Are you thinking about getting a new camera but aren't sure which one to buy? Here are some helpful tips to guide you on your path to the perfect camera.
Cameras are available in many shapes, sizes and prices and the sheer selection can be overwhelming. To know which type of camera will work best for you, think about the types of photos you currently take. There are four types of cameras and each one is best suited for certain uses.
1) Smartphone Cameras - Maybe you don't even need a camera at all. If you have a relatively new smartphone, odds are you already have a capable and convenient camera. Smartphone cameras are perfect for people who just want to take a few snapshots during the holidays, family outings or capture everyday life. I see amazing photos from many brands of smartphones and it honestly could be all you need.
You can take really marvelous photos with your phone, too, if you spend a little time getting to know its features. You can read many tutorials online including one I recently wrote, 13 Tips for Taking iPhone Photos Like a Rockstar! Try learning one or two new features on your phone and see what a difference it makes.
2) Point and Shoot (Compact) Cameras - These are your standard, entry-level cameras that are easy to use and less expensive than DSLR's. You simply pick them up, aim them and take your photo. They automatically focus and adjust for lighting and usually have a build-in flash. These cameras are the right choice for you if you want better quality or higher resolution photos than your smartphone can offer but you want something simple to use. They are also very small and are perfect for travel and everyday photos.
3) Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) - These are the larger cameras that come with interchangeable lenses. They are more expensive but offer more options for those who want complete control over their photo settings. You can take photographs with these cameras in auto mode, where they'll operate like a point and shoot camera, or you can take photos in full manual mode, where you set the aperture, shutter speed, ISO and even the focus if you choose. A few of the popular uses for these cameras are portrait and wedding photography, wildlife and nature photography, and waterfall and night sky photography. This is the type of camera I use.
4) Mirrorless Cameras - This is a new style of camera (less than 10 years old) that also has interchangeable lenses. You operate it in the same manner that you'd use a DSLR, but its advantages include its small size, light weight and quiet operation. These have gained in popularity as their technology improves and are being chosen by more and more professional photographers each year. Because they are so new, however, they have fewer lens and accessory options. This has been improving in recent years and more mirrorless cameras are being designed to operate with DSLR lenses.
How much you have to spend on a camera may play a large role in which camera you choose. Each of these categories of cameras has a wide range of options to help you find a camera that fits your budget. While you're shopping, keep in mind the cost of an extra battery, memory cards and any other accessories you may need.
Resolution - The camera's resolution is measured in megapixels (MP) and tells you how many pixels are captured by the camera with each image. The more megapixels your camera has, the larger the size of print you can make from your photos. That doesn't mean, however, that you need to run out and buy the camera with the largest resolution. Some cameras have over 50 megapixels, but they are very expensive. If you plan to print your photos, consider the largest size you think you'd print. A 4MP camera will give you decent 4x6 or 5x7 photos. With a 12MP camera you can make prints that are 9x14.
Getting a camera with the most megapixels, though, will not guarantee you get the best photos. Resolution only determines how large your photos can be printed without losing quality. There are other features to consider that impact your photo's quality.
Sensor Size - The sensor is the part of the camera that capture the image information. The larger the sensor, the more information your camera gathers with each shot. Full frame sensors are the largest available and are found on some DSLR and mirrorless cameras. The next most common size is crop sensor. There are many more sizes of sensor sizes available, so be sure to find out which version the camera you are researching has.
Zoom - Camera manufacturers offer two types of zoom options on cameras, optical and digital. Optical zoom is the best option and I highly suggest never using digital zoom. Optical zoom is a true zoom, where digital zoom isn't actually a zoom at all. It simply enlarges a portion of the photo you have in camera and can result in grainy, pixelated images.
Lens - Your lens is an extremely important key to getting great photos. If you are looking into a DSLR or mirrorless camera, do at least as much research on the lenses as you do the camera. They are the window that lets your camera capture the image and the better quality lens you have, the better your images will be. You can also compare lens quality on point and shoot cameras and smartphone cameras.
Image Stabilization - Image stabilization is a process the camera uses to reduce the potential for blurry images caused by camera movement or shake when the photo is taken. I highly recommend having this option on your camera.
Battery Type - Cameras operate on everything from AA batteries to proprietary batteries that work for specific cameras. The type of batteries your camera uses will have an impact on your experience with your camera. While AA batteries are easy to locate, they will run down quickly. The more expensive batteries will probably need to be ordered from specialty shops or online, but they will last much longer and are rechargeable. Be sure to research the battery life of your camera so you'll know what to expect when you're making a purchase.
WiFi -Having wifi in your camera isn't necessary, but it does give you more options. It allows you to do fun things like previewing your camera's photos on your smartphone, use your smartphone to trigger the shutter of your camera, and wirelessly download your photos to your computer. If those are options you'd like, be sure to get a camera that has wifi capability.
Video - Many cameras will now give you the option of shooting video with them. This is especially nice for travel, so you don't have to carry two devices. Make sure you research the quality of the video before counting on it, though.
Lens Selection - For those of you purchasing cameras with interchangeable lenses, be sure that you will have access to a nice selection of lenses for your camera. The two biggest brands are Canon and Nikon and both of those have a huge array of lenses available. If you are choosing a different brand, research lens availability ahead of time.
Before buying any camera, do your research. Read several reviews from a variety of sources. You'll often find similar comments and can start to get a sense of a camera's strengths and weaknesses from the reviews. Start by making an online search of the camera name that you're considering plus the word "review" and read several of the posts that result. Reading reports from different sites helps eliminate bias and gives you a clearer picture of the camera's strengths and weaknesses.
I also highly recommend visiting your local camera shop if you have one in your area. My local shop was very helpful in my decision and even let me try my current lenses on the camera I was considering to see how they worked with it.
I recently purchased a new camera so I know it can be a confusing and overwhelming task. To make the process easier, I created a board on Pinterest called Camera Shopping that has many resources, especially for those considering a DSLR camera.
While you're on Pinterest, check out my Photo Tips board, too. It has over 200 pins with solid information to help you take the best photos with any camera you might use.
I hope this information has helped you in your camera buying journey. Just remember: 1) Think about what types of photos you want to take. 2) Set a budget. 3) Do your research. Happy shopping!