Optical zoom is the zoom associated with traditional 35mm SLR cameras or film cameras. When you push your button to zoom in and out the mechanical lens components inside your camera move the lens for the required result.
Digital zoom is the computerized version operating without moving parts and using the Camera CCD.
There is a major difference in terms of quality. You can lose quality with digital zoom as the image becomes more pixilated - the dots making up the image become bigger.
Many digital cameras offer both optical and digital zoom features.
CCD stands for Charged Coupled Device.
This is a special type of sensor used in most digital cameras to convert light into electronic signals. When a picture is taken the CCD sensor converts the light coming through the camera lens into electrical charges which are then colourized, appearing as thousands or even millions of digital colour pixels.
CCDs are analog sensors but the process becomes digital when the electrons pass through an A to D converter which converts the analog signal to a digital file.
Pixels are the individual elements or colour dots that make up an image when processed by a digital camera's CCD. Numbers such as 1600 x 1200 refer to the pixel ratios or resolution of the image.
The smaller the pixels are and the greater they are in number then the better the image results. Hence the term Pixelization, which refers to a jagged appearance of pixels in an image when they are too big and too few.
With modern Digital Cameras pixels are normally measured in their millions as 'Megapixels'. So when printing it is best to choose the biggest number of Megapixels to obtain the best possible image results.
While high resolution is crucial for good physical prints a lower quality resolution is usually adequate for web publishing or for files sent via emails.
It is also important to realise that a higher quality image will produce a larger file size for storage purposes. Image storage cards have a fixed capacity which means the bigger and better quality images take up more space.
The quality of the lens on a digital camera is one of the crucial factors determining picture quality and camera price. The lens is used to capture the image.
Lenses tend to be fixed on pocket digital cameras and exchangeable on high end models. Research the lens quality of your camera before you buy.
The number of digital cameras on the market means it can be a bewildering experience choosing a new digital camera. Established makes like Nikon and Canon Digital Cameras have an excellent reputation but it is worth knowing that many newer manufacturers offer first-rate cameras too.Read our consumer reviews to help you make a choice about the various models available. You can also read our Editor's Summaries which provide an added overview of individual cameras. Review Centre also provides links to manufacturers and supplier sites which offer useful information.
The major issue you should consider before buying is what do you want your camera for? If you are looking for a simple camera which is easy to use, mainly for holiday snaps and portraits of family and friends, then lower priced models could be adequate. The more expensive cameras usually offer better picture quality and a wider range of advanced features.
Digital cameras drain batteries quickly so check battery life of products before you buy and what sort of rechargeable batteries and equipment is available. Newer cameras on the market tend to have longer battery life.
You should find the best deals online and Review Centre offers a great place to research this. High Street Shops can offer good deals too if you shop around.
Do you want something to stick in your pocket or something that is solid and has a handle to grip on? Today's cameras can be tiny but some are too small for large hands to operate effectively. Likewise, larger models may be impractical if are on the move. Try before you buy at your local store or with a friend's camera.
Many digital cameras now come with both a viewfinder and LCD screen which gives you good options to queue up your shot in different light conditions. The LCD screen allows previews and reviews of pictures as well as advanced feature menus. The size of the LCD screen is important - the bigger the better.
Most people use digital cameras in conjunction with a personal computer - to organize, edit and download digital images. Many cameras come with basic photo and editing software although there are also many advanced photo editing packages available. Photoshop packages are highly recommended. Computer access is not required with most modern digital cameras though as you can usually print pictures direct from the camera's memory card via a touch-screen at your high street store.