It's hard to keep track of all the digital cameras and high-tech features out on the market, but according to experts, shoppers should be wary of all the bells and whistles offered with new devices that don't actually enhance the quality of the photographs.
Tom Cavalieri, a student adviser at the New York Institute of Photography who works with aspiring photographers, believes digital cameras often include fancy-sounding features at higher prices that aren't essential for taking great pictures.
"There are tons of high-quality models out there that aren't too expensive, so people shouldn't fall into traps of paying more for features they don't need," he said.
For example, Cavalieri said selecting a device that has the ability to take very high-resolution images isn't as important as one would think.
"If you can save a couple of dollars deciding between a 10-megapixel camera and a 18-megapixel cheaper, go for the cheaper one," Cavalieri said. "You don’t need 24 megapixels to take decent pictures, especially when so many images today are just being viewed online."
High definition video capabilities are also making its way onto more digital cameras: “If all you want to do is take pictures, you don't need a built-in microphone and video technology that will just add more dollars to the overall bill."
As for picking the best one to fit your needs, Cavalieri advises avid travelers to seek out digital cameras that take batteries instead of those that rely on a plug-in charger.
"The last thing you want to worry about when traveling is finding a place to recharge your camera," he said. "You can buy batteries almost anywhere or pack more ahead of time, so you never have to wait on your camera to be ready to go."
Although the Internet is a key tool for researching and finding information about digital cameras, Cavalieri also suggests shoppers go into retail stores and test out different devices before making a purchase.
"Some digital cameras are heavier than people think and if it's not comfortable and easy to hold, they might not get used," Cavalieri said.
Camera expert Ken Rockwell, who runs the photography tip site KenRockwell.com, also encourages people to get their hands on digital cameras to make sure they can find all of the features.
"Lenses, zoom rates and resolution are basically all the same, but if you can’t figure out where all of the features are, you'll miss capturing what your kid is doing or what funny thing is happening at a party,' Rockwell told TechNewsDaily.
Rockwell also said that compact digital cameras have reached a mature state over the years and haven’t actually gotten better.
"If you already have a digital camera, you most likely don’t need another one to take better pictures,” Rockwell said, adding that it's more about being a good photographer than having a high-quality expensive camera. "A pianist will be able to play a toy piano much better than someone with limited piano experience playing on a top-quality piano model.
Rockwell believes that digital cameras are expected to slow in the next five to ten years, as more people reach into their pockets for cellphone cameras to take pictures.
"In most cases, cellphone cameras are just as good as compact digital cameras you would buy at the store," he said. "The iPhone has a very strong built-in camera, and coupled with apps that help you edit and fine-tune colors, you may not even need to buy a new camera."
There are a few ways to optimize an iPhone to take better pictures, Rockwell said. For example, when taking a picture of someone’s face, tapping the device’s screen showing that area will tell the camera which part of the picture is the most important and what you want to see in detail.
Meanwhile, before taking a picture on the iPhone, users can also tap a button on the bottom of the screen to adjust the brightness level. However, one drawback to cellphone cameras is that they don’t take pictures very quickly.
"If you are trying to capture something such as a sporting event in real-time, it will be difficult on a cellphone," Rockwell said. "But missing the shot also happens at times on compact cameras. Most people don’t realize you have to push the camera button halfway down at first to preset it for exposure, focus and other key reasons."
Pushing down the button again a few seconds later will ensure that it will go off in time to get the shot you want, Rockwell said.
The bottom line: "It doesn't matter if you are using a camera that costs thousands of dollars,” Rockwell said. "If you aren't using your camera right and are a bad photographer, you will just keep taking bad photographs."