Digital Cameras: What Type of Camera Should I Buy?

By Geoff Harris

Help I don’t know which is the best camera


One of the most common questions asked by new photographers here at MyPhotoSchool is "What type of camera should I buy?" and this is one question that is not that straight forward to answer:-

In order to establish what type of camera should I buy, you first we need to establish what you want to use it for.

Almost everyone today owns a digital camera; even if it just their mobile phone.

But don’t dismiss these as some sort of second rate option.

Digital Cameras on mobiles have become ever more sophisticated, the lenses have improved and many now offer HD video as well.

If all you want to do is record memories of trips and holidays on your computer then your mobile will be fine.

Point & Shoot or Digital Compact Camera

The next option when asking what type of camera should I buy, is the Point & Shoot or Digital Compact Camera. There is a thought amongst some, that these digital cameras will be come less popular as mobile phone cameras become more sophisticated, and indeed sales figures are showing a decline in this market sector.

These are ideal for those people who want to take the occasional photograph of family and friends or holiday snaps. There big advantage, is their small size and weight.

You look through a viewfinder, which is close to the lens through which the picture is taken or view your image on the LCD on the back of the camera.

One of the main disadvantages of this type of digital camera is its inability to change lenses. Although unlike mobile phones digital compact cameras often have a built in zoom lens, which gives them more flexibility when it comes to composing your picture.

Because of their simplicity and their inability to change lenses they are perhaps not the best cameras to try and learn the creative art of photography, because of all their automated settings.

If you want to take your photography to the next level you will need to consider an DSLR

Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLR)


The most popular option amongst serious photographers, is the DSLR or digital single lens reflex camera . Unlike the point & click digital cameras, in the DSLR the eye is looking through the same lens as takes the photograph, by a mirror placed between the film and the lens.

When the shutter is released, the mirror flips out of the way to expose the digital cameras censor to the lens, and it is then replaced after the exposure.

There biggest advantage is the ability to change lenses, and therefore have a far greater choice when it comes to lens magnification.  they have far more options when it comes to manual control and many now offer DSLR video as well as a still option. Basically you have much more control.

Interchangeable Lens Camera (Mirrorless)

Fuji_thumbThere is now a forth option which is a cross between the digital compact and the DSLR and these are know as Interchangeable Lens Cameras.

These cameras offer the power and flexibility of an interchangeable-lens system, with full manual features and generally better-than-point-and-shoot performance, but without the bulk that a mirror imposes on a DSLR design.

The big disadvantage is still the lack of a viewfinder in many, although some of the high end models, such as the Fuji X-Pro 1 do offer the best of both worlds.


Which Make or Model?


If you own an old SLR film camera and have some good lenses, buy a digital camera of the same make Providing the camera is less than 15 years old, the lenses should fit the new body. Buy the camera body by itself and choose the lens that best suits your needs.  Avoid bundled packages unless the lens you want is included. Spend 1/3 of your budget on the camera body and 2/3 on the lens.  the lens will outlast the camera and this is the bit that creates the photograph, so buy the best lenses you can afford. Consider 3rd party lenses, as some of these from companies like Sigma are as good as the ‘own make’ models. Don’t get too bogged down by choice of camera manufacturer, as all the big names produce some fantastic models.  Make a list of what you think you want the camera to do and then compare the make and model for the one that best suits your needs

Don’t be tempted by bells and whistles you will never use, or pay too much attention to mega pixels unless you want to produce Bill Board size prints.

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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