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What’s in this buyer’s guide?

In this guide we’ll cover the main features and selling points you may need to keep in mind when shopping for a new digital camera on PriceDropDonkey.

What are the different types of digital cameras?

There are four main types of digital cameras, from the most entry-level ‘point-and-shoot’ to larger models usually reserved for photography professionals.

Point-and-shoot cameras are typically cheaper, which makes them great entry-level cameras, perfect for the more casual users and ideal to snap pictures during holidays and family events. They’re generally really good value for money, easy to use and to carry around – no bulky lenses for you! However, these might not be adapted to more serious usage, as they feature less shooting modes and no viewfinder; users have to rely exclusively on the LCD screen.

Bridge cameras are a step up from entry-level, yet they remain fairly easy to use and light enough to carry around with ease. They feature a built-in lens, which gives them a professional look, and offer a more powerful zoom than cheaper cameras, as well as better picture quality. They feature both an LCD screen and a viewfinder, so you can decide what you’re most comfortable with, as well as different shooting modes allowing you to perfectly frame and prepare your shot, even with a moving subject.

DSLR cameras are the ones you see glued to the face of photography professionals. With fully customisable settings and shooting modes, large interchangeable lenses and powerful zooms, they’re perfect for those of us who’d like to take their love for photography to the next level. However, they’re not suitable for lighter users – they’re typically large and heavy, and require you to buy lenses separately, which can make them quite a costly affair.

Compact cameras, or compact system cameras (CSC) are the perfect device for photography fans who don’t want to bother with a bulky DSLR. They feature many of the same advantages: all of the zooming power and picture quality, interchangeable lenses and customisable settings… They’re also much smaller and lighter and can be perfectly adapted to travel photography. One drawback: not all CSCs have viewfinders, which might make it more difficult to frame your shot.

What features should you look out for?

While browsing for the perfect camera for you, it’s important to keep in mind some of the most essential features you might need in order to help you decide what suits your needs and budget the best.

Resolution: This is expressed in the number of megapixels the camera uses to take a picture. Most cameras have a great resolution already, up to 16 or 20 MP even for some of the lower-range models. More megapixels usually mean a better photo; however, you should be weary of very cheap cameras boasting a really high number of MP – they might lack the processing power to deal with such high-quality images and could end up running very slowly.

Zoom: A high optical zoom is essential to take good quality, detailed pictures of faraway objects. It works coupled with the focal length to determine how much the lens will be able to zoom; for instance, if your camera has a 2x optical zoom and a 50 metre focal length, it’ll be able to zoom up to 100 metres. Beware of cameras with only ‘digital zoom’ – this only works by cropping and zooming into the photo once it’s been taken and will cause you to lose picture quality and sharpness.

Viewfinder: Some lower-end cameras won’t feature one, so it’s important that you decide if you need a viewfinder or not. Most point-and-shoot cameras will produce perfectly acceptable holiday pictures and casual portraits or group photos while you look through the LCD screen; however, for more intensive or even professional use you will want to be able to perfectly frame your shot by looking through the viewfinder.

Memory and SD card: Cameras don’t have very good internal memory – typically storing only about 25 pictures – so you’ll need to buy a memory card to insert into your camera and store more pictures. Some cameras may already come with a SD card, but it’s always better to check before buying.

Battery life: Most cameras nowadays have moved on from AA batteries and come with a rechargeable battery pack. Before buying your camera, check the battery rating – expressed in numbers of shots you can take with a single charge – to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your money.

Jargon buster

With so many technical terms flying around, it can be easy to feel a little overwhelmed by all the different options available for digital cameras. Fear not – our jargon buster is here to help you figure it all out easily.

  • Aperture: The size of the opening in the lens which detects light. You can change the size of the aperture to modify the exposure and focus of your photo.
  • Auto focus: A system to bring the subject of the photo into focus quickly.
  • Exposure: The amount of light that comes into the camera and shows up on the picture.
  • Frames per second: The number of images a camera can take in one second. This is important to take shots of moving objects and is sometimes referred to as “burst mode”.
  • Image stabilisation: An automatic reduction of blurry effects in photos by compensating for shaky movements as well as low light.
  • ISO: A measure of sensitivity to light. A high ISO is perfect to take pictures in low light or shooting moving subjects.
  • Macro: A lens used to take close-up pictures of small subjects.
  • Megapixel (MP): 1 megapixel is equal to one million pixels. The more pixels in an image, the higher its quality.
  • Shutter speed: The time during which the camera's shutter remains open when you take a photo. High shutter speeds help to stabilise moving objects.
  • Wide-angle: A lens with a short focal length used for taking group pictures or landscapes.

Cameras for different budgets

With prices ranging from under £100 to much more than £1,000, there are cameras out there for every type of budget.

£50 to £250: Have a look at some of the lower end point-and-shoot cameras. Don’t worry – even at such a low price, you’ll be able to find a good quality digital camera.

£250 to £550: Got a little more money to spend? Check out bridge cameras and start taking your passion for photography to the next level.

£500 to £1,500: Seems like you’re already a pro! DSLR cameras usually fall in that price range – not counting the extra cost of lenses.