Digital Cameras Buying Guide - Best Buy Canada

April 02, 2012

Digital Cameras Buying Guide

A picture speaks volumes about a moment in your life, so you’ll want to make sure you have the right digital camera to capture all your memories. Today’s cameras are portable, compact, and ready to go whenever you are.

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Digital cameras not only capture moments, but they can make them look better, too. Today’s cameras have tons of great features, shooting modes, and smart technology that can enhance your pictures even before you hit the shutter button. Some models even let you record Full HD video with stereo sound, so you can preserve every detail of your epic vacation.

One way to determine the perfect digital camera for you is to head to your nearest Best Buy and test out as many as you can. To help narrow your search, take a moment to consider what type of camera suits your needs and the features you want to go along with it.

Types of Digital Cameras

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Point and Shoot

Point and shoots are lightweight and very easy to use. These cameras have shooting modes that automatically choose the right settings, like how much light you’ll need for a clear picture, to help you get the perfect shot. They’re so simple that everyone from children to your grandparents can have fun with them.

Some models even have creative modes that let you experiment with your photos, like a Fisheye setting for a fishbowl perspective on the world. Point and shoots come in a range of price points from low to high that will fit any budget.

Ideal for: Everyday use.

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Ultra Zoom

The ultra zoom has many of the same features as a point and shoot, but the major difference is in the lens. An ultra zoom camera lens physically moves forward whenever you hit the zoom button, magnifying the subject you want to take a picture of. Known as optical zoom, it’s found in most digital cameras with ultra zooms usually having 10x optical zoom and up.

The higher your optical zoom, the more you can zoom into something and still produce razor sharp, high resolution pictures. So, even if you’re standing at the back row of a concert, your crisp, up-close pictures will fool your friends into believing you were only a few feet away from the stage.

Ideal for: Everyday occasions and getting ultra crisp shots of faraway subjects.

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Advanced Compact

Advanced compact cameras were made for those looking to get serious about photography, but aren’t quite ready to upgrade to a more sophisticated and higher priced DLSR camera. Advanced compacts feature more manual controls than a point and shoot, which allow you to choose the settings you want to use for more creative control of your photos.

The lenses of advanced compacts also tend to be better than those of other digital cameras, giving you better image quality and range. And despite being packed with so many cool features, these cameras are still relatively lightweight and easy to use.

Ideal for: More creative and advanced photography.

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Waterproof and Outdoor cameras

For those with an adventurous spirit, a rugged waterproof and outdoor camera could be just what you’re looking for. Designed to capture images both above and under water, these cameras are built tough so they can also handle a few bumps, drops, and scratches. In addition to being waterproof and shockproof, some of these models are also freezeproof and continue working even in below zero temperatures.

And what about image quality? Waterproof and outdoor cameras can produce stunning, high resolution images as clear and finely detailed as point and shoots can. There are even special goggles with built-in digital cameras so divers can easily take breathtaking underwater shots.

Ideal for: Underwater, adventure, and outdoor photography.



Digital pictures are made up of thousands of tiny square picture elements called pixels. A megapixel (MP) is equivalent to one million pixels, so if your digital camera can shoot 8MP, it will produce pictures made up of 8 million pixels. This means that you can print large-sized photos up to 16” wide by 20”tall without the image turning out blocky or “pixelated.”


However, don’t rush out and buy the digital camera with the highest number of megapixels. Getting sharp, non-pixelated prints of your photos also depends on the resolution of your image. Picture resolution is measured by the number of pixels per inch in an image. The more pixels there are per inch, the more finely detailed your picture will be, preserving image quality when you enlarge the photo.

As shown by the chart below, even with a camera that shoots 3MP, you’ll still get high resolution 5 x 7 prints – one of the most commonly used print sizes. So before you make a purchase, be sure to look at all the other great features a digital camera can offer in addition to a high megapixel count.

Megapixels Max Print Size Picture Resolution
12.1MP 60 x 40" 4256 X 2848
13.5MP 62 x 42" 4500 X 3000
16.6MP 72 x 48" 4992 X 3228

CCD Sensor vs. CMOS Sensor

Every digital camera has an image sensor that captures light and converts it into electronic signals that form your digital photo. There are two types of sensors found in digital cameras: CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) sensors and CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) sensors.

Both sensors perform the same functions and produce great image quality, but there are a few slight differences that could make you side with one or the other. A CMOS sensor is larger so its surface can capture more light than a CCD sensor. This means that CMOS can take better pictures in low lighting environments. On the other hand, CCD sensors produce clearer images with little to no noise showing up in your photos.

CMOS also provides higher continuous frame rates, so you can take more pictures per second at the big soccer match, giving you a better chance of getting the shot of the winning goal.


GPS and Geotagging

Remember what street that funky building in your photo was taken at? No? Well, thankfully there are digital cameras with built-in GPS capabilities. These cameras use a process called geotagging to record the coordinates (like longitude and latitude) of where your photos were taken. It’s especially handy if you enjoy travelling or hiking.


