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Digital camera buyer's guide

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When you see cameras advertised, usually the first thing you see is how many megapixels it has. More is better. When you see cameras advertised, usually the first thing you see is how many megapixels it has. More is better.

By Joe Craig, NEWS 9 Contributor

Digital cameras are what's hot right now. 

Whether or not you've already bought one, there are a few things you should know.

When you see cameras advertised, usually the first thing you see is how many megapixels it has. More is better.

The more pixels the more detail you'll have if you want to enlarge a picture or when you crop a picture. Cropping is when you select a portion of the picture, like a person's face, and delete everything else around it. But since you'll probably want more than a 1 X 2 inch picture you'll end up enlarging the picture of the face to probably 4 X 6 or more.

If all you plan on doing is using your digital camera like your old point-n-shoot film camera then print out standard 4 X 6 inch pictures without editing them, or posting the pictures online, a 1.3 to 3.1 megapixel camera is all you need.

Here's a quick guide. A 4 to 5 megapixel camera takes great pictures when printing up to a 5 X 7 picture and good prints up to 11 X 14. A 6 to 7 megapixel camera is great up to 8 X 10 and good to 16 X 20. An 8 meg camera is great also up to 8 X 10 and good up to 11 X 22. And a 10 meg camera is great up to 11 X 14 and good to 20 X 30.

More pixels also means larger file sizes to store the pictures. Since it is common today to buy at least a 1 gigabyte memory card, a gigabyte is 1-billion bytes of memory; let's look at how many pictures it can hold.

As a guide the memory card in a 5 meg camera will hold about 600 pictures. In a 6 meg 475 pictures and an 8 meg 315.  No question that's a lot no matter how you look at it, but think if you dumped all those pictures into your computer and kept adding and adding.

Well, computer hard drives do crash.  When that happens all your data, music and pictures are gone. For safety I recommend you transfer the files from your computer to a CD or DVD for long term storage. A DVD can hold over 5 and a half times more information than a CD.

What about other things to know like lenses, speed of storage, image stabilization, those funny icon markings on the camera? That's for another time.

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