Which features do you really need?
Which features do you really need depends on what do you really need a digital camera for? You may need the digital camera for a variety for reasons, but you may want only a few specified features. You may be casually interested in buying any camera or you may be serious about digital camera technology and would like to exploit it for professional gains.
The Snapshot digital camera user
Like most consumers, you want a digital camera that will enable you to take digital camera photos, which you can print easily on an inexpensive, inkjet printer and email them to friends and family. You may also like to post them on the web.
Appropriate features of a digital camera for the snapshot user:
For you the appropriate features would constitute in buying a camera with a resolution of 4 megapixels or greater. The price would be somewhere between $150 to $300. A zoom lens would be appreciated. You can have a storage media consisting of an internal memory, CompactFlash/ Memory Stick/ xD-Picture Card/ Secure Digital Multimedia Card. You can save your pictures in the JPEG format. The interfaces would be USB, NTSC/PAL television connection. In case you do not know much about lighting and exposure, you should have automatic exposure controls, programmed scene modes, exposure compensation. For getting the digital camera photos in the correct focus, the best would be automatic focus controls. Similarly, the flash modes would be automatic. There would be automatic fill-in flash for areas where there is less light, and automatic red-eye reduction in portrait snapshots. The supporting software would be a digital camera photo album, and a slide show. You could also take short video-clip recordings with sound. If you want to bypass the printer, then you should look for direct-to-printer (PictBridge) output compatibility.
The Professional digital camera user
You want to have a digital camera that will allow you to shoot professional looking stills. You would like to use creative effects, use different kinds of filters when shooting and manipulating images. You want professional-level control over your images and usually would like to output images that are large on a high-end photo printer. You use accessories that enhance the images, like a tripod to avoid camera shakes, a lens hood to minimize flare, and digital image editing software. You would like to manipulate the images yourself and hence would like to save them in such a format where the camera does not do any automatic compression.
Appropriate features of a digital camera for the professional user:
The appropriate features to look for in a digital camera to suit your purposes would be a digital SLR camera with a resolution of 10 megapixels or greater. The price would be somewhere between $2300 to $2500. You would definitely require an optical sensor type of CCD, light sensitivity ISO 100-1600, maximum shutter speed 1/8000 second and a minimum shutter speed of 30 seconds. An X-sync speed of 1/250 seconds. You would need exposure metering Spot, Center-weighted, 3D color matrix II, with exposure modes of bulb, manual, automatic, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and I-TTL program flash. Your digital SLR should have exposure compensation, auto exposure bracketing, white balance, status LCD displaying information about program, aperture, flash mode, frame counter, metering mode, photo quality, shutter speed, autofocus, self-timer, photo remaining, exposure compensation, remote control indicator, white balance indicators, continuous shooting speed 5 frames per second and have full color support. Saving the images in formats like JPEG, RAW, RAW+JPEG, and TIFF, if supported. Zoom lens should have a focal length of 18mm to 200mm. Optical and digital focus with vibration reduction. Storage would be supported flash memory Microdrive, CompactFlash. Video features should include AE lock, AF lock, FE lock, GPS ready, Wi-Fi ready, DPOF support, Direct print, Auto power save, Histogram display, PictBridge support, USB 2.0 compatibility, Digital image rotation, Text input to Exif header, Display brightness control, Camera orientation detection, and Depth-of-field preview button. The viewfinder should be optical, display should be LCD, TFT active matrix of 2.5 inches, color, and should be built-in. You would need a tripod, USB cables, video cables, and accessories like eyecup, body cap, carrying strap, eyepiece cover, LCD display cover and external battery charger.