Wi-Fi Capabilities

Wi-Fi enabled cameras give you the freedom to wirelessly transfer your photos and videos to your computer or favourite online site. These cameras give you unlimited storage space, since you can upload your photos whenever you’re near a Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s especially great when you’re on vacation and don’t have a lot of storage space on your memory card or want to ensure that you won’t lose your photos and videos before the end of the trip.


Face Detection

Face Detection recognizes the shape of a face and automatically adjusts the camera’s focus and exposure to get the best settings for that shot. Some digital cameras even feature Smile Detection and/or Blink Detection settings, which only allow the camera to take a picture when the subject is smiling or not blinking.

LCD Screen

An LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, is a small, full-colour screen built into the back of a digital camera. It displays the scene that you’re about to take a picture of, acts as your menu screen, and is where you can review your photos almost immediately after shooting them. Other things to note about LCDs:

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Touch Screen

Touch screens are usually as large as the entire backside of a camera, leaving hardly any room for buttons. Instead the menu icons and controls are accessed on the screen using a tap or swipe of your finger. Of course, this also means that you should avoid digging into a basket of greasy fries before touching the screen or at least keep a microfibre cleaning cloth handy!

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The picture on your LCD screen is made up of thousands of pixels or dots. The more dots your screen can display, the easier it will be to compose your photo because your image will be in higher definition and show finer detail. A high resolution LCD is important in advanced compact and ultra zoom cameras since they can provide better accuracy and picture detail when zooming in.

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Screen Size

Screen size can vary between 1.5” to 3” and larger. The larger the screen size, the easier it will be to compose and view your shots.

Video Recording

Sometimes a picture can’t say the thousand words you want it to, which is why it’s great that virtually all digital cameras have video recording capabilities. As with taking photos, you often have a number of shooting modes, formats, and video qualities you can choose from to shoot the perfect home movie. Most cameras are also capable of taking lifelike HD 720p or Full HD 1080p videos with crystal clear audio recording.

The difference between 720p and 1080p is most obvious when you put your video up on an HD TV or monitor. Put your 720p video on, sit close to the screen, and you’ll notice some noise and colour saturation. Do the same thing with your 1080p video and it will be much harder to see any flaws as the image quality should be razor sharp and bright.

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Some digital cameras use 3D technology to produce a three-dimensional effect in your photos. These cameras use two built-in lenses that capture realistic images you can almost put your finger on.

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Memory Cards

The most common way to save your pictures on a digital camera is by using a memory card. These small cards act like portable hard drives, allowing you to store digital files and transfer them to other devices, like your computer or HDTV. Keep in mind that there are a lot of different memory cards available, such as SDHC, memory stick, compact flash, and xD, but only certain formats will be compatible with your digital camera.

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If you don’t regularly upload your photos to your computer, there are memory cards with built-in Wi-Fi, such as Eye-fi, that can wirelessly transfer photos for you. Like Wi-Fi cameras, these memory cards essentially give you unlimited storage space. Simply turn on your camera when you’re near a Wi-Fi hotspot and the card will automatically upload your photos to your computer or favourite online site.

So, how much storage space could you need? The chart below shows how many photos and videos you can fit into different storage capacities. These numbers are approximations only and will vary across memory card brands:

SDHC Photo Video
Card Capacity 12MP 6 Mbps HD Extended 9 Mbps HD Standard 13 Mbps HD High
4GB 677 90 min. 60 min. 42 min.
8GB 1354 180 min. 120 min. 83 min.
16GB 2708 361 min. 240 min. 166 min.
32GB 5416 542 min. 362 min. 251 min.

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Tripods screw onto the base of your digital camera to help steady your shots and eliminate the blurriness caused by camera shakes. Tripods come in all shapes and sizes to suit your needs.

There are tripods that are small enough to toss into your backpack or so large that you need two hands to carry them. There are lightweight monopods, or one-legged “tripods”, that are ideal for when you have little space and time to get a shot, such as with action or sports photography. There are even tripods with flexible legs that you can wrap around virtually anything to give you interesting perspectives on the world.

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A camera bag not only protects your digital camera from scratches, accidental bumps, and wet weather, but it’s also a convenient way to travel around with your camera. Look for a bag or case, which fits more snugly around your camera, with a handle or wrist strap for easy and secure carrying. Some cases and bags even have storage space for a spare battery and/or memory cards.

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Cleaning Kits

When it’s time for arts and crafts with your kids, you’ll likely want pictures to capture all the fun – even if you’ve got paint-covered fingers. A digital camera cleaning kit will have all the tools you need to keep your digital camera clean and paint-free. These kits usually consist of microfibre cloths for wiping the lens and camera surface, a cleaning solution to wipe off especially stubborn stains, and/or a soft bristle brush for gently removing large particles of dust and dirt.

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Take the Next Step

Check out Best Buy’s huge selection of digital cameras and digital camera accessories for all your needs. Whether you’re an everyday snapshooter or a serious photographer, Best Buy has the point and shoot, ultra zoom, advanced compact, and waterproof and outdoor digital cameras for every budget and skill level.

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