How to choose a camera in 2018? Complete Buying Guide
Simply go to a classic business store or watch online to get an idea of the number of digital cameras available in the market. There are so many brands, types and technologies available now, each claiming to be the best of all. Thus it can be very difficult to understand everything and choose the right camera that suits your needs.
But it's possible to divide all these cameras into categories, and once that's done, it becomes a lot easier to find the type of camera that's right for you.
This is what we did in this guide. You can follow the links in the page to find the best camera currently available in each category.
So we'll start with basic devices to find the most advanced cameras like the ones that professionals use. But you do not have to stay with us until the end. Treat this guide as a sightseeing - when you get to where you want to go, get off the bus!
My Smartphone, is it enough?
Is a smartphone as good as a classic Point and Shoot compact camera? Except the absence of a zoom, it can be considered that it is.
There is nothing wrong with smartphones cameras. The best smartphones have very good built-in cameras, even if they do not have as many megapixels as dedicated digital cameras.
But don't forget that everything does not just relate to the amount of megapixels your device has - a smartphone with an 8 megapixel camera or more is all you need to produce crisp, detailed photos for Facebook and Twitter, and you can even produce medium-quality, even decent, prints to hang on your wall if you have a cliche that you really enjoy.
Take the iPhone 7, for example, with its 12MP camera and its easy-to-use controls: it can produce pictures as good (better, often) than a Compact Point and Shoot camera.
It is also the camera you will probably have with yourself all the time, and the one you can rely on it to capture all the important moments of your life. It's photos will surely be the ones you will enjoy and cherish the most in the years to come.
Your smartphone is the camera you will always have with yourself.
Do you have to crack with your cam action?
You can overcome the limitations of your smartphone's camera quite easily with a "proper" camera, but just before we examine all of this in detail, there is another option to consider - sports cameras. If capturing the adventures of your life is your thing, why not prefer video to photography?
Sport cameras are rugged, simple to use and come with a range of different media for you to attach to your handlebars, skateboard, helmet, dashboard ... and even your pet!
The action cameras take good-quality Full HD images (some, like the Hero5 Black, can even shoot in 4K) with wide-angle fixed-focus lenses. Some are completely waterproof, while others come with waterproof cases.
Sports cameras are the complete opposite of traditional camcorders - they are so inexpensive that they do not pose a problem to "misbehave", they are small enough and light enough not to bother you, and they are so easy to use just press a button.
Our choice ... The GoPro Hero 6 Black
GoPro really improved its level by standing out from the competition to stay at the top of the sporting camera rankings, and the Hero5 Black is a great reminder of why the name is so revered. That's why it's our best choice. Simple to use, the addition of a touch screen on the back, a voice command and GPS make it one of the most complete cameras currently available. Video footage is now smoother than ever before, while the ability to shoot RAW images and the Wide Dynamic Range function make the Hero 6 Black more versatile than ever before.
Why not a simple and cheap Point and Shoot compact camera?
Point and Shoot compact cameras can look like an easy improvement over a smartphone, but they too have their own limits.
Assuming your smartphone doesn't offer the versatility you need, and you're in decent-quality photography rather than immersive action video, then a standard digital camera is the solution for you.
The Point and Shoot compacts are cheap, they come with zoom lenses as well as exposure control, white balance, focus and other settings you will not get with a smartphone.
The zoom lens is the feature that makes the difference. Smartphones offer "digital" zooms, but it's not at all the same, because these zooms only crop on a smaller area of the image, which causes you to lose resolution. Typically, a cheap compact will have a 5x zoom wider than a smartphone lens - convenient for cramped interiors and tall buildings - and much longer, so you can fill the frame with people and subjects when they are further away.
But the quality of the image is not necessarily better. Inexpensive cameras have cheap lenses, which can create a fuzzy definition at the edges of the image or at maximum zoom, and the sensors are not much larger. The size of the sensor is a key factor in the quality of the image, we will discuss later. Compact cameras typically have 1/2, 3 inch sensors, which are about half the size of your little fingernail, and only slightly larger than those of a decent smartphone. Forget the megapixels - the size of the sensor limits the quality of the image.
Our selection ... The Sony Cyber-shot WX220
If you want a compact camera that can do a better job than your smartphone, the Cyber-shot WX220 fulfills many conditions, especially when you consider the additional flexibility offered by the 10x optical zoom, ranging from 25 to 250mm. The images are brilliant and punchy, with decent details - great for sharing photos online or printing them at standard sizes - it's nice to see Wi-Fi connectivity included. The 2.7-inch screen is a little small compared to its competitors, but it keeps the camera's dimensions in a pocket size. The WX220 may not have many features, but what it can do is well done.
