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The Complete Camera Buying Guide For All Levels of Users
When you walk into your local electronics store you are bombarded with choices. You have a lot of different cameras to choose from. If you are shopping online, then there are even more options. It can be completely overwhelming trying to pick one. There are different sizes, price ranges, mirrorless, DSLR and what does all of this even mean? You may automatically assume that picking a high megapixel’s camera will be the best camera. This is not the case. Megapixels refer to how many pixels a camera uses to produce a photograph. If you look around, this is a non-issue these days. All cameras come with a high number of megapixels so there will be enough on any camera you choose. If you see a camera with 18 megapixels and one next to it with 22 megapixels, it may not mean that the one with 18 is less superior. There just happens to be more statistics to a camera and other factors may contribute to the 18 megapixel taking a better image.
The Camera Needs to Fit Your Lifestyle
The ideal type of camera that you will want to purchase has to fit your unique personality, from fitting in your hand to fitting your level of technology knowledge. It can have all the features that you want but if it does not feel comfortable when you hold it in the natural picture taking position, then it may not be a good fit for you. You should consider looking at similar cameras that are more tailored for you. If you are a novice, you will want an easy to operate model with various auto scene options.
Few Key Terms You Will Need To Know
You are going to want to know some key terms so you can understand the differences in the types of cameras out there.
Sensors are what digital cameras take the image on. It’s like electric film. They pick up the details of the object you are taking images of. On top of it are pixels. Photoreceptors make the pixels that create the picture. There has to be a balance between the size of the sensor and how many pixels can fit on it. The smaller compact cameras use smaller sensors and smaller pixels. Large sensors take great photographs but the camera also gets larger. It also gets more expensive the bigger the sensors go. They are measured in real millimeters but it is stated as inches in the specs.
Types of sensors are CMOS, CCD, APS-C, BSI. Sensor types separate colors to create more of one color. For example we see more greens in detail.
CCD sensors are utilized in cheaper compact cameras.
Megapixels are the resolution of an image. It is how many pixels a camera uses to produce the image. The sensor has a large degree of impact on how many megapixels there are. People tend to think that the higher the megapixels are the better the image will be. It needs to be in good balance with the sensor or too high of megapixels will take poor quality photos in low light unless you change some of the settings first. You also need a high enough quality camera to quickly process a large high resolution photo. It needs to be in balance with other specs of the camera or it doesn’t help much.
Aperture is labeled on the camera as the F-number. It is the size of the opening on the camera that controls how much light gets in. The smaller the number, the bigger the aperture is. Wider apertures give more depth of field. The sharpness also increases. You don’t want a lens that is wide and narrows fast.
Light sensitivity or ISO, the higher the number the better the camera will shoot in low light. The higher you go, the more noise the photo can get. That is the speckles and spots pictures can get when it is dark out.
To understand lenses a bit, a 24mm focuses on emphasizing the foreground. 55mm is as close to perceiving a scene as you see it with your eyes. On the far end, a 600mm is a telephoto lens that brings the background close. There are many variations between this range available.
When you see the term FPS it refers to continuous shooting mode or how many frames per second a camera can capture.
Starting With the Basics Point and Shoot
The most affordable and easy to operate cameras on the market today are the compact cameras, also known as a point and shoot. They are great for a beginner and even someone who knows what they are doing, as they have really come a long way since their introduction. They no longer are the bargain basement of the camera models. They are excellent for specific types of photography such as:
Social media pictures
Family vacations centering on the activities rather than the scenery
Pictures with your friends on a night out
Taking pictures at major sporting events and concerts
Pictures at summer camp and social events
Perfect camera for older kids. They are still too complex for a child under 10 but pre-teens and teenagers will have fun taking pics with one.
More Specs of Lower End Digital Cameras
They generally come with different automatic modes. They have a setting for every occasion it seems and are easy to set back to basic automatic. They vary in price quite a bit, ranging from $50-$350. They have some characteristics that are generally true for all:
They have somewhere between 3-10x optical zoom. That is between 35-105mm. Some may have a better wide angle or focal shot than others. That range is fine for everyday pictures.
Compact cameras have a minimum of 12 megapixels. Combined with 3x zoom, you can get a picture that is 16inches by 20inches without losing quality.
Manual adjustments can’t be done like shutter speed and aperture. Aperture is the amount of light let in by the opening.
The lens is attached to the body of the camera. It can’t be taken off.
The screen size for the cheapest models is 3.7inches wide and 2.1 inches high. There are some that are slightly smaller or bigger.
They have different settings to use in low light, sports, portrait, dusk, panoramic and night mode are a few standard ones.
Viewfinder is the hole you look through to take the picture. Advanced model cameras have begun making them again.
