Digital Camera Buying Guide - Choosing
Digital Camera Choosing
Keep reading this page to learn how to Choose a Digital Camera. To learn about basic digital camera concepts, head back to Digital Camera Basics which is the first step in our 4-step Digital Camera Buying Guide.
Paying attention to megapixels is only important now if you intend to make truly large prints. Resolution determines the maximum print size which can be made from a single image without degrading image quality. All modern digital cameras have at least 12 megapixels which is more than enough for a 12" x 18" print.
It is critical to get enough megapixels for a desired print size. Otherwise, printed images will appear unsharp. Getting significantly more megapixels than needed may degrade image quality though due to increased image-noise. Unfortunately, consumers are rarely given the opportunity to choose fewer megapixels.
For uses other than prints, so few megapixels are needed that there is little point checking if a new camera has enough megapixels. It always does. Even the highest-resolution HDTV never requires more than 2 megapixels. The highest resolution computer monitor currentlyIBM used to have one with 9 MP (T221) but it has been discontinued. in production has 4 megapixels.
Since displays and printers produce pictures using tiny dots, giving them more pixels than they use is futile. In other words, the extra pixels are ignored! Look at the following table to see how many megapixels are needed.
|Standard Prints||Large Prints||Other Media|
Different subjects require different things from a digital camera. While all digital cameras manage well with daylight-lit outdoor pictures, other subjects and situations require certain features.
|Taking indoor pictures under typical household lighting demands high ISO sensitivity or at least use of a flash. Most photographers use flash because high ISO sensitivities make pictures look rather noisyEven with 35 mm films, high ISO means larger, more visible grain unless a relatively expensive large-sensor camera is purchased. High ISO sensitivities are preferable to preserve the mood of lightingUnless using a tripod for photographing still subjects. and the sense of depth.|
|A built-in flash must reach far enough to light a subject completely, otherwise an external flash will be required. In such case you must get a camera with a hot-shoeOr a sync-port for studio-flashes. to connect the external flash.|
|Night photography requires slow shutter speeds. Preferably longer than 4 seconds. Control over shutter speed is critical, otherwise it is quite difficult to obtain desired results.|
|Sharply photographing moving subjects requires fast speed shutters. For people doing sports you need at least 1/500. For faster subjects such as race cars, horses and speedboats look for a camera with 1/2000 or faster shutter speeds. To ensure a fast shutter speed is obtained a camera must have a shutter priority mode or a fast-shutter subject programSometimes called sport or action mode.. Indoor sports require a camera with high ISO sensitivity which is most likely a DSLR.|
|Wildlife photography requires the use of long zoom lenses because most animals don't easily let people get close to them. Even insect photography is better with a long zoom because of their small size. If you intend to photograph wildlife either get an Ultra-Zoom camera (10X or more) or an ILC with a long zoom lens (300mm or longer).|
|A continuous drive mode is frequently used to get good pictures of moving subjects. Cameras that have a continuous drive mode take pictures in rapid succession. The number of frames- per-second (FPS) is the number of pictures taken in one second. The burst length is the number of pictures that can be taken consecutively at the maximum frame-rateBefore the camera stops taking pictures or slows down dramatically..|
|Special situations like fireworks, moving light-trails and artistic photography absolutely require having manual controls. A camera with full manual-controls lets the photographer control aperture, shutter-speed and ISO independently.|
To take a picture of a subject, you must have your camera near it. To get it there, you must transport it. This is why it is extremely important to get a camera of the right size. Unfortunately not all features are available in every camera sizeManual controls are rarely found on small cameras, for example. and picture quality is better with a bigger sensor, which usually means a bigger camera and bigger lens.
Camera sizes fall into 6 categories:
- Ultra-Compact: Fit in most pockets and are easy to transport unnoticeably anywhere.
- Compact: Easy to transport, fit in purses and waist-pouches.
- Medium: Too big for the average purse, these can be kept in an small camera bag.
- Large: Definitely too big for a purse, fits in a nap sack or average camera bag.
- Mirrorless: Interchangeable lens cameras which can be Medium size when paired with a slim lens. They can get large with a long or bright lens.
- SLR: Large enough to need a dedicated camera bag, they are easy to notice and may feel heavy to carry over extended periods.
Other location considerations:
- Waterproof - Submersible under water up to a certain depth. Underwater photography requires a waterproof camera or an underwater camera case. A waterproof camera or case is rated to a certain maximum depth. Most waterproof cameras go deep enough for swimming and snorkeling but not sufficiently for SCUBA diving. For SCUBA diving, an underwater case is always needed.
