How to Choose the Right Digital Camera for You

Whether taking stunning landscape photos in the Lake District or photos at a family gathering, there is a digital camera for every occasion, and for every level of experience. For professional photographers and amateur enthusiasts, there is the DSLR camera. This digital camera gives the photographer the greatest control over the final result. Compact cameras are the least expensive, and the easiest to use, while the bridge digital camera is a step up from the compact camera, but not quite as sophisticated as a DSLR camera.

This guide provides readers with a comprehensive overview of the different types of digital cameras, including their advantages and limitations. Digital cameras can be found at a variety of brick and mortar stores, and online. Compact cameras are widely available, while photographers can find DSLR cameras for sale at cameras shops, photography equipment retailers, and electronics shops. Before purchasing a digital camera, buyers should understand how a digital camera works, the different types of digital cameras available, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of digital cameras on the market.

How a Digital Camera Works

A digital camera works, at the most basic level, in much the same way as a film camera. Light reflected off the subject passes through a series of lenses. Instead of the light striking a piece of film at the back of the camera, the light strikes a sensor. An internal memory card stores the image rendered as digital information. The photographer can access and view the photos on a screen on the back of the digital camera, and can download the photos to a desktop computer or a laptop computer. The photographer can then manipulate the photos using a photo editing software.

Types of Digital Cameras

There are three different types of digital camera. Which one to choose depends on what subjects the photographer intends to shoot. For example, the type of camera used to photograph a football match or landscape needs to be more sophisticated than one used to photograph a group of friends. The three types of digital cameras are Digital SLRs (DSLR), compacts, and bridge cameras.

Digital SLR

A DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) is a camera suited to amateur enthusiasts and professionals. These cameras have comparatively large bodies, and the lenses are interchangeable. They are considered the most versatile digital cameras. Aside from having interchangeable lenses, DSLRs also come with advanced accessories like flashguns. DSLRs produce the highest image quality. The camera settings can be set to fully automatic, fully manual, or somewhere in between, offering the photographer maximum control over their photography.

When considering a DSLR, a buyer must consider their budget. Photographers can also take into consideration the price of the lenses. A photographer may need to purchase lenses separately. Investing a significant amount of money in the camera is meaningless if the photographer cannot afford to purchase quality lenses for the camera. The photographer must also consider the type of photography. For action shots, wildlife, and sports photography, a high frame rate is essential. For portraiture, stills, and low light photography, anti-shake technology (image stabilization) and the ability to alter the ISO settings are essential for capturing quality images that require long exposures.

Essential features that the buyer can look for in a DSLR camera include:

Anti-Dust Technology

Dust caught between the sensor and the lens can adversely affect the quality of images. Dust on the sensor or lens results in dark spots on the final image, or grainy areas. To combat this issue, many DSLRs have a sensor cleaner of some kind, to remove dust and any other particles. Whilst most big DSLR manufacturers use this feature as standard on their cameras, there are a few that do not. Whether buyers select a camera with anti-dust technology depends on if they see it as a significant issue or not.

Image Stabilization

Image stabilization is a great feature for a DSLR to have. This feature is also known as anti-shake or vibration reduction. Image stabilization significantly reduces the chance of camera shake, and blurry images, and allows photographers to take photographs that require long exposure times. There are two types of image stabilization, although they both serve the same purpose. One is related to the camera’s sensor while the other is lens-based. Many photographers feel that lens-based image stabilization is superior to the sensor-shift technology. Whilst this may be true, a photographer would have to buy a lens that comes with this feature to benefit from lens-based image stabilization. Sensor-shift stabilization is available regardless of the type of lens.

HD Video

Many DSLRs now allow users to capture HD video. For this reason, DSLRs with HD video capabilities are becoming increasingly popular with budding filmmakers, and with families. Not only are families able to take stunning high-quality stills photos with a DSLR camera, but they can also capture precious family moments on video, all with the one device.

Frame Rate

Frame rate is the number of frames, or images, a camera can take per second. Even some lower-end DSLR models have a frame rate of 2.5 fps (frames per second). The higher the frame rate, the more images the camera can capture per second. This feature is important when photographing wildlife, insect, sports, and taking action shots.

Buffer Memory

Buffer memory is the amount of space available to store images during multi-frame captures, before the internal memory card saves the images. The buffer memory has to be large enough to store as many images as possible. Without adequate buffer memory, the camera has to pause to allow the photographer to either clear or delete the images before photography can resume.

Compact Digital Camera

Commonly referred to as a ‘point and shoot’ camera, a compact digital camera is a small, compact camera that is small enough to fit comfortably in a trouser pocket. They have limited features, and they do not have interchangeable lenses. Compact digital cameras are best suited to photographers who want an inexpensive, easy to use camera for family photos, or for holiday snaps. Because the lenses are not interchangeable, these cameras are not as versatile as say a DSLR. However, many are available with wide-angle capabilities, and 5x optical zoom, to increase the variety of shots that can be taken. Some models have video capabilities, but it is rare to find a point and shoot camera with HD capabilities, and filming time is often limited to only a few minutes. For those who want a good family camera, then a compact is a good choice. If the camera is expected to be used by children or travel frequently, it may be worth purchasing a water-resistant compact camera, or one which is armored and is resistant to damage if dropped.

Bridge Camera

A bridge camera is a type of digital camera that is between the compact and the DSLR. Bridge cameras are smaller than DSLRs but offer more versatility than compact cameras. These cameras are suited to those who have a moderate budget and want greater control over their photography, but do not want to lug around a big camera. Bridge cameras usually come with image stabilization included. Bridge cameras also offer manual control over some features, such as focus, which gives the photographer more control over the final result. If a photographer wants the convenience of a compact camera and quality photography closer to that of a DSLR, then a bridge camera is the ideal choice.

Digital Camera Summary

The table below provides a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of digital camera.

Camera Type Advantages Disadvantages
DSLR Versatile; interchangeable lenses; robust; high-quality images; HD video; anti-shake; dust remover; available accessories Expensive; large; bulky; not convenient for taking spontaneous images
Compact Camera Inexpensive; small; compact; convenient Limited features; limited video; Inferior image quality in low light conditions
Bridge Camera Better quality images than a compact; more features than a compact; allows for some manual adjustments; less expensive than a DSLR; compact; convenient to carry More expensive than a compact; no interchangeable lenses; limited features

When considering a bridge camera, a photographer should decide whether they plan on using all of the features, or whether they need additional features, such as interchangeable lenses. Photographers looking for greater control over their photography might want to forgo bridge cameras and consider stepping straight up from compact cameras to DSLR cameras.

Conclusion

Choosing the right digital camera can prove challenging. However, if the buyer considers what they want to use the camera for, the choice becomes clearer. There are three types of digital cameras: DSLRs, compacts, and bridge cameras. DSLRs are suited to photographers who want greater control over their photography and the ability to shoot HD video. Compact cameras are suited to those on a budget, and those who want a simple, easy to use device. Compacts have limited features, but are perfect for capturing those spontaneous moments. Bridge cameras offer more features and versatility than compact cameras.

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