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When it comes to buying a digital camera there’s an almost bewildering variety of choice on offer. There’s a similarly wide range of prices too. So how do you select the right camera for you and what are the key features to look out for?

Compact Cameras

Compact cameras are the cheapest, though they can still cover a wide price range depending on the features on offer. They are perfect for beginners because they have fully automatic modes and settings for various situations. A compact camera will generally give you better image quality and more control than the camera on a mobile phone. More expensive models offer the ability to override the settings and take control of your photography. Compacts are ideally suited to casual photographers or beginners and they’re great for events or family gatherings where you don’t want to be carrying a bulky camera.

Bridge Cameras

Sitting between compacts and SLRs, bridge cameras are a little bulkier than compacts. In return they offer greater zoom capability and additional features such as viewfinders. Having a viewfinder makes the camera easier to use in bright sunlight when it might be difficult to see an LCD screen. A bridge camera also offers a greater degree of control over focussing and exposure settings. They’ll usually have better light sensors too allowing you to take decent photos in low light conditions for example.  If you’re serious about taking pictures and want to take more control of your photography but still need an affordable option then a bridge camera is a good choice.

SLR Cameras

Whenever you see professional photographers at work they’ll usually be using an SLR. These are the most expensive option but they give you maximum control and better image quality than other types. They take their name from a system which means that as you compose the shot the view from the lens is reflected into the viewfinder by a mirror. This flips out of the way when you press the shutter allowing the light to fall on the image sensor. Most now also have a screen that emulates the viewing mode of compact cameras. The key feature of an SLR is that you can fit different lenses for different tasks. They’ll usually come with a standard lens for day-to-day photography and you can fit telephoto lenses for capturing sports action or wide angle lenses for group portraits as required. If you are serious about your photography then choosing one of the top brands like Canon digital SLR cameras will ensure you get all of the functions you need.

Key Features

Whatever type of camera you’re looking for there are some key features to bear in mind.

  • Image resolution – this is usually expressed in megapixels. A mobile phone will typically have a 3MP camera whereas compact cameras will have 10MP or more. The higher the number the more flexibility you will have to zoom into the image and print it at larger sizes.
  • Zoom – the more expensive the camera, usually the more zoom it will have. Compact cameras will usually have a mix of optical zoom (via the lens) and digital zoom (via the electronics). Optical zoom delivers better image quality and the more expensive the camera the more you’ll get. On SLRs the amount of zoom is determined by the lens fitted.
  • Memory – most cameras have a small amount of on-board memory but will rely on plug-in cards to add extra storage. There are a number of different types of card, SD, XD and MMC for example. Check what type of card the camera you’re looking at uses and that you have a suitable reader for your PC.

Whether you’re looking for a compact point-and-shoot model or a sophisticated SLR, understanding the basics will ensure you get a model that suits your needs.

Jann Webb is a freelance writer who has a keen interest in photography. If you are a photographer who takes the art of photography seriously, then you should consider getting yourself one of the many professional Canon digital SLR cameras which are available online.