Shopping for a digital camera is daunting. Aside from the fact that there is such a huge variety to choose from, there is a surprising ~lack~ of knowledge on the part of the sales staff in the typical large electronics chains.

So to make it easy, I’ll break down the important features to look for, offer a couple tips for places to shop to get honest comparisons, and give you my personal recommendation based on my own experience.

The one thing that has not changed in the photography field is the adage “You get what you pay for.” There are many inexpensive cameras available these days, and they look very impressive, but take very poor pictures.

So how do you look past the fancy case and make sense of the seemingly endless stream of technical jargon? It is really not as difficult as it seems. There are a few important features to look for in a camera that will quickly allow you to size up the field.

RESOLUTION Camera resolution is specified in “megapixels,” and refers to the number of dots that make up an image. (A pixel is a single dot of color on a computer screen or printed image, and a “megapixel” literally means an array of 1 million tiny dots.) Obviously, the more pixels you have, the sharper and more detailed your photos will be. A 6 megapixel camera will have a resolution approximately of 2800 X 2200, for example.

If you compare picture resolution to the typical resolution of a computer screen, you might be wondering what the big fuss is. Why buy a camera that takes pictures at 2800 X 2200 if your screen resolution is only 800 X 600? The answer comes down to editing. Let’s say you are at the beach, and you see a toddler at the shoreline tossing crackers into the air to feed the seagulls. If you take that picture from, say 100 feet away, the boy and the birds are a very small part of the whole image.

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