Which Type Of Digital Camera Should I Buy?

What type of digital camera to buy is not an easy question to answer.  There are now quite a few different types of camera on the market ranging from camera phones to the professional end DSLR’s.  Film cameras are still available at specialist shops, although they are almost exclusively second hand models.  Film is expensive and having it processed is becoming more difficult as less retailers offer the service.

If you are only interested in a few snap shots every now and then to post onto MyFace or Spacebook or whatever it’s called, then a camera phone will suit your needs.  There is no need for any post processing as the images are not going to be very good quality anyway, and you can instantly upload them to your social site via email on your phone.  Ideal for quick holiday or vacation snaps to send home to grandma.

Next we have the compact digital cameras.  These would be ideal for anyone looking for an easy to use, no nonsense camera for family outings, parties and similar events.  They are very easy to use; just set to automatic, frame your shot, focus and hit the button.  The resulting pictures can be of quite good quality, producing JPEG images which you can take straight in to a self serve photo print service, insert you memory card and print them off.

Superzooms are very handy.  They cover a very wide zoom range, so can be used for wide angle stuff and they can also zoom right in on a subject.  They are still quite small and compact so are ideal for travellers, hikers, fisherman and anyone looking for slightly more from their digital camera than an ordinary compact camera.  Superzooms usually have a few more advanced settings than the compacts, with most now having the ability to shoot RAW images, which gives the user a little more flexibility and quality for the post processing stage.  Image quality is about on par with the quality compacts due to them using the same sized (or very similar) sized sensor.  They are not particularly good for low light work and the picture quality is not quite in DSLR territory.  When using them at extreme zoom range it is often difficult to avoid camera shake, despite the image stabilisation now used by most manufacturers.  They are very handy cameras though and quite a few DSLR users have them as backups.

Manufacturers have more recently introduced a compact camera with a fixed lens.  The difference being the sensor size inside these cameras.  Leica has introduced a digital compact camera fitted with a medium-wide lens and it has a full frame sensor.  These cameras produce excellent quality images, but at the moment, they are quite expensive.

Most compact cameras and the superzooms have some handy features.  Face detection is one of them and, if you take a lot of shots of people, this is invaluable.  Set your camera to this mode and it will detect and focus on the faces in the frame.  You can then hit the shutter button feeling confident you have everyone in focus.

As well as face detection, the above-mentioned cameras are also likely to have modes such as landscape, beach, sunset, party etc etc.  These modes are handy for a quick shot in the circumstances.

Next we have the DSLR’s.  Most serious photographers use a DSLR.  DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex.  They are interchangeable lens cameras, offering flexibility and excellent image quality.  They are usually larger and heavier than the other types of cameras, and there is the need to lug around your other lenses, just in case they are needed.  Quality lenses are not cheap, so there’s another consideration.

Olympus, Sony and Panasonic have developed a system called the micro four thirds system which has allowed them to manufacture small DSLR type cameras with the ability to interchange lenses.  The lenses are made specifically to work with the four thirds system.  The main advantage of these cameras is their size; they are generally far smaller than their DSLR counterparts, but produce quality pictures.

DSLR’s are capable of producing top quality images with excellent low light performance.  They also have good high speed performance and can track fast moving subjects using a designated focus mode.  Modern DSLR’s have a lot of features including all the automatic modes found on most compacts and the ability to record video.

It wasn’t that long ago that DSLR’s did not have a live view function.  Olympus released the first DSLR’s with live view, but now it is a standard function.

DSLR’s generally have larger sensors than the other types of cameras, but this sensor size varies with type of DSLR.  The manufacturers sometimes have slightly different size sensors.  The top end cameras in each manufacturers range will likely have a full frame sensor, which is larger again.  These are the cameras the professionals use and they are very expensive.

Another consideration when deciding what type of digital camera to buy is what size prints you are interested in.  The phone cameras are generally only good for prints in the 6 x 4 inch range.  The compact and superzooms produce larger prints up to A4 size.  The more advanced, and expensive, fixed lens compact with the larger sensors can produce prints up to A3 with no problems and DSLR’s are usually good for A2 size.  If you are after the massive, poster sized prints, then you’ll need a medium format digital camera, but these are prohibitively expensive beasts (and so are the lenses).

If you are serious about taking quality photographs, then buy a DSLR or at least a good quality compact.  Learn how to use manual mode and understand exposure, aperture and shutter speed.  Despite modern cameras having all these special modes as mentioned above, there are times that, even if you have selected the correct mode for the conditions, the results will not be what you were after.  If you learn to use your camera to best suit the conditions then you gain far more enjoyment out of taking pictures.