Are you planning on buying a camera? Are you a casual photographer or you want to take-up professional photography? Will you be recording a lot of videos with your camera or you will mainly take still pictures? Whatever your needs may be this buying guide will set out the basic features you need to know to help you make an informed choices.
Point-and-Shoot Cameras include a wide range of portable devices that may fit in your pocket. Entry level point-and-shoot cameras produce pictures as good as the best smartphone cameras. Across several models, these cameras could be equipped with a 12x zoom to about 20x zoom range. Camera settings, such as ISO, aperture, shutter speed, etc, are mostly automated. This feature may not bother casual consumers but may be a hindrance enthusiasts and professional users. Equipped with a smaller image sensors, these cameras produce comparatively low quality pictures. They are also slower cameras. They also don't have interchangeable lenses.
Bridge Cameras are point-and-shoot cameras equipped with a "superzoom" lens . The zoom ranges from 20x to about 80x on some high-end models. These devices might also have more flexible manual camera settings compared to what you get on a basic point-and-shoot camera. Some models may also have slightly bigger image sensors. Like Point-and-Shoot cameras, they are slow and don't have interchangeable lenses.
Mirrorless Cameras (aka micro four thirds) are usually designed to be as small as Point-and-Shoots and also produce DSLR-level image quality. They are "mirrorless" because unlike DSLRs they do not have an optical viewfinder. Image quality on these devices is better than on Point-and-Shoot as they are equipped with bigger image sensors. The image sensor size fitted in these devices vary across different models. Few mirrorless models are fitted with full frame image size of 35mm, making them attractive DSLR substitutes. Mirrorless Cameras also have interchangeable lenses. On the downside, the range and quality of lenses available for these device are limited, compared with DSLRs. They also have slower auto-focus speeds. Most Mirrorless Cameras support saving your pictures in RAW format. RAW format is better suited for editing images than JPEG format.
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras have the best options for taking quick successive shots and capturing fast motion scenes. They are equipped with an optical viewfinder. DSRLs usually have fully automatic and fully manual settings. These devices also have the widest choice of interchangeable lenses for taking wide and close-up shots. DSLRs have bigger image sensors and produce the sharpest shots. They are however bulkier, heavier and more complicated to use. Like Mirrorless Cameras, DSLRs support saving your pictures in RAW format.
Many digital cameras can record videos but are they built, primarily, for taking pictures. Camcorders are built primarily for recording videos. They usually have advanced video recording features usually not found on digital camera, like recording videos in 3D or having an in-built projector. An Action Camera is a type of video camera recorder used by a person engaged in the action he/she is recording. They are mostly associated in outdoor sports. These devices are mostly small, rugged, waterproof and used hands-free (wearable).
A resolution refers to how detailed an image would look on a computing device and how big it will be when printed out. Picture Resolutions are measured in megapixels. The megapixel count of an image tells you the number of "dots" the camera would use to produce an image. The more megapixels you have does not necessarily translate to higher quality and sharper pictures. If the camera's sensor size is small, more megapixel may translate to grainy-looking pictures, especially when the picture is taken in dimly-lit environments. This results because those tiny megapixels are not receiving enough light on the small-sized image sensor. The number of megapixels you need depends on how big you want the picture to be and how large you want to print it out. A minimum of 8-megapixels is enough for most modern cameras.
The camera sensor uses light to create a picture image. A bigger sensor allows adding more and bigger megapixels to create better looking photos. But a bigger sensor requires a larger lens, a bigger camera and other extra components. Fitting a bigger sensor in a smaller camera can be a problem. The largest consumer-level sensor, the "full-frame" sensor, is 35mm. Sensors are measured in millimeters or by a label such APS-C, micro four thirds, or 1/1.7-inch. Modern cameras would be based on CCD or CMOS camera sensor technology. CMOS cameras are generally less expensive and have longer lasting batteries while CCD cameras have comparatively better looking pictures.
All types of cameras have lenses. It enables you to take pictures in various shooting modes such as close-up shots, zoomed-in shots and wide-angle view shots. Important features related to understanding camera lenses are aperture, image stabilization and focal length.
