A Practical Guide to Choosing Digital Cameras

This article aims to offer a few pointers when choosing a camera. There are three main types of cameras you can opt for, viz. compact, bridge and SLR (Single Lens Reflux). Each type has certain pros and cons. I am going to attempt to explain these points concisely and do so with minimal usage of jargon. The camera which is perfect for you is not necessarily the most expensive but rather on what you will use it for.

Compact

This has become the staple camera for the many as it is cheap, portable and simple to use. With prices starting from around £30, it is not a large investment and to put it bluntly does the job. If you’re after something which you can carry everywhere, that go into your pocket and take snaps in an instant, this is perfect for you. Conversely it does have its limitations; the image sensor which is found within the camera is very small compared to larger more expensive professional cameras. This means that this may not be able to capture as much detail in the photo. The performance deteriorates heavily in low light conditions meaning use at night is very limited. It is fully automatic so you don’t need to know any of the settings and the camera will choose the optimum settings for you. However these may not necessarily provide the best results which may sometimes be frustrating.


Don’t be fooled by the large number of megapixels that these cameras are offering. This just means that you can take larger prints without losing resolution. However the actual image quality may still be low. In most modern compacts this is not an issue as you can only see the difference between 12MP and 18MP once the picture is over A1 which most people never blow up to anyway.


The major disadvantage I find with compacts is the very low level of optical zoom, which provides greater quality compared to digital by simply magnifying the image. More sophisticated cameras offer greater functionality on this front and are all the better for it.


Despite these drawbacks most people own a compact because of its convenience and affordability. It is a good idea to invest in one if you are new to photography to see if you would like to peruse it as a hobby, and in good light conditions it can produce some very good results.

Bridge

This is exactly what it says on the tin; a bridge between a compact and a SLR. It offers greater flexibly at the drawback an increased price. It is not quite as small as a compact camera however it packs a lot into the relatively compact body. Although the image sensor inside is essentially the same, you will have much greater control as to how the image is taken. The zoom offer currently is the best available of all cameras which is a great advantage for sports or wildlife photography. Most bridge cameras come with a variety of shooting modes far more complete than in a compact. So it produces better results more of the time if used properly.

So if you want a little more control and a lot more zoom in your camera, a bridge may be the right camera for you. I find that it is a great stepping stone to buying a more expensive SLR and taking photography more seriously.

SLR (or DSLR)

The top of the tree in cameras no doubt is the DSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflux. This is the camera of choice for photographers the world over. This is not without reason as it produces the best results in every shooting condition mainly due to the larger image sensor inside which can capture more detail. Using a larger image sensor bring drawbacks primarily in size, weight and the cost. DSLR’s are not handy like compacts, they are large and heavy and the lenses which need to be attached separately can be even more so. Unlike compacts and Bridge cameras, no lens is attached permanently to the camera. Instead you can purchase a lens for every circumstance to acquire the best result. These are high quality and high precision tools and so tend to be larger. Also prices can quickly run into many hundreds if not thousands of pounds. With different lenses you can achieve different effects. This is an example of the total freedom and control that a DSLR provides, which can be handy for taking photos with various effects or more artistic pursuits.


Taking action photography of maybe sports or wildlife is made much easier by the almost instantaneous response of a DSLR where the shutter is electronic rather than mechanical. It tends to be much faster achieving up to 12 frames (photos) per second which is many times faster than a bridge or compact that enables you to capture pictures quickly during crucial moments.


Other than varying the lenses and controlling the camera settings, DSLR’s offer numerous other tools for taking the perfect snap. There are various filters available which can polarise the light or add colour effects. Almost without exception, all DSLR’s have a tripod port so you can increase the time of exposure which is useful in poor light conditions. An external flash gun can also be added which improves the power and angle of light provided.


If you are serious about photography as a hobby or a job then a DSLR is a must have. It is expensive but it undoubtedly provides the best photos every time. However for someone who needs a handy camera that they can put in their pocket this is definitely not the best option. After all having the best camera is no use if it’s at home; you can’t take photos with a camera that you don’t have with you.


Most modern digital cameras come with the option of video, granted with various levels of quality. However if video is going to be the primary use, then it is definitely worth looking at a dedicated camcorder which is better designed to be held for longer periods and should have much greater memory capabilities for longer videos.

Summary of features

Category
Compact
Bridge
DSLR
Price
£30-£200+
£120-£300+
£300+
Size
small
Mid-sized (too big for pockets!)
Large especially with zoom lenses
Image Quality
Poor in low light
Poor in low light
Best available in all conditions
Zoom
x4-x6
Up to x30
Depends upon Lens
Control
Limited manual control
Good basic manual control
Full control over settings available
Ease of Use
Very easy to use – just aim and shoot
Requires some expertise, but can be used with aim and shoot mode
For better results, a good amount of expertise and understanding of combination of features (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) required
Video
None to full HD
Most have HD
Latest models offer full HD

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Comments 1 comment

Alex Hills 4 years ago

Useful article

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