January is a great time to buy a camera, with many retailers offering fantastic deals and slashed prices. We show you how to make sure you pick up a bargain in the January sales
Types of Digital Camera
Your bog-standard compact camera is actually much more than that these days. Forced by the spectre of cameraphones to up their game, today’s compacts offer more features and better image quality than ever. Technologies like face detection and intelligent auto ensure sharp, perfectly exposed photos in most situations while some of the on-board extras, such as in-camera editing, effects filters, automatic panoramas and slo-mo video are great fun and can produce amazing results.
In addition to the basic pocket-friendly version there are waterproof compacts (usually just down to a couple of metres, for snorkelling) and some are designed to withstand being frozen, dropped or crushed. Do check the limitations though!
The more expensive models, sometimes called ‘creative compacts’, offer premium features like slightly larger sensors, better quality and wider aperture lenses, manual controls and features such as the ability to shoot Raw files.
Browse our Compact Camera reviews
Panasonic TZ60: One of the most complete travel compacts out there, the TZ60 comes packing Wi-fi, Raw format capture and an electronic viewfinder
Fujifilm X30: The X30 is a tremendously solid performer, bolstered by one of the best electronic viewfinders on the market. With blisteringly fast AF, it won’t let you down
Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 III: Sony’s RX100 series has rightly become regarded as a benchmark for premium compacts, and the RX100 III builds on what’s gone before superbly
Superzoom bridge cameras are distinguishable by their prominent zoom lenses with ranges that extend at least 20x and in some cases over 30x. They also feature electronic viewfinders (EVFs), which are like smaller internal versions of the LCD, that you view through an eyepiece. Some are styled to look like mini DSLRs but the key difference is that the lenses cannot be removed.
Bridge cameras use compact camera sensors so the quality is not as good as a DSLR but they offer the convenience of all-in-one package with a zoom range that you can’t get in a DSLR or CSC with a single lens, and would require spending considerably more and being lumbered with several kilos of kit to achieve at all. If this sounds like your ideal camera do try one first to see how you get on with the EVF, as not everyone likes them.
Bridge cameras can also be found within our Compact Camera section
Nikon P600: This is the option for superzoom on a budget, the P600 gets the job done and offers a 60x for a very respectable price (around £250).
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000: An added bonus with the FZ1000 – not only do you get a 24-200mm zoom, but also 4K video capture.
Compact System Cameras
CSCs offer the interchangeable-lens benefits of DSLRs but in smaller, near compact-sized bodies. Some of them, such as the Sony NEX and Samsung NX systems, use DSLR-sized sensors for optimum image quality, but the latest models, the Pentax Q and Nikon 1, use smaller sensors and put a greater emphasis on compactness. In between is the Micro Four Thirds system, jointly developed by Panasonic and Olympus, which has the widest range of models, lenses and accessories.
This means that those looking for a CSC type camera must first decide which is the most important: small size or superior image quality, and buyers should look at the whole package, including the lens – the Sony NEX cameras, for example, are among the smallest but their lenses are, on average, the biggest.
There are two main types of CSC: those with EVFs and those with only an LCD screen for viewing, though some of the latter category can accept an optional clip-on electronic viewfinder, at additional cost.
Browse the latest Compact System Camera reviews
Samsung NX1: The NX1 grabbed headlines with its 28.2MP BSI APS-C CMOS, but it’s also got a spec to match with up to 15fps burst shooting
Fujifilm X-T1: Sitting pretty at the top of the X-series range, the Fujifilm X-T1 boasts the series’ signature retro style, with superb handling and a class-leading viewfinder.
Olympus OM-D E-M10: The most affordable entry in the OM-D series, the E-M10 wraps the great functionality of its bigger brothers up in a convenient, stylish package.
Digital SLRs (DSLR)
The most popular category of camera among hobbyists and professionals, DSLRs use larger sensors for superior image quality, and they feature interchangeable lenses. The distinguishing feature of an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera is its internal optical system, in which an angled mirror reflects the image coming through the lens up to a prism above, and out through an optical viewfinder.
When the shutter is pressed the mirror flips up out of the way and the shutter opens momentarily so that the image can be exposed onto the sensor. The main benefit is that the user gets a bright, clear view of exactly what the lens sees, and is able to focus precisely on the point of interest.
In general, DSLRs offer the highest image quality, fastest and most accurate focusing and the greatest range of lenses and accessories.
Browse the latest DSLR reviews
Canon EOS 7D Mk II: Five years in the making, this DSLR can shoot at 10fps and boasts 65 cross-type AF points, making it a great choice for sports and wildlife photographers
Nikon D750: Sitting between the D610 and D810, the Nikon D750 is the first full-frame DSLR in Nikon’s line-up to offer Wi-fi connectivity
Nikon D3300: A great choice for a first DSLR, the D3300 is the latest in the entry-level D3000 series and comes with plenty of helpful learning tools