Are you in the market for a new camera but not sure how to go about it? Without going through the myriad of different options, features and functions available in a camera there a few basic steps that will make your life a lot easier
1. What is your budget?
Before you start looking in earnest I encourage you to decide how much money do you have to spend? In my own experience this makes life a lot easier and clears up your thinking considerably. When you have set your budget and you know how much money you have to spend the pressure is off and you can focus on what you want for your money from a camera.
2. Features and benefits.
Camera manufacturers love to tell you all the super new things their camera can do, how many mexapixels it has, how many frames per second it can shoot, optical zoom and on and on. Before you get caught up in all of the camera jargon think about what you will use the camera for, does it need to small to fit in a handbag or a coat pocket? Is it for mostly indoor use? Will you need a flash? Do you take wildlife or sports photography? Does it need to have interchangeable lenses? Will you need to shoot manually or automatically or both?
3. What about megapixels?
There is an abundance of megapixels available now and even camera phones and entry level point and shoot cameras have plenty of megapixels available. My iPhone 4s for instance has an 8 megapixel camera. The photographs look great on a screen and will make perfectly good standard size prints. Entry level point and shoot cameras now come with in excess of 14 megapixels and to give you some perspective on this my first DSLR was a canon 10 D and it had 6.3 MP! So when it comes to deciding how many megapixels you need it comes down to what you will be using the images for. Most entry level point and shoot cameras can now make excellent prints up to A3 size, they will look fine on the internet too.
4. I already have a digital SLR and I want to upgrade it?
Do you already have a DSLR and you want to buy an upgrade? Perhaps you are moving to a full frame sensor? There are a few things you should keep in mind then. Full frame sensors have larger sensors than crop sensors. The term full frame has its origins in the world of film. In the days of film 35 mm film was a standard size and had an area of 24mm x 36 mm. All cameras were manufactured to the same size and nobody gave the whole thing a second thought. Then digital sensors came along and nowadays manufacturers make DSLR sensors with a range of crop factors. Nikon make two different sensor sizes: Full frame or FX and 1.5 or DX. Canon make 3 different sensor sixes: Full frame, 1.3x and 1.6x. Full frame sensors have the same area as the old standard size 35 mm frame and the other sensor sizes are smaller with the 1.5/1.6 sensors being about 2/3’s of the size of a full frame sensor.
So how does this affect your choice and how can you choose the best option for you? Well full frame sensors have both advantages and disadvantages, full frame cameras have generally better image quality than non-full frame cameras but in particular they beat all the competition when it comes to performance at high ISO settings because the pixels on a full frame sensor are larger they give less noise and can also give a couple of extra stops in low light conditions. On the down side they are more expensive and the body and lens are generally heavier. Something to enquire about when you are considering upgrading is if your current lens will fit a new full frame DSLR and be aware that your lens focal length will be different on full frame body, if your using a 35 mm lens now on a 1.6 crop sensor then on a full frame sensor it will look wider than on a crop sensor.
So you know what you need and you have decided on a camera body, now you are ready to buy. I recommend that before you do you check on the internet for pricing and to see what kind of deals are on offer. Nowadays we, as consumers have so much choice and can buy online or in a shop. One thing to be aware of when buying online if you live in the EU is that some websites in the USA and places like Hong Kong can offer very attractive prices that can seem too good to be true. If this is the case just make sure that you will not be charged VAT or duty when the equipment enters the EU when you are weighing up the price and comparing it to local websites and shops. Personally if it is a large value purchase I prefer to deal with someone face to face and I go to a local store. I check out the prices online first so that I know in advance what the ball park figure should be and I will let the sales assistant know I know. Any good camera retailer nowadays are aware that a large proportion of their competition is online and they will want to competitive, that has been my experience anyway. If you are buying from a shop ask about special offers and deals, are there any discounts available? Instead of a discount can they throw in any extras such as memory cards or a spare battery?
6. Try before you buy.
There is no substitute for holding the camera in your hands, trying it out and getting to play around with it. If you have a good relationship with a shop they might lend you a camera for a few days to try it out but even shooting a few frames in the shop or outside the shop will give you a feel for the camera.
I hope you found this article helpful and if so please share it! Also if you have any tips and hints for buying a new camera please add them in the comments section below to help other readers!