Choose a Camera: Read before you buy
From point-and-shoots to DSLRs and mirrorless, here’s how to choose a camera
When Eastman Kodak unveiled the Brownie Camera in 1900, it was little more than a cardboard box with a lens and roll of film (a concept that made a slight comeback in 2019). The more basic it was, the more revolutionary it was in democratizing photography.
In those days, buying a camera was simple. Fast-forward more than a century later, and modern cameras are so diverse and advanced that buying one is certainly not a model-fit-all-types decision.
Most of us already own a very good camera in the form of a Smartphone and knowing that when a dedicated camera provides a real advantage over our phones it can be difficult to determine. Prices for new cameras range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, along with many brands and models.
This guide is designed to point first-time camera buyers in the right direction. As we are referencing different sensor sizes, it is a good idea to first familiarize you with those, or scroll down to the megapixel myth section for an explainer on why larger sensors take better pictures Huh.
They run a wide gamut. They can be compact, inexpensive, and easy-to-use or advanced models with long zooms, large sensors, and full manual controls. Stationary is a lens that cannot be removed from the camera.
You are probably aware that the popularity of point-and-shoots has diminished significantly because the camerafons have earned so well. Basic point-and-shoot cameras are no longer attractive to the general public, and manufacturers have responded by shifting efforts to higher-end models.
While some entry-level point-and-shoots can be found in the $ 100- $ 200 range, these typically provide image quality that is better than that of modern smartphones. However, they will offer feature phones that are not usually like zoom lenses.
For better quality, an advanced compact is a way to go. Look at cameras that use 1-inch type sensors, like Sony’s excellent RX100 series. These cameras start at $ 500 but can cost up to $ 1,500 or more. With a sensor that is much larger than a typical point and shoot (or your phone), image quality takes a big step forward. The downside is that a large sensor makes everything about the camera, from the body to the lens, even bigger. The Sony RX100 remains impressively small, although you can find similarly sized cameras with smaller sensors that pack in a much larger zoom.
Another type of point-and-shoot is the much less compact superzoom, so it is named for the much longer zoom lens. The Nikon P1000 currently holds the record for the longest zoom, with a power of 125x (focal length equal to 24–3,000 mm). Such a camera gives you a lot of shooting flexibility in a relatively compact package.
Note, however, that while superzooms look like beefy DSLRs, the compact camera still has limited picture quality due to their small sensors. Some high-end models, like the Sony RX10 series, have larger one-inch sensors. Image quality will be better on similar models, but they may not match the final zoom range of a small-sensor superzoom. The rugged and waterproof point and shoot is a niche subcategory built to handle a day at the beach or to avoid a drop in the pool. They have inferior image quality and very small swing compared to other points and shoots, but they provide peace of mind when taking photos in places where you don’t dream of bringing an expensive camera or smartphone
The range offers superior image quality, more creative options, and faster performance than point-and-shoots without all kinds of DSLRs.
The name “mirrorless” comes from the fact that these cameras do not have mirrors found in DSLRs and, likewise, do not have an optical viewfinder. Instead, mirrorless cameras are always in live-view mode, whether you’re viewing the LCD screen or via an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Mirrorless cameras are pricier than compact cameras, but entry-level models are often cheaper than premium point-and-shoots.
There are different formats of mirrorless cameras employed by different brands. Panasonic and Olympus share the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) format, meaning that you can use Panasonic lenses to use an Olympus camera and vice versa. Fujifilm uses large APS-C sensors for its X Series models and makes mirrorless cameras with both Sony APS-C and large full-frame (35mm) sensors. Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic introduced full-frame mirrorless cameras in 2018 that ultimately give Sony some real competition, and Canon also maintains its EOS M line that uses the APS-C format.
Mirrorless model prices start at around $ 500 and can go up to several thousand for professional models. With point-and-shoot, a larger sensor will usually have an image quality advantage, although the APS-C sensor in your phone is many times larger than before. Most mirrorless cameras have at least 20 megapixels, which is fine for most photographers, but if you want to maximize resolution, you’ll need to see larger sensors. The Sony A7R IV currently holds the record for the highest-resolution full-frame camera at 61-megapixels. The Fujifilm GFX 100, which uses an even larger medium-format sensor, has 100 MP – and costs $ 10,000.
DSLRs cover the same price range as mirrorless cameras and run the same gamut from consumer to professional. An entry-level consumer DSLR will offer better image quality than a compact camera due to its larger sensor, but will not offer the speed and extras of a professional DSLR. If the size doesn’t bother you, the $ 500 on the original DSLR will go further in terms of image quality than the $ 500 compact.
DSLRs do not necessarily provide better image quality or more versatility than mirrorless cameras, but they do have some other benefits. Even the electronic viewfinder has been greatly improved and has many benefits, some photographers still prefer the optical viewfinder of a DSLR. This is also what gives DSLRs their superior battery life, as an optical viewfinder provides very little power. A midrange DSLR can easily achieve more than a thousand exposures on a single battery.
