6 reasons to replace your digital camera in 2009

After seeing what the digital-camera world had to offer at last week's annual Photography show in Vegas, I can confidently say that cameras have never been smaller, cheaper, simpler and just plain better than they are now. Sure, every year's new models bring innovation, but digital-camera tech today is at a tipping point where features that are actually useful — like face detection and full-HD video shooting — are becoming common in entry-level shooters.

If you've had the same digital camera for a few years and are looking to upgrade now's the perfect time. After the Continue link, take a look at six things that are going to make you want to pick up a new camera sooner than later.

LumixGH1.jpg1. High-Definition Video

Most point-and-shoots are shooting HD now, and even a few DSLRs have gotten into the game. If you're still shooting VGA video, your videos are gonna be a lot less fun to enjoy on a widescreen HDTV. Some cameras do 720p, and some even do 1080p, but both formats provide a lot more detail than standard definition ever did. Even if you don't have an HD set now, it's a strong probability that you will some day, and having a camera that can shoot in high-def will make revisiting old memories much more enjoyable.

samsungface.jpg2. Cameras Are Smarter Than You Are

In-camera composition features (such as face recognition) are getting much more sophisticated, allowing for the camera to intuitively keep its focus on the people that you're actually trying to photograph. The first cameras with this tech maxed out at 3 faces, but modern cameras can track more people, more accurately. Samsung has even introduced software that ensures the camera's focus sticks on user-programed "favorite" people, no matter where they move in the frame. We're still waiting on a thought-controlled robot camera, but in the meantime technologies like smile detection satisfy our yearning for the ultimate intuitive control. It also makes self-portraits a cinch.

OlympusE620.jpg3. High Quality at a Low Price

For those who want the flexibility of a DSLR, the current field of entry-level cameras is loaded with technology and image quality that surpasses what was possible a few years ago with cameras that cost hundreds or thousands more. Image stabilization, live view, remotely triggered flashes, high-resolution sensors with RAW shooting capability and a mature lineup of compatible accessories are becoming standard now, even on the cheapest DSLRs from any manufacturer.

fujiwaterproof.jpg4. Cameras Are Tougher Than Ever

If you avoided getting a digital camera for fear of breaking it, or you already broke your old one and got turned off by the delicate nature of the devices, now's the time to get interested. Many cameras from many different companies have shockproof and waterproof designs. Even if you don't hang out underwater, the cameras are still going to hold up to being in a sweaty pocket, or surviving an accidental drunken dunk into a urinal with no permanent damage.

32GBSDHC.jpg5. You Can Shoot More Photos

New memory-card standards let you take astronomically more photos than you could a couple of years ago. If your old camera is still using SD, you should upgrade of SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) since you're currently capped at 2GB of storage. The max for SDHC? 32GB. SDXC, which doesn't exist in any devices yet, will push this boundary up to 2TB! Older CompactFlash and Memory Stick cameras have similar limitations compared to their current iterations. Capacity becomes especially important when shooting video clips.

SonyHDMI.jpg6. HDMI Output

While many folks are still using older analog TVs without HDMI (many older HDTV sets also lack the connector), having the ability to use HDMI to transmit video and sound with a single cable to any newer TV is a nice feature that improves the overall experience. If you ponied up for the big TV, get a camera to go with it.