How to choose a digital camera
Unless it is your full time job, it's almost impossible to keep up with the latest technology in digital cameras. New models are introduced almost daily. Each new model continues to push the state-of-the-art forward at an amazing speed.
And despite the fact that Apple has proven over the last decade that simple product lines are most effective, major camera manufacturers continue to push out a multitude of different models with incredibly confusing names. Is a D700 or a D7000 better? What about a D3 or a D3s or a D3x? How does that compare to a G12 or a 7D? Even most professional photographers can't keep up with all of the new models.
To make things simple, we maintain a flow chart that helps you decide which camera to buy. Just follow the lines until you end up with a camera that fits your needs!
And after you pick out a camera, check out our follow-up guide on how to choose a flash for your digital camera.
To all the Camera Nazis: Since there are thousands of cameras on the market, we are only including the best, newest, and most popular models. No camera on this chart is a bad choice, but many perfectly fine cameras are not included. Don't fret if your favorite camera isn't on the list.
Entry level cameras:
In this day and age, low-end digital cameras are a rapidly dying breed. Since everyone has a cellphone now, there are fewer anad fewer reasons to buy a cheap digital camera and sales reflect that. Just use your cellphone instead! But if you want a better quality camera than your cellphone can provide, keep reading.
These cameras are great for people who want better picture quality then a cellphone but don't want to carry around anything big. They don't have a lot of versatility and don't leave much room for growth.
High-end Compact cameras:
A new development, these cameras try to pack the image quality and flexibility of a high-end DSLR into the size of a pocket camera. Often they cost just as much as a larger camera and mainly offer a smaller size and greater portability. Many pro photographers buy these cameras to use when they don't want to carry around a bag of gear.
Basic DSLR cameras:
These cameras take great images and many have nice video capabilities as well. With recent advances in camera technology, the quality of images you can create at this price range is amazing. Unless you are a real photo enthusiast, this is likely all you will ever need.
Mid-level DSLR cameras:
These cameras are a step-up from basic DSLR cameras. They may offer better low-light capabilities, more manual controls or more features. Often these cameras are a little more complex to learn to use than their basic DSLR siblings and thus aren't always a better choice for all people.
Pro-sumer DSLR cameras:
Unless you are a full-time professional photographer, these are surely the nicest cameras you will ever need. Even then, many professionals use these cameras because they are a little smaller than Pro DSLRs and often have the same image sensors and processors.
Pro-level DSLR cameras:
These are the top of the line. If you need one of these, you probably already know it. Buy it. Otherwise, don't waste your money. The same features and physical designs that make these cameras suitable for pro work often make them a worse choice for casual use.
Basic tips for buying a digital camera:
Avoid fly-by-night internet dealers. These tend to have generic names and operate out of New York or California. They often advertise cameras at significantly prices lower than the reputable dealers. These are almost always scams that require you to buy lots of overpriced accessories before they will ship you anything. If you order just a camera, they will refuse to ship it to you or just keep your money.
If you want in-person advice and long-term support, look for a local independent camera dealer in your area. Just keep in mind that they generally can't match online prices because they have to pay for their store. But if you are going use a local store, buy there. Don't be a jerk by wasting their time getting them to show you cameras and then ordering online from someone else.
When you get it, shoot as much as possible and have fun!