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Which Compact Digital Camera?

Updated on January 16, 2015

Which Digital Compact Camera

Which digital compact camera is for you?

This article covers the things to consider when buying a compact digital camera: Digital camera reviews; Which is the best digital compact camera? What type and size of sensor do you need? How many mega-pixels do you need? Do extra pixels actually improve the quality? What type and range of zoom lens do you need?

I have also written a more detailed article about DSLR cameras

and my in my opinion, the best compact camera, the Canon Powershot G10

What Digital Camera Features to Look For

How many Pixels?

This is the first thing you will probably be told about the camera. It is an important consideration, but having more pixels is not always better (see the section on sensor type and size below and my more detailed article if you want to know more about this) The size of the sensor is more important and a small sensor with lots of pixels may be noisy in dark conditions. Some compacts have as many as 14 Mega-pixels, but a good quality 8 Mega pixel camera may give you very good results too (and will use fewer memory cards)

Manual Over-ride

Do you want to do creative photography with control over shutter speed, aperture etc. or just put it in one of the many automatic modes usually provided and let the camera do the work. Many compact cameras do have full manual over-ride. It can be a bit fiddly to use and is not something most people need or want to do with compact cameras, but it is something to consider.

Compact Digital Camera Lens: Zoom Range

Zoom range

Almost every compact camera has a zoom lens, with a range usually quoted in numbers that represent the equivalent lens for a film camera ("35mm equivalent" - referring to 35mm film) This is a bit inaccurate, if the range is quoted as 28mm to 130mm it implies wide-angle to short-telephoto. For some examples:

24mm very wide, suitable for landscapes, buildings and interiors even when you can't get very far away from the subject

28mm good wide-angle, suitable for landscapes, buildings and interiors

35mm fairly wide, suitable for landscapes, buildings, but maybe not always wide enough

50mm "standard" lens (i.e. similar to your eyes) suitable for landscapes, buildings from a distance, people, street photos etc. General purpose

85mm short telephoto suitable for portraits and candid photos

130mm telephoto suitable for some portraits and candid photos

200mm telephoto suitable for some animal/wildlife photos

300mm long telephoto suitable for animals and even birds or safari photos

For portraits you need to minimise depth of field which requires wide aperture lens (f2.8 is a wide aperture, f16 is a narrow one) and/or longer focal length to focus on a face but defocus the surroundings (if this means nothing to you just put the camera in portrait mode, zoom in and it will set the aperture as wide as possible). For longer than 200mm you may need a tripod, but you need at least this for safaris.

Type and size of sensor.


Compacts have a confusing range of sensor sizes and when choosing it is worth checking the specification, but most importantly read reviews of the camera because the quality will vary a lot for small cameras. The size is just one thing to consider (generally the bigger the better though)

To confuse things further, compact camera sensor sizes are usually measured differently to their big brothers, the DSLR cameras. Some sensors are wide-screen and some have an aspect ratio of 4:3. The size is often denoted as a fraction of an inch e.g. 1/3" but may even appear as something like 1/3.6" or 1/1.8" (the crop factor is the relative size compared to 35mm film i.e. a sensor with a crop factor of 2.0 is half the linear size or a quarter of the area)

1/3.6" = 4.0 x 3.0mm = area 12.0mm2 (crop factor 8.7)

1/2.5" = 5.8 x 4.3mm = area 24.7mm2 (crop factor 6.0)

4/3" = 17.3 x 13.0mm = area 225mm2 (crop factor 2.0)

See my more detailed article if you want to know more about this

As I said before always read a review of the performance in addition to the size specification. Smaller sensors have smaller pixels which are more prone to noise, because they each catch less light and therefore are less accurate. Obviously if there are more pixels they will be smaller too. More pixels may not indicate a better picture in all lighting conditions.

Which is better CMOS or CCD? First of all, what is the difference and what does it mean? Most cameras are CMOS now because it is cheaper to make, but more prone to noise because the electronics (the transistors on the chip) are close to the pixels and can interfere, but as I said before always check the reviews before buying, because to say one is better than another is a huge generalisation. The sensor size and pixel sizes are more important.

See my more detailed article if you want to know more about this

Is Digital Better Than Film?

Digital Cameras vs 35mm Film Cameras

There is no advantage in using film compact cameras now. There is still and argument for using film in a big SLR camera or a professional medium format camera (although many may disagree - see my more detailed discussion here) Most digital compact cameras are far smaller and much more convenient than most film cameras. Film compact cameras were limited by their lenses so they did not in general get the full benefit of the film quality.

