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First Things First

Digital Camera Beginner - Question MarkAre you thinking of buying a new digital camera? For the beginner, this can seem a huge decision. There is an enormous range of cameras out there, and how do you pick the digital camera that suits your needs? Here are a few of the first things to consider when making your choice. If you can decide on a few basic points you can cut the range of models to consider down to a reasonable number!

Type of Camera

The first big choice you have to make is Compact or SLR? A compact camera is simpler and usually cheaper, a ‘point and shoot’ camera. A SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera is larger and more expensive, but tends to take higher quality photos and has the flexibility of changable lenses.

If you’re looking to take photos on nights out, on the beach or just snapshots of day to day activities than a compact camera may be your best choice. If your looking to take photos for photos sake, then a SLR may be a better option.

Number of Megapixels

This can give you a rough idea of the quality of photos a camera will take, but it isn’t as important as many manufacturers and retailers make out. Make sure your chosen camera has a similar number to others in the range you are looking at, but don’t get sidetracked chasing the highest number. See our Megapixel Myths article for more about why a big resolution isn’t necessarily the most important factor in choosing a camera.

Extra Features

Modern digital cameras have a range of extra features that you may or may not be interested in…

  • If you want to take photos quickly and simply then look for a camera with good automatic modes. If you want to be more involved in your photography then make sure your camera will allow you to take manual control.
  • For those of you who want to take photos of your friends and family a camera with face and smile recognition might help you capture those special moments more easily.
  • If you have trouble with the tiny controls found on some cameras then look out for the touchscreen models now available. These can be a lot easier to use for those with larger fingers!
  • Video Recording – Most digital cameras will record video these days, but if you plan on using this feature a lot keep an eye out for cameras which can record HD (High Definition) video as it will look a lot better on modern televisions.
  • Make sure your camera has a flash if you’re planning on using it in low light conditions.

Battery Life

This can vary hugely, and since many cameras now use special rechargable batteries you may not be able to buy replacements. If you only want a camera to last a day/night out this may be less of a concern, but if you want to get through a holiday without having to carry a charger then check how many photos you can take from one charge.


Most important on compact cameras as you can’t swap the lens, make sure your camera has a big enough zoom range for you to take all the photos you’d like. Be careful to look at optical zoom, as some cameras advertise digital zoom which will reduce the quality of your photos.


Hopefully these ideas will set you on the right path to making a good decision. As a few final words, if you’re new to digital photography don’t rush out and buy the most expensive camera you can – a professional level camera won’t necessarily serve you best or help you take the best photos, a cheaper model more suited to your level of ability might suit you better. And, if you’re buying an SLR remember the old maxim that the investment is in the lenses, not the camera!

If you’d like more information on the various camera manufacturers, why not check out our article on Digital Camera Manufacturers.