Depending on your needs, going digital can be a small or extravagant purchase. Categorize your priorities and the right choice will present itself.
Decide what you will be using your camera for. Are you a soccer mom just looking to photograph for family and community events? Are you thinking more professional and upscale? Will you be enlarging your pictures beyond 5x7? These are very important questions.
Once you know why you want a camera, decide on your budget. This may fluctuate once you start shopping, but having a ballpark will keep you realistic. You may find that your budget does not encompass your needs and they may change as well.
Now it's time to shop. Don't bother with manufacturer's websites. Guess what? They're trying to sell something and they all think theirs is best. They will list a lot of the technical specifications, but so will everyone else. The same goes for salespeople. They may be great and 100% honest, but they may not. They are there to sell.
I find the best place to hang out is with people like me, customers. Check out websites where customer feedback is displayed, like QVC, eBay, etc. Often, someone will write something about a product that is exactly what I am needing, thinking, worrying, etc. This definitely applies to cameras as well. I may not buy my camera there, but the personal, "average Joe" feedback is invaluable.
4. Details. Here are some little things you want to consider when choosing your camera.
Megapixels(MP.) If you plan to shoot for 4x6s to send to Grandma, your basic 5 to 7 MP will do fine. If you think you might enlarge to 8x10 or more, 8-12 is a better fit. These days a 10 or 12MP camera is not too hard to come by cost-wise.
Memory. Most cameras worth their weight use memory cards. Most also do not come with them, and they are not cheap. However, they basically last forever and you don't have to buy them over and over. Do you already have another camera that takes a certain type? Do you want all your cameras to use the same? What card slots might your computer or laptop have? How many pictures do you want to take without having to download? Memory cards are just that, like when computer shopping, they come in sizes, and 1GB is an adequate amount of space for casual picture taking.
Mind's Eye. Some photographer's like me, are ol- fashioned and still use the eyepiece and not the screen to take a digital picture, but the screen is still great for viewing and deleting, etc. Pay attention to your screen size and how that will fit with your eyesight. I have heard so many people talk about loving their camera, but hating the fact that their screen is so small. Especially when ordering online, screen size can be misleading.
OK, you've narrowed it down to a few cameras. Now we have to be hands on. Write down your choices and go to a bigger electronics store with good selection and impressive display. The better ones even keep their cameras charged up so you can actually try them out. Here, it's okay to ask salespeople some basics, but don't let them distract you from the research you have already done.
When you've combined your needs with budget and found the location where you want to get your camera, get very familiar with their return policy. The fact is, using your camera at home is the only surefire way to know if it's a good fit. Buy in person versus online if you can. Some things you have to see and touch.
The good news is, digital cameras are awesome and most do so much for you! Photography has come along way and no matter what you decide, your picture-taking experience will only improve.