Beautiful shots with compact cameras recommended for travelers
Compact cameras, or compact "long zoom", offer the simplicity of shooting, but with a much larger zoom to capture a wider range of objects.
A cheap Compact Point and Shoot camera is a relatively small step compared to a smartphone's camera, but the compact, long-zoom compacts take up their main benefit - the zoom lens - much further. A compact traveler is essentially a classic compact camera, but with a much longer zoom range, typically 30x.
The idea is that you have a camera that easily fits in your pocket, but with such an impressive zoom range that you can shoot almost anything from beautiful landscapes to distant shooting points.
After all, when you go on vacation, you want a device small enough to go in a pocket so that it does not bother you when you do other activities, but versatile enough not to miss "the" picture of your life .
Passenger compacts have the same sensor sizes as the classic Point and Shoot compacts, but that is changing, with models like the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 (known as Lumix TZ100 outside the US) incorporating a larger 1-inch sensor, with generally better quality lenses, in addition to its much higher zoom. Some have more advanced exposure modes to control the shutter speed and lens aperture independently, and can even capture RAW files for better post-production processing on the computer. Others, like the Lumix TZ100 / ZS100 again, even have an integrated electronic viewfinder.
If your budget can afford this kind of device, a long-zoom compact traveler is almost certainly a better investment than a cheaper compact model. You earn a lot and do not sacrifice anything.
Our selection ... The Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100
It may not have the longest zoom range for a compact traveler camera, but the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100 remains our choice among travel compacts. Panasonic has managed to insert a much larger sensor into the ZS100 (TZ100 outside the US) which allows pixels to be about 2.4 times larger than they are in models like the Lumix ZS70 / TZ90, which helps the ZS100 to produce much better quality images. The 10x zoom of 25-250mm may seem limited compared to some models of the competition, but the optics are correct and for photography in general, nothing more is needed. You also get an electronic viewfinder that makes it easy to shoot in bright sunlight and 4K video recording. All this adds up to become, although expensive,
The bigger it is, the better. Bridge cameras
If for you the size of the camera is not important and you like the idea of a versatile camera with a super-long zoom lens, then a "Bridge" camera is the logical evolution.
The name "Bridge Camera" comes from the way these cameras are designed to bridge the gap between a regular compact camera and a DSLR. In fact, Bridge devices often look like DSLRs, with a characteristic "big" casing, a voluminous handle on the right, an exposure mode selector at the top and the program Æ, override priority, priority over shutter mode and manual modes (PASM) of digital SLRs. Many models now shoot in RAW, but check the specs to make sure.
But while Bridge cameras offer monumental zoom ranges, like the fantastic 83x zoom on the Nikon Coolpix P900, there are limits. In order to get these zoom ranges at an affordable size and cost, manufacturers use the same 1/2, 3-inch sensors as can be found in small compact cameras. You get the look and feel of a DSLR, but you do not get its picture quality.
There are exceptions, however. In recent years, companies such as Sony and Panasonic have launched Bridge cameras with much larger one-inch sensors, including the Sony RX10 III and Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 (known as the Lumix FZ2000 outside the US). This is done at the expense of the zoom range (although still very impressive and more than adequate for most shooting situations) and the price, but most passionate photographers would exchange a lower zoom camera for a gain in quality.
Our selection ... The Lumix Panasonic FZ2000 / FZ2500
The new Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 / FZ2000 uses a 1 inch sensor, and while the zoom is greater than a lens equivalent to 480 mm, which is relatively short for a Bridge camera, it's still quite enough for use everyday, even the most extreme. We would definitely sacrifice a bit of zoom range for better and faster optics. We love the FZ2000 because it offers both picture quality and excellent zoom range, but if you're looking for something a little cheaper, the old Lumix FZ1000 is also worth a look.
Professional results with a high-end expert compact
A compact, high-end camera is perfect for quality enthusiasts who want a "real" camera small enough to fit in their coat pocket.
Where Bridge cameras offer the best value for money, a compact, high-end camera gives you a different route to better images. Here, you're not paying for a huge zoom range, but for a larger sensor, for a better lens, for DSLR-like controls and features, and (sometimes) for DSLR image quality.
The high-end compact cameras are designed for enthusiasts and experts who want a device small enough to carry, where an ordinary digital SLR is too bulky or impractical.