- Weatherproof - Seals protect from dust, humidity and light splashing. A few cameras are splash-proof for taking pictures in the rain or in dusty environments. Some are also freezeproof which lets them operated below freezing, usually down to -10C, without a significant change in performance.
Some cameras are better than others even if they are the same size and have similar features. There are different aspect to camera quality and even more to image quality:
- Picture quality: Good cameras produce pictures with less noise or other problems such as distortion, chromatic aberrations, blurring, color shift, etc.
- Ergonomics: Well-designed digital cameras are comfortable, easy and efficient to use.
- Build quality: Some cameras are more sturdy than others and will last longer.
- Performance: The speed at which a camera focuses, takes pictures and updates its LCD all affect its usability. Faster subjects are more demanding of camera performance.
When looking at camera models in the next step look for these icons which indicate quality:
- Excellent +
New Cameras & Lenses
Canon Powershot G3 X20 Megapixels Ultra Zoom
25X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom
Pentax Ricoh GR II16 Megapixels Fixed Lens
Fixed 28mm lens
Leica Q Typ 11624 Megapixels Fixed Lens
Fixed 28mm lens
Sony Alpha A7R II42 Megapixels Mirrorless (SLD)
Sony E Lens Mount
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX10 II20 Megapixels Fixed Lens
8.3X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 IV20 Megapixels Fixed Lens
2.9X Ultra-Wide Optical Zoom
Canon EOS Rebel T5i Review
Entry-level DSLR. 18 MP APS-C CMOS sensor with built-in Phase-Detect AF. 5 FPS drive and full 1080p HD video. Single control-dial and 95% crop 0.85X magnification viewfinder in a comfortable and light-weight body.
Nikon 1 J5 Review
The 1 J5 introduces a new 20 megapixels 1" high-speed CMOS sensor in a compact body with dual control-dials, a traditional mode-dial and a tilting 3" touchscreen LCD. Continuous drive up to 60 FPS at full-resolution, 4K Ultra-HD video capture and a 105-point on-sensor Phase-Detect AF system.
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review
The new E-M5 brings 40 megapixels Super-Resolution capture to Micro Four-Thirds while improving 5-axis image-stabilization and showing off a new 2.4 MP 0.5" EVF with Eye-Start Sensor. Native 16 MP drive @ 10 FPS and full 1080p HD @ 60 FPS.
Fuji XQ2 Review
Ultra-Compact Fuji premium camera. 12 MP 2/3" X-Trans CMOS II sensor with built-in Phase-Detect AF. Ultra-Bright F/1.8 wide-angle 4X optical-zoom. Dual control-dials, 3" LCD and built-in WiFi.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 Review
Unique premium compact with 12 MP effective multi-aspect resolution and ultra-wide ultra-bright 24-75mm F/1.7-2.8 lens. 11 FPS Drive and 4K Ultra-HD video at 30 FPS. Plenty of direct controls plus a built-in 2.8 MP EVF with Eye-Start sensor, a 3" LCD and WiFi.
Nikon D7200 Review
New Nikon flagship APS-C DSLR with a revised 24 MP CMOS sensor without anti-alias filter. 6 FPS with deep buffer and 1080p @ 60 FPS video capture. Dual control-dials, 100% coverage viewfinder and WiFi in a weather-sealed body.
Mirrorless Camera Buying Guide - 2015 Edition
Our detailed mirrorless digital camera buying guide, fully updated for 2015. This is the best and more current mirrorless guide!
Nikon D5500 Review
Compact entry-level DSLR with a 24 MP APS-C sensor without anti-alias filter. 5 FPS drive and full 1080p HD video at 60 FPS. A 3.2" 1 MP rotating touchscreen LCD plus built-in WiFi.
Canon Powershot G7 X Review
Premium compact with a large 20 MP 1" CMOS sensor. Stabilized ultra-bright ultra-wide-angle 4.2X optical zoom lens. ISO 125-12800, 1/2000s-250s shutter-speed, 6.5 FPS and full 1080p HD @ 60 FPS. Dual-controls dials and a tilting 3" LCD.
Fuji X100T Review
The latest classically-styled fixed lens camera from Fuji packs a 16 MP sensor with built-in Phase-Detect AF and a bright F/2 fixed 23mm lens. It offers a unique hybrid EVF/OVF with Digital Range Finder in a highly mechanical design.