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Deciding which camera to buy can be a minefield. There are so many models, manufacturers, features and prices, it can be hard to know where to start. Here at DCE, we believe you should buy the perfect camera for you, and not just the one that offers the most megapixels for your money.
Budget is usually the first consideration. Decide how much you are prepared to spend on your new camera, and stick to it. Budget will narrow your choice somewhat but £500, for instance, can still buy you a beginner DSLR, prestige compact or a superzoom. £100, on the other hand, will limit your choices to compact only.
Next, decide what you will use your camera for. If you want it simply to catch quick shots on rare holidays, if you’re a keen snorkeler and want to shoot underwater or if you want to take stills and video of a new grandchild, you need to look out for different features.
The most common type of camera is a compact. These are usually small, slim and simple models, although the higher-end models are capable of great images and creative shooting. Compacts typically have small sensors and lenses which can impede image quality, as well as a high number of automatic and scene modes to help new photographers get great results.
Superzooms or bridge cameras are typically built to look more like a DSLR, with a large battery grip and a large lens. They have a long focal reach, utilising 10x or more optical zoom power – great if you need a camera covering everything from
wide-angle to extreme telephoto lengths.
DSLRs, or digital single lens reflex cameras, are usually more advanced, with larger sensors and interchangeable lenses that offer greater creative options for the photographer. They also offer viewfinders alongside LCDs as compositional tools.
Hybrid or system cameras have also just entered the market. They bridge the gap between compact and DSLR, offering interchangeable lens creativity and large sensors in a smaller, lighter and easier-to-use bodies without a DSLRs mirror system.
When looking for a new camera, many photographers look at the megapixel ratings first. Megapixels refer to the number of pixels on a camera’s sensor in millions. Larger numbers may seem better, but you also need to consider the physical size of the sensor.
Compact cameras typically have smaller sensors than DSLRs, therefore squeeze more pixels onto a smaller surface, affecting image quality.
Other features you may which to look out for include focal range. On a DSLR or hybrid, this will be dependent on the lens you buy. On compacts it will be represented by a figure like 28-120mm. 28mm represents to widest angle of your lens, and 120mm the telephoto end. The wider the range, the more zoom capacity the camera boasts.
Features like smile detection, video recording and scene modes have become must-haves on all current models and help add value to your new kit. Don’t to be swayed by them, though, unless they are important to your shooting needs.
After you’ve decided what you’re looking for, go to your local camera retailer and try a few models. Remember that photography doesn’t necessarily stop with purchasing the camera. Choose a camera that will suit you for the long-run and you’ll find it an amazing investment.
Full-frame sensors have the same dimensions as 35mm film and are found in the most expensive professional SLRs
So-called because they’re similar in size to old APS film. They’re half the size of a full-frame sensor and found in most DSLRs
High-end compacts and non-SLRs tend to have slightly larger sensors than most compacts, but they’re still small
Superslim cameras and superzooms have the smallest sensors of all (though the sensors in mobile phone cameras are smaller still)
Understanding your Mode dial is a vital skill
These camera icons will be similar, no matter which model you shoot with
Some more common camera icons to be familiar with
Understand the inner workings of your digital SLR camera (hybrid models do not have the mirror system)
Understand your superzoom or bridge model to get the best from it
Compacts might look simple, but underneath there's a world of technology
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Debbis passionate about all things photographic: from the latest digital kit to the greatest techniques to capture a scene. Shes been at the helm of the photography portfolio of magazines, websites and more for three years.
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