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What to Look for in a Digital Camera

Choose the device with the right features — and price — for you.

woman taking picture with digital camera

— Corbis

Image stabilization

Image stabilization prevents photos from appearing blurry as a result of shaky hands. Blurred photos occur more often when snapping images at slow shutter speeds or when zooming in from afar using a telephoto lens.

Without getting into too much technojargon, a camera with integrated image stabilization works to sharpen your photos by using a hardware solution ("optical image stabilization," which is implemented in the lens or body itself) or a software solution ("digital image stabilization").  If this feature is important to you, the hardware/optical image stabilization is more effective than the other.

Face detection and other nice-to-haves

Many new digital cameras offer "face detection" technology. As the name suggests, these cameras have a built-in algorithm that detects faces in a scene (by looking for a typical facial composition, such as two eyes, a nose and a mouth) and automatically adjusts the focus and lighting to these images as the priority. Some cameras can detect up to eight or 10 different faces in one scene.

This means no more out-of-focus portraits!

A few new cameras also have a "smile shutter" option that won't take the picture unless the subject is smiling. Features like this are easily disabled if you’re interested in candid shots.

The latest cameras also offer an "auto scene" option, which automatically detects the kind of shot you're taking — such as a night or close-up ("macro") shot — and chooses the right mode for you.

HD video recording

Why can't you have your cake and eat it, too?

Most new digital cameras also let you shoot video, as well. After all, an infant's first steps or a child's laughter is more powerful as a moving picture than a still one.

And, thankfully, the prices of digital memory — the postage stamp-sized cards that snap into the camera — are getting cheaper all the time, while capacity is on the rise.

Some dSLR models shoot 1080p-quality video, which looks outstanding when played back on a compatible high-definition television. And with the "Live View" LCD screen on many new dSLRs, you can see the video you're shooting in real-time on the back of the camera (and in many cases, tilt it to get the perfect view), instead of having to peer through the viewfinder.

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