From the September 2004 issue of Entrepreneur

You can get an insane amount of megapixels in a digital camera these days-for a price. Fortunately, most entrepreneurs will find what they need in a very attractive price range.

Only professional photographers or those working with super high-end graphics need to think about a $1,000 8-megapixel monster. For the rest of you who are looking to do your own brochures, upload images to the Web or document projects, you can easily keep it less than $500.

For those on a budget looking for quick snapshots or pics for the Web, a couple of megapixels for less than $200 will keep you busy enough. For those of you who are more photographically experienced and prefer output on the high end of the graphics scale, looking midrange and higher is a good idea. Higher megapixel cameras can produce large, detailed high-resolution printouts if you have a printer (or access to one) that can take advantage of all that digital information. Many also give you the ability to manually control all the camera's functions, a feature that's of interest to more experienced photographers. We're going to look at mostly midrange cameras.

Little details can make the difference when deciding on a camera. At $449 (all prices street), the 4-megapixel Panasonic DMC-FX5 features a Leica lens and optical image stabilization technology. That last feature is of special interest if you expect to work in low-light situations or with a Telephoto lens. It corrects for shaky hands, to achieve cleaner images. Up a notch in the resolution department is the $499 5-megapixel Canon PowerShot S60. Its lens zooms from a wide-angle 28 mm to 100 mm. If you don't know what that means, don't worry about it. You may prefer a more entry-level model.

At $249, the Nikon Coolpix 3200 is a 3-megapixel option that won't break the bank. The 3x optical zoom is a nice feature in this level of camera. Often, you'll see cameras with both optical and digital zooms. Optical is the more important number, because it represents a higher image quality. Whenever you go over to a digital zoom, you will lose quality. That's one area where the $349 4-megapixel Kodak EasyShare DX7440 stands out. Its 4x optical zoom is one of the best offerings in our chart, especially for the price.

If you've ever tried to use the built-in LCD on the back of a digital camera to compose a picture in bright light, you know how difficult it is to see anything. Reflections can render the LCD unusable. The $449 6-megapixel Olympus C-60 Zoom features a new display that uses several technologies to combat this problem. Entrepreneurs that travel extensively or need to do outdoor photography will appreciate this feature. Another interesting innovation is built into Sony's $449 5-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-F88. The lens can be rotated 300 degrees for easier shooting at unusual angles or in crowded situations.

There are heaps of different digital cameras out on the market, and new models are announced all the time. If possible, visit your local retailer, and take a firsthand look. Note whether the menus are intuitive and easy to use. See if it's a good size for carrying around, if you intend to travel with it. And check out the viewfinder, LCD and controls to ensure they're comfortable to use. Look for deals on accessories like extra memory cards, photo printers and a protective case. Though picking a digital camera requires slogging through lots of options, the good news is that, among them, there is a perfect fit for your business needs.

Shopping List
If you've got your eye on a digital camera, see how it measures up on image quality, optical zoom capability-and, of course, price.

MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACT MEGA-
PIXELS
MEMORY FEATURES STREET
PRICE
Canon
PowerShot S60
(800) OK-CANON
www.usa.canon.com
5 CompactFlash 3.6x optical zoom, movie mode $499
Kodak
EasyShare
DX7440
(800) 23-KODAK
www.kodak.com
4 SD/MMC cards 4x optical zoom, 32MB internal memory $349
Nikon
Coolpix 3200
(800) NIKON-UX
www.nikonusa.com
3 SD cards 3x optical zoom, 14.5MB internal memory $249
Olympus
C-60 Zoom
(800) 622-6372
www.olympusamerica.com
6 xD-Picture Card 3x optical zoom, full manual control $449
Panasonic
DMC-FX5
(866) 888-2929
www.panasonic.com
4 SD memory card 3x optical zoom, video capture $449
Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-F88
(877) 865-SONY
www.sonystyle.com
5 Memory Stick 3x optical zoom, 300-degree lens rotation $449