These are among the most popular variants available, should you want to buy a Digital Camera today. So which one is right for you? Your decision making questions are:
1. You will be using the camera for professional purposes.
You should consider an APS-C DSLR the absolute minimum. APS-C sized sensors allow for detailed A4 and A3 sized images. If your images are likely to be published in large poster sizes (Up-to A0 size), you should consider a Full-Frame camera as minimum. If your images are likely to be published in outdoor hoarding sizes, you should consider a Medium Format camera as minimum. The large image sensors in DSLR cameras capture more light and result in high definition images. DSLR cameras also allow you to use a wide range of lenses and offer full manual control for challenging photographic situations.
DSLR cameras are available from Rs. 18000/- to Rs.5,00,000/-. This price does not include the cost of additional accessories that you will end up purchasing during your use of the camera. Typical additional purchases include – lenses, filters, tripods, external flashes, reflectors, backgrounds. More often than not, these purchases end up costing many times more than the price of the camera itself.
2. You love photography and shoot a lot of landscapes, objects, people etc.
If you love landscape photography, photographing flora and fauna and public place photography, then you should probably buy a Bridge camera. A bridge camera (also known as a Super Zoom) features a long telephoto lens (10x zoom or more) and allows you to frame subjects that are a good distance away. A Super-zoom is almost mandatory for photographing birds and dangerous animals. Most super-zooms also have good macro-photography capability and can be used to photograph insects and insides of flowers in good detail. Most bridge cameras use 1/2.3″ sensor, which is too small to catch extremely intricate details (for ex: every hair strand, every blade of grass), but performs very well overall.
Super-zoom cameras are available from Rs. 14,000 to Rs. 30,000/- For example the Canon SX40 HS features a 35x telephoto lens and costs approx. Rs. 21,000 in USA. The focal length range is 24mm to 840mm. Such long distance photography is simply not possible in DSLRs due to lack of quality lenses of more than 500mm focal length. Mirror lenses for DSLRs feature 1000mm focal length but suffer from ‘donut rings’ artifacts. Also, no lens exists for DSLRs that allows for such a versatile focal length range.
3. You like photography and shoot a lot during family functions and outings.
If budget is not a constraint, you should consider an ultra-compact camera. Such camera offer 3x to 5x zoom lens, decent shooting speed in an extremely portable package. Sony, Casio and Olympus manufacture a number of sleek models. Most of these cameras have one redeeming feature – quick to shoot. These cameras are easy to whip out of pocket, switch on, point at subject, press shutter button to focus and shoot – All in one smooth motion.
Ultra compact cameras are available from Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 19,000 and most new models even feature touch-screen controls for easy focus-point selection and shooting. Note that Ultra-compact cameras share the same sensor size as Super-zoom cameras.
4. You only want a digital camera for the occasional use and have a small budget.
Most compact digital cameras in this range feature 3x to 5x zoom (the really cheap cameras do not offer any optical zoom, only digital zoom). They are reasonably portable (must carry in pouch/purse), offer decent shooting speeds and good image quality. To reduce costs, manufacturers reduce features such as:
- Larger plastic bodies instead of sleek shiny metal finish bodies of ultra-compact cameras
- Slower electronics resulting in higher power-on to shoot delay
- Bulky batteries
- Few digital photography features such as creative picture modes, HDR photography, Image sharpening, Auto-bracketing etc.
Compact Cameras are available from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 9,000 in many many brands. Brands like Kodak, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Fuji fill the mid-range. Brands like GE, Polaroid, HP, Vivitar fill the lower-range and brands like Panasonic, Sony, Casio fill the upper-range. Note that Compact Cameras have the same sensor size as Bridge cameras and Ultra-compacts, but generally offer slightly inferior image quality due to lower quality of the sensor.
5. Do you have different requirements than above?
For example, if you are interested in Underwater Photography: You should either consider a sealed plastic housing for your existing camera or buy a dedicated waterproof camera. Waterproof housing is available from 3rd party manufacturers for most DSLR cameras and some Compact cameras. Weather-proof (occasional water splashes), Water-proof (swimming pool/scuba diving depths), Climate-proof (sandstorm, rain) cameras are available from brands such as Olympus, Panasonic, Kodak.
If you are interested in the higher image quality of the APS-C sensor (used in DSLRs) but want a compact camera, you should consider the Sony NEX and Samsung NX cameras. You may be also interested in the Nikon 1 range (sensor smaller than APS-C), the Micro 4/3 (sensor smaller than APS-C, but larger than Nikon 1) cameras from Olympus or the integrated systems (lens + sensor combined into one unit) from Ricoh.
If you are interested in Astro-photography or Micro-photography, you will probably have to buy a DSLR camera and suitable adapter ring to fit on your telescope/microscope.
6. I want a camera that offers high image quality, terrific zooming power, very small size and budget price.
Such a camera is available with the Genie of the Magic Lamp but you have to find him first.
What you are asking is not uncommon. Everyone wants the same camera as you. Just that, everyone makes a compromise in one or more of the factors and proceeds to buy a camera that satisfies the balance factors. A compromise is not a sacrifice, just a realisation that a certain limit is satisfactory to you.
- Will a 10x zoom satisfy instead of 35x?
- Is it ok with you if the camera in your pocket shows a slight bulge?
- Will you be happy if your camera takes great colourful photographs of the scenery even if every blade of grass is not visible?
- Are you ok with thinking that spending Rs. 20,000/- on a camera is considered a budget spend?