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Digital Camera Buyer's Guide 2008

Here's how to find a DSLR, point-and-shoot, or ultra-compact digital camera that's right for you, with a look at models from Nikon, Olympus, Sony, Canon, and FujiFilm.

Digital cameras area a great tool for capturing special memories. But the moment you decide you want to buy one of these devices, you step into a baffling world where terms like 'megapixel,' 'digital zoom,' and 'optical zoom' are tossed around. This guide will explain some of these terms and guide you toward a camera that fits your needs.

Nikon's Coolpix S600 incorporates a technology called D-lighting, which automatically brightens dark pictures or darkens pictures that are too bright.
(click for image gallery)

Getting to know what to look for in digital cameras and finding the best device to match your photographic intentions is not as difficult as you think. The best place to start is with an explanation of the three main classes of digital cameras: Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR), point-and-shoot, and ultra-compact. We'll look at what these cameras can do and give examples of each type of camera.

The Three Types Of Digital Cameras: DSLRs, Point-and-Shoot, Ultra Compact

If taking a great picture is your greatest concern and cost is barely an issue, DSLR cameras are the way to go. And as long as you don't mind lugging a slew of lenses and components around, you won't be upset with the quality of your image.

Digital single-lens reflex cameras come in a slew of shapes and sizes. And although they appeal to the advanced photographer who wants the greatest amount of control, they range in price from $500 to well over $10,000.

DSLRs are unique because their lenses can be removed and replaced depending on the type of pictures you want to take. Because of that (and to keep the price down), don't expect a lens to ship with the camera; you'll need to purchase one separately.

In order to take the picture, DSLRs use an automatic mirror system and a five-sided prism to direct light from the lens, through the viewfinder so you can see what you're shooting. Dubbed 'lens reflex', this method of capturing images requires users to look through the viewfinder in order to frame the shot, unlike ultra-compact cameras and some point-and-shoots, which require users to frame the shot with the LCD on the back. For more on How Digital Cameras Work, click here.

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