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Last updated: Sept. 23, 2003


Choosing a Digital Camera

After test driving several digital cameras, the good news is that that prices have come down as quality has improved -- dramatically. I now shoot exclusively using the digital format, and haven't regretted it. Except for all the batteries that digital cameras need.

Things to "focus" on:

1. Resolution: Measures how much info a digital camera can record; expressed as pixels or mega pixels; the higher the better. The 5-megapixel cameras used to cost over a $1,500 in 2002, you can get some models for less than $500. If you are only going to be e-mailing your photos and using them on the Web, the a 3-megapixel camera should be enough. Basically, get the most megapixels you can afford.

2. Zoom: The range for various shots. The more zoom the better.

3. Fully automatic or is it dual use: Does the camera control everything, or can you also adjust aperture and shutter and other controls.

4. Storage capacity: One thing about shooting digitally that is different than the old way: you can almost always delete on the fly and constantly reshoot. You want to buy a card that allows you to store as many photos as possible. The more the megabytes - MB - the better.

Best place to comparison shop is from ( You can get different prices of the same model and check shipping charges, too.

Useful sites
CNET Editor's Choices

On a tight budget? See these bargains from CNET:
Less than $200:
Less than $100:

Digital Photo Review

Journalist Tom Karlo says, "It has the most in-depth reviews and benchmarks of any site I've found."

Excellent site for an international take on digital cameras

Digital Camera Resource Page:

Reviews and Prices: on digital cameras

NYT in-depth story on digital photography (free registration for required)
Interactive graphic:

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Here are three models in different price ranges (These are no longer the newest cameras. I am preparing an updated guide for the weeks ahead).

1. Nikon Coolpix 990
The camera I use every day. Time magazine's 2000 "Machine of the Year" (read the magazine's description).
If you have the money, get this. Fully automatic or full manual -- can't go wrong either way. I especially like its tilting viewfinder. prices: $704-900
Note: Nikon has since introduced the Coolpix 995 and the Coolpix 2500.

2. Olympus C-3030Z
Terrific camera. Shoots great, full control, and looks good, too. Amazing battery life, fully automatic, or fully manual. prices: $600-999

3. Olympus D-360L
Best camera for this price. Works well. prices: $222-312.

Camera we use at Columbia (has been replaced by the C-3030Z above)
Olympus C-2020Z or C-2000Z
We bought 10 for Columbia's Journalism School in January 2000 and were very happy with them. prices: $479-799 (March 2000 prices) $625-$899.

A recommendation from journalist Tom Karlo <>:
I've been using a Canon Digital Elph S100. It's probably the smallest 2+ megapix camera out there. It loses on flash power (they all do in my view) but for a camera that can be carried all the time, there's no beating it - it's about the size of a deck of cards.