Choosing a digital camera is a lot easier when you consider the three types of digital cameras: the digital SLR, the bridge (or prosumer) and the point-and-shoot or (compact automatic). This article introduces you to the advantages and disadvantages of each, so that you can narrow your choices down to the type of camera you want.
Digital Single Lens Reflexes (DSLRs)
Digital SLRs (DSLRs) were almost exclusively used by professional photographers until recently when the prices started to come down. Prices have come down considerably over the years for an entry level DSLR like the popular Canon Rebel. However, just remember that when you get a DSLR you also have to buy lenses to use. Some do, however, come with a basic starter lens or kit lens. If you want to take telephoto pictures, you can’t just push a button to zoom, you need a telephoto lens. These come in all sorts of sizes to fit the photographer’s needs. Many photographers also buy quality used equipment to keep costs down.
One of the great benefits of DSLRs is that you can get telephoto lenses that will let you take a close up of a bird on the top of a tree and you’ll never be able to tell from the picture that the bird was so far away. And they’re fast! So you’ll never have the problem of missing an action shot because your camera took too long to record the picture.
DSLRs also work with accessories like external flashes and filters to give you more options when shooting. DSLRs are great for taking action pictures in low light situations where a flash isn’t allowed or won’t reach.
Because of their large sensors, you can increase ISO to get pictures in low light while still having a high shutter speed to capture action. With other types of cameras you can’t do this because they have smaller sensors and end up producing pictures with unsightly graininess called digital noise. Digital noise can often be removed with software but with the DSLR you never have this problem.
These days, the main disadvantage of a DSLR is the higher price tag when you compare it to other types of cameras. It’s a nice camera to upgrade to if you discover you really love taking pictures and want to advance. Most people just start out with the camera body and a kit lens and then add more specialized lenses as they go.
Point & Shoot Digital Cameras (also called compact or automatic cameras)
Digital compacts or points and shoots are the most popular cameras in the Western world and for good reason. A compact is so easy to pack around and can take such good quality shots that many a pro with an expensive DSLR and a bag of big lenses has a small compact tucked in a pocket. (Pocket size compact digital cameras are often called subcompacts).
As mentioned above, compacts biggest benefits is their small and compact size. Unlike DSLRs which usually require a small bag of camera gear (if you have a couple of lenses) these cameras can go virtually anywhere.
And while you can just point and shoot with these cameras, many have all sorts of modes from which to choose, and plus some also give you some manual controls, such as Aperture Priority and Shutter Speed Priority. And if your camera has an optical zoom, you can also get some great telephoto pictures too!
These digital cameras are designed to bridge the gap between DSLRs and compact (or point and shoot) cameras. Bridge cameras are also called prosumer cameras because they are often used by both professionals and consumers. Bridge cameras almost always have higher price tags than compact cameras but are less than most DSLRs (as you don’t have to buy extra lenses with bridge cameras).
Bridge cameras have larger sensors and offer more mega pixels than most compacts. With bridge cameras you can increase ISO more than on a compact but not nearly as high as with a DSLR. If you don’t need to get action shots in places without good lighting, this may never be an issue.
Many bridge cameras let you get better indoor pictures by having hot shoes that work with an external flash. Bridge cameras also have movie mode and allow you to compose shots on the LCD. Many are super zooms. This means they have optical zoom ranges of 10x to 20x. Plus bridge cameras often have as many manual controls as DSLR cameras.
Once you decide what type of camera you want (DSLR, bridge or compact), selecting a camera will be a lot less confusing. So no matter what type of digital camera you get, take time to learn how to use your camera and you’ll be sure to start taking some great pictures.