<H4>Models of Compact Cameras</H4>
In the compact range of the lowest available priced models that I tested out personally and liked, there were a few different models that I was especially impressed with. The actual price tag as far as something costing a few bucks more or less, had very little to do with which cameras took the best pictures. I tested the camera models by using the same target picture, same position and the exact same automatic setting. Statistics below are from the Best Buy in store camera department.
PowerShot Elph 180 by Canon $119.99
20 megapixels 8x optical zoom
DSCW830 by Sony same megapixels 109.99 by Sony same size
Nikon Coolpix S3700 20.1 megapixels 8x wide lens with Wi-F and NFC or near field communication. This allows you to wirelessly share photos with someone you know nearby on their smartphone. It also has CCD technology. It is the sensor which will be explained further. It is slightly larger than the other two models.
Of the three cameras tested out, the Canon PowerShot Elph 180 took the best picture. It was very clear with good color for the price. The Sony and Nikon both took decent photographs and were comparable to each other in quality, but not as good as the Canon. I would buy any of the three at the price points they are at.
Mid Range Compact Cameras
Cameras in this range usually go from $150 to around $300. They are higher quality than a basic point and shoot but are not fully settings adjustable like a DSLR. It’s not quite a Bridge camera but there are many great cameras and features in this range. All features listed are not available on every camera.
A lot offer wide angle lenses.
Most use lithium batteries that can be recharged.
They are a style focused bunch with more colors available.
These models are slim and although bigger than a point and shoot, still fit in a pocket or purse.
Wi-Fi and NFC Enabled
Touchscreen Display on the LCD screen
Auto intelligence for those not comfortable with adjusting too many settings.
Higher levels of optical zoom
Small sensor, sensors will be explained in more detail.
Image stabilization which prevents the camera from shaking.
Who is this Camera Used By
This camera is for someone who wants something better than a basic model and enjoys very technology focused features.
It can be used by novices and advanced users.
It is great for clips that are not too long of vacations and trips.
Great for short videos of your pets and children.
If you are a guest at a wedding, prom or other big event, this one is great for taking candid shots of other guests. It is small enough to fit in a small purse.
Camera Models in the Mid-Price Range
I tested out cameras at a well-known electronics retailer that were in the price range of $150-$500. Some were excellent while others didn’t seem to be worth the price that they were charging. To me it seemed for mid-range compact cameras, that price wasn’t the deciding factor in if a camera took high quality photographs. Statistics below are from Best Buy in store camera department.
Powershot Elph 190 $159.99
10x optical zoom
Optical Intelligent Image Stabilization
CCD sensor and Digic4+ Image Processor
Built in Wi-Fi and NFC sharing. Photos can be posted to social media outlets in real time. Nearby smartphones can also receive photos.
35mm equivalent focal zoom
Finepix XP series XP90 by Fujifilm $199.99
Waterproof up to 50 feet/Freeze proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit
5x optical zoom
3 inch LCD monitor
Optical Image Stabilization
Full HD movie mode
28mm wide angle lens
Intelligent Digital Zoom
Nikon Coolpix AW130 $299.99
5x optical zoom
HD movie capabilities
Waterproof to 100 feet/Freeze proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit
Built in GPS with points of interest, records where each picture was taken
Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication
Shockproof from falling up to 7 feet
Hybrid VR(Vibration reduction image stabilization)
Can wear gloves and control the camera
TG-860 by Olympus $223.00
5x Optical Zoom 4x Digital Zoom
16 megapixels CMOS
Waterproof to 50 feet
Lithium Rechargeable battery
Built in GPS and Wi-Fi
Full HD movie capabilities
I tried all 4 of these cameras out. I used the same target and positioning. The Canon PowerShot Elph 190 was good, but did not see much difference in the picture quality from the PowerShot Elph 180. Both looked very similar. The FinePix XP90 by Fujifilm had by far the best picture of the 4 I tested in this category. The Coolpix AW130 by Nikon and the TG-860 by Olympus were both great cameras, but the picture quality set on automatic was definitely the best on the FinePix XP90 by Fujifilm. It was a great price at $199.99 for all the features that it offers.
A camera that I wanted to test but couldn’t find was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS50 for $298.00. It is considered one of the very best of the mid-range compact models.
The reviews are great on it as well as the specs. It would have been included in a higher range camera section except that the price was so reasonable. It offered these features from the Panasonic website:
30x wide angle-to telephoto zoom range
12 megapixels which helped in low light compared to a 20 megapixels model unless you use higher ISO settings
High quality 1080p60 video
Captures images in Raw format.
Change any settings that are pertinent to exposure.
Who Else May Buy One of These?
These are good for someone who has a little more to spend but is still a novice. Many of these are waterproof so they are great for photos on boat trips where the camera may get wet. Someone who wants a camera that is better than one on their cellphone or tablet. They want a camera that is better than a cheaper point and zoom. They are not quite ready to spend more than a few hundred.
