Camera Buying Guide
When it comes to shopping for a camera, with so many options to think about, it can be tough trying to find the right camera for what you need. If you are searching for the right camera for what you need, this camera buying guide is perfect for the novice photographer trying to narrow down the right camera choice for capturing life’s precious moments.
If you are just starting to research the right camera for you, then your first decision to make is whether you go with a basic camera or a more advanced camera. If you are planning to use your camera for quick point-and-shoot pictures, then you should go with a simple point-and-shoot camera. If you are thinking you need a more advanced camera that allows you to play with different exposure settings, and switch out different lenses for more creative photographs, then you should consider a more advanced camera like a DSLR or Mirrorless camera.
Once you have figured out what camera type will work best for you, then you have to dive deeper to find what key features in a camera will be right for you moving forward.
In this camera buying guide, we will help you with your decision-making process on what features to look for in a basic camera, and what key features to look for in an advanced camera. By the end of this post, you should be more comfortable in deciding which camera is the perfect fit for you going forward.
We have researched the internet for popular camera reviews to save you time and money with your camera purchase decision.
Best Camera Buying Guide For Beginners 101 - Find The Right Camera For You
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Camera Buying Guide – The basic point-and-shoot cameras function the same way as you would with your smartphone. The settings are pretty basic in which you simply set the camera to either auto mode or scene mode, and just start shooting pictures. With a basic point-and-shoot camera, you are limited to changing the exposure settings of the camera, and you can’t change out lenses. But point-and-shoots differ quite a bit in terms of features and abilities.
Here are three types of basic cameras to consider in this camera buyers guide:
1. Basic point-and-shoots
These easy-to-operate, compact cameras, which sometimes offer optical zoom are fine for shooting short-range, but not great for distant shots. Some of these cameras have a touch screen, and being lightweight makes them ideal for slipping into your pocket or bag.
Price range: $100 to $300.
2. Superzoom point-and-shoots
If you are going to be using a basic camera for vacations, sporting events, etc. then you may want to go for a superzoom camera. These camera models have an optical zoom of at least 24x, and some are as long as 83x. Superzoom cameras often have comfortable anatomical grips to help you stabilize your camera when you take pictures. Current Superzoom point-and-shoots are also compact and light that can be easy to pack and go.
Price range: $200 to $600.
3. Waterproof point-and-shoot cameras
If you are traveling and you want to shoot photos or video while snorkelling or capturing moments of the family at the hotel pool, then a waterproof point-and-shoot is the perfect fit. But something to keep in mind when it comes to waterproof, some cameras in this category may claim to be waterproof to certain depths while some can only be submerged to only a fraction of that depth.
But with strengthened inner and outer chassis construction, most of these cameras in this category are also sturdy enough to survive a fall of several feet and to function properly in colder temperatures.
Price range: $100 to $400.
Related Article: 5 Best Low-Light Cameras | A Guide To Choosing The Right Camera
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Camera Buying Guide – If you are looking for a camera that will allow you to be able to fine-tune the exposure settings, then this is where you would find these types of cameras. With large image sensors and other features that come with these advanced cameras, they can help you produce high-quality images and video.
Here are three types of advanced cameras to consider in this camera buyers guide:
1. Advanced point-and-shoots
Just like the basic models of the point-and-shoots, these cameras may not have the ability to add interchangeable lenses to them, but they allow you to have better control over the manual exposure controls and other advanced features.
Advanced point-and-shoots are more pricey than basic point-and-shoots. Most of them have a hot-shoe mount for an external flash or external shotgun microphone for video and can produce RAW files. RAW files are the best format to use with image-editing software.
Some Advanced point-and-shoots have high-quality electronic viewfinders that are helpful if you shoot in bright light and the LCD looks washed-out.
Price range: $250 to $3,300.
2. Mirrorless Cameras
These types of cameras allow interchangeable lenses, like DSLRs, but they are smaller and lighter.
The only disadvantage to a Mirrorless Camera vs a DSLR Camera is they don’t offer a through-the-lens viewfinder like a DSLR. Mirrorless cameras have a large sensor for enhanced images. Some expensive models have a full-frame sensor; which is the size of a frame of 35-mm film, and it enhances low-light performance. Mirrorless models can also capture RAW files, which provides lots of flexibility when you edit your work.
For a vlogger, filmmaker, and photographer looking for a lightweight camera that can shoot 4k video footage and enhanced photographs, this is the perfect camera from this camera buying guide.
Price range: $440 to $4,000.
DSLRs are interchangeable-lens cameras, and a majority of them are compatible with several lens choices available today.
DSLRs offer the most advanced features of all the cameras in the camera buying guide, but they are also the biggest and heaviest of the cameras on this list. All DSLRs have a large sensor for enhanced image quality in low light. They also have a through-the-lens viewfinder, which uses a mirror to display the photo subject exactly as it appears through the lens.
As with mirrorless cameras, some pricey SLRs have a full-frame sensor. SLRs can also capture RAW files.
Price range: $400 to $3,300.
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Features & Specifications That Matter
Camera Buying Guide – When you have an idea of what type of camera you want to buy, and how much you are willing to spend on a digital camera, it’s time to look at important features and specs you may want in a digital camera.
Side Note: there isn’t a specific specification or feature to a camera that will make it better or not.
