Travel Pictures – Need a Digital Camera

 It is so easy to forget things you just saw while traveling; let alone two, three…years from now! With pictures you will be able to relive the moment more accurately and fondly. To get those pictures you need to have a good digital camera. Here are tips to buy your digital camera.

Camera Shopping can be Overwhelming

It is so easy to forget things you just saw while traveling; let alone two, three…years from now! With pictures you will be able to relive the moment more accurately and fondly. To get those pictures you need to have a good digital camera.

Don’t start off by just walking into a store and looking at all the cameras – it will be very overwhelming! Do some research before you go shopping.  A website we have used for over ten years that has been very helpful in selecting cameras is Steve’s Digicams. They say they are “the Consumer’s best source of digital camera information and news.” Its a good place to start.



Things to think about are the brand (Cannon, Nikon,..), size of the camera, price, warranty, zoom, and picture size (mega pixels) and quality. When you become a more advanced photographer, you might be interested in cameras that come with interchangeable lenses commonly called DSLR’s. But for today let’s stay with what are commonly known as point and shoot cameras.

Things to take into consideration when selecting a camera


This is the top of driveway, I added a little white arrow hard to see it is so far away) pointing to the koi (fish) on the door.

For the zoom you will hear things like 3x, 5x, 10x… this denotes the focal length ratio of a zoom lens. The higher the number here, the more you can zoom in, to get a shot of something far away. This is important if you can’t get close to what you want to take a picture of or if you just want to get an up-close and personal shot. Bottom line is, the higher the number the more zoom you will have.

There are two types of zooms that you will hear about – optical and digital. Here are the technical definitions –

    •  Digital Zoom – A digital magnification of the center 50% of an image. Digital zooms by nature generate less than sharp images because the new “zoomed” image has been interpolated. 

This is the garage door – taken from standing at the top of the driveway. Pretty impressive zoom!

  •   Optical Zoom – Means that the camera has a real multi-focal length lens and is adjusting the light that comes into the camera, to maintain a high quality image as you zoom in and out.

The optical zoom rating is the important number to look at. I know that many people actually turn off the digital zoom, since using the optical zoom will give you more “picture information” than a digital zoom image. We will talk more about this in a future blog.

The digital zoom is nice to see how close you can really get, but then you most likely will want to zoom back out to the maximum range of the optical zoom. (There is a bar on your camera screen that will show you where you are in terms of the zoom.)

Picture Quality

When you are talking about picture quality, this is where “pixel” size is important. For most people cameras with the “mega pixel” size of 4 or 5 meg is all you need. Today even some cell-phones have 8 or more. My new camera has 12.1 Mega Pixels. If you think you might want to have a photo printed and framed in a large picture frame to showcase in your home then you want to get a higher mega pixel camera.

One important tip– Always shoot your photos at the largest size possible. It is easy to reduce the size of a picture later, but increasing the size is not recommended and/or easy, and almost always results in lost quality.

Remember the day when cameras had film? With film you never knew how the picture would turn out till you got them back from a film lab, and oh my, they were not always as good as you wanted them. Take the time to learn how to study the pictures you just took with your camera. It is just a push of a button. On my camera you don’t even have to have the camera on to look at the pictures. Just to the right of the cameras screen, there is a little blue box with a little blue arrow, you press that and your pictures are ready to be reviewed. (Varies by camera.)

Always check your photos before you turn off your camera. If you are taking a picture of something really important the last thing you want to do is get home and see that it did not turn out. We like to take family group pictures with scenic backgrounds, like at the capital building in Washington, DC, or the World Trade Center Memorial in New York City. These are important to us, so we make sure they look good before we move on.

When you are at the store, be sure to pick up the camera and feel what it is like to hold it in your hand. Do the controls feel sturdy and does it look easy to use? (Relatively speaking!) If you are not sure about which camera you want, ask the salesperson working in the digital camera department what he would recommend and why. Remember to also look at the accessories to go with your camera.


  • Memory Card or for some cameras a Memory Stick – The camera stores (saves) the images (pictures) you take on what is called a Memory card – someone may call it a disk – same thing. Memory cards come in several sizes. Since you want to take your pictures at a high resolution you will want a larger card size. I have a 4 GB card, but my husband who likes to take lots of movies has a 32 GB card. A 2 to 4 GB card should be plenty of storage for most people, and it doesn’t hurt to have a spare.
  • Camera Pouch – A must have. You don’t want to drop your camera or let it be scratched up riding around in a purse or…. For the guys (gals can too) many pouches have a belt loop, so they can strap it on and be hands-free. I like to get a little bigger pouch, so I have room to store extra batteries and just in case an extra memory card.
  • Extra Battery – Remember Murphy’s Law? Well just when you go to take that really awesome picture your camera turns off because the battery just died. Don’t let that happen to you, I think it is worth it to get an extra backup battery. This is something you can buy later if you are on a budget.
  • Battery Pack Charger – Your camera will come with either a rechargeable battery pack, or use disposable batteries. Most with rechargeable batteries will include a charger as well. Something new we just got is a charger that plugs into your car, like a cell phone charger. It even came with a European plug adaptor – why I don’t know but pretty cool to have.
  • Card Reader – A reader is optional, but I take a lot of pictures and it is very handy to have. It makes transferring the pictures to any computer with a USB connector easy. And I like easy.
  • Tri-pod – Many shots can be improved with the use of a tri-pod. We like to have a tri-pod along because there is no guarantee that someone will be available to take a group picture. Also the person who normally is the “picture taker” needs to be in some of your pictures. This happened to my husband. He has been the designated picture taker for years and is not in very many of our older photos like he SHOULD have! We have changed this, but we had to do it on purpose. When selecting a tripod, most every style will work with your camera – from full-size to mini’s.

Sample small tri-pods.

Most digital cameras now take high quality movie clips. If you want to shoot movies, be sure to get a larger Memory Card. Movie clips can be a great addition to your vacation memories. Last time we where in London we recorded the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. It has proven to be a great movie to watch again, to experience what it was really like to be there.

On Steve’s Digicams website they have a lot of great articles you may want to read. They even have an article titled “Best Cameras for Grandparents,” and “Best Cameras for Teenagers.” If you end up taking pictures with your iPhone, they have an article on “How to Upload iPhone Photos to Facebook.”

When taking pictures be sure the camera is set at a higher mega pixel setting, not the lowest setting. Pictures will take up more room on the memory card at the higher setting, so don’t skimp on a small memory card. For just a few dollars more you can take lots and lots of large high quality photos. Its best to error by getting a card that is too big instead of not enough.

If budget is important, be sure to anticipate the accessories you will want and include it in your total budget – then be sure to stick too it. When you are standing in the store there will be many upgrades and accessories that will tempt you. This is another reason to do your research before you run off to a store to buy your new camera.

Buy your camera in time to play with it; practice taking pictures, close-up, far away, bright sunshine, indoor low light… Figure out the basics. I just learned that my camera has a “discrete mode” – so it doesn’t make any sounds and the flash will not go off when you take a picture. This is handy when you don’t want to interrupt the action, or you are in a quiet place like a museum or library.

Digital cameras have improved a lot, so be sure to have the camera and accessories you need for your next trip.
The number one thing to remember – be sure the memory card is in the camera! Happy shooting.

Thank you to Best Buy for permission to take pictures in their store. We did buy our camera there with an extended warranty.

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