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Tech talk: Digital cameras
Traditional film cameras are virtually a thing of the past now, even for professionals, and photos have become a much more integrated and accessible part of our lives, with it being easy to take lots of shots at a time, at a very small cost. But how do you decide which camera to buy, or what to take on holiday? Just your phone or a digital camera too? We've put together this buying guide for digital cameras to help you decide.
Budget. As with a lot of technology, there are a huge range of price points with digital cameras - you can pick up a compact camera for as little as twenty pounds or pay thousands for a top of the range model. Quality and features will improve the more you pay so a good place to start is to set a rough budget and go from there.
Use. It sounds a bit silly asking yourself what you're going to use the camera for - to take pictures! - but the type of use is important when deciding which camera you buy. Is size a priority? For example, do you want a small camera that will easily fit in your bag or pocket? And what will you use your images for? If you intend to print them out to display on the wall or share with friends and family, you will need to consider a camera that produces high quality images. If you just want to take a few holiday snaps to keep for yourself, this might not be too much of a consideration.
Type. There are a few different categories of digital camera. Most people use a 'compact', which is, unsurprisingly, small and easy to carry around. At the other end of the scale you get a Digital SLR (DSLR)- the professional-looking cameras with big lenses. You might consider one of these if you really want to get into photography and play around with the settings a lot, as well as taking high-quality pictures. In between these two is a relatively new breed of camera - the 'bridge' cameras, which are basically a cross between a compact and a DSLR. You get some of the quality and features of a big camera in a relatively compact package.
Megapixels. A word that has been around for a long time now and has caused much confusion over the years!We won't get into all the jargon and technical detail but generally speaking, the more 'megapixels' your camera has, the better quality the pictures will be but - and this is a big but - it's only relative to the size of the photo you're producing. If you only ever want a small photo - to look at on your computer, for example - you would see no benefit from getting a high megapixel camera. A photo of that size taken with four or five megapixels would look no different to one taken with ten or eleven megapixels.
Hardware. So if megapixels only count to a point, what does make one camera take better pictures than another? Things like lens type and size, shutter speed and sensor quality all count but if we're being honest, for holiday snaps and the like you don't need to be worrying about these.
Mobile phones. In-built mobile phone cameras have come a long way in recent years and it is possible to take perfectly decent photos with them. If you don't want the hassle of taking an extra camera with you and are happy with the quality of the images your phone produces, they are really handy for holiday snaps and the like. A mobile phone can produce images roughly of the same quality as the cheapest compact digital camera.
Making a decision. As always, the best advice is to have a look around, decide how much you want to spend and take some time to think about it before making a decision. Most of us want a small camera that will take good quality holiday snaps and for that purpose you can't go wrong with something around the £200-300 price point.
Using it. You'll soon find that it's very easy to take hundreds and hundreds of photos at a time, so make sure you've got enough space on your computer to store them all! It's also a good idea to get a couple of memory cards, especially if you're going on a long holiday - you can be downloading from one while using the other and they are small, relatively sensitive things so it's always useful to have a backup in case one fails. Backing up your photos regularly is also a good habit to get into.
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