[How to] Buy a Digital Camera – Beginner’s Guide
DSLR, Point-and-Shoot, Megapixels, Optical Zoom, Digital Zoom, they all might sound gibberish for many of you. In this tutorial, I’ll show you all the different options you have in buying a digital camera and how not to get confused when your local dealer starts throwing numbers and features at you. Before starting our newest buying tutorial, you might want to take a look at our previous ones:
Table of Contents
How to buy a Digital Camera
First of all, you have to know the basic terms in the world of photography. Many of you are quite aware with most of them, but this can be quite helpful for the newbies. So, let’s recap:
1. DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex)
This is a type of digital camera that usually has detachable lenses and a reflex mirror that allows live optical zoom through the lens taking the photo. Usually, DSLRs have better image quality that normal Point-and-Shoot cameras and allow you to manually adjust the picture you’re about to take.
As the name suggests, these digital cameras mainly operate in Auto mode, so all you have to do is point and take the picture and have to hustle with ISO’s and exposure and other things.
These represent the resolution of your camera, in the past, digital cameras used to have low resolution, so, the bigger the number of megapixels it had, the better it was. Now, the story changed, almost all digital cameras have at least 4-5Mpx and they do excellent pictures. So, do not get impressed by lots of megapixels.
The Megapixel Myth
It started a while back, when digital camera producers started to increase the number of megapixels a camera has, and convinced people that more is better. That is totally wrong! The amount of megapixels a camera has does not, in any way, determine the quality of a photo. For example, if you take a picture at 5Mpx, 8Mpx, and 13Mpx, then put them side by side, you won’t see big differences between them (except the file size of the picture itself). What megapixels mean, is that you have more dots in your image, thus, allowing you to crop your image and zoom into it very much. If you want to take landscapes and zoom in to particular areas, then a higher megapixel count would help, otherwise, not.
The Camera Sensor
The camera sensor is something you usually look for when buying a digital camera, there are 4 main types of sensors:
- CCD (Charge Coupled Device)
- EMCCD (Electron Multiplying CCD)
- CMOS (Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor)
- ICCD (Intensified CCD)
Before your local dealer impresses you with the “ultra new CMOS sensor camera”, know that CMOS sensors represent the vast majority of digital cameras. While the other types feature new technology and improved quality, they are mostly consigned to special cameras, designed for science labs and not for the average user. Although, this being a rapidly changing market, we’ll soon see CCD sensor cameras available.
The ISO Setting
Another feature of a digital camera is the ISO setting, well, you may get impressed by high numbers, but many people don’t even know what ISO does. The simplest explanation is that ISO represents how sensitive the image sensor is to light. For example, if you want to take a picture in bright light, a lower ISO is required (100), but if you take one at night, you have to select a different ISO setting (800-1600). All of these options are available in DSLR cameras, where you have to manually adjust every setting, but in Point-and-Shoot, these settings are usually on Auto mode, so you don’t have to fiddle them.
These being the main features that all cameras have, now we’ll move on to what you should consider when buying a digital camera. As you are probably accustomed to from my previous tutorials, the main steps in every buying decision, especially when we’re talking about consumer technology, are:
- What are you going to use your digital camera for? Pictures, video or both?
- What is your budget?
- What features you need on your camera?
Figuring out these 3 things will narrow down your search for the right digital camera for you.
Amateur vs Professional Photographer
The first step, what are you going to use your camera for? If you are an amateur photographer or you are interested in learning the art of digital photography, you might need a digital camera that will allow you to manually adjust the settings:
- ISO settings
- Exposure compensation
- Manual focus or flash
And if this is the case, then you should go for a DSLR camera. These cameras are bulkier and weigh a little more than Point-and-Shoot cameras, they usually have external flash and battery packs, tripods and many other. The prices are higher than other cameras, but they do pack a bunch, having many features and higher picture quality. For professional cameras, you have many options, but I thought a pro photographer already knows what he needs.
Your Digital Camera, a Daily Friend or Just an Event Buddy?
On the other hand, if you only need a digital camera to take casual pictures on special events or in your holiday and not have to take time to adjust all your settings, then a Point-and-Shoot digital camera is all you need. These light weight and compact cameras are perfect to take them everywhere you go and take pictures fast and with moderate quality.
Another aspect of the usage of your camera is the destination of your photos. If you want to take pictures and save them on your PC, upload them on the web or email them to friends, a Point-and-Shoot camera is more than enough. On the other hand, if you plan to print your pictures on photo paper, using a photo printer, you will want the resolution of your camera to be as big as possible, in this case, you have to look towards a DSLR camera.
Related Read: Ultimate Guide to Safeguard & Backup Digital Photos
What features do you need on your camera? Well, apart from the obvious (batteries or battery packs, tripods, cases and for DSLR cameras special lenses and filters) many cameras now come with SD storage, LCD screens, reduced red-eye effect on flash or glare, and some even have wireless or bluetooth, video playback and 30fps (frames per second) and up to HD 720p resolutions. I’ve seen cameras that have music playback, voice recorder or in-camera editing and even more weird features (such as World Clock).
How Much Will You Spend For Your Camera?
Moving on to budget, a very important aspect of any purchase. Nowadays, you can afford a pretty good camera with not that much money, as you may have guessed, DSLR cameras have higher prices. You can get a pretty good Point-and-Shoot camera anywhere from $150-$250 and you get a pretty good gadget for your money, with high resolution and excellent picture quality. As for DSLR cameras, they can range anywhere from $300 for entry level cameras and up to $1000 or more advanced professional cameras.
Keep in mind that for DSLR cameras you may likely need special lenses for Macro shots or Optical Zoom, so your budget will be extended slightly. There are many deals for these add-ons, or if you want to save some money, and if you have some of this gear at home from your older cameras, ask if they are compatible with some of the newer models (you will be surprised to see how many are).
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Advice When Buying a Digital Camera
These are the main things you should know about when buying a digital camera, remember the 3 steps in deciding what you need, then it’s a matter of searching on the web for reviews and prices on what you decided you need. Check dedicated web sites that have reviews of the camera you want to buy, see what it can do, so that the dealer won’t take you by surprise. Here are some very good web sites you might check out:
Take all of this in consideration and you won’t have any problems in finding the right camera for you.Related Read: Nikon and Canon: Brand or Quality?