Battery life Cameras use one or more of several types of batteries: AAs, either non-rechargeable alkaline ($5 for four) or rechargeable nickel metal hydride (NiMH, about $14 for four); high-capacity disposable CRV3s (around $10 apiece, and some cameras take two); or proprietary rechargeable batteries that can cost $25 to $65 to replace. Some digital cameras quickly drain batteries—especially alkaline batteries—which can be expensive and annoying. Battery life and cost often aren't related; some inexpensive cameras have great battery life, and some expensive ones use up a charge quickly. Either way, it's a very good idea to buy spare batteries.
Menus When evaluating a camera, consider how easily you can reach common settings—resolution, macro mode, flash, and exposure adjustments—and how easily you can play back just-taken images. Too many buttons, and you waste time trying to figure out which button does what; too many menus, and you waste time digging through them.
Compact interchangeable lens cameras These cameras are part of a newer product category that sits between true DSLRs and advanced point-and-shoots. The design of these cameras omits the DSLR's mirror chamber and moves the sensor closer to the back of the lens. The lack of a mirror chamber allows for a smaller camera body, while moving the sensor closer to the lens allows for smaller lens design.
All of this means that these cameras and lenses can be made much smaller than those of a traditional DSLR, while delivering the image quality of an SLR and the flexibility of using additional lenses. However, this also means they lack an optical view finder. Some cameras in this category offer an electronic viewfinder instead; others—particularly those at the smaller end of the scale—lack even that and rely completely on the LCD for framing shots.
With all of the above factors to consider, it's impossible to recommend the best cameras for everyone. Much depends on budget, size, shooting style, and personal preferences. One more thing: Prices vary wildly so it pays to check a number of camera sellers before making the decision to buy.
Meanwhile, check out our updated camera listings for DSLRs and DSLTs.
[Editor's note: This is an updated version of a previous article to reflect changes in the camera market.]
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