The Only Camera Buying Guide You Need to Read!
There’s a bewildering variety of digital cameras on the market with features that are meant to appeal to amateurs and professionals alike. Sorting them out can be a daunting task, but some basic information can be helpful.
Those familiar with 35mm film photography may already have a considerable investment in lenses. Fortunately, some of the old lenses will still work on modern camera bodies, though not all the features will be available.
Unless you’re intent on making large prints from digital files, forget about megapixels. Sensor size is more important for two reasons. First, larger sensors are less susceptible to digital noise that appears as colored pixels in the darkest parts of a photo. A large sensor will produce less noise at the same ISO as a smaller one. This makes a noticeable difference in dim light.
The second important consideration regarding sensor size has to do with cropped sensors. Some digital SLRs have a full size sensor with the same dimensions as a 35mm negative, about 24×35 millimeters. Others use cropped sensors that are smaller, essentially ‘cropping’ the 35mm format. The advantage is smaller, lighter lenses can be designed for these cameras. The disadvantage is that the lenses are generally not interchangeable with those used with full size sensors, making it impossible to upgrade in the future.
If you like to tinker with photo editing, give some consideration to the types of files the camera can produce. Most DSLRs will save photos in JPEG and RAW format. The RAW files contain the entire wealth of information from the sensor, much like a digital negative. Unlike a negative, however, they may have as much as 4 stops of exposure above and below the optimum. The RAW files are processed in the camera to become JPEGS, but in doing so, much of the information is compressed or lost. JPEGS can be displayed using commonly available software, but RAWS typically require software from the camera manufacturer. If you goal is some quick snaps, go with JPEGS, but if you like to tinker, try using RAW.
Small, point-and-shoot cameras are still popular because they fit in a pocket easily. After all, the best camera is one you always have near at hand. As noted, these cameras will not perform well in dim light due to their sensor size, but they provide better results than camera phones, and some of the high end models offer features rivaling digital SLRs.
Compact system cameras have interchangeable lenses and compact bodies without viewfinders. They’ll fit in a jacket pocket, perhaps, and they weigh less than a DSLR. Most use the micro four thirds sensor which is larger than point-and-shoot cameras but smaller than a digital SLR.
The most versatile digital cameras are the DSLRs, of course. The wide variety of lenses and accessories allow photographers to capture images from the microscopic to full, 360 degree panoramas.