You only have to do a quick search online to get an idea of the overwhelming choice on offer in the current digital camera market. With models to suit every budget and skill level, how do you know which one is right for you? There are several factors to bear in mind, including what subjects you’re likely to shoot and what features are most important to you – think size, sensors and style. If you want a camera to take on your travels and business trips, for example, a compact mirrorless camera might be the way to go. Or, if image quality comes above everything else, a DSLR is the obvious investment.
We’ve broken down the competing cameras out there into a few distinct categories, in the hope of making it easy to decide which one to go for. In this expert guide, we’ve picked out the best of the best in each camera type, and explained some key terms so that you know what to look for.
Once you’ve got your camera body, you’ll then need to decide on a lens to attach. Lenses are an important part of your camera setup, but to the uninitiated, are baffling tubes of glass with numbers and confusing acronyms printed on the side. With this in mind, if you don’t know which lens will give you the creative freedom to capture the photos you want, read our advice at the end of the guide. Happy shopping, and happy shooting.
The A-Z of camera jargon
AUTOFOCUS (AF) POINTS
An AF point is a specific part of the frame where the camera is able to focus. In theory, the more AF points a camera has, the more effective its overall autofocus capabilities.
APS-C A common image sensor format similar in size to the Advanced Photo System classic negatives of 25.1x16.7mm, with an aspect ratio of 3:2.
APERTURE The size of the opening in a lens that light passes through to reach the camera sensor, such as f/2.8. Smaller numbers mean a larger opening.
EVF Electronic viewfinder found on cameras that displays exactly what the camera sensor is seeing, but without the distractions of a bigger rear screen.
FULL-FRAME A high-end image sensor format, which is the same size as traditional 35mm format (36x24mm) film.
FOCAL LENGTH A number expressed in millimetres (mm) that indicates a lens’ field of view, such as 50mm. The lower the focal length, the wider the field of view.
FPS Frames per second. The maximum speed at which a camera can capture photos in a continuous burst.
MEGAPIXEL (MP) 1MP is equal to one million pixels, and the number of megapixels determines the resolution of a photo.
MICRO FOUR THIRDS SYSTEM (MFT) A new standard released in 2008 by Olympus and Panasonic for interchangeable lens cameras. Has the same image sensor size and specification as the Four Thirds system (17.3x13mm) but is designed without a mirror, so is more compact.
As well as shooting stills, most modern cameras now double up as movie-making powerhouses. 4K and 1080p are standard in most high-quality mainstream digital cameras. The 4K part can be tricky when it comes to resolution – some record in the Ultra HD standard 3840x2160 resolution, while some record in the slightly wider 4096x2160 resolution (also known as ‘cinema 4K’). The latter can be slightly harder to work with when it comes to editing if you’re not using professional video editing software. Either way, you’re getting four times as many pixels as Full HD, meaning more information, sharper videos and greater clarity.
Almost every major camera manufacturer has now introduced 4K video recording somewhere in its lines, but spending more doesn’t necessarily mean the inclusion of this feature. Canon recently shocked the industry by omitting 4K from its long-awaited 6D Mark II. It might seem savvy to future-proof your camera investment by opting for a 4K model. However, if you know you’re only ever going to take photos, leave video capabilities out of the mix when coming to a decision. ■