Camera marketers may be guilty of overhyping megapixels when it comes to picture quality, but it’s the image sensor size that really matters. Cameras with larger image sensors are capable of better looking photos, and a 1/2.3" image sensor is a nice starting point. While most point-and-shoots use a CCD sensor type, some house CMOS sensors. Neither is inferior, they just work differently. Get specifics on finding the best image sensor; check out our Digital Camera Buying Guide.
Megapixels still matter because they determine image size and resolution. For big prints and editing purposes 10 – 12 MP is right around where you want to be. That said, we don’t recommend falling below 5 MP. Also, beware of too many megapixels crammed onto tiny image sensors –your pictures may suffer from strange image glitches or artifacts. Check out Point-and-Shoot Cameras with 10 or more megapixels.
If you’re thinking of substituting digital zoom for optical zoom, in a word: don’t. Digital zoom will just disappoint you –it’s not the real deal. Fortunately, optical zoom is. It’s no substitute for being close to the action, but it ensures the cleanest capture of your image when you’re at a distance. Our Digital Camera Buying Guide will show you what to look for.
The reason why supported memory made the list is this: the type of memory your camera accepts determines the maximum capacity of the memory you can purchase. For instance, flash-memory cards like Secure Digital (SD) have a maximum storage capacity of 2 GB, where some Compact Flash (CF) cards can hold up to 128 GB. More storage capacity means snapping off more photos and shooting more videos between uploads. Want to know how many photos and how much video the average flash memory card can hold? Visit our Digital Camera Buying Guide.
Video & Sound
This feature saves you from buying a separate video device to lug around, and it makes YouTube and Facebook uploads easier. You may as well get the best video you can afford from your point-and-shoot, because most offer it anyway. If you want people to enjoy your video without having to squint through the pixelation, look for HD in 720p or, even better, 1080p video capability. You can get away with mono sound recording, but stereo is always better. Check out Digital Cameras with HD video capture.