What digital camera? What digital camera to buy? What digital compact camera should I buy? What digital SLR camera should I buy?
Which digital camera should I buy? This is a question I get asked a lot on my workshops. And it’s one that only you can answer!

I love this phrase coined by photographer Chase Jarvis, ‘the best camera is the one that’s with you‘.  In other words, there’s no point having an all-singing, all-dancing, mega-bucks camera if you never carry it with you because it’s far too heavy/ flashy/ complicated.  So, with that in mind, here are some hints and tips to help:

Size & Use
Are you someone who likes to carry your camera in your handbag or someone who doesn’t mind carrying a rucksack full of camera gear? Can you manage tiny buttons or do you need a camera with bigger buttons? Are you left-handed or right-handed? Do you want to take photos of your friends in the pub or orangutans in Borneo? All of these are considerations when buying a camera.

Camera phones are getting better and better and most of us carry our camera phones with us all the time. They are quick and handy to use and are great for sharing photos almost instantly.

Compact cameras are small ‘point-and-shoot’ cameras with fixed lenses.  In general they are quick, easy and more discreet to use.

Hybrid cameras look similar to compact cameras, although they are usually slightly larger and may have interchangeable lenses.  They mix a lot of the qualities of both compact and dSLR cameras.

Digital SLR cameras (single lens reflex) are large and often bulky, with interchangeable lenses. They can be used on auto but come into their own when you begin to use them more creatively. Most newer dSLRs have wonderful low light capabilities and large, high quality image sizes.

Digital cameras range from tens of pounds to tens of thousands of pounds. Decide on how you’ll be using your new camera and how much you’d like to spend and then look at the best quality you can buy within your budget.

Simple & clear
The more professional camera you buy, the more complicated the menus often become, so do bear this in mind if you’d like to buy a quick and simple to use camera. If you enjoy being very creative with your photography and you’re enthusiastic to shoot on semi-manual and manual modes, you may want to buy a more professional camera that allows you creative control.

Many things effect the quality of your image including:

1. Sensor / megapixels

My first digital camera was a top-of-the-range 2.1 megapixel (MP) camera.  2.1!! Each megapixel mattered!

Nowadays, cameras have many more megapixels as a matter of course. If you only ever use your photos for emailing, on the internet, or for small prints (i.e. 5″ x 7″) a 6MP camera should be fine. However, if you think you will be making billboard sized posters you’ll probably need a camera with a much larger number of megapixels!

2. Sensor/ low light ability

Camera manufacturers are building better and better low light capabilities into their cameras. If you shoot in low light a lot, research which digital cameras show less ‘grain/ noise’ at higher ISOs.

3. Lenses

In general, bigger lenses with better quality glass will give a better visual quality to your image.  Often, smaller (cheaper) compact cameras have smaller, lower quality lenses.

Optical zoom
On fixed lens (compact) cameras you may have seen the term ‘optical zoom’.  The larger the reach of an optical zoom (8x, 10x, 12x etc), the more expensive the camera is likely to be.  Optical zoom is a much higher quality zoom than ‘digital zoom’ and you may notice that your image is soft and blurry when zoomed in digitally (I’d recommend turning digital zoom off on your new camera – you’ll see digital zoom settings in your camera menu – and using only optical zoom).  If you like taking photographs of landscapes and subjects in the distance (I’m thinking of those orangutans!) buy a camera with a high range optical zoom.

Consider social media integration
If you love showing your photos online many cameras now have great integration with social media.  You may want a camera with built in GPS which works really well with Flickr.  Or maybe a camera like this new square format Powershot camera from Canon, which would be fun to use with Instagram (or similar). And camera phones, of course, are perfect for shooting great photos, recording location and uploading instantly.

Try it for size
Once you have a few models in mind, visit a camera shop and ask to try them out. Try out how easy the menus are to access and read, whether the buttons suit your hands, how big and clear the viewing screen is and how it feels to use.  If you can take a memory card with you, do. That way, you can take your photos home and compare how they look once they’re on your computer.

The internet is brilliant for finding insightful camera reviews, researching the best digital cameras and buying cameras online. And, if you’ve found a camera that you adore, why not leave advice for others in the comment section below…

Lucy Williams is the lead photographer at My Heart Skipped, shooting wedding photography and portrait photography in London and beyond…

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Published on October 30, 2012. Filed under /