Ditch the sales pitch
You can't always depend on sales staff to help you to choose the right camera. Readers indicate that the quality of in-store help is all over the map. Indeed, when our reporter shopped at mass merchandisers, as many consumers do, a member of the sales staff told him that there was no difference between digital and optical zoom (optical is far more useful). Another could not explain the difference between mechanical, optical and simulated image stabilization (optical and mechanical are superior).
Also, despite the prevalence of 16-, 18- and 20-megapixel cameras, 10 megapixels is all the resolution most people need. But if you often crop or drastically enlarge your images, consider a higher megapixel camera. Higher resolution does not necessarily produce better prints, so do not let a saleswoman push a camera solely based on its megapixel count.
Shop by brand
Before diving into specific models, consider some characteristics by brand, culled from our years of digital-camera tests. For example, Fujifilm offers image sensors with proprietary technology that produce high image quality at high ISO settings. Canon, Nikon and Olympus offer full line-ups for every type of user. Samsung offers cameras with high styling and multimedia features. Panasonic uses image stabilizers and Leica lenses throughout its line. Sony often uses Zeiss lenses, a brand well known in the camera world.
Fits your grip
The smallest, lightest models are not necessarily inexpensive cameras, and the biggest and heaviest are not necessarily the best either. If possible, try the cameras at a store before you buy. Better still, borrow it from a friend or ask them to share experiences. If you need to shoot quick and quite often, see which one fits your hands best. In our tests, some of the smallest did not leave much room for fingers to operate the camera. Forgo the extended warranty Overall, digital cameras have been among the most reliable products in our subscriber surveys. About four per cent of those bought have been repaired or had a serious problem. Yet, in our latest survey, 60 per cent of camera buyers were pitched an extended warranty in stores, and 16 per cent of those bought one. We do not think it is worth paying for in case of cameras at least.