Fabulous classroom projects and colorful visual records are easy to achieve with a digital camera, but finding the right camera can be a challenge! The key to making the right choice is figuring out which features you want and need in a classroom camera. Here are a few terms you'll need to know.

A digital photograph is made up of thousands of pixels (little squares); the more pixels per inch, the better quality the photograph.

This is where you look when taking the picture. Most digital cameras come with a convenient screen on the back, which you use to frame the shot. However, these screens are hard to see when outside. For the best photos, look for a camera model that includes both a regular, hold-your-eye-up-to-it viewfinder and this type of LCD screen.

Optical Zoom
Most of the mid-priced digital cameras include a specification such as “3x/4x” when referring to the lens. The first figure refers to the optical zoom; the second number to the digital zoom. The optical zoom is very similar to a traditional camera, where the optic parts in the lens are actually moving closer to or farther from the sensor that stores the image.

Digital Zoom
The digital zoom is created by a process that makes the pixels larger; hence you feel closer to the subject. Some lower-end cameras come only with a digital zoom as a money-saving option, but the photographs are not as sharp. For the best quality, choose a camera that includes optical zoom.

Storage Card
Most models use Compact Flash (CF) or Secure Digital (SD/MMC) cards to store data, and Sony uses a proprietary card called a Memory Stick (MS). These come in capacities from 4mb to 256mb, and can hold hundreds of photos. All digital cameras can download to the computer, so the card's format isn't overly important.

More great advice for buying and using a digital camera in your classroom visit CNET.com. This guide to the latest and best in electronics includes a database of reviews, editor's picks, and a buyers' chatroom.