The range of the zoom is nothing special - it's about the same as a normal shooting mode, some opting for a fixed focal length - but combined with a larger sensor, a better lens and more advanced controls, you can expect the image quality to be completely different from your smartphone or Point and Shoot compact.
At one time, most high-end compacts were equipped with 1/1, 7-inch sensors just slightly larger than Point and Shoot cameras, but there are now models with larger 1-inch sensors ( see Canon G7 X II, Panasonic Lumix LX10 / LX15 and Sony RX100 V) and even Micro Four Thirds (Panasonic Lumix LX100) and APS-C (Fujifilm X) - the same size as some cameras Compact photo and some digital SLRs.
Our selection ... The Fujifilm X100F
This is perhaps one of the most expensive options, and it is not a compact for everyone, but if you are looking for a high quality camera, you will not be disappointed with the X100F. Everything that can be found far surpasses the rest. It has a fixed lens of 35 mm equivalent f / 2.0 coupled to a 24.3 MP APS-C sensor the size of a digital SLR that provides truly amazing results. There are also the external touch controls and the intelligent hybrid viewfinder - you have the option of electronic and optical visualizations, which can provide a real pleasure when taking pictures with. You will need some photo insights to get the most out of the photo, but the X100F is an exquisite camera.
Upgrade to a SLR
DSLRs offer large sensors and interchangeable lenses, marking the first step towards "serious" photography.
Digital SLRs are still considered the number one choice for "serious" photographers, and they are also good cameras for students, as they allow you to learn all the basics of photography without costing a fortune.
A DSLR is fundamentally different from the cameras described so far because you can change lenses. This is where digital cameras fall into two main categories.
So far, we have seen "compact" cameras, although they are more accurately called "fixed-lens" cameras, because they are often far from compact! This includes Point and Shoot cameras, sports cameras, travel zooms, Bridge cameras and high-end compact cameras.
But the second type is "interchangeable lens" cameras, where you enter the world of digital SLRs (and compact cameras - more information on this soon).
Being able to change lenses really opens up a new world of photography. DSLRs are often equipped with "standard" zoom lenses, or "kit" lenses, which cover a range of daily use of focal lengths, but you can also get telephoto lenses, super wide-angle lenses, macro lenses for very close-ups, Fisheye lenses and high-quality, fast aperture lenses (wide aperture) for defocused atmospheric backgrounds.
DSLRs are perfect for anyone who wants to take photography more seriously, not only because you can change lenses, but also because they have large APS-C sensors that offer much better quality smaller sensors of most compact cameras. You also get full manual control, the ability to shoot RAW files and an optical viewfinder that gives you a clear view of the scene in front of the camera.
Our selection ... The Nikon D3400
The Nikon D3400 is based on the brilliant D3300, which was until recently our first choice. Sharing roughly the same design and specifications as its predecessor, the D3400 adds Nikon's SnapBridge bluetooth connectivity to transfer images directly to your smartphone for easy image sharing. The 24.2-megapixel sensor solves detail bags, while the D3400 is also a very easy and convenient camera for everyday use. Its clever guide mode is a useful learning tool that gives real-time explanations of important features. There is no touch screen, but it's our favorite entry level DSLR now.The best 10 entry-level SLRs
The alternative of the hybrid (without mirror)
Mirrorless "compact cameras" also include interchangeable lenses and are a fascinating new alternative to DSLRs.
Until recently, DSLR design was the only choice for photographers who wanted interchangeable lenses - but it has its drawbacks. The optical viewfinder of a digital SLR is excellent, but if you want to use the LCD to take your photos, just like on a compact camera, they are much less effective. Because, to do this, a digital SLR must tilt its mirror up and move to a slower and more laborious AF system.
Camera manufacturers have therefore introduced a new generation of "mirrorless" devices, also known as "compact cameras". They are very large compact cameras, but with larger sensors and interchangeable lenses, just like digital SLRs. The absence of a mirror makes the devices smaller and lighter. The latest models use more sophisticated autofocus systems that allow them to be compared to digital SLRs.
Many mirrorless cameras are very similar to DSLRs.
All mirrored cameras allow you to take pictures on the rear screen without loss of autofocus. Indeed, on many cameras without a mirror, this is the only way to take pictures, the cheapest models have no viewfinder.