High End Compact and Bridge Cameras
There are high end range cameras that are not quite a DSLR yet are better than a point and zoom. Sometimes they are called Bridge Cameras, and Superzooms. They are a bit different looking. A high end compact camera looks more like a point and zoom while a bridge camera looks more like a DSLR. Inside they are much the same though. They are bigger with a small to medium sensor. They are primarily meant to be used as automatic but have some manual operation. Less expensive models don't have an electronic view finder. They have a longer focal point so you can get closer shots without having to move closer to the object you are photographing, they still can fit into a coat pocket or a small purse.
Who are they for?
These cameras have a specific type of clientele who will be interested in buying one
Enthusiasts who want more detail in their photographs
Someone who has more experience and is interested in getting a DSLR but doesn't want to make the jump quite yet.
Someone who has learned the basics of photography and wants some control over exposure but doesn't understand every function of a camera yet. They do know how to use most or all settings of a lower range camera and are ready to move up.
Someone who goes on a lot of adventures but does not want to carry all the expensive large and bulky equipment with them.
They are good for photos that will be posted online for blogs and more focused websites than social media. The detail is a lot better than the cheaper compacts.
They want to impress others with the sleek designs offered. The high end compacts have a lot of styles to choose from. The bridge cameras look like DSLR and other novices wouldn't know the difference.
There is some qualities that are usually consistent with a high end/or bridge camera however not all are guaranteed to have these features:
They do not quite have the image quality of a DSLR.
They have wide angle to telephoto lenses.
You can usually control the exposure settings.
Control the exposure settings
Different program modes
Some have a manual mode with full control
Much longer zoom lens than s cheaper compact camera
Typical high end compact or bridge camera has 24x-30x zoom
A fixed lens that can not be changed
They do wide angle shots and long distance close ups
The focal lens has a lot of range so it's okay at a lot of shots but is not a master of any particular type of image. More a jack of all trades type of camera.
Great for spontaneous yet creative pictures
Decent at low light pictures
Some have high resolution LCD screens, some are touch screen.
Good image stabilization but the longer the focal length, the harder it is to keep the image stable so many high end compact and bridge cameras have focused on good image stabilization.
Some have LCD screens that can be pulled away from the body and contorted to take shots that are at odd angles. Above the head and ground shots are popular. Great in low light as being able to angle it eliminates glare.
Models of High End Compact and Bridge Cameras
This camera gets great reviews all around. The only negatives that are mentioned much are the price for a fixed lens camera, the unbalanced feel without an accessory grip and the heavy noise cancelling system. The pros were the extremely fast auto focus, the noise cancelling system, which is heavy but works great, the pop up view finder and a nice bright lens. Here are some more specs from the Sony website.
1 inch sensor CMOS
24-70mm equivalent lens
3 inch tilting view finger 1.228,800 dots
Continuous shooting of 5 frames per second
1080P Video capabilities
This camera is still considered a compact but has some DSLR controls
Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication
There is one model that is a bit newer but is so much more expensive without enough changes to recommend it.
Aperture F/1.8 (wide) / f/2.8 (tele) - f/11 with 7 blade apertureC
I personally tried this camera and found it to have great picture quality. I noticed a huge difference in the images jumping from the models that were under $300 and this one, the first high end compact I tested. The controls were easily navigable and the basic auto test I tried first, took a great shot with just pointing it and clicking it at the desired object. It also had a lot of fun editing modes to it. It was a great looking camera, I was attracted to the appearance. The zoom lens was bright and good for its class and price range. Of the reviews that I read, I found them to match up with what I personally tested and observed. It does have a great body that fits in a pocket. It doesn’t have a electronic viewfinder which was a con but, the moving LCD touchscreen monitor makes up for a lot of it. Some of the specs from the Canon website are:
Sony - Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 20.2-Megapixel Digital Camera by Sony
This is a great high end range compact/bridge camera model that I tried. It was a bit pricey at $799.00 but is an incredible camera. I took many pictures in store and they all came out clear with great detail. The auto mode took pictures with ease and surpassed my expectations of a compact camera model. I didn’t expect this kind of quality until I was going to test mirror less and DSLR models. It looks a lot like a DSLR camera but without all the lenses and bags to carry around. It still fits comfortably in my hand and didn’t feel too bulky to me. It was priced higher than some of the other models available but you definitely pay for the difference in the quality. It isn’t quite DSLR quality but it’s close. Some people say that the zoom is slow and the battery dies fast as some of the cons for this model. Statistics are from the Sony website. Some of the features of this camera are:
Panasonic FZ 100
The Panasonic FZ 100 for $543.89 is a great high end bridge compact camera as well. It took a really great automatic picture. I tested using the same test subjects as the prior cameras. It fit well in my hand and was comfortable to take pictures with. It’s sometimes called the Lumix DMC FZ-100. One problem some reviews found was that the sensor noise muddled the picture as a con to buying this model. At high resolution it can take 11 frames per second and the pictures turned out great. Statistics from the Panasonic.com website
A mirrorless interchangeable lens camera or a MILC is the newest kind of camera out on the market. They take great pictures for the small size as they have a bigger sensor in them. In general this is a camera that has an interchangeable lens and is a lot like a compact camera but you can swap the lenses out.. What sets it apart in its own category is it does not have a mirror reflex optical viewfinder. There is no need for a mirror between the lens and the sensor. They did not start out overly popular but since 2015 they are gaining popularity in the market. They send the image directly from the sensor to the viewfinder. They are almost always a better camera than a compact. There are disadvantages in that it is going to be bigger once you put the lens on. A start up mirrorless cameras in the low end price range costing $449.00 isn't as good as a high end compact of around $500 but a mirrorless camera that is $700.00 is better than an advanced compact of $700.00. They generally take better video than a DSLR but DSLR takes better photos.
