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What do I look for in a good digital camera?

20th Jan 16

What do I look for in a good digital camera?

Purchasing a new digital camera can be a confusing experience. Digital photography has revolutionised the way people take pictures, and the market has responded to a hugely increased demand by producing a greater variety and diversity of cameras than ever before. The speed and convenience that digital cameras provide compared to film models has led to increasing numbers of people enjoying a renewed interest in photography. We no longer have to worry about how much capacity is left on a roll of film, nor do we have to wait until photos are developed before finding out if they are as good as we hoped.

It is fair to say that there is now a camera for everyone, whatever the individual's requirements may be, and the sheer range of offers can be overwhelming. There is also the potential to invest huge amounts of money into photography as a hobby, which is often unnecessary for the majority of amateur photographers who simply want to capture special moments. The complexity of the technical language that can be used only adds to the confusion and perceived inaccessibility of the industry.

Here are some questions to ask yourself, including definitions of key words and phrases, to help ensure you get a good digital camera that is right for you:

  • What are the resolution requirements? The quality of a digital photo depends on the number of megapixels (Mp), which are the units used to define resolution. Essentially, the more megapixels there are, the better the picture's definition will be. It is important, however, not to simply buy a camera with as many pixels as you can afford. Higher resolution photos may look better when blown up for large prints, but they also take up significantly more storage space on memory cards and computers. For regular sized prints, anything above four megapixels will usually be fine.
  • Do you want a 'Point and Shoot' or SLR digital camera? These terms are also examples of basic technology that is important to understand. SLR stands for single-lens reflex and refers to cameras that permit the photographer to view exactly what will be captured in a photo through the lens, as opposed to the autofocus functionality of a viewfinder or rangefinder camera, where the captured image could potentially be different. SLR digital cameras are typically more cumbersome, heavier and harder to keep clean and maintain. They also require a bit more expertise to get the best results, so people looking to keep things simple and are not too interested in achieving professional standard pictures should probably opt for a more simple point and shoot' model.
  • What sort of zoom do you want? Experts tend to recommend optical zoom lenses rather than digital zooms, as the latter simply enlarge the pixels in a photo and reduce the quality of the image. Optical zoom lenses come in a variety of focal lengths measured by the number of times they are able to multiply an image. For example, a 3x optical zoom will magnify a view up to three times and is a sufficient strength for most amateur photographers wanting to capture social photographs. People looking to be a bit more ambitious and branch out into photographing wildlife, for example, should consider a longer and faster lens (larger maximum aperture).
  • What other equipment do you need? Once you have worked out how much you are willing to invest in a new camera, make sure you take into account the cost of any extra equipment that you may also need to purchase. A good quality camera case, extra memory cards, some spare batteries and a charger are essential. You will also want to consider items such as additional lenses, filters, a tripod, external flashes and reflectors, all of which can add up to a significant extra cost.
  • What do other people recommend? The answers to the questions above will help to establish the sort of camera an individual requires. The final step is then to do some research, read unbiased reviews and understand what the market has to offer in this area.

While the range and diversity of choice is vast, choosing a new digital camera does not have to be daunting. In fact, the wide range of products available on the market improves the chances of getting the right equipment that meets your requirements and offers the best value for your money. All it takes is a bit of research to ensure that you get a good digital camera that delivers everything you need it to be and more.

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