Your next digital camera

Last year my mom bit the bullet and finally bought a digital camera, which is always a good sign that a technology has officially become unavoidable. She doesn’t have a cell phone, computer, and only recently got a DVD player — actually a loan from my grandmother, who in turn gave it to my mom so she could watch my wedding disk.

She is finally planning to upgrade from her 1991 Jetta and is looking at next year’s VW Rabbit, but asked me whether I thought it would be possible to put her old stereo — complete with tape deck — in her new car “because the sound is so good.” (It’s not.)

I patiently explained to her that the sound quality would likely be a lot better in her new vehicle with 10 speakers to enjoy instead of four old ones, CDs instead of 15-year-old tapes, and are you serious? I can imagine the reaction at the VW dealership if she didn’t bring this up with me first.

But getting back to the cameras.

Digital cameras have come a long way in a short time, as performance has been arcing steadily upward while prices have been dropping. It has also become a diverse industry, making it confusing at the best of times to buy a camera.

There are a handful of features that I always look for. One is the ability to use AA batteries, which means I can use my rechargeables most of the time, but can also buy batteries in an emergency.

Another key feature is a viewfinder, preferably one that lets me see through a lens rather than a screen on the back. That’s because screens are impossible to see on bright days, and don’t keep up to moving subjects very well. They also suck up a lot of battery power, so with a viewfinder I can turn the display off and only use the screen to review photos.

Another feature I don’t think I could do without is the image stabilizer, which compensates for shaky hands, or taking pictures on the move.

I’m also partial to cameras that have a dial that easily lets you choose between different shooting modes without calling up a screen and pressing a lot of buttons.

As for the technology of the camera, there are a few things everyone should know.


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