As I mentioned in my last post, I highly recommend visiting a good camera store if there is one within driving distance of you. As well as getting advice from a salesperson based on your answers to the questions in the "Basic Camera Buying Checklist", you should try out at least 3 or 4 different brands of cameras. If you don't have a good camera store near you, at least trying out cameras at a mediocre camera store or an electronics store with a camera section can be a big help. If there are no such stores near you, see if you can borrow your friends' cameras to try out.
Now you may say: "I'm not really that into photography and I don't want to invest a whole bunch of my time on it." But that is precisely why it is more important for you to find the camera which works best for you personally. You will probably keep this camera as the only one you use much longer than a more dedicated photographer might and be less willing to read the owner's manual and explore the menus than they would. So you need to select the camera whose controls make the most sense to you from the outset.
Every person is different. The controls that make the most sense to me may be completely nonsensical to you and vice-versa. So spend some time right now trying out the different brands of cameras and it will save you hours of frustration later on.
Here are some things you should try out on each camera. You only need to try one camera from each manufacturer to start since manufacturers usually use a similar menu and control layout on all of their cameras. Once you have found the brand that makes the most sense to you, you can look at the different models from that company to see which features you want and how much you want to spend. See how difficult it is to do each of these things on each camera without help from anyone else. You may find it impossible to figure out how to do some of them on your own on some of the cameras and that is okay. That tells you how easy it will be for you to use that camera once you own it.
1. Turn on the camera, zoom the lens in or out and take some pictures.
2. Turn the flash off and them back on.
3. Look at the pictures you took on the back of the camera.
4. Make the picture you are taking lighter or darker. Usually this is called: "exposure compensation".
5. See if you can get into the camera menus and explore them. Even if you plan never to actually use the menus, it is important for you to find the menu structure that works best for you, just in case you have to adjust something in the future.
Part three of this series will be longer so I am going to stop here but I recommend reading it before you choose which camera to buy.
Until next time, have fun!!