A digital camera can automatically focus, set the light exposure and even compensate for your shaking hand. All you have to do is point and shoot. Which camera you choose will depend on your budget and how seriously you take your photography. Read this quick guide to digital cameras before you head out to your local camera store.
What are my digital camera choices?
For snapshot use, lower-priced point-and-shoot cameras come in pocket sizes or slightly bigger and typically offer few manual controls. You’ll pay more for more zoom power in the lens, starting at 3x zoom and moving up to 15x or more. The more zoom, however, the bulkier the camera to accommodate the lens. For serious amateurs or professionals, digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras offer manual controls to tweak settings and, at the high end, the ability to switch out lenses and view through the lens for maximum control.
What’s my budget?
Digital camera models are plentiful enough that, with some careful shopping, you can find quite few good cameras at different price points. Point-and-shoots start out as low as $100 or even lower, while advanced point-and-shoots may cost $200 or more up past $500. The entry point for digital SLRs is closer to $500.
When considering your budget, make sure to factor in extras like lenses for an SLR. These may eventually cost you as much as or more than the camera itself.
What do I want to shoot?
If you plan to take your camera along on events like family get-togethers, parties and nights out with friends, compact is probably key because you aren’t likely going to want a bulky camera to take along. Shooting sports will take a camera with a fast response time, like a digital SLR. If most of your subjects are likely to be inside, make sure to find a camera that shoots adequately in low light, which again may be a digital SLR to get the best shots. Point-and-shoots may do the job inside, but typically excel in outdoor situations or when the light is bright and right.
Do I plan to study photography?
Like any skills, photography takes studying and practicing. If you want to pursue photography as a hobby, you eventually want to get into the area of manual controls in order to fully appreciate what a camera can do. If not, an automatic camera that’s slight on manual controls or lacking them all together is an option to consider.
Where will my photos end up?
If you are hoping to print out poster-sized pictures, you want a camera with an 8 megapixels sensor or better—more megapixels equals more detail captured in the image. Photos printed out at 5×7 or 8×10 aren’t necessarily going to take such an investment, and neither are photos that you plan to post online rather than print out.
How advanced is my technical know-how?
Cameras can get quite advanced, and that means quite complex controls to maneuver. But if you are a newcomer to the digital photography revolution, it may not be wise to jump in with both feet just yet. If you can, try to go to a local photography equipment and supplies store and try out digital cameras to at least get a feel for them. There’s no use in selecting a camera with so many features that you aren’t likely to use even a quarter of them. At the same time, if you enjoy getting hands-on with technology, then the more controls you can find, the more likely you are to stay interested.
How close do I expect to get?
If the answer’s not too close, zoom control is something to consider. A 3x zoom may be enough for birthday parties and grabbing candid photos of your friends, but shooting pics at a distance takes having a more powerful zoom like an 8x, 10x or 12x or a digital SLR with a telephoto lens.