We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

How to choose the right digital camera

Digital camera buyers' guide

When it comes to buying a digital camera, it's easy to get confused as there are so many options. Fear not. We're here to help. This guide will help you make a purchasing decision based on the specifications you'll need to examine closely (and the specs you can basically ignore) before you fork out your hard-earned cash.

Compact Interchangeable-Lens Camera (Panasonic G-Series, Olympus PEN, Sony NEX, Samsung NX)

Strengths: More-compact than a DSLR; excellent photo and video quality; no shutter lag; versatile interchangeable lenses; manual controls for exposure and focus

Weaknesses: No through-the-lens optical viewfinder; can be expensive; fewer lenses available than for DSLRs; still a bit bulky for everyday use

If you can live without an optical viewfinder, these interchangeable-lens cameras offer most of what a DSLR offers in a more-compact body: a large sensor, fast mechanical shutter, swappable lenses, noticeably better image and video quality that your average point-and-shoot, and manual controls.

The lack of an optical viewfinder is a by-product of these cameras' smaller size: by eliminating the somewhat large mirror box that lets you frame your shot through the lens, manufacturers were able to make these interchangeable-lens cameras more compact.

One of the main problems is deciding which of the emerging compact interchangeable-lens formats to buy into, because like DSLR lens mounts, they're incompatible with one other: Panasonic and Olympus both use the Micro Four-Thirds System lens mount, but not all Micro Four-Thirds lenses are compatible with both companies' cameras; Samsung's NX10 uses its own NX lens mount; Sony's NEX series uses the E-Mount system; and other companies are bound to release their own interchangeable-lens compacts.

Because this is a newer type of camera, there aren't as many lens options to choose from, either. Adaptors are available that let you use full-size DSLR lenses with these cameras, but they often cost a hundred dollars or more.

Megazoom (Fixed-Lens High-Zoom) Camera

Strengths: Very high optical zoom range; manual controls; normally has excellent image stabilization; better lenses than standard point-and-shoot cameras

Weaknesses: Bulkier than a point-and-shoot camera; expensive for a fixed-lens camera; not much smaller than an interchangeable-lens camera

Megazooms don't give you the same lens-swapping versatility of a DSLR or compact interchangeable-lens camera, but they are the most-versatile fixed-lens cameras available.

They're called "megazooms" because their lenses serve up a whopping amount of optical zoom (20x to 36x), offering impressive wide-angle coverage and telephoto reach.

Most megazooms also offer DSLR-like manual controls for aperture and shutter, as well as excellent image stabilization to help steady full-zoom shots.

Because of the versatility of their lenses, they're good cameras for landscape photography (they can capture both wide-angle vistas and faraway details), sports photography (you can sit in the crowd and still get tight shots of in-game action), and animal photography (because you really shouldn't get too close to that bear).

Although a megazoom camera is smaller than a DSLR, it's about the same size as some interchangeable-lens compact cameras, and it won't slip into a pocket or purse. You'll probably need a backpack or camera bag to tote it along with you.

NEXT PAGE: Pocket Megazoom

  1. Chose the camera that suits you
  2. Compact interchangeable lens cameras
  3. Pocket Megazoom
  4. Ruggedised Point-and-Shoot camera
  5. The specs explained
  6. Size, weight and design
  7. RAW Mode
  8. Battery life
  9. Menus
  10. LCD and Viewfinder
  11. Digital camera shopping tips

IDG UK Sites

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2014 tech deals UK Live: Best Black Friday deals from Apple, Amazon,...

IDG UK Sites

Why are people still buying satnavs? Smartphones are the modern satnav

IDG UK Sites

New Star Wars trailer: Watch the VFX-laden teaser for The Force Awakens

IDG UK Sites

Black Friday 2014 UK: Apple deals, Amazon deals & Black Friday tech offers UPDATED