I have written a separate article about classic film cameras, here

If you are still using film or have a lot of negatives or slides I have written a separate article about scanners, here

Whether scanning negatives and/or slides, or using a digital SLR or compact camera you need photo-editing software to improve the results: crop them to get better composition, adjust colours and brightness or just to remove read-eye. There are many great software programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, but you can also download a good free tool called GIMP (This is more complicated, so I have written a separate article about that - see below)

Free Photo-Editing Software (GIMP)

My Favourite Compact Digital Camera - The Best Digital Compact Camera?

As a semi-professional photographer I mostly use a bulky SLR camera with a selection of prime lenses in a rucksack. This means I miss a lot of photos on those occasions on which it is not practical to carry all of this kit. My ideal compact needs the quality and control of a big SLR. Unfortunately this doesn't quite exist in a compact, because they have smaller sensors and usually too many pixels for the sensor-size (as described above) resulting in too much noise in dark contitions or with high ISO settings. There are however some good offerrings from Panasonic, Ricoh, Sigma, Leica, but my favourite is the Canon PowerShot G10

The Canon PowerShot G10 has 14.7 Mega pixels and a fairly small CCD sensor (although fairly large by compact standards: 1/1.7"), so this is not perfect, but has an old style metal case with very tough, heavy construction and all the control a professional could need (it even outputs RAW files - essential for post-processing the photos). It sufferes a little from noise problems like so many compacts, but less so than most. It also has a good wide-angle lens (28mm)

Other Excellent High-Spec. Cameras

At the top-end of the range of compact cameras there are a few others that compete with the Canon PowerShot G10 (described above) all offering similar features to the Canon, but all a bit smaller (i.e. compact):

Nikon Coolpix P6000 - similar to the Canon, with almost SLR type of controls and very well made

Ricoh GX200 which has an optional LCD view-finder that can be attached

Panasonic DMC LX3 - excellent sensor and a very wide-angle lens

Selling Your Digital Photographs On-Line

Zazzle Photo Galleries

There are many ways of selling photos on-line, such as professional photo libraries or even eBay. Alternatively there are web-sites that pay you to upload photos and you get paid for internet traffic to your photos, but, perhaps the easiest way to create an income directly from your photos is by selling products featuring your photos, such as postcards, greeting cards, fridge magnets, T-shirts etc. and Zazzle: ( ) website allows you to upload your photos and automatically general virtual products in your gallery, which then can be made available for sale (the products only get made physically when someone orders them) and you can choose how much commission you would like to receive (e.g. 10%, 15%, 20%...)

Here is my Zazzle Gallery : which makes me a nice steady extra bit of income.

Here are few examples:


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    • malena10 profile image

      malena10 5 years ago

      I love your title picture, so cute!

    • raelcalu profile image

      raelcalu 5 years ago

      getting a hang on it...thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      amazing for describing the ideas, while buying the digital camera we must think about these features,because on the basis of camera we select the best

      printer ink & get benefit thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      cheap-hotels-new-york 6 years ago

      A very informative lens, would recommend this to my friends. Take a look at my lens too :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      A thorough lens on cameras and the details.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Love your tips & guide about digital cameras. Thanks for sharing all these :)

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 7 years ago

      I got a GE (yes, that's what I said) telephoto that I can throw in my pursue and I haven't used my big old Nikon since

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Very informative lens,I am currently looking for a new camera to step up my skills in photography.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      Good to find such helpful advice. I have a good digital SLR but wouldn't be without the compact. It's so small and light.

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      So much to know about choosing a digital camera!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      I'm saving for a new camera. I want one with a good telephoto lens. I love to watch the birds but they're too far away to get a good picture.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      I really like my FinePix V10 because of the widescreen that fills the back of the camera -- it's compact and can do great videos. I got the stainless steel one but really wanted the orange one!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      I have a camera but my son keeps borrowing it. I'm thinking about getting him one for his birthday. That way he'll leave mine alone.

      Great information

      Thanks for sharing


    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 8 years ago

      Nice selection and some very sound advise.

    • profile image

      QueSea 8 years ago

      Very informative. Do you have these cameras saved on your wish list at Tagfoot? (smile).

    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 8 years ago from England

      Excellent advice Andy which I'm sure will help a lot of people to choose the right camera for them.

    • SylvianeNuccio1 profile image

      SylvianeNuccio1 8 years ago

      That picture on top is SO funny! I love watching and taking pictures. Very good lens and 5* to you!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Excellent lens Andy, 5***** I love my Canon A630 Powershot, great for taking pictures easily, but I would love to get a DSLR one of these days.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      I have one of the more cheaper digital camera. Those I would like something more like you have. Good source of information for those considering what type of camera to buy. Nice lens.