computer screen. However, your dot matrix printer most likely supports 300 dpi or more. So when you print your image you want more dots per inch. A good laser printer will support 1000 dpi so the size becomes more important. My recommendation, get as many megapixels as you can afford.

Storage: The storage card you get with the camera or the price of additional cards is important to the value you are getting with the camera. Take a look at the chart below to see how large or many storage cards you will need. Remember, you may not be able to download your images while you are on vacation so you will want additional cards. Take a look at the chart below:
Number of Images your Memory Card will Hold
Card Size:
16 mb 32 mb 64 mb 128 mb 256 mb 512 mb 1 gb
3 Megapixels
4 Megapixels
5 Megapixels
6 Megapixels

If your camera comes with a 128 mb card you can get 51 images using a 5 megapixel camera. If your are using your camera on vacation this can be very important. I took three 128 cards with me for my four megapixel camera for a one week vacation. I really would have liked to have at least another 128 mbs.

Software: I don't put a lot of emphasis on the software that comes with the camera since I always use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to edit and organize my images.

If you don't have Photoshop Elements, the next best thing is Picassa. Picassa is a great free program from Google.


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These materials were created by Jim Wenzloff. You are welcome to reproduce them for educational purposes providing you include my name and the web address of the page. If you have any questions please contact