If one has a look at the selection available, there are more than 1,500 different digital cameras available with a mind-boggling array of features and benefits, and in sizes to suit every hand and pocket possible. There are well-known brands, newer, developing brands, unknown brands… where does one start?
The simplest solution is to pick up an advertising leaflet from one of the major retailers promoting digital cameras, decide on your budget and just go and buy one. None of these retailers carry inferior products, so you will get a reasonable camera at a reasonable price and off you go…
You may well be delighted with your purchase and live happily ever after… snapping away and enjoying your pictures.
There is, however, a state of mind known as post-purchase trauma. We are all very familiar with this as in ‘I knew I should not have bought it… ‘ ‘This other one is much better value but I didn’t see it… ‘ ‘It really doesn’t have the features that I now realize I need… ‘ ‘I wish I had known… ‘ etc etc.
In the long run it is really best to try and avoid this as much as possible as it can have the effect of devaluing (in your own mind) your exciting new purchase which would be a real pity as it should be your key to a fascinating hobby.
For example, did you know that you can get cameras with what the Americans call “Zit Fix”? The camera automatically corrects any skin blemishes making this a wonderful product for teenagers. Or perhaps you really wanted to get the camera with ‘Smile Timer” – the camera will not take the picture until the main subject is smiling! Or the one with a “Blink Proof” function – the camera takes two pictures automatically and discards the one with the closed eyes!
Are functions such as these really important to you? Or would you prefer to have more control yourself? Do you want to take snapshots or do you want to add some of your own touches? As the saying goes “Do you want to take pictures or to make pictures?”
As the range of digital cameras is so large, and keeps growing daily, it is important that you think about your purchase in a careful, logical way to minimize the chances of making an expensive mistake and suffering from Post Purchase Trauma!
Each decision you take reduces the number of cameras available until you get down to a manageable number!
There are four basic styles of digital camera – the ubiquitous compact camera with a zoom range of around 4X; the so-called ‘bridge’ camera which is bigger and normally has a large zoom range – some go up to 24X; the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR) with interchangeable lenses and lastly a number of what I term ‘new style’ cameras – mirror less, small bodies, big sensors and interchangeable lenses.
Your first, and perhaps, tentative decision to get started is deciding what you are going to buy. Go into a photo shop and look; pick up and feel each style. What suits you best in terms of size and convenience? You can then concentrate on cameras in your chosen section.
Should you decide on a compact style camera you may want to consider whether your cell phone camera will serve the purpose for your needs. This depends on your model of phone as cameras can vary considerably. It also depends on your answer to our next question…
Your next and crucial decision is: Do you want or need the creative tools for controlling Aperture and Speed? If you are planning to do anything much beyond basic ‘point and shoot’ photography you really need to be able to control these two manually. Don’t forget, photography is a fascinating hobby and, once you get into it, you may well regret not buying a camera with these creative tools. During my camera courses I often hear the comment ‘if only I had known I would have bought one of those… ‘ – it really is a crucial decision so think about it carefully! I put this ahead of the decision about budget as it may have an effect on your planned budget!
Having made this decision the number of cameras available is almost halved.
The next, obvious decision revolves around budget – it becomes the next defining cut off point in reducing your options. Be realistic and include everything – extra memory cards, spare battery, carry case etc. For your initial review it is a good idea to increase your budget slightly so that you can get a good feel for what is available.
The next step is to decide if brand is important to you – if it is, then the spread of choice is immediately reduced. A complicating factor is that the number of brands available is growing and some of the newer entrants offer excellent products – perhaps keep an open mind about this…
Continuing with our progress through the buying decision, we come to some more personal decisions which only you can make and, because nothing is easy, these may well have an effect on your original decision as to the style of camera you prefer!
How important is photo enhancement and manipulation to you? If it is extremely important you would want to go for a camera in the 10+ megapixel range (or even higher if your budget permits) and one which allows you to shoot pictures in RAW files as these contain far more digital information than the common JPEG files. This, once again will reduce your choice options as many cameras do not do this.
Will speed be important to you? By speed I mean the time taken for the camera to start up and recycle between shots coupled with the speed of the auto focus mechanism. Be sure to try each camera for yourself. DSLR cameras tend to excel in these two departments.
Do you want to use your new camera as a video camera as well as a still camera? This is fairly new technology which will again limit the number of cameras available to you. Ask the shop assistant about video quality as this too can vary.
Is a huge zoom factor important to you? The bigger the zoom factor in a built-in lens the bigger the trade off in stability and image quality – but they are convenient! They are also becoming more and more compact! Again only you can make this decision. Do you really need a big zoom? Try to be practical in terms of how much you will use it, compared with the convenience of a more compact camera body.
A crucial point is size and weight – a camera locked in the hotel safe is useless! A DSLR with a couple of lenses is cumbersome – remember that the camera you have with you is the best camera in the whole world!
Read camera reviews in magazines – there are a number of web sites such as which review cameras – sometimes in incredible detail but they are well worth visiting to compare models. Your camera dealer is crucial.
In the final analysis, however, it all comes down to how the camera feels in your hands… does it feel right? Are the knobs, buttons and dials placed where you feel comfortable?