People often ask me about what is the best type of camera to get. There are a baffling amount of different types of cameras out there to choose from – each with a myriad of buttons, mega-pixels and auto this-and-that. Quite frankly, even my eyes can start to glaze over reading the technical stuff, so I’m not surprised that non-photographers get bamboozled with it all!
When I teach my Photography Workshops I like to keep the language non-techie and the concepts simple to understand. So I thought I would do the same in this blog post when explaining the differences between camera types, and which might suit you best.
1) Smartphones / Budget cameras
Budget compact cameras are generally pocket-sized, fairly low-cost (under £120) and don’t have the ability to take the camera off auto. And here’s where smartphones come into the mix – because these themselves have come on so much in the last few years, it’s fair to say that if you have a new-ish smartphone, then the pictures it will be able to capture are going to be pretty much as good as a compact camera, in fact they’re probably better! I love my iPhone because it is with me all the time, so I can capture little everyday details with it, very simply. All it takes is a bit of know-how and how to control it, rather than just holding up your phone and hoping for the best! (And if you’re based near Woking, Surrey and interested in learning how to get creative with your smartphone, I run workshops – find out more here >).
Pros: Affordable, carry-round-everywhere.
Cons: These types of cameras do have limitations… they’re not great with low-light and can suffer from shutter-lag, when trying to capture rapid movement. You know that annoying delay between pressing the shutter and the picture being taken? Yup, that’s shutter-lag. You can EASILY miss a moment, especially with children. They tend to not really keep still much, ever noticed that?
2) Bridge Cameras
A new breed of camera has sprung up over the last few years – it’s a bit like a stepping stone between a smartphone and an SLR camera. They usually have a powerful zoom, but not interchangeable lenses. Some of them have the ability to come off auto onto manual controls, but not all of them. They are almost guaranteed to have a vast array of auto options and perhaps ‘art filters’ you can use to do zany stuff to your images afterwards. Suited for someone who wants more features and a good zoom in a camera but doesn’t necessarily want to come off auto.
Pros: Multi-functional, will have a host of auto-settings, usually has the flexibility to be taken off auto as well. Usually good zoom range.
Cons: Often has only pre-set / auto settings. You can’t change lenses.
3) Compact System Cameras
A step up from a bridge cameras, these are sophisticated cameras, that are very similar to DSLRs but at a much smaller size. They have interchangeable lenses and often have many, MANY functions (some of which I would estimate you will NEVER use!). With these type of cameras you are basically paying for the fact that you get a DSLR type experience, but they’re still lightweight and small, and are designed to appeal to the real camera enthusiast, with a price to match. They are significantly more expensive, often even more so than entry-level DSLRs.
Pros: Lightweight, multi-functional, will have a host of sophisticated settings, plus the ability to use different lenses.
Cons: A LOT more expensive
4) DSLR Cameras
DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. But don’t worry about what this means, just know that these are the traditionally much larger cameras, with interchangeable lenses. You can now get a great DSLR for the same price or even cheaper than a bridge/compact system camera. There is no getting away from the fact that a DSLR camera is bigger, but nowadays the entry-level ones are lighter and smaller than they used to be. I don’t think this type of camera is any more complicated to learn and they do still have auto modes, which mean you can still point and shoot. However I would say it’s a complete waste to have a DSLR and leave it on auto! These types of cameras are very much aimed at the super-keen photographer who wants to learn how to understand and use their camera off auto and be really creative.
Pros: Super-flexible in what you can achieve creatively, a wide range of lenses to pick from, intuitive controls, separate viewfinder to compose images
Cons: Expensive, bulkier and heavier to carry
In terms of brands, there are lots out there that are good and you can’t go wrong with a Canon or Nikon, although Sony, Panasonic and Olympus also are very good.
I hope this really helps with you choosing the best camera to suit your needs, especially with Christmas rapidly approaching. Or if not, perhaps the January Sales?
I run Creative Photography Workshops from Smartphones right through to bridge and DSLR cameras, just outside of Woking, plus 1:1 tuition if you need bespoke learning. If you want to drop a hint to someone for this as a pressie, any places bought as gifts get a gift-wrapped Voucher, printed with their own message, with free P&P.