Who Will Want One of These?
Sony Alpha Mirrorless Camera Series
Let's compare Sony’s Mirrorless camera models. They have three mirrorless Sony Alpha series cameras at Best Buy. The price range varies. I tested three models in the series. I did the multiple speed frames at once, a short movie and auto photographs.
Is There a Big Difference In These Models?
There is a major difference in quality jumping from the lowest priced Sony Alpha model up to the highest priced model in the Mirrorless line up. It is such a noticeable difference in quality that in my opinion unless you are getting one of the two top models and preferably the a6000, it’s not worth getting the one for $449.99. A higher end advanced compact around the same price is a better choice. The middle range one is okay but for 100$ more get the top Alpha a6000. It is the one that is worth getting. The picture is great, movies are so clear, and it takes pictures so fast. This is without all the accessories Sony has on the display.
DSLR Category or Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera
These are the largest of the digital camera models. The way a DSLR works is it flips up a mirror that reflects an image from the lens to a prism and through it to the optical viewfinder. You have the most control over the exposure settings while taking a photograph. You can change the camera lenses to shoot in different situations. If you want a wide angle shot of something but also want pictures of it closer, you can use a 28 milometer lens and switch to a 200 milometer for the second shot. You have so much variety with all the lenses available. There is entry level DSLR cameras as well as extremely high end DSLR models. One con that people say about this type of cameras is the video quality isn’t as good as the high end compact or mirrorless cameras. It’s also very bulky. The battery life is generally good for a DSLR compared to a mirror less. These cameras are for enthusiasts and professional users. The sensor size is the largest on DSLR cameras.
<H4>Who Would Buy a DSLR Camera?</H5>
Photography of birds in flight and animal action at a distance
A gift for an older child who has shown responsibility and an interest in cameras and has owned a camera that they took good care of.
Canon EOS Rebel T6i for $699.99 is an incredible camera. I’ve used it over 100 times in different situations and lighting. It performs incredibly well for photos of birds in flight, even birds capturing prey are detailed. You can see a birds features and eyes extremely clearly. The lenses available for this camera enhance the detail even more. It is incredible for other types of nature photography as well. The price is the same as the high end mirror less and some high end compacts but is by far a superior model camera that I would highly recommend. It is heavier so that is a downside as you need to hold it extremely carefully. Statistics on it are as follows from the Canon.com website
24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor
Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
ISO sensitivity of ISO 100–12800
DIGIC 6 Image Processor
Remote Shooting & Wireless Printing
Touch Screen 3.0-inch ClearView II LCD
Full HD Video
DSLR's Vary Drastically in Price
DSLR camera is come in price ranges that go from a few hundred dollars to thousands and thousands of dollars. The extremely high priced cameras are for enthusiasts who have been taking pictures for years. They are also for high quality photographs that professionals take. If you are looking for a very expensive quality camera, Canon offers a model for $5999.99 called the EOS-1D X Mark II Features of this camera include below from the official Canon website:
Approx. 20.2 megapixels
AF-dedicated CMOS sensor
Manual setting ISO speed range will be ISO 200–51200.
JPEG images, RAW images and movies
Video: MOV (4K Movie: Motion JPEG, Full HD Movie: MPEG4 AVC/H.264*; Audio: Linear PCM), MP4 (Movie: MPEG4 AVC/H.264*; Audio: AAC)
Viewfinder Eye-level pentaprism
Single-plate full-frame CMOS sensor
Focusing Modes Autofocus, One-Shot AF, Predictive Al Servo AF (Al Servo AF III+)Manual focus
Choose the Camera For You
All of these cameras have benefits as well as cons to owning them. It all depends on who you are and what your needs are what kind of camera you will get. Luckily the new cameras out today and all listed here are capable of taking a decent picture in the right situation regardless of the camera. Buying for your experience level the best camera you can afford will ensure that you are happy with your purchase.
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