Take megapixel counts, as an example, they are mentioned prominently in ads to make the camera sound better than it actually is.
Sure the number lets you how fine the resolution will be in the final picture, but nearly every camera on the market has enough megapixels for most camera users. You will need more than 16 megapixels if you want to send your photos out for poster-sized prints.
So if megapixels don’t matter much as the deciding factor in a camera, but what should you really look for?
Here are some important features to consider.
A “sensor” is the part inside a digital camera that captures the image. So, when it comes to a camera sensor, the larger the sensor is, the better the camera performance will be, especially in low light.
Some more expensive camera models offer a full-frame sensor, which is the largest sensor available on consumer models. The downside to a camera sensor is there isn’t a consistent standard of measurement. For example, large sensors include 1-inch sensors and 35-mm full-frame sensors, which are measured differently.
So, if you’re interested in professional quality pictures and videos, you should try to get the largest sensor size you can. Information on a camera’s sensor size is usually in the features and specs portion of the description of the camera page.
Also, you can search the internet for “camera sensor sizes” to find charts that show the comparative sizes of image sensors. In general, a camera model featuring a sensor that’s 1 inch (12.8×9.6 mm) or larger can be recognized as an advanced camera.
Optical Zoom Lens
Even the most affordable cameras have at least a 3x optical zoom lens, which is greater than what you get on many smartphones. If you think you will be capturing many shots at sporting events, think of a lens with 24x optical zoom or longer, which can be found on superzoom cameras.
Some zoom lenses have very long ranges, which makes them very handy. For example, this photo of the moon was shot with Nikon’s Coolpix P1000 superzoom, which includes a mind-blowing 3000mm zoom. The only problem with wide-range superzooms is they tend to be larger and heavier. If you are looking for a traveling camera, think of a more compact model, with more moderate lenses.
Type of Flash
For point-and-shoot cameras, almost all have a built-in flash that’s better than what you will find with a smartphone. Some advance point and shot cameras let you even adjust the brightness.
But if you are looking for more professional looking photogrpahs, then opt for a DSLR or Mirrorless camera that has a hote shoe to add and external flash to it. By doing this, it allows you enormous control over the strength and direction of the light so it doesn’t have the harsh look you can get from a built-in flash.
An external flash can help turn a dull candid photo into a professional looking piece of art.
Next up in this camera buying guide is 4K Video capabilities. Since most content creators are looking for a high-quality video to post on social media, having a camera that can shoot video in 4K helps video stand out from the crowd.
The first thing displayed in almost every advertisement for a camera is the megapixels. Most of the major cameras whether it’s a point-and-shoot camera or DSLR camera, offer a min of a 16-megapixel sensor, which is enough for almost all situations.
The megapixel specification tells you how many dots make up the image. This information assists you to understand how large you can print your photos, or whether you can crop your image and still be able to print a decent-sized photo.
Keep in mind that even though a camera may have a lot of megapixels, doesn’t automatically mean it shoots sharp, high-quality photos and video.
In most cases, the camera’s lens and the size of its sensor are really the driving factors in producing top-quality images.
Reliable Camera Brands
Canon – “Quality Pictures at an Affordable Price. With a Canon digital camera, you can take professional-looking photos without investing in very pricey cameras. A Canon camera is a good choice for aspiring photographers and so are the lenses and accessories.” – digitalcameraworld.com
Fujifilm – “Fujifilm’s range of X-series cameras – as well as its medium format GFX line offer superb sensors, elegant retro design and beautiful image quality. There’s even a camera for people who don’t like the traditional exposure controls that Fujifilm has become known for!” – camerajabber.com
Leica – “Are Leica Cameras Worth the Cost? Just as some cars are more expensive but retain their value exceptionally well, Leica cameras tend to come in at higher price points but can be worth it in the long run. When purchasing a Leica, you can be confident it will perform beautifully for years to come.” – adorama.com
Nikon – “Nikon DSLRs are among the best DSLRs you can buy. Of course, an interchangeable lens camera might be more than you need. The best camera for beginners include many of Nikon’s fixed-lens Coolpix compact cameras, and for family or casual use, these are a great and inexpensive choice.”- Digitalcameraworld.com
Panasonic – “For every kind of photographer, there’s a Panasonic LUMIX camera to match. Point-and-shoots with pro-quality imaging and WiFi. Tough, all-season adventure cameras for action addicts who love to share. And LUMIX DSLMs for pro-photo performance with 4K cinematic video for serious hybrid photography fun.” – panasonic.com
Sony- “Sony also has some excellent advanced compact cameras. … You might buy a camera with a different brand name on it and end up with a Sony sensor, such as newer Nikon models. That’s okay because Sony makes good sensors. Sony has some of the best mirrorless camera systems on the market.” – expertphotography.com
As you can tell from this camera buying guide, there are many factors to consider when choosing the right camera for you.
Do you want portability for travel? Then maybe go for a point-and-shoot camera that is either lightweight, with superzoom options, or waterproof and rugged to capture your memories.
If you are looking for a more advanced camera with an interchangeable lens and more control over your camera settings, you can go with a lightweight mirrorless camera or a more complex DSLR.
Whatever your decision will be, you should be more comfortable in shopping for the perfect camera for you.
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About the author: Trent (IMDB | Youtube) has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.