One of the initial barriers to entering the digital photography field is selecting appropriate equipment. The sheer range of cameras and paraphenalia available is both breathtaking and daunting simultaneously.

One of the easiest ways to narrow your search is to decide what kind of camera you require by thinking about what you want from it. There are three main types of camera out there for those entering the world of digital photography.

If you are planning on taking your digital camera out and about with you, possibly on a night out on the tiles, perhaps a simple point-and-click camera would be most suitable for you. They behave in a similar way to a mobile phone camera with the whole process being very compact and easy making it ideal for snapping without flapping around with dozens of settings. The results of these point and shoot cameras are often very impressive and as far as simple, good quality photography goes they are hard to fault; especially as many of them begin to allow more manual control over the shooting process.

Then there is the awkward middle ground. This is filled with an aptly named range of ‘bridge’ cameras which resemble the more complex DSLR cameras despite being closer to the simpler, instant point and shoot cameras. They have non-removable lenses, different internal workings and often have smaller sensors. All this in theory suggests they are wearker than entry level DSLR cameras but this isn’t strickly the case. More often than not, the lens found on bridge cameras is superior in quality to kit lenses supplied with DSLR cameras. The quality of the lens is a huge factor to consider when trying to achieve good quality images.

Finally there are digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLR). These cameras tend to encompass all features found on the simpler as well as having full manual controls. These cameras tend to be more expensive and as a rule come with a poor standard lens. The main plus for these cameras is the expandability that can be achieved through changing the lenses and adding accessories to hep you take the best photographs possible. The main downsides are the costs involved for both the main body of the camera and for additional lenses and the bulky nature of them. It is also worth considering that removable lenses on DSLR cameras usually only fit one brand of camera so if you choose a Sony DSLR as your first camera and purchase lenses you will be locked into buying further Sony DSLR cameras in the future if you want to use your existing kit.

So which camera? It is best not to get caught up with the megapixel war as often this is almost irrelevant – it is accepted that five megapixels is all you would need to blow pictures up to A4 size! What is worth considering is what you want from the camera, how you want your hobby to evolve and what you feel most comfortable with. Price is a factor, however high end instant cameras and bridge cameras are easily in the range of entry level DSLRs.

Personally speaking I opted for an entry DSLR (the Sony a200) and I love it. The entry level lens is below the quality you find in bridge cameras of similar price, but I plan on using a range of lenses as my hobby develops to take specialist shots. However, if I was going to spend the majority of my time taking pictures of scenery or people from standard distances without getting too arty I would have chosen a bridge camera with the single, better quality lens and further if I wanted to carry the camera with me and take drunken pictures I would have gone for the most compact option in the form of an instant camera.

Do research, read as many reviews as you can and ask people who enjoy photography what they think – just be wary that they might well be biased and only be willing to suggest equipment made by the same manufacturer as they use. Once you know which cameras appeal to you most try and get into a shop and play about with them. Feel the quality of the finish and use the controls and see if you feel comfortable with them. I had my heart set on a Nikon D40 until I had a chance to play with one alongside the Sony A200.

Overall take your time, have a play with cameras that are on your short list and consider what you actually want from a camera. Most cameras are capable of taking beautiful pictures suitable for most purposes. You need to select the hardware that matches all your criteria be it a DSLR, a bridge or an instant camera.


2 Responses to “Choosing a digital camera”

  1. 1 spamwarrior May 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks, this is really helpful. I’m thinking about a simply point and click camera to start out with…

  2. 2 crouchingwayne May 11, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    The point and shoot cameras are good for capturing moments with your friends and similar. The quality is also noticeably better than most phone cameras.

    It all depends on your budget really, a reasonable compact camera can be had for around about £100. If I was you I’d look out for one with optical rather than digital zoom. Digital zoom is fake and just enlarges an area of an image like you would on the computer – optical zoom gives you full resolution while zoomed in!

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