Your Guide to Buying a Digital Camera for a Present

Samsung NX Mini Compact System Camera - £269.95

Samsung NX Mini Compact System Camera – £269.95

Buying a digital camera as a gift is a great idea and one that won’t break the bank, but where do you start? There are so many options, different price ranges and certainly distinct levels of expertise. And are you even sure your recipient would prefer a digital camera as opposed to an analogue?

With our comprehensive guide, we take you back to basics to sure that you are confident in picking the right digital camera.

What is a digital camera?

Old analogue cameras process pictures onto film stored inside the device. Digital cameras do this by storing them as thousands of pixels onto a light-sensitive chip in the camera’s memory. These are known as JPEG’s and you can view them, edit them or transfer them onto another device at any time.

What kinds of digital cameras are there?

There are varying degrees of digital camera on the market.

Nikon Coolpix S32 Waterproof Digital Camera - £79.95

Nikon Coolpix S32 Waterproof Digital Camera – £79.95

The Digital Compact is ideal for personal use or for first time users. These types are easy to operate, are typically good value and have a high megapixel range.

The Super Zoom is a digital camera that features an extended optical zoom lens, usually x10 or the equivalent, that can capture images from a distance. Or they have a powerful digital zoom lens, usually x8, that can enhance the details of images during editing.

Nikon D5200 Digital SLR Camera - £330.00

Nikon D5200 Digital SLR Camera – £330.00

DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) Cameras are typically used by professionals, thanks to their high megapixel count or their powerful zooms. DSLR’s usually have extra features that make them ideal for professional photo shoots and media coverage.

Bridge Cameras are larger than compacts and DSLR’s but in terms of features sit nicely between the two. The bigger devices allows for more features, such as higher megapixel counts and greater zoom ranges. But they only have one single integrated lens.

Samsung WB2200F Bridge Camera - £249.95

Samsung WB2200F Bridge Camera – £249.95

What to look out for

Technical speak can confuse you but there are a few main points to understand when buying a digital camera.

Memory and memory cards

When I bought my first digital camera the memory card that came with it only allowed for 16 shots, not nearly enough. You should be looking at number of pixels vs. amount of data storage, so for example, a 5 megapixel camera with 64MB of memory can hold about 24 high resolution JPEG images. If you want a higher pixel count, say 8 megapixels you’ll need an extra 1GB of additional storage that you’ll get from an extra memory card.

Resolution (mega-pixels)

The more mega-pixels the better your pictures will be. This is because there will be more detail when you enlarge them, so aim for a camera that has at least 12 mega-pixels.

LCD screen / viewfinder

For many people the viewfinder at the back is one of the most important elements, as it enables them to check the shot before taking it. Be careful though, at large screens tend to quickly drain the life of the batteries.


Speaking of which, my first digital camera again used two AA batteries that drained within half an hour of using them. These days it’s far better to go for a camera that uses lithium batteries that can be recharged with a mains charger.

Special features

Depending on the prowess of the person you are buying for, here are few optional extras that most digital cameras feature these days:

Optical zoom is a great tool for would-be amateur photographers. And combined with a digital zoom, you can take more detailed pictures of distant objects.
If you have a shaky hand then image stabilisation is a must, especially if the light is poor or if you don’t have a tripod.
Remote control allows you to be in the picture yourself so it’s great for group shots and also in low light conditions.
Panoramic mode is where you take sweeping landscape pictures of the surrounding scenery and has definitely caught the attention of camera fans, so make sure it’s a feature.

Of course there are many other features and options available but we hope we’ve given you some guidance when it comes to buying a digital camera.

All cameras featured are available at John Lewis.

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