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So, You Got a Digital Camera for the Holidays - Now What?
by Ben Stafford -  12/15/2006

If you got a digital camera for the holidays, you're probably either excited or disappointed. Personally, I hope that you're excited. If you're disappointed, you probably either didn't want a camera or you didn't get the one that you wanted. In either case, I hope this article gives you some ideas about what to do next.

Dealing With Disappointment

So, the camera that you got doesn't meet up to your expectations, or it just isn't the same as a Sony PS3. Don't worry, there are steps that you can take. Probably the most beneficial one would be to take the camera back, get a store credit and essentially use the credit as a coupon for the item you really want.

If you don't know where the camera came from or you don't have a gift receipt, you can always try to ebay the camera. Items that are brand new sell pretty easily, especially if you let potential buyers know that the camera is still under warranty. The downside to this method is that you probably won't get the full retail price for the camera and you may have to deal with less than perfect buyers.

The final option is to just keep the camera and wait for your tax refund to get your PS3 or embrace the fact that you can capture all those digital images of your cat sleeping.

Embracing Digital Photography

If you're happy about receiving a brand new digital camera, then congratulations! Whether you've never used a digital camera, or you're on your third or fourth model, there is plenty to learn. So after you take all those "honeymoon" pics - the pictures that you take as soon as you put batteries and a memory card in - the best idea is probably to settle down in front of the fireplace with the manual. Even though you may know how to use the camera, there are probably features listed in the manual that you will find useful. You can skip all the parts that you know, but you'll probably learn something new. If your camera has exposure modes other than automatic, you'll find it much easier to use them if you've read the manual. (For some additional information, see our two-part article: Don't Be Afraid; They Won't Bite: M, P, and S Exposure Modes Demystified) The best way to learn with a digital camera is just to try everything and see what works for you. Don't be afraid to take too many shots - this is digital!

Hopefully, the person who bought you the camera thought ahead about getting a memory card or other accessories. If a current digital camera is boxed with a memory card, then the capacity is pretty small. Consider getting a memory card larger than 512MB or so. If you have a 9 or 10 megapixel camera, consider more than that.

Power will probably be the next concern. If your camera uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery, you may want to start thinking about getting a spare. While they typically have very good battery life, you may not want to be stuck with a dead one and no charger handy. If your camera takes AA batteries, I highly recommend that you use rechargeable batteries. They may be more expensive up-front, but they will pay for themselves very quickly and they have better life in current digital cameras than standard alkaline batteries. If you get NiMH rechargeables, consider getting high capacity ones. They all have a milliamp-hour rating (mAh), so look for ratings greater than 2000 mAh. There are also very nice 15 minute chargers out there. I recently picked up a 15 minute charger with 4 2200mAh batteries for about $30.

Once you have enough memory and power, think about protecting your gift. Take a look around at your local electronics store, they'll often have cases that may fit your camera. At the least, they will give you an idea of what kind of bag you'll prefer. A decent quality camera bag or case will go a long way to protect your camera. There are many options and styles out there, so you should be able to find one that you like.

There may also be other accessories for your camera that may come in handy. The best way to find them is to visit the camera manufacturer's website and find your camera. Typically, there is a link that will take you to accessories for the camera. You can find conversion lenses, remote controls, spare batteries, underwater housings, etc, depending on you camera.

Finally, just enjoy your digital camera. Take lots of pictures and play with the settings to see which ones you'll use most and which ones don't really matter.

If you need help, there are plenty of resources out there where people are very friendly, including our forums, where a "dumb question" does not exist and you'll be able to find someone who can help you out.