Digital cameras: What to look for in a digital camera
- Fri, 30 Oct 2009
Make up of digital cameras: What to look out for in a camera
Don't stress about megapixels, especially with compact cameras. Virtually all digital cameras have more than enough. Sensor density has now reached saturation point, and adding more pixels can actually degrade the quality (since smaller pixels are less efficient). Image quality is determined more by the physical size of the sensor than the number of pixels on it, so if quality is paramount go for a DSLR, which has a much bigger sensor.
People are often attracted to compact cameras with long zoom lenses but a zoom that starts with a more wideangle field of view is probably more useful than one that extends to a more telephoto perspective, since it enables you to fit wide groups, interiors and views in shot. But if you're tempted by a big zoom, make sure the digital camera has image stabilisation or you'll be plagued by camera shake. If you're buying a DSLR and you want a second tele-zoom lens, look out for twin-lens packages at the time of purchase, which work out cheaper.
A big LCD screen makes viewing and composing easier but don't just look at the size. Check the brightness, colour and sharpness, the angle from which it can be viewed clearly, and the quality of the anti-reflective coating. Some digital cameras have touchscreens but these can sometimes be at the expense of screen quality. A few digital cameras have high-resolution LCD screens which greatly improve the viewing experience.
All compact cameras have live view - the ability to preview the scene and shoot using the LCD screen, but this is relatively new on DSLRs. In general the viewfinder is still the best way to shoot on a DSLR but live view can be useful for some tripod-based work. If the LCD screen can tilt and/or swivel live view also makes it easier to shoot from low or high angles.
Some people, such as long-sighted users, may struggle to see LCD screens clearly, and we can all find them hard to use in bright sun. Canon is one of the only companies that are still putting optical viewfinders on its pocket compacts, although most larger compact cameras and bridge cameras (and of course all DSLRs) offer viewfinders as an alternative - whether of the optical or electronic type.
If you want to do more than just point and shoot with your camera, and want to be able to influence the look of the results, get one that offers a few manual controls. Digital cameras vary in the degree of manual control they offer, and how easy it is to access these controls - some may be buried in the menu, while others make it easy to change the settings.
Types of cameras
Compact cameras are small, light cameras that range from enthusiast cameras to simple point and click cameras. They do not offer interchangeable lenses. They do not contain mirrors, and so the image seen in the viewfinder will not be exactly the same as the final image taken, though many these days contain an LCD viewing screen. The sensor size is smaller than a DSLR so the image quality may be less.
The D in DSLR stands for digital. The letters 'SLR' stand for 'single lens reflex' and refer to the viewing system, in which light passes through the lens, is bounced off a mirror into a prism, where it is turned right-way-round for viewing, so the viewer sees what the lens is seeing. The most main feature of SLRs (though it isn't unique to them) is that the lenses are interchangeable, enabling the user to fit lenses designed for specific tasks.
Micro system cameras
Micro system cameras (also called hybrid camera) combine the interchangeable-lens benefits of DSLRs with the size and portability of compact cameras. They use the same sensors and processors as DSLRs but don't have the same viewing system, of a focusing screen, mirror and prism assembly, and as a consequence are significantly more compact.
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