You probably wouldn't think of trying out a traditional camera in the store before purchasing it, but if you're smart, you'll compare digital cameras before you buy. Here's how:
1. Ask a salesperson to allow you to test two or three cameras. Take home the photos on a floppy disk, and print them with the same output device you plan on using with the camera.
2. If that's not possible, ask the salesperson to print out the photo for you on one of the store's printers.
3. If you're buying by mail, be sure to check the return policy.
Regardless of how you buy, take a lot of shots the first few days in all sorts of lighting conditions. Make all the color adjustments the camera allows and try again. If the results aren't satisfactory, return the camera and get another. After all, you're spending $500 or more, so you should be satisfied, however fresh the technology.