Characteristics of Digital Cameras

By Joshua Dyson

Updated September 22, 2017

Quality digital cameras are everywhere, but not all are created equally.
i digital camera age image by Steve Brase from

Taking and developing pictures has never been easier. With a digital camera, both the amateur and professional photographer can quickly capture images that can be readily viewed and edited without a darkroom. Unlike the film cameras of old, digital cameras capture and store images in the camera’s memory or on disk. Images can then be transferred to a computer and printed or displayed in digital format. Despite the simplicity of the new technology, there are still several factors one should consider when buying a digital camera. These include exposure, memory cards, pixels, LCD viewers, zoom and shooting modes.


Exposure refers to how long the camera shutter remains open to receive light and take pictures. It can determine things such as resolution or the degree of contrast in images. Exposure modes in most digital cameras feature both automatic and manual settings. Purchasing a digital camera with more or less control of exposure depends on your needs. Having more control over exposure allows you to capture the more difficult things to shoot, such as blurred action or subtle light. Less control can still produce quality images since digital cameras automatically compensate for negative variables in shooting.

Memory Cards

Memory cards allow digital camera users to take and store many more images than a roll of film ever could. The cards can be placed into the appropriate disk drive or uploaded to the computer via the digital camera’s plug-in USB cord. The cards range in storage capacity, with some able to hold thousands of photos.


The term pixel is short for picture element. Pixels are like the pieces or elements of a puzzle, which come together to form an image on a visual display device such as a computer. They are displayed as small squares of color and intensity. The more pixel capacity a camera has, the better the resolution of images. According to the Alabama Learning Exchange, "the total pixel resolution of a photograph determines the maximum size of a quality print that can be made using that file." Bob Atkins, from feels that, "for the amateur photographer, a basic digital camera with a mega pixel count of 4 to 5 million pixels is ideal for making 8" x 10" prints." However, if your goal is to share pictures online, then a 2 to 3 million pixel camera is sufficient.

LCD Viewers

LCDs, or liquid crystal displays, allow the digital camera user to get an idea of what the image will look like before taking the photo. The LCD is a screen that shows the user what the camera has within view of the picture frame. This allows users to get an idea of the composition before taking the picture. Some LCDs are small and not as accurate, while others are large and have viewfinders to assist in arranging the photo composition. Through the LCD, users can enter the menu mode to alter all aspects of camera settings and view saved photos.


According to PC World, "having a powerful optical zoom lens is more important than a higher resolution, because more detail can be obtained in the zoom and requires less pixels to represent clearly.” If your goal is to photograph distant subjects, then the more powerful optical zoom is the best bet. However, to amateur photographers having a super-telescopic zoom may not be necessary. Basic digital cameras are heavier on the resolution and do not offer much in the way of optical zoom, but still produce high quality pictures of subjects within a considerable distance just fine.

Shooting Modes

Digital cameras have taken the guesswork out of shooting perfect pictures with automatic shooting modes that adjust camera functions to fit the particular scene. Digicam Help split’s the automatic capabilities into three modes. "The first is Auto/Simple, which is fully automatic as the camera controls the settings. Intelligent/Auto is another, in which the camera customizes its operation to fit the scene being photographed. Program PE combines the control of both the user and the camera to take photos.” Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras also offer automatic shooting options but are usually used by professional photographers who do not leave the outcome of their images to the automatic whims of the camera. Ashley Craig, Professor of Photography at the Miami International University of Art and Design states that a DSLR camera is “like an old school film camera but digital. You have full manual control.”