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Digital Cameras buying guide

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Digital Cameras Guide - An Introduction

Digital cameras make it easy to capture all your memories, from family gatherings, holidays, and special occasions. Unlike film cameras, a digital camera lets you immediately view the picture, so you know whether someone’s eyes were closed or if you didn’t capture exactly the shot you wanted. You don’t have to worry about wasting film or expensive photo processing, as you can easily delete any unwanted pictures. The small memory cards can hold hundreds of pictures, so no more worries about running out of film.

Digital cameras evolved from the same technology that records television images. The first video tape recorder was invented in 1951, capturing live images from television cameras. It worked by converting the images to electrical impulses, known as digital, then saved the images on magnetic tapes. In the 1970s, Kodak invented sensors to convert light to digital pictures. In 1991, they released the first digital camera, designed for professional photojournalists. It combined a Nikon camera with Kodak’s 1.3 megapixel sensor.

Digital cameras entered the consumer market in the mid-1990s, with Apple, Kodak, Casio, and Sony Cyber-shot leading the movement. The first digital cameras were expensive, but as with most technologies, prices have dropped considerably. Whether you want to shop compact digital cameras or digital SLR cameras that offer more features, there are digital cameras in every price range.

With all the decisions surrounding buying a digital camera, it may seem difficult to find the right model. Price Inspector is here to help. We have researched the best digital cameras, comparison shopping the UK stores to help you find a cheap digital camera that will be perfect for your needs.

SLR versus Compact

One of the first decisions when buying a digital camera is whether you want a compact digital camera or a digital SLR camera. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your budget and your photography needs.

SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex. For digital cameras, the primary difference is that an SLR camera will let you use different lenses with different focal distances. There are two primary advantages with a digital SLR. One is that if you’re used to a film SLR camera and are used to how it works, a digital SLR camera will be more natural for you. Compact digital cameras don’t offer the manual controls that you’ll find on an SLR camera. Another reason is if you already own lenses for a film SLR, most manufacturers have designed their digital SLRs to work with them. This could save you money from having to buy more lenses, plus it saves a good lens from going to waste. Another advantage of SLR is that they use TTL Through The Lens viewfinders. When you look through the viewfinder, you’re looking through the lens, giving you a clearer idea of what the picture will look like.

On the other hand, compact cameras are, as the name suggests, compact. They are small and lightweight, making it easy to carry around with you, which can be convenient. They’re easy to slip in your purse, backpack, or even a pocket, with some being as small as a credit card. They’re also easy to operate, which makes them ideal for less experienced photographers. They are generally less expensive than SLR cameras as well, with some being so cheap they’re nearly disposable. This is another advantage, as there are situations where you want to take pictures, but you don’t want to have to worry about your expensive camera being lost, damaged, or stolen.

Another consideration is the flash. SLR cameras all are capable of using an external flash unit, while most compact cameras do not. The primary deciding factors are size, budget, manual versus automatic controls, and whether you need/want additional lenses and an external flash unit.

One suggestion is to buy both types. Use the digital SLR when you want high-quality pictures and need more creative control. It will be ideal for posed family pictures or on holiday. The compact camera would be used for more portable options.

Popular Brands

Many of the top brands have been making film cameras for years, so they have been able to transfer their knowledge and craftsmanship to digital cameras. Some of the top models include:

  • Canon PowerShot: This camera is available in a dozen different models. Their entry-level model is the A60, which is a good camera if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. It’s a 2.0 megapixel camera, good for snapshots. At the higher end, is the G6, with 7.1 megapixels. It’s a versatile camera, perfect for a variety of conditions. If you don’t need as many megapixels, consider the G3 or G5. 
  •  Nikon Coolpix: With several models to choose from, the Nikon Coolpix offers something for everyone. The 2200 is a simple, compact camera. It offers enough features for the amateur photographer without being confusing. If you’re looking for manual controls, you’ll need to invest in a different camera. The upper end model is the 8800, offering an all-in-one camera that includes manual controls, image stabilization, and 10x zoom.
  • Olympus digital cameras: The Stylus 300 is design for the point-and-shoot photographers, without a lot of manual controls. It offers a weatherproof body, so it’s a good option for taking on a hike. A higher-end model is the C-8080 Wide Zoom camera, offering 8.0 megapixels. It uses either xD cards or CompactFlash memory cards. It also has a quick refresh rate, which means less waiting after you take a photo.
  • Sony digital cameras: The DSC-P41 is an inexpensive model that still offers 4.1 megapixels, making it a great buy if you’re on a budget. The DSC-F828 is one of the top models by Sony, offering 8 megapixels. It features 7x zoom, manual focus and zoom, and white balance settings. It is compatible with Memory Stick and CompactFlash memory cards.

Tips you may want to consider before you buy a Digital Camera

Once you’ve decided whether you want a compact camera or an SLR camera, you’re ready to start making buying decisions. First, you need to understand the terms associated with digital cameras. Read our Jargon Buster if you’re unfamiliar with any of them, as you can’t compare features you don’t understand. Once you understand them, you are ready to start comparing models. The main questions to ask before shopping include:

  • How many megapixels do you want?
  • How large of a zoom lens do you need?
  •  What is the minimum and maximum aperture you want?
  •  Do you prefer AA batteries or a Li-Ion pack for your digital camera?
  • Do you want to use CompactFlash or xD for the memory cards?
  •  Do you need an external flash unit?
  • Do you want aperture priority or shutter priority modes?
  • Will you want to take photos underwater?
  • Do you need panorama or movie modes?
  • When you understand the terms and know what you want, it’s easier to buy the right camera. If your budget is limited, you may have to make concessions, such as choosing a camera with fewer megapixels or giving up the waterproof option for underwater photography, so it’s a good idea to prioritize your wish list. That way, you will be prepared with what features are a must-have and which are merely nice options if you can afford them.

Jargon Explained

Megapixeldigital camera makes a photograph using a collection of minuscule dots. Each of these dots is called a pixel. When you view a photo, it’s created from millions of pixels, given the name “megapixels.” The larger you increase the size of a photo, the more you will start to see the tiny dots. You need more megapixels if you plan to make large prints or create high resolution projects. A camera with 2.0 megapixels is fine for 4x6 photos, but for 5x7, you need 3.0. An 8x10 requires 4.0 megapixels, and at the upper end, you can print 12x16 with 8.0 megapixels.
ApertureWhen you take a photo, the lens opens to let light in. The aperture setting determines how little or how much the lens will open. If it’s open wide, the background is out of focus, making it ideal for portraits. If the lends only opens a small amount, everything is in focus. This is used for landscape photos.
Aperture priorityIn aperture priority mode, you select the aperture setting, and the camera selects the shutter speed to get the right exposure.
Shutter priorityIf you are taking action photos, you need a very fast shutter speed. In this mode, you select the shutter speed, and the digital camera will select the aperture to create the right exposure.
Panorama modePanoramic photos capture wide views, such as a city skyline. With a panorama setting, you actually take several different pictures, side by side, and the camera “stitches” them together.
Image stabilizationThis lets you take pictures in low lighting without blurring. It also reduces camera shake for sharper pictures. 

Buying Guide to Digital Cameras
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