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How to choose a digital camera

Posted on 6 Aug 2009 at 13:02

Buying a digital camera is a minefield of high numbers and fancy but pointless features, but don't be swayed by the marketing.

There’s a bewildering choice of cameras on the market, but if you follow some simple guidelines you can narrow down the choice.

If you’re considering spending a couple of hundred pounds or more on a camera, we’d always recommend heading to a physical shop to try your prospective purchase rather than just ordering from the internet.

Many shops can come within £10 or £20 of the online price, and it’s well worth it to be able to handle the camera before you buy.

Image quality is more difficult to scrutinise, but there are plenty of ways to find out whether a particular camera takes great pictures or not. Magazine and internet reviews, forums and photo-sharing websites such as Flickr can offer both advice and proof of a camera’s quality. Some manufacturers also have sample photos on their websites.

However, before thinking about specific models, you need to decide what type of camera is going to suit you best. The choice can be broken down into three main groups: compacts, superzooms and DSLRs.

To find out more about each of these categories, click on the link below:

Digital compacts


Digital SLRs

What about megapixels?

You’ll notice that we haven’t made a big deal of the megapixel rating in your choice of camera.

That’s because these days it’s basically irrelevant. There are very few cameras on the market with a rating of below 6 megapixels – that is, 6 million individual dots making up each picture. Most cameras are now 8 megapixels or higher.

Salesmen and adverts may try to convince you otherwise, but unless you’re planning on printing your pictures at poster size, anything over 6 megapixels is plenty.

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User comments

Shutter lag is the bugbear of consumer digital.

You basically have a choice of two kinds of digicam, the consumer grade which relies on contrast-detecting autofocus and has dreadful shutter-lag problems which make it unsuitable for any kind of action photography, or the pro SLR which uses more reliable focusing methods and will actually fire when commanded-to. Drawback is that the SLR is not only costly but too bulky for leisure use.

If someone would make a compact cam with proper manual focus (and hence no shutter-lag) I'd buy it, unfortunately in the gimmick-led consumer sector I don't see that happening.

By Anteaus on 27 Aug 2009

Well said Anteaus

I can't say it better :
"Shutter lag is the bugbear of consumer digital"
It is impossible to take decent pictures of people or action with a camera which doesn't take at the instant the button is pressed.
I never knew the reason, and Anteaus's explanation is immediately plausible.
Frankly, all tech journalists who have failed to include this amongst the most important characteristics in any review should be ashamed. The reviews in the August edition being a prime example.
Shutter-lag is not even in the feature table.
You don't have to be Cartier-Bresson to prefer half-decent snap of the smile your friend had on their face when you pressed the button to a 6M-Pixel image of the back of their head.


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