Purchasing a Digital Camera:

Image Quality

Digital Camera

The best way to judge image quality is to search the web for footage shot from specific models of digital cameras. Of course the video may be compressed or otherwise not of the highest quality, but it's a starting point. Otherwise, you'll need to rely on the resolution, frames per second, and mega-pixel count for a very rough estimate of picture quality.

Video Resolution

Resolution is the number of dots, aka pixels, a camera can record. More dots means more details. Many digital cameras shoot standard definition (640x480 pixels), but some shoot in HD (720x1080 pixels). Older cameras may record 320x240 pixels.

Sound Quality

Don't count on high quality sound from a digital camera. Just get as close to your sound source as you can.

It is also possible to record audio with an external recorder and then sync the image and sound with editing software (clap when you start recording and then match the audio tracks). Beware that this adds a lot of time to your project and probably isn't practical in most cases.

Storage Space and Format

Memory CardsMost cameras come with a low-capacity memory card; you'll probably want to upgrade. Just check and make sure you get the proper format.

The amount of shooting time you can record to a given card varies from camera model to model, and also depends on resolution and compression settings on the camera.

Battery Life

Independent digital camera review sites are often a good source for finding realistic battery life estimates for digital cameras (manufacturers often report optimistically high operation time). If you plan on recording outdoors for extended periods, you might consider a spare battery.

Proprietary Batteries

batteriesMost cameras use proprietary rechargable batteries, while others operate on standard AA or AAA batteries. Proprietary batteries generally provide longer life, but they may require a recharging station and cost more to replace.

Frames Per Second (fps)

Frames per second is exactly what it sounds like -- the number of video frames captured in a second. Most digital cameras capture a standard 30fps, but some older models only do 15fps.

Short Recording Time

Certain older digital cameras can only record video for a short time (30-45 seconds) before they must stop and write the footage to memory. Others can record until the memory card fills up. Check for these limits before you want to capture something important.

Ergonomics and User Interface

Even if you buy online, we recommend checking out a few brands of digital cameras in stores. Hold a variety of models and brands to see which shape is most comfortable. Try putting it in your pocket or bag (to check the bulk, not to hijack it).

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