When you compare digital cameras for beginners there are two main groups, Compact or Point & Shoot and Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR). Both types of cameras have many technical settings and advanced sensors built in but a DSLR will give you more settings and options. More expensive DSLR cameras will allow you to change lenses and add other attachments such as filters and lens shields.
You can let the camera do the work for you by setting it on AUTO or learn how to set up the camera yourself manually for each shot and circumstance. Eventually you will need to get out of AUTO mode to take high quality photographs. If you look at the three cameras below the least expensive sells for less than $80 while the most expensive sells for over $22,000. Somewhere in between there is a camera that is just right for you.
Feel or Body Style
You want to be sure that the camera fits your hand, that you can take pictures and make adjustments quickly and easily without a lot of fumbling around. The same reason you choose one car over another is the same reason you choose a certain camera. You like the way it looks and how easy it is for YOU to use. If you are only going to use the camera occasionally for vacation or family photos then a point and shoot is right for you. The compact cameras today have good zoom capability, high megapixels and most of the same features of SLR cameras. They are easy to use and fit in a purse or pocket.
On the other hand, if you are serious about your photography then you will need a good Digital SLR because you will have a larger range of settings to work with and in more expensive camera styles you can change lens to fit your needs.
Money Saving Camera Buying Tip: If you are not too concerned with having an absolutely brand new camera then consider a refurbished camera. They are usually just returned and repackaged cameras that can not be sold as “new”. They come with all he same warranties and you can get 10% or more off the “new” price.
What to Compare When Buying a Digital Camera
At this point you already know what general category of camera you are looking for so many of the features that you will compare will be the same for either group, compact or Digital SLR. Here are the main technical specifications that the amateur photographer will want to compare when buying a camera.
Technical Specifications to Compare and Consider When Buying a Camera
- Optical Sensor Resolution: This is a measure of how sensitive the camera is and how sharp the pictures will be. It is measured in megapixels and the larger the number the sharper the image will be. As of 2013 you will be looking at 16 megapixels or more.
- Optical Sensor Technology: CMOS or CCD are the 2 competing technologies currently used in digital cameras. Both types of sensor accomplish the same task of capturing light and converting it into electrical signals but there is no great advantage of one over the other at this time.
- Optical zoom: A zoom lens is described by the ratio of their longest to shortest focal lengths. For example, a zoom lens with focal lengths ranging from 100 mm to 1000 mm may be described as a 10:1 or “10×” zoom.
- Minimum focal length: Measured in millimeters, the lower the number the closer you can get.
- Maximum focal length: The opposite of Minimum. The larger the number the greater the magnification.
- Display Size: This is how large the display screen is on the rear of your camera. Usually measured in inches.
For an example of technical specifications, here is a Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS…
…and the technical specifications:
• Optical Sensor Resolution: 16.1 MP
• Optical Sensor Technology: CMOS
• Optical zoom: 5 x
• Minimum focal length: 24 millimeters
• Maximum focal length: 120 millimeters
• Display Size: 3 inches
• Width: 6.00 inches
• Height: 2.00 inches
• Weight: 0.85 pounds
Most cameras for beginning photographers have one primary lens that may or may not be an adjustable or zoom lens. With more advanced digital SLR cameras you are able to change lenses (and you already know more than I do about the subject).
The human eye sees the world at about a 50mm focal length. A longer focal length means a higher magnification and a narrower angle of view. As you look through binoculars you can see far away but only a narrow view. This is exactly how longer or telephoto lenses work.
The focal length of a lens determines the magnification at which it images distant objects or where an object is in focus. Use of a 35 mm-equivalent focal length is common with digital cameras as they typically use sensors that are smaller than the 35 mm film which used to be the standard.
Camera Buying Tip: Buy the largest lens you can afford for the type of camera you want.
My Canon PowerShot 40SX is a DSLR camera with only one lens. It has a focal length from 4.3 mm (wide angle or Macro Mode) to 840 mm in telephoto mode.
Accessories & Package Deals
Your camera should come with a strap, lens cover and a case. All of these should be good quality because they are important to protecting your camera. If one manufacturer has a deal and throw in some extra goodies for the same price as just a camera alone then it is well worth considering.
Depending upon your camera and the amount of pictures you are taking consider buying an extra battery and a memory card. If your camera did not come with a cable to download your pictures to your computer then you will need that too.
Here are a few accessories you should consider if you are serious about your equipment.
A Professional Cleaning Set for DSLR Cameras should always be handy because you are going to need it.
A Camera Case to keep your poop in one group.
A 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod for the steadiest, clearest shots.