Buying any technology product or gadget can seem like a minefield and the sheer number of products, gadgets, features and functions can confuse even the most tech-savvy of people.

Buying a digital camera is no different and many people feel that they need a degree in technology and photography just to select a model which will allow them to take the most basic of photographs.

So what do all those technical terms mean?

1. Megapixel

Megapixel is a term which is often used in photography and video filming. Although it sounds exceptionally technical, it’s actually a little less complex than you might think. The term refers to the maximum resolution that a photograph can contain in pixels. For example, a digital camera which is capable of 4 megapixels will take pictures containing 4 million pixels.

For the amateur, this means quality; the higher the number of pixels which make up a photograph, the clearer and sharper the picture in question. A pixel is one dot of colour, so the more pixels, the more dots that make up the picture.

2. Focal length

Often overlooked, especially for amateur photography, focal length is a very important consideration. It refers to how much the camera lens magnifies the shot. Focal lengths are split into two categories and these help to create detail and magnification on photographs of certain categories. Whilst wide angle shots are better for spacious photographs, telephoto focals are better for narrow fields of view. Therefore, it is important to ensure that a digital camera has both if the buyer wants equally good detail whatever they are photographing.

3. Digital zoom

Although digital zoom is an integral feature on many cameras, some professionals do not like the effect it gives. Whilst focal length enhances the whole of the area being photographed, digital zoom enhances the pixels at the centre of the area being photographed, making these stand out but at the expense of the quality of the remainder of the photograph. Because of their dislike for this function, many professionals recommend disposing of this function altogether or disabling it on a new digital camera.

4. ISO

The International Standards Organisation (known as ISO) set the standards for photography and when used on connection with photography refers to how sensitive the camera is to light. Therefore, a camera with a low ISO number is not very sensitive to light and will perform better in good lighting conditions whilst a higher ISO number can perform better in darker conditions. Because many people like to be able to take a combination of both, a camera with an adjustable ISO number is an ideal compromise.

5. Shutter lag

This number refers to the time which elapses between pressing the shutter and the shot being captured. Although it doesn’t seem like an important consideration, a lapse of one or more seconds could mean that you don’t end up with the shot you want as the moment has been lost. Many manufacturers don’t list their shutter lag time so you’ll need to research this in order to ensure you get what you want.