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10-Step Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Digital Camera

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Camera with lens on wooden table

Camera with lens on wooden table


You have finally decided to take the leap; it is time to buy a real digital camera. Now all you need to figure out is which one to buy. With all the different specs and features, it can seem overwhelming.

Blonde girl with camera taking picture

Blonde girl with camera taking picture

In this ten step guide, we will go over everything you need to know in order to purchase the perfect digital camera.

Girl with camera taking pictures

Girl with camera taking pictures

1. What Will You Be Using Your Camera For?

The easiest way to figure out what features you actually need is to first determine what you are going to use your camera for. What kind of photos will you be taking? Will you be shooting professionally or just for fun?

Woman with camera taking pictures of little girl

Woman with camera taking pictures of little girl

Do you plan on doing travel photography? How experienced are you with photography? What special features do you need to have? Knowing the answers to these questions before you begin shopping will help you find the best one for your needs.

Woman sitting in street with camera taking pictures

Woman sitting in street with camera taking pictures

2. What is Your Price Range?

This is also one of the most important factors to keep in mind. High quality equipment generally comes with a high price tag. It is best to set a budget before you start looking. Try to choose a narrow range of prices to keep your options open, but not unmanageable.

Girl with camera on the beach

Girl with camera on the beach

You will also want to take into account any photography accessories that you need to purchase. Decide if you need to buy any extras like an external flash, extra memory card, or tripod before you look and account for this in your overall budget.

Woman with camera taking pictures

Woman with camera taking pictures

3. What Kind of Digital Camera Do You Need?

There are three main types of digital cameras: point and shoot, mirrorless, and DSLRs. However, the lines between these categories are often blurred and a model may fit into more than one category.

Photographer with Camera

Photographer with Camera

Point and shoot models have non-interchangeable lenses that are built-in. They are generally the most compact and portable. These models range in price and overall quality.

Photographer with camera taking pictures of river

Photographer with camera taking pictures of river

Mirrorless models are smaller than DSLRs, but like DSLRs, they can accommodate interchangeable lenses. They offer more versatility and take high quality photos. The only downside is the lack of a through-the-lens viewfinder.

Woman holding camera in her lap

Woman holding camera in her lap

DSLRs are the most professional type. They give the photographer a lot of control and take excellent quality photos. These cameras can accommodate a huge variety of lenses, external flashes, and a number of other accessories and gadgets.

Man holding camera taking pictures

Man holding camera taking pictures

4. What About Megapixels?

Listed on the product packaging, you will see a number of megapixels. The megapixels is the number of dots that make up an image. This figure has less to do with the quality of the photos and more with the print quality. Megapixels tell you how large you can print your photos and still see clear images.

Woman with camera taking pictures in the road

Woman with camera taking pictures in the road

It also lets you know if you can crop a photo and still get a high quality print. In general, 16 megapixels is enough for most situations. Your lens and the size of the sensor will give you a better indication of whether or not you will be able to take high quality photos.

5. How About The Sensor Size?

The sensor is the chip inside the camera’s body that actually captures the image. The bigger the sensor is, the better the performance is and the higher the photo quality. This is especially true when taking photos in low light. Full-frames sensors are the largest available.

Girl with camera

Girl with camera

One inch sensors and 35mm full-frame sensors are both large. Cameras with this size sensor or larger are considered to be advanced. Unfortunately, there is no standard form of measurement for sensors. If you do some research online, you can find more information on comparative sensor sizes. The important thing to remember, though, is that a larger sensor means clearer photos.

6. What Kind Of Flash Do You Need?

Most cameras will have some sort of a built in flash. Any standard flash is still far superior to what you would find on a smartphone. There are cameras that let you adjust the brightness of the flash depending on the situation.

Girl holding camera

Girl holding camera

There are also cameras that can accommodate an external flash thanks to the hot shoe. This option gives you much more control over the direction of the light and the strength.


7. How Long Should Your Optical Zoom Lens Be?

Even cameras with the lowest price point will include a 3x optical zoom lens. This is already longer than the one on your smartphone. Zoom lenses come in a variety of lengths and ranges. Typically, the smaller zooms will be more compact and lightweight.

Photographer holding camera with long lens

Photographer holding camera with long lens

This makes them ideal for travel photography. On the other hand, longer and more powerful zooms are bigger and heavier.

8. Are There Any Accessories You Want To Purchase?

In the budget section, we mentioned that you should set aside money for any accessories you may need or want. Some things you may consider purchasing are:

  • Carrying case or strap
  • Spare battery
  • Memory card
  • Tripod
  • External lenses
  • Reflectors
Camera on tripod

Camera on tripod

Camera with lens on tripod

Camera with lens on tripod

You can often find these accessories available in a bundle. Just be sure that all the extras are compatible with your preferred model and they are exactly what you want.

9. Do You Want Any Specialty Features?

Nowadays, cameras come with all sorts of extra features that are not standard on all models. You may choose that you would like a model that has one or more of these special features.

  • Touchscreen
  • WiFi connectivity
  • Weather/water proof
  • 4K resolution
  • Multiple memory card slots
  • External microphone
  • Preset shooting modes
  • Stabilization
Camera taking photos of food

Camera taking photos of food

10. How Do You Know What Is Best For You?

Now, you understand all the specs, but it can still be hard to really know which of the cameras is the best and which is the best for you. Here are two last bits of advice to help you on your search.

Photographer holding camera

Photographer holding camera

a) Read Reviews

The specs and features can only give you so much information. Sometimes it is best to hear about the experiences of people who have actually used the product. Often store websites allow customers to leave online reviews. You can also check out expert websites or magazines for professional reviews. If you look around, you can find at least one professional review for every camera currently on the market.

Girl sitting on bench with camera

Girl sitting on bench with camera

b) Get Hands-On Experience

Buying things online is convenient, but when it comes to purchasing a new camera, you may find it more useful to try it first hand before you buy it. Head down to your local electronics store and play around with a few models so you can really get a feel for your equipment before you buy it.

Photographer with camera taking picture of plant

Photographer with camera taking picture of plant

Girls with camera taking pictures on the beach in bikini

Girls with camera taking pictures on the beach in bikini


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