How to Choose a Camera

Three Methods:Define your needsPoint and Shoot vs SLRCompare

Having trouble deciding what camera to buy? Don't know what camera will fit your needs? Not sure what your needs are? Read this and find out.

Method 1
Define your needs

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    Write down what your primary goal is. Why do you need a camera? If all you need is a camera for vacation snapshots, then a cheaper model might be better for you.
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    Write down how many times you expect to be using the camera. The more you use it, the more likely you are to upgrade your camera. Buy nice or buy twice.
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    Write down how much you want to spend. This is a good way to gauge what quality of camera you will be buying. Don't be afraid to go a little over so that you can get a camera that you will keep much longer.
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    Decide if you want analog or digital. Both types have pluses and minuses:
    • Analog (film camera): Now that a good number of hobbyists and professionals are going digital, film cameras have the advantage of being extremely cheap compared to a digital camera of the same quality. Film cameras do not have the same issues with noise as low-range digital cameras, though of course you get grain from the film. On the other hand, developing film can get expensive if you're taking lots of photos. Bear in mind that you might want to include a good-quality scanner in your budget.
    • Digital: The main advantage of digital cameras is the ability to view the pictures that you have taken right after taking the shot. This results in not wasting money on unwanted prints and you can retake a shot if needed. A beginner should almost invariably buy a digital camera, not necessarily an expensive one though something with available manual control such as a mid-range point and shoot or low-end or old DSLR is good, since the process of improving generally involves taking a great many bad photos and seeing what went wrong. Digital cameras let one get through this process quickly and unconstrained by budget. You can also print and edit any picture you want. These days, you can go to Kodak or cord camera's website and upload your pictures and they'll send you prints for about 15 cents a pop. It's much cheaper to have a picture (or group of pictures) printed by a commercial printer than to print it yourself on an inkjet printer.

Method 2
Point and Shoot vs SLR

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    Familiarize yourself with the difference between SLR and Point and Shoot
    • Point and shoot cameras are just what they sounds like: you point your camera at the subject, zoom in or out, then press the button to take the picture. Such cameras require very little effort on the part of the photographer; they typically focus themselves and adjust themselves to light conditions.
    • An SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, on the other hand, is the sort of thing you see professional photographers use. With a DSLR (and many SLRs), you have total control over the photograph. You can adjust the shutter speed alone, the aperture alone, change the ISO speed to whatever you want, or just use it like a large point and shoot. Unlike point and shoot cameras, you can use interchangeable lenses. This means that you have a wide range of lenses to choose from depending on the manufacturer. The downsides of DSLRs are that they weigh more and don't record videos.
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    Look at your needs. Do your needs really match up with what a SLR has to offer? Unless you're either experienced with an SLR or willing to learn the basics of using one, you don't need an SLR. As Bas Scheffers writes, "[i]n general, unless you have been using an SLR for years as advanced amateur or professional, if you need to read this article to learn about digital photography, you are not ready for a digital SLR. You have been warned."[1] SLRs also hit the wallet a little harder too. On the other hand, if you have any desire to capture fast moving kids/pets, the shutter lag of a point and shoot will make it impossible, and the only thing that can capture them is a DSLR.
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    SLR cameras comes in digital and analog formats. With a digital SLR, you don't have to pay for film and developing fees, can experiment more freely, and can instantly see the picture after you take it. However, film SLRs can be purchased at a lower price and the cost of taking a picture can be help improve your photography skills because you'll be thinking more about if the picture can be further improved.
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    If you are not sure about making photography your hobby, get a point and shoot with advanced options. They are not as expensive as an DSLR, but do give you the ability to experiment with different settings.

Method 3

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    Visit your local photo store and ask to try out some cameras. With digital you can snap a few shots right there in the store and see how you like it (alternatively, Flickr allows you to browse photos by camera type).
    • Is it too complicated? Will you avoid taking pictures because it's a pain?
    • Feel the weight. Is it too heavy to carry around while on vacation?
    • Feel if the camera is comfortable in your hands.
    • Take notes or ask for a brochure so you won't forget what you just had in your hands.
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    Read up on the Internet what the pros and cons of the cameras you tried are.


  • Don't forget to get accessories. A carrying strap or bag can be a lifesaver when you're carrying your camera around a lot.
  • It is cheaper to buy a one gigabyte stick than two 512MBs.
  • If you take the digital route, ask the salesperson how many pictures you can fit on a given memory card, is this too much or too little?
  • Buy plenty of memory. It's cheap. Don't buy a small amount and resort to deleting pictures of the camera to make room. Furthermore, deleting pictures can corrupt the card. Format the memory card each time after you upload them to your computer.
  • Think about the future. If you think you won't be taking pictures as a hobby, but rather just to point and shoot, it's probably not worth getting an expensive digital SLR camera.
  • Be sure to compare a lot. There are lots of websites full of information, reviews and user experiences. Use this to your advantage.
  • Also, you may want to get a good photo editing software for both types of camera. If you get an analog camera, remember to ask for the CD with your prints. this saves that hassle of scanning, and you can edit and print pictures whenever you need to. Photoshop Elements 6 can be purchased for $90.
  • With digital cameras, don't be taken in by the number of megapixels. A typical compact camera will show a decrease in image quality above 6 megapixels.[2]

Sources and Citations

  1. Choosing a Camera]
  2. See the 6 Megapixel advocacy website for the full explanation.

Article Info

Categories: Photography