In the same way that traditional film cameras range from the very basic to the extraordinary complex, the same is true of digital cameras. If you haven’t purchased a one yet, then take the time to read through this article and do some research on different models prior to handing a fistful of money to your local retailer. The model that is right for you will depend upon your budget, how you plan to use the camera, and what you intend to do with the pictures you take. There’s no sense in being disappointed if your digital camera doesn’t do everything you need it to. Similarly, there’s no point to purchasing a high-end model that includes a hundred features you’ll never use. The money you’ll save is probably better spent on another vacation that a few extra buttons.
While the line between low- and high-end digital cameras is becoming more blurred as prices drop and features improve, most models fall into one of three categories:
Point-and-shoot digital cameras: These models, much like a low-end film camera, are the least expensive and generally the easiest to use. They typically are capable of taking good quality pictures, but tend to support only lower resolutions (impacting possible print sizes), lack optical zoom capabilities, and support fewer advanced features. For most casual users, a point-and-shoot model works just fine.
Mid-range digital cameras: These models tend to support much higher possible resolutions, include optical zoom capabilities, and provide a wide variety of higher-end features such as support for different file formats, photo effects, white balance settings, and so forth. If you’re a little more serious about your photography, a mid-range model will likely better meet your needs.
Digital SLR: At the top end of the digital camera food chain are digital SLR models. Very similar to a 35mm camera, these models can often exceed traditional film quality, and produce stunning photographs at very high resolutions. Other advantages include the ability to attach different lenses in a manner similar to a standard SLR. For semi-pro or professional photographers, a digital SLR is definitely the way to go. However, be prepared to have anywhere from a many hundreds to a couple of thousand dollars at your disposal if this is the route you intend to take.