Although most digital cameras are incredibly easy to use, they aren’t the easiest things to buy. There are a significant amount of reputable companies, each with a sizeable line of cameras to choose from. You have the opportunity to purchase directly from the manufacturer, in a technology store or through a wide range of resellers and discount websites. So how do you go about finding the right digital camera for you? It’s going to take some careful research and a willingness to shop around. If you can take the time, you’re sure to end up happy with your purchase. To help you through that work, here are five things to consider when shopping for a digital camera.

The camera’s size will definitely be a major selling point for you. You can find a digital camera so small it fits into a tight pocket, or large enough to require a separate backpack. The size you choose will impact a lot of other factors. If you want something convenient, to quickly and simply snap off a shot at a party or a sporting event, you might want one of those small point-and-shoot cameras. However, you will be sacrificing a significant amount of quality with cameras that small. They will be sufficient for daytime work, but not so great at night or when you need a professional flash. Small cameras will also have limited ability to zoom. So think about how you will be using the camera before plunking down your cash.

While size will impact image quality, it isn’t the only thing to consider. You have to look at the amount of megapixels the camera provides, but there’s always more to determining the quality of the camera than that. In fact, the way a camera deals with tone and color will have more to do with the sharpness of a photo than the camera’s megapixel rating. A lot of megapixels will certainly help if you plan on blowing up images for framing. But if your goal is shooting for the web, look at lens size. The larger and more professional the lens, the better the shot. You’ll always find that with DSLR cameras over point-and-shoots.

The features a camera comes with should also be a consideration. Digital cameras are designed to get you shooting right away, but some cameras come with a wider range of manual features. You should be able to start out with automatic settings. But the ability to turn on optical image stabilization, face detection and various lighting tones will be hugely important as well. Also consider if you want to manage white balancing or shutter speed, or want to have the choice to use a range of card formats. In the end, your best bet is to find the middle ground, with enough features to keep you busy but not so many that you are overwhelmed.

The physicality of a digital camera is also crucial. While it doesn’t matter if the camera is stylish, what does matter is how it feels in your hands. That is why it is incredibly important for you to try out any camera before you buy it. Even if you are going to purchase online, head to a store and take it for a test drive. Check the weight, the quality of the materials, and whether the buttons are placed as you would like.

Finally, you must consider the battery life of your new digital camera. This may not be a problem most of the time, unless you want to put it through extended use on vacation. But the key is finding a camera with a rechargeable battery, so you don’t have to keep replacing those wasteful traditional batteries. The best DSLR cameras often come with lithium-ion batteries, so this shouldn’t be a problem. But check the specs to see how many photos one charged battery will get you, and how long you can run the digital display screen as well. The camera can be top of the line, but if it dies in an hour you’ll end up frustrated more than anything else.