Buying Your First Digital Camera
The first thing to consider is why you need a camera in the first place. If you only want to take snapshots of friends on a night out, then you will be well served with a lightweight camera like a smartphone camera or a compact camera, which is easy to carry, easy to use and won’t weigh you down. On the other hand, if you love photography and know you want to take it more seriously, a compact camera like this will not allow you all the creative control that you will need to take more professional looking images.
To inform your decision, it’s a good idea to know the advantages and limitations of the 3 main types of digital cameras available today. Let’s look at the smallest camera first:
Compact cameras are as their name suggests compact. They are easy to use, relatively inexpensive and they usually come with everything you need in the box.
These cameras are great if you want the camera to make most of the decisions for you. There are usually some symbols on a dial on the top of the camera or accessible through the menu. These symbols help you set the camera for the type of photo that you want to take. If you’d like to take a portrait picture, then you would pick the symbol that looks like a face. If you want to take a close up photo of a flower then you would select the one that looks like a flower.
So what are the main disadvantages of these cameras?
You can’t change the lens as normally the lens is fixed, so you are limited to the point of view that the lens will give you. The sensor is usually very small therefore you are limited to how big a picture you can print or show on screen. What is important to know here, is that a lot of megapixels on a small sensor does not make for a better picture, so don’t be fooled by the amount of megapixels advertised on the box. Small sensors also mean a noisier image. But, if simplicity is what you want and you are only posting small images to Facebook, this camera might be the one for you.
Bridge compact cameras
Bridge compact cameras are a step up from compact cameras and offer more features. The zoom range of the lens is usually a lot greater than the smaller cameras. With these cameras, you have more control over the exposure settings so you gain a little bit of creative control. Some will allow you manual control so you can set the exposure yourself. These cameras tend to have a lot more options than the compact camera such as shutter priority (you set the shutter and the camera sets the aperture) and more varied program modes to choose from.
The sensors in these cameras are typically larger than those in a compact camera and so the quality of the images will be better.
So, what are the shortcomings of the bridge camera?
These cameras also have fixed lenses, so you will still not have the option of trying out different lenses. The lenses are often digital zoom, which is not as good as optical zoom (a true zoom rather than just an enlargement of the image in camera). Therefore the camera will give you more control that a compact but you will still have some limitations.
DSLR cameras give you the most control and are fully manual as well as offer many program modes, extra controls and custom functions. This camera is the choice of most amateur and professional photographers. The sensor is much larger and of better quality. The lenses on DSLR’s are interchangeable, so you can add lenses as you need them and are offered the opportunity to buy the best lenses available on the market. These cameras also have a viewfinder, so you will not be struggling to look at an LCD screen on the back of your camera in bright sunlight.
This is the camera of choice if you want complete control over exposure and metering to get the image that you envision. There are many accessories and additions that you can buy, to give you even more options and customise your camera kit to your shooting style.
So with all these great features and benefits, what would make you think twice before investing in a DSLR camera?
One of the downsides to purchasing a camera like this is the price. These cameras are a lot cheaper than they were and get cheaper by the day, but they are still a lot more expensive to buy, than some of the other choices. Lenses are expensive if you are buying the best ones for the camera, so that is another additional expense.
DSLR cameras are also much heavier than a compact or bridge and do not easily fit into a small bag, so you are unlikely to take it everywhere with you and may miss out on some photo opportunities because you left it at home.
The higher end cameras in this category will not come with an inbuilt flash, as professional photographers (the main purchasers of these cameras) will usually never use on-camera flash because of how it looks on an image, so you will need to buy your own if you want to use flash in your photography.
As you can see there are many things to consider before buying your first camera, but if you answer just two questions: “What do I really need it for”? And “What features can I not live without”? You will be in a good position to make the right choice the right choice
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