It wasn't long ago that digital cameras were essentially for the rich and the geeks; if you spent just a few bucks you didn't get anything worth having, and if you really wanted something good.. well, you'd better be in the book about the Rich and Famous.
Technology and costs have changed drastically in the last few years, and it seems as if today that digital cameras nearly outnumber all the classic film cameras, and to all but the classic photography buffs, digital is the way to go.
Even traditional photography studios use digital, often in combination, with film.
Why? What's the attraction? Instant availability and the ability to discard unwanted photos without cost penalty is one main attraction. The second is the ability to share, publish, store your pictures.
The purist will still argue that for professional grade photography and the widest range of effects that film is the only way to go. If he were shooting today, it is doubtful that Ansel Adams would be using digital.
For the rest of us, digital seems to be the way to go.
Now assuming you have not yet made the plunge, the biggest question is "Where Do I start?" or "What do I buy?" or "How Do I Compare?"
Articles have been written on just these subjects and if we were to expand on all, this article would be a text book instead of just a primer. You can do a search on any of the popular article sites to find many articles just on that subject, (one site for example is ArticleCity ArticleCity , but not to promote one over the other.. chances are you may be seeing this on an article based site). You can also use search engines.
But sometimes it's nice to have interactive expert advice. We suggest you read and research for background, but then for selection, visit you closest specialty photography or camera store. One where that's all they sell.. not a general all purpose discount or department store that probably has that department "manned" with part time help.. but go to the specialty store. The person will know what to ask you and how to guide you.
Your biggest question will end up being an ethical one: After you have been taught and guided, do you buy from that store, or take your knowledge and model to the internet or a discount store and make your buy. If you do, keep in mind that the full service store may offer just that.. service after the sale; maybe an upgrade trade in policy, and other intangibles that must be assigned value.
Before you venture out, choosing the right camera begins with asking yourself "What do I want this for?" "What kinds of pictures do I expect to be taking?" "How many at a time?" (Addresses memory and storage issues). "What kind of light will most of my pictures be in?" "Will I be carrying this camera for long periods of time?"(Think of weight). And lastly, and this is important.. What kind of batteries does this camera use; how available are they, and what do they cost? Most digital cameras are real battery hogs, so it is important that batteries are readily available.. and possibly rechargable.. but if you are on a 3 week safari in Africa and you don't have chargers handy.. what are your options? How many pictures? Memory cards available easily? Or do you have to dump and download often? On a long vacation you don't want to shoot all day and fill up.. and then not have a computer handy to dump into?
Compared to film where it's just "pop a new roll" digital cameras purchased that don't match the photographers needs can be a detriment, not an asset.
Once you choose, then you need to know how to compare pricing and benefits.. but that's the subject for another article.
Choose wisely and you'll love your new camera!