How Do I Find an HD Photo Camera?

Man with camera

 Sean Gallup / Getty Images

If you're aiming at a point and shoot HD photography camera, decide which is more important, the high-quality still images displayed on your HDTV -- what you're calling HD photos -- or the ability to shoot short HD videos.

Keep in mind that HD photos isn't really a technical term for digital photography. HD, or high definition, is really only a video term. So your definition of HD photos may be different than someone else's. For the purposes of this article, HD photos will refer to photos shot at a high resolution.

Shooting Still Images

With that out of the way, let's start by discussing still images. To achieve sharp, clear images on your HDTV, just be sure to shoot at the highest resolution your camera can achieve, or the most megapixels (MP). Most new cameras will record photos at 20 MP or more.

If you want to shoot images that look great on an HDTV, look to compose the images at a 16:9 shooting ratio, which will match your HDTV screen. If you shoot at any other shooting ratio, the HDTV will either crop the photo to make it fit the 16:9 aspect ratio of the HDTV screen, or it will place black bars on the sides of the HDTV to accommodate the narrower photo. Fortunately, most newer point and shoot models can meet the need of shooting at a 16:9 aspect ratio. You probably can find dozens of models for less than $300 with these capabilities. 

One thing to remember with 16:9 ratio photos: Some digital cameras can only shoot at 16:9 ratios at limited resolutions. For example, a camera might carry a maximum resolution of 16 MP, but it can only record 16:9 ratio photos at 8 MP or 10 MP. For true high-quality images to display on a large HDTV, make sure the camera can shoot at 16:9 with resolutions as close to the maximum resolution as possible. You should be able to find the maximum resolution a camera can shoot in a 16:9 ratio in the list of specifications, which you can find on the camera box or at the camera manufacturer's Web site. You also should be able to see the resolution at which the camera can record in the 16:9 aspect ratio through the menus on the camera's screen. (Keep in mind that some images displayed on a TV or monitor may still look very good, even if shot at lower resolutions, depending on the size and quality of your screen.)

If you think you may print the photos later, or if you want to display the photos in areas in addition to the HDTV, it may be smarter to shoot at the camera's maximum possible resolution -- which usually will involve a 3:2 or 4:3 aspect ratio -- and just put up with the black bars on the sides of the HDTV display.

Shooting HD Video

Finding a point and shoot model that can shoot HD video clips is no longer a difficult process, as most models and shoot at full 1920x1080 HD video. Most cameras do have a limit on the length of the video recording, such as 30 minutes. Some cameras even can record at 4K resolution now for videos.

If HD video is more important to you than high-quality still images, you may want to look into an HD digital camcorder rather than a digital camera, although many digital cameras can record great HD videos. Other options include DSLR models or mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras with high-end HD video capabilities.

When shooting HD video with your digital camera, be sure to make use of a high capacity memory card that has plenty of write speed. To shoot great full HD video clips, you'll need your camera to be able to write data to the memory card fast enough to keep the memory buffer from becoming full. In fact, having a memory card that writes too slowly is the most common cause of a failed HD video recording with a digital camera.