Shooting for a good deal

Digital cameras fun gift, hard to shop for

With just 16 days left for Christmas shopping, customers are in stores looking for the perfect gifts.

Digital cameras are a popular item for adults looking to capture memorable moments, said Melissa Jones, electronics lead at Kmart.

"I wouldn't say it's the hottest item, but it's pretty close," she said. "Everybody's switching; 35-millimeter cameras are going out of style."

But knowing what to look for and what camera to buy can be overwhelming. Professional photographers suggest evaluating what the user's needs are and finding the best camera for the money.

One consumer may wish to simply save memories of their children while others may be looking for a camera suitable for poster-size action shots.

Kirk Libbee, owner of Quality Plus One Hour Photo, has a few general suggestions for camera shoppers.

Mega-pixels are the dots that make up a digital image. Having a larger number equals a sharper picture.

"You want to have at least 4.5 mega-pixels or else you come in to make an 8-by-10 or 8-by-12 (print), and it won't do it," Libbee said.

There is no sure way to know which brand to buy either, he said. Usually, buyers should stick to names they recognize.

"Everybody's coming out with a digital camera," he said.

Prices can range from $125 to as much as a shooter is willing to spend on the camera and accessories.

"Most of the time you get what you pay for," Libbee said. "You can pick up a really good camera between $500 and $700."

Many cameras require memory cards, as well. So buyers should beware of hidden costs.

Don't pay attention to digital zoom because that kind of zoom reduces photo quality, Libbee said. Optical zoom is an important feature to watch for because the lens is doing the magnifying.

Jones said Kodak Easy Share cameras bundled with a simple printer dock are popular now.

Such packages make getting prints easy to do at home.

"Computer-savvy people, there's not that many out there," Jones said.

There are many Web sites that provide helpful tips when shopping for digital cameras. To search for particular features and price ranges, visit www.dpreview.com.

Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or mperry@craigdailypress.com.

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