Digital camera buying guide [Part I]: Where do I start?

by Paul Goodchild on October 31, 2008

There are so many cameras out there, and so many options to consider that picking a digital camera can be quite daunting.  Isn’t it an odd phenomenon that with more choice comes less satisfaction?  Very often we find ourselves wondering if in-fact we chose the ‘wrong’ one… maybe there’s a better one that I didn’t notice?

For some, picking a camera is easy… they go to the electronics store, play around on a few of them and pick the one that seems the cutest and fits snugly into their pocket/handbag.  That’s cool too.  Spontaneous purchasing of gadgets can be fun though for me, it often leads to disappointment when I realise it doesn’t actually do what I expected it would.  And that brings me to the first thing question you should consider when buying a digital camera…

Why do I want a digital camera?

It’s easy to get so caught up in the buzz of buying a new gadget that we can forget what we’re buying it for.  There are 2 main purposes for buying digital cameras.

1) to take those memorable shots; the ones you want to last forever.  They’re high quality, sharp and beautiful, and can be printed out large.

2) to snap away on a fun trip, or a night out on the town without being inconvenienced by bulky electronics.  Recording and reliving those times with quick, candid shots is often half the fun.  You don’t necessarily want to print these photos, but viewing them on your PC, uploading them to photo sharing websites to share with friends and family is the main use here.

There isn’t one single camera that will suit these 2 roles completely, so deciding where you fall in the range between these extremes is a first step because somewhere, you’re going to have to compromise.  In general, the 2 ends of the spectrum are (1) digital SLRs and (2) digital compacts … there are a lot of options that lie in the middle ground though.

In the next couple of articles I’m going to take a stab at breaking down some of the camera functionality into simple terms so that you may learn a little bit about digital photography technology, while getting a feel for what exactly might be important when using a camera.  I think half the problem is that the average user doesn’t know what is there for consideration.

I’ll try to get these articles up soon…

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