The biggest aspect of a DSLR is wholesale. Compared to mirrorless cameras, DSLRs are larger and heavier. They are worse for video, not necessarily anything to do with video quality, but simply because the optical viewfinder is useless in video mode (which requires live view).
For most first-time camera buyers, we would probably recommend a mirrorless camera over the DSLR.
Find your price
Ideally, you don’t need to spend a fortune to find the camera that’s right for you, but as you say, you get what you pay for. It is important to consider what you need, though: Many high-priced models are full of features you may never use, but if you plan to pursue photography as a passion or a profession , Then you will give it room to grow.
On the other hand, spending too little can frustrate the camera. With smartphones taking such good photos these days, it is difficult to recommend buying an entry-level point-and-shoot, unless you need it for a specific purpose. For better image quality, plan to spend at least $ 500, but you can get away with less if you just want more versatility than what your phone offers. An expensive camera may not make you a better photographer.
If you only read the camera spec sheet, you will see that point-and-shoot and DSLR are similar megapixel counts (16MP, 20MP, and so on) in some cases. However, it is like saying that a pickup truck is similar to a sports car because they are both four wheels.
The physical size of the sensor matters more for image quality than the number of pixels on it. This is why a point-shoot with a 1 / 2.3-inch sensor will never reach a DSLR with very large APS-C or full-frame sensors, even if the point-and-shoot has more pixels. While there are also subjective quality factors such as the intensity of field control that comes from larger sensors, the purpose of better quality is that a larger sensor gathers its light. It is less noisy and has better color and contrast in low light conditions.
This does not mean that high-resolution cameras do not have space; They provide adequate control for cropping and can create very detailed, large prints. Just don’t expect a point and shoot to compare to a megapixel when there are more megapixels.
Speed and performance
These days, most cameras are sufficiently fast for any casual use. Interchangeable lens cameras, whether mirrorless or DSLRs, typically provide better performance than compact cameras. They will focus faster, track subjects better, and take more pictures per second (although some compact cameras, such as the Sony RX100 series, the ultimate DSLR setscrew).
We recommend looking for a camera with at least 5 frames per second (fps), but if you have found children playing games you may need more. At the same time, one should not pull off marketing alone – a camera advertisement 10–20 fps sounds exciting, but some people need that speed.
This is a deemed element of cameras. If possible, try before purchasing. Make sure that a camera fits comfortably in your hand and is not so heavy that you don’t want to take it with you. The camera you purchase should provide quick access to the most commonly used functions, and the menu should only be structured, logical, and easy to learn.
Touchscreen models may allow for familiar user experience, but can be frustrating at the same time if the controls and menus are poorly organized or the screen cannot be calibrated to your touch. Most of it is subjective, so if you have the opportunity to do so, we recommend joining hands with different models.
Many features make a camera different from good, and the lens is probably the most important. A camera that gives you swap lenses gives you various creative options to choose from. While some point-and-shoot cameras on the high-end have very good optics, they cannot compete with the versatility of interchangeable lenses.
Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras are typically sold with basic kit lenses. This small zoom is compact and convenient, but it does not show the camera’s capability. You can spend a small fortune on a wide variety of lenses from wide-angle to telephoto. Changing lenses changes your perspective, and choosing one is such a big subject that we have a separate buying guide for lenses.
First-time camera buyers often ask if, say, Canon lenses can be used on Nikon cameras. In general, you can’t cross brands – at least without using third-party adapters and sacrificing some performance. An exception to this is the Micro Four Third, where both Panasonic and Olympus make lenses that can be mounted on cameras of both brands.
There are also third-party manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron, which make lenses in various mounts to fit Canon, Nikon, Sony, and other brands.
Optical image stabilization helps eliminate blurring from your photos by physically transferring elements within the lens. This is particularly useful for long-zoom lenses that can be hard to hold steady. This is the preferred method of DSLRs, although not all lenses are stable.
Sensor-shift stabilization (often called image stabilization in the body, or IBIS) physically moves the sensor in response to vibration. This is the preferred stabilization method for mirrorless cameras. It generally performs very well and has the advantage of working with any lens.
Electronic image stabilization (EIS), by contrast, is a camera trick. Although it can capture a less blurry picture, it often does so at the expense of lower image quality. This is the preferred mode of action cameras, and some – such as the GoPro Hero8 Black – have done it quite well.
Optical vs electronic viewfinder
A viewfinder certainly has its advantages, and photography enthusiasts still prefer them using the LCD screen. They are all but required in bright sunlight when an LCD screen can be washed out, and can also help you focus on just the picture and ignore external distractions.
