What can a digital camera do?


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What can digital cameras do?

A group of people take a photo of themselves while they are out for a walk in the wilderness

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Digital cameras are a great way of taking and keeping photos. In this activity, you will find out about what digital cameras can do and the benefits of digital cameras.

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A laptop, a desktop and a tablet are used to digitally process photos

Get it right first time, second time... or third time

Unlike older cameras that use physical rolls of film, digital cameras save images electronically to a memory card.

This means you can store and edit photos on your camera or computer, rather than sending them to be developed in a darkroom in the traditional way. You can still get photos developed if you want, using sites like Photobox or Snapfish.

Benefits of using a digital camera

One benefit of digital cameras is that you can see what you're photographing on the display screen.

You can use this to frame your images, choose settings and see your photos seconds after you've taken them. If they don't come out as you had hoped, you can simply delete them and try again.

A photo of a camera taking a photo
Showing a range of different cameras

Take your pick

Digital cameras come in all shapes and sizes, from compact to top-of-the-range cameras with lots of features and zoom lenses. Most cameras can take great pictures and even record short movies.

Usually, the more expensive the camera, the better the quality of lens or features it will have.

Top-of-the-range cameras can be complicated to use and can be hefty to carry, especially if they have separate lenses. It's worth considering what sort of camera you want and how far you might need to carry it around before you buy one.

Saving, editing, printing

The great thing about digital cameras is how easy it is to transfer pictures from your camera to look at them on your computer.

Digital cameras store pictures on a memory card. This means they can be easily transferred to your computer.

Camera memory card being inserted into the camera
A memory card leans up against a laptop computer that has a slot that will fit the card in it

You can then edit your photos before sending them to friends or posting them on a website, or you can just browse through them whenever you want.

There are lots of online services that will develop your photos and deliver them to your door – or you could take your memory card to your local photo shop and get photos printed there.

A pile of printed photos
Showing a range of different cameras

Choosing your camera

If you're going to buy a digital camera, there are a number of things you should bear in mind.

If you only take the occasional photo, a cheaper, compact camera will be your best option. Most modern cameras, including the camera in your smartphone or tablet, have plenty of features that will help you take good photos.

If you're a keen photographer, however, you may want to invest in something more advanced. These cameras are usually more expensive and can be challenging to use, but they can produce more professional results.

Picture quality

One of the main ways to tell the picture quality of a camera is to check what size of image it takes. In digital cameras, this is measured in megapixels. The larger the number of megapixels, the larger the image a camera will take. This is important if you want to get large versions of your photos printed.

For most people, 7 megapixels is more than enough, and the majority of cameras, even modern smartphones, will offer much more than this.

Showing a comparison between a high resolution and a low resolution photo
Camera memory card

Picture storage

Digital cameras store their images on memory cards. In many cases, you will need to buy the memory card separately.

The amount of memory on a card is measured in gigabytes (GB). The higher the number of GB on your memory card, the more photos it will store. Most cards can hold hundreds of photos at any one time. Make sure you shop around – and check that you get the right card for your camera!


Digital cameras allow you to zoom-in on the object you are photographing before you take it. There are two types or zoom:

  • optical zoom
  • digital zoom.

Optical zoom is much more effective and produces higher quality images. All cameras have a certain amount of optical zoom, but when the camera can't zoom in any closer to an object, the digital zoom takes over.

Photos taken using digital zoom are lower quality and may appear blurry, so the more optical zoom your camera has the better.

Top view of a camera with directional arrows showing that the lens pulls out to zoom

Digital camera quick quiz

What are the main benefits of a digital camera?

Select two of the options below.

You need to buy an expensive camera if you want good quality photos

Click to flip


Most digital cameras on the market produce good quality photos, regardless of cost.

You can see your photos seconds after you take them

Click to flip


You can use the preview panel to line up your shot before taking your picture too.

You don't need any film

Click to flip


No more waiting for the film to be developed before you can tell how your photos will look.

Capturing precious family moments at the click of a button with a digital camera


You've completed the What can digital cameras do? activity.

You've learnt how digital cameras take and save pictures, that there are different types of camera and some important things to remember when buying a camera.

In the next activity, How do digital cameras work?, you'll find out how to use some of the features of a digital camera.