A camera's aperture is a hole in the lens where light passes. A bigger aperture size on a camera is preferred as it allows in more light. A bigger aperture allows you to take sharper, brighter pictures. Aperture size is measured in f-stop, or f number, such as f/2, f/2.8 or f/22. The smaller the number the bigger the aperture is sized.
Image Stabilization (IS) is a technique used to reduce blurring in your pictures when the camera shakes when you are taking a picture. There are two types namely Optical IS and Digital IS. Optical IS techniques are more effective because a mechanism in the camera physically moves to counteract the movement of the camera. Digital IS techniques are cheaper and easier to fit in small-sized cameras.
Focal length determines how much you can zoom in to snap a picture or the angle of view you can capture. It is usually measured in millimeters (mm) or by a magnification factor (15x, 20x, etc). Normal lenses are about 50mm, which is about the size our naked eyes see. A 20mm lens would give you a wide angle shot and a 70mm lens (or a telephoto lens) would give you a zoomed-in shot.
ISO denotes the camera's sensitivity to light. A higher ISO number, such as 6400, indicates the camera is more capable of shooting in dimly-lit environments. But a higher ISO number can result in grainy looking pictures. The degree of how grainy the picture looks depends on other factors like the type and size of sensor fitted in the camera.
Many Point-and-Shoot and Mirrorless Camera have an LCD screen. This is very convenient to use because it helps you frame your shots and gives you instant picture playback. The disadvantages are LCD screens drain battery quicker and their screens less visible in brightly-lit areas. DSLRs have optical viewfinders, where you directly look through the lens to see exactly how the picture would look when you take a picture at the current camera settings. The downside is that it is difficult to use an optical viewfinder when recording videos. Other cameras also have an electronic viewfinder (EVF) which is basically an optical viewfinder-like screen on an LCD-like screen. Using an EVF in video recording is easier than on an optical-based one. However an EVF image is not live. You get to view the final image after you have captured it. The advantage of an EVF over an LCD screen is that it is easier to view your images in brightly-lit environments.
Since many camcorders have smaller-sized sensors, you get comparatively better quality pictures using a digital camera that has a big sensor. For filming, it is best to use a camcorder as: - Camcorders have better integrated audio and microphone systems. - Camcorder have better image stabilizers - Camcorders have better video focus - A camcorder would be generally smaller than an equivalent digital camera
- Wi-Fi: Transfer files wirelessly and control the camera remotely - GPS (global positioning system): Tag pictures with location data - Shutter Speed: Faster shutter speed means better image clarity for moving objects - Continuous Shooting/Burst Mode: Capture a couple of pictures by holding down the shutter button - The speed and precision of the camera's Auto-Focus - Shooting modes: Portrait Mode, Night Mode, Panorama Mode, Sport Mode, etc. - Battery type and Battery life - Ability to save images in RAW format. Raw format is more flexible to edit after taking a picture. - Water-Proof and Dust-Proof features - Video Recorder
- Wi-Fi: Transfer files wirelessly and control the camera remotely - Flip-out LCD screen - Frames per Second: At a set resolution, how many images can the camera capture per second - Full-Auto Mode: Camera automatically adjust for best settings - Built-in projector - Maximum video recording time - Water-Proof and Dust-Proof features - Battery type and Battery life - Record 4K videos - Record 3D videos
Point-and-Shoot cameras are generally the cheapest, followed by Mirrorless camera which cost more. DSLRs are what many professional would use but they are usually the most expensive. A cheap mirrorless camera may be a better deal than an expensive Point-and-Shoot camera considering you may get a larger image sensor and possibly a better picture quality. The price difference between a cheap DSLR and a cheap mirrorless camera may be small but DSLRs have the advantage of being faster devices and they having longer lasting batteries. However, if your would be many recording videos, you can pick a cheap mirrorless camera with an EVF over a cheap DSLR. Camcorders generally costs less than a mirrorless/DSLR camera with equivalent capabilities.