DSLRs feature optical viewfinders (mirrors from mirror-reflected lenses), while mirrorless cameras use an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is essentially a small LCD screen with an iCap. Most point-and-shoot cameras do not have EVFs, as they combine the size and weight of the camera, but some high-end models such as the Sony RX100 VI.
Optical viewfinders provide the clearest possible image and do not exhaust the battery. Electronic viewfinders offer a host of their benefits: you can see the effect of your exposure and color settings during shooting, you can zoom in to check focus, and you can display all kinds of other information Can.
All cameras these days shoot video, and many also record at 4K 4K HD resolution. High-end mirrorless and DSLR cameras provide video features that are also suitable for cinematic filmmaking, as well as the choice of available lenses can enhance creative choices.
One thing to note is Framart. 24 to 30 fps is normal, 60 is good for super smooth playback or slow motion, but sometimes a manufacturer will put a camera advertising 4K video, but hidden in a footnote you’ll only get records at 15 fps, which is Barely video.
Any camera from a point-and-shoot will provide decent video for casual use, but perhaps the most important feature for good video is stabilization. If you don’t want to move the tripod around, make sure you have a camera with in-body image stabilization or a lens with OIS. This will help ensure smooth, non-jittery footage for your handheld video shots.
Entry-level point-and-shoot cameras typically provide a plethora of shooting modes, but all of them run on just basic automatic mode. If the camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are messing with your cup of tea, that’s fine.
However, advanced compact and interchangeable lens models will provide significantly more control over your images with manual exposure mode. These cameras still include auto modes, so if you’re not ready to turn off the autopilot yet, but think you want to try your hand at flying in the future, check out a camera that provides manual control is.
RAW vs JPEG
JPEG is the de facto standard for images. If you have ever seen a picture on the Internet, it is likely JPEG. Most cameras shoot directly on JPEG by default, and for most people, this is fine.
High-end cameras, especially interchangeable lens models, provide the ability to shoot in RAW. Images of RAW record all the information from your camera’s sensor, without throwing any data like JPEG. They don’t necessarily look better than the camera, but for those who want to work with their images in post-production, it provides a bit more flexibility. Shadows can be brightened, highlights can be switched off, color balance can be changed completely – RAW opens up a new world of editing possibilities.
However, all additional image information comes at a cost. RAW files are typically four times larger than high-quality JPEG. If you plan to shoot in RAW, make sure you have a large memory card and plenty of hard drive space.
Wi-Fi and GPS
Given the prevalence of social media, Wi-Fi should be almost on a modern camera. If you want to share your image directly to Instagram or Facebook without plugging your camera into your computer first, don’t buy a camera that doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi. Most manufacturers include it in most models these days, and each has its iOS or Android app to wirelessly connect the camera to transfer images. Applications are usually basic, but they work.
For GPS, this is not an obvious requirement for most people. If you travel a lot, GPS is good for geotagging your photos, so you can easily know where each was taken. Many cameras do not feature, but some manufacturers have optional GPS add-ons if you want to add capability. Built-in or not, keep in mind that when GPS is activated, your camera’s battery will drain out much faster, so don’t use it when you don’t need it.
Weatherproofing, Dust-proofing, and Shock-proofing
First, clarify some confusion: a camera that is not weatherproof, rainproof, or splash-proof waterproof. Weatherproof cameras mean that all seams and buttons are sealed to keep out rain, mist, and light showers, but cannot escape when submerged. A waterproof camera, on the other hand, is designed to be carried underwater. If you shoot landscapes in the rain, you want to weatherproof. If you want to take pictures while snorkeling, you want to waterproof.
Many high-end mirrorless and DSLR cameras are weatherproof, making them suitable for a wide range of outdoor photography. Little rain or snow did not harm them, neither did the mist of a waterfall nor the splash of a small wave on the bow of a boat. Lower-end interchangeable lens cameras are generally not weather-sealed, however. One more thing to keep in mind: If your camera is weatherproof, but does not have a lens, you may still be in trouble.
Waterproof cameras are a special subgroup of point and shoot. They are also shockproof, so if you leave them during the hike, they will survive. Waterproof cases also exist for interchangeable lens cameras, but they can be quite expensive. You might have seen some of these on Shark Week.
If you are on a limited budget, say $ 300 or less, really think about whether you need a standalone camera. If you buy one, make sure you’re going for features (zoom lens, waterproofing, etc.) that your smartphone doesn’t have, and don’t expect significant image quality gains. If your budget is a bit high, but you want to stick to something simple, consider an advanced compact camera with a 1-inch type of sensor.
Should you decide fast response and want better quality that you want, or are interested in photography as a hobby or profession, it is time to buy a mirrorless camera or DSLR. Entry-level models start around $ 500, but while more expensive options provide more room to develop. Remember, it’s all about finding the camera that’s right for you.