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Advice on buying a digital camera.

We often get asked for advice on buying a decent digital camera and have compiled the following information to assist you with selecting a camera. The following table highlights some important information that you should consider when buying a decent digital camera. Of course, you should also ask about the warranty and what software you get with the unit.

Be on the lookout for the following features when buying a camera:

CCDMegapixels. While every salesperson tries to sell you on megapixels, you have to remember that megapixels are a small component to consider when buying a good quality digital camera. We recommend that you do not get a camera with less than 6 megapixels.
MemoryWhen purchasing a camera, make sure you get at least 256 megabytes of memory, although bigger is better. Consider buying a 512 megabyte or even a 1 gigabyte memory module as digital photo's can take up a lot of storage space.
ZoomDo not even think about digital zoom, it uses algorithms that enhance the image as it is received via the OPTICAL zoom feature. You should not buy a camera with less than 3x optical zoom and you should buy the highest OPTICAL zoom (5x or higher) you can afford. Digital zoom levels are not important and you can get the same effect with good photo-editing software.
PeripheralsBatteries. You will need good quality rechargeable batteries and a reliable charger. Also, ensure that you have a decent carry-case or pouch to store your camera in. Finally, ensure that you get a USB cable with the camera to enable you to easily download your photographs to your computer.

Other factors to keep in mind is of course image stabilisation features. This can be very handy when you are travelling in a car (like for instance on a holiday in a national park) and want to take pictures. This is also an essential feature if you are planning to take pictures at sporting events at other activities. Some cameras have integrated flashes and special lights that reduce the "red eye" phenomenon and this should also be a consideration if you plan on often photographing people.

A critical factor often overlooked by South African's is the fact that many camera manufacturers do not offer repairs or service for certain models in South Africa. We often run into clients who have bought cameras overseas and have developed a technical problem with the camera and are unable to find suitable replacement parts locally. The cost of repairing these cameras often amount to almost the same price and the original purchase price! We urge customers to ensure that they obtain an international warranty on any digital camera that they purchase overseas.

The one essential feature we find is most often overlooked by first-time digital camera buyers is a tripod. Even if you are only remotely considering photography as a hobby we recommend that you at least buy a camera that has a standard tripod mounting point. This one feature can make an enormous difference to your photographs as it will enable you to create a perfectly stable platform anywhere you travel. There are several tripods on the market, but you should ideally look for something that is sturdy and light-weight so that you can easily carry it around.

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