If you haven't already got a DSLR camera this section will be useful
Whether you want a DSLR or a digital compact camera or a pocket camera, there are so many models to choose from, at a bewildering range of prices, where do you start? Well, the way to choose any new toy these days is to start at the end. What do you want it to do?
Err . . . take pictures. Yes but what kind of pictures and what are you going to do with them? The other burning question is how much are you prepared to learn?
And, of course, how much are you prepared to pay?
Do you want a camera that will allow you to take pictures in any lighting conditions from any distance? Is this going to be a hobby or just some quick snaps?
The Learning Curve
There hasn't been any cameras on sale in recent years that do not have a fully automatic 'point and shoot' mode, most will automatically switch on the flash for you when it is needed, so you may wonder why we need all the other manual and semi automatic modes and an instruction book to make your head spin.
The answer is that, although the camera can produce good exposures most of the time, there are times when, to get the results we want, we have to apply a little know-how and select more appropriate settings than the camera would automatically choose.
Before choosing a camera with lots of knobs and dials it is a good idea to consider whether you are ever going to bother to learn what they are all for. We are guessing you are as thats why you are here! Of course it would be nice if we could choose just the buttons we need and have each camera custom made for us but in the real world all we can do is choose the level of control based on how much we think we might want to get involved. Generally speaking a DSLR will have more knobs, dials and menus than a compact digital camera which will give you more control over your pictures but will have a much steeper learning curve.
All the cameras on the market can be categorised into a few simple groups. The most important two groups are fixed lens and interchangeable lens. The fixed lens cameras tend, with a few exceptions, to be smaller, lighter and more pocketable, therefore you are more likely to have it with you when you need it. Well, that's the theory anyway, but we can say that you are more likely to be bothered to take it with you on that outing to the beach or the zoo.
However, even with today's zoom lenses, which are pretty wonderful, you will often find that you are too far away or too close to get the picture you want so
you need to be able to change the lens for a longer telephoto or a wider angle. The other major advantage of these single lens reflex (SLR) cameras is that you are actually looking through a viewfinder and not at the screen. The problem with viewing a screen on the back of the camera is that it makes it more difficult to hold the camera steady as you have to hold it away from your body to see what you are doing.
The down side of these DSLR cameras is that you very soon end up with quite a heavy bag of gadgets and are less likely to carry it everywhere with you.
This, of course, is the big question that you really want an answer to and you know that nobody is going to give you one. If you ask anyone who already has a camera most will support the brand of the camera they have unless they have had some trouble with it, even then people are very forgiving. The reason for this is that people think that, if they have made the wrong choice it is because they have somehow failed, and they are not going to admit their failure. Most of the top brand names do the same job and you get what you pay for.
The most popular manufacturers who make the best cameras tend to be Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax, Minolta and the German Contax and Leica seem to make the best digital cameras. Our favourite and probably one of the most famous cameras is 'Hasselblad' a Swedish manufacturer that produces medium-format cameras.
How Many Pixels?
Until recently the quality of a digital camera was measured by how many pixels it boasted PPI/DPI (Pixels Per Inch/Dots Per Inch). Now we have cameras with tens of millions of them and it has ceased to be the most important test of quality. In the real world the number of pixels you need depends on how big you want to print your pictures. If you mainly want postcard size or A5 then consider 6 to 10 million pixels to be perfectly adequate. Even at A4 size you would be hard pushed to tell the difference between a 10 million pixel camera and an 18 million pixel camera. Don't forget though that your framing in the camera may not always be perfect so you may be enlarging only a portion of the image. Top of the range camera sensors seem to have settled down now (2014) at around the 16 to 20 million pixel mark, and maybe we finally have enough of them. The main difference between a pro camera and an amateur camera is that the sensor is bigger and therefore each pixel is bigger but there are roughly the same number of them, the bigger pixels certainly do seem to produce better quality, smoother pictures.
You will find the main advantage of having more pixels is being able to shoot at faster ISO settings and still get decent definition. This really helps to freeze the action in sports photography and other kinds of fast moving subjects. You get better definition at all ISO settings of course but, be warned, you need a good quality lens to really see the difference. Click 'Next'.