Digital Camera Buyers Guide

A digital camera is on the shopping or wish list of many this Christmas season. Here are some tips to help you along:

Digital Point & Shoot Camera. The digital point & shoot cameras on the market today are excellent. Look for a camera with a minimum of 3.2 mega piexel resolution. This will provide excellent 4x6 prints. More mega pixels give you more freedom to play with your pictures and make larger prints.

Memory card. You'll want at least one extra memory card. Youll want a memory card no smaller than 512MB, preferably 1GB. Make sure the memory card is the correct format (CompactFlash, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, or xD).

Card Reader. A card reader is the most convenient way to transfer images from a memory card to your computer. Most card readers connect to the computer via a USB port. I recently purchased a 5-in-1 card reader for about $30. 5-in-1 means it can read 5 different types of memory cards. Just make sure the card reader accepts the memory card format used by the camera. All digital cameras ship with a cord that connects the camera to a USB port on the computer. While that approach works, it tends to be a bit clunky.

Extra battery. An extra battery provides extended shooting and peace of mind. Consumer Reports' has battery life data for digital cameras on their web site. The newer Olympi digi-cams exhibit about 400 shots per charge. That number assumes the display screen is off and limited flash use. Shooting video will drain the battery faster, too. My experience is that a single charge should get you through most of Christmas day.

Prints from your digital files. Rarely do I have the time or patience anymore to produce prints on my photo-quality Epson printer. Services such as www.Ofoto.com, www.Shutterfly.com, or even Wal-Mart do an excellent job. You upload images to these services, order prints, and they land in your mail box within 3-5 days. Most Wal-Mart stores are now have a kiosk equipped with a digital card reader that allows you to order prints to be made right there on their one-hour mini-lab equipment.

Organizing photos on your computer. All new digi-cams include software. Some of it is excellent. Some leaves much to be desired. Adobe Album Starter Edition is an excellent (free) tool for organizing photos on your computer. acdsee 7 provides the extra organizational horsepower needed for my extensive photo library.

Archiving Digital Photos. Files stored on a computer's hard drive are vulnerable to catastrophe. Develop an archival habit. Burning image files onto CD is one inexpensive approach. An external hard drive is another, perhaps more convenient, way to archive your image files.

Most of all: Have Fun!

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