It is worth paying extra to get a camera with a viewfinder, however, it may be that they can not be appreciated in case of bright light, since the glare due to the light can easily overwhelm the screen to the back of the device. But on a camera without a mirror, the viewfinder is electronic and not optical. Electronic viewfinders can show you the image exactly as the sensor captures it, but many still prefer the optical clarity of a DSLR viewfinder.
For now, it seems that DSLRs and mirrorless cameras will coexist. Neither type is better than the other - they are really on a parallel trajectory - so it's really a question of preferring one type of device to the other.
Some models without mirrors are not equipped with a viewfinder - more compact but can be problematic in case of strong light.
Our selection ... Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
We loved the original E-M10 for its size, versatility and value, but the E-M10 II has features that put it to another level. The 3-axis image stabilization system of the old camera has been replaced by the 5-axis system in Olympus' more advanced OM-D cameras. The resolution of the viewfinder has been almost doubled, while the continuous shooting speed, already impressive at 8 frames per second, reaches almost 8.5 frames per second. Some will criticize the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (about half the surface of the APS-C), but the effect on image quality is minor, which means that lenses are also compact and lightweight as the camera itself. It is little,
Become a pro with a full-size camera
Switching to a full-size camera brings a modest improvement in quality, but a big price increase, so make sure it's worth it.
Most "amateur" DSLRs and compact cameras use APS-C size sensors. These are several times larger than the sensors of the average compact camera and offer the type of quality that professional photographers need - or almost.
Although many professionals are perfectly satisfied with the quality they get from an APS-C format camera, they are more likely to choose a "full-frame" camera (the frame is the same size as old 35mm films). These sensors are twice as large as the APS-C and improve the quality of the image. The differences are not always obvious, but at this level, any improvement is useful.
Full-frame digital SLRs are the next configuration for most users.
You'll also need a full-frame camera if you want the highest resolution available - the latest to hold the record is the 50 megapixel Canon EOS 5DS.
Most full-frame cameras are digital SLRs. Canon and Nikon make full-size digital SLRs for serious business users and cheaper full-format models for advanced enthusiasts - so the full format is not just for the pros.
Sony is following another path with its full-size A7 compact cameras, like the excellent Alpha 7R II. They look like ordinary DSLRs, but they are more compact and have electronic and non-optical viewfinders. Mirrored design and full-frame direct view make them perfect for video shooting, and are becoming increasingly important as more and more professionals find themselves turning to video as well as taking pictures.
If you want a full-format mirror-less camera, take a look at Sony's A7 camera line
Our selection ... the Nikon D850
It may be expensive, but if you're looking for the best camera you can buy right now, then the fabulous Nikon D850 digital SLR fulfills all the requirements. Accompanied by a brilliant full-size 45.4 megapixel sensor, the image quality is breathtaking. But that's only half the story. With a sophisticated 153-point AF system and 9 frames per second continuous shooting speed, the D850 is a camera for shooting indoors and outdoors, for landscapes and portraits. The Nikon D850 is perhaps the most complete camera we have ever tested.
Making movies: an extra feature
Digital SLRs have replaced professional cameras for many videographers, but they are devices without mirrors that are now advancing technology.
Photography is no longer just a question of still images. Traditionally, videos have always been viewed as a separate subject with different skills but that changes, and quickly. It's as easy to shoot a video on your smartphone as it is to take a picture, and almost all compact cameras and digital SLRs are capable of producing professional-quality videos, making a dedicated camera useless.
It all depends on what you want to film and what you want to do next. If you want to share movies with your friends, a smartphone is ideal and can offer a surprising quality.
The phones are not designed to survive extreme sports, of course, but the action cams are. Thus many TV channels use GoPro cameras to film sequences they would have never been able to record with a conventional device.
If you need to shoot commercial quality videos for your own projects or pay customers, DSLRs and non-mirrored devices will work. DSLRs were the first to offer professional-quality video modes and are still professionals' favorites, but mirror-less cameras are making up for lost time and providing significant benefits, including full-time real-time visualization with fast and fluid autofocus.
Some models offer many features to help you capture commercial quality videos.
And these are mirrorless cameras that are at the forefront of the 4K video. Panasonic defends the idea of still images from movies like the GH4, and the ability to capture stills from 8 megapixels of high quality at 30 frames per second as a by-product of the 4K video capability in its latest mirrorless cameras.
If you choose a video camera, normal sensor size rules do not apply because even 4K video has a lower resolution than still images. The key to video is the power of processing and device design.
Right now, digital SLRs are a good choice, conservative, for videographers choosing full HD, but it is compact devices without mirrors that push the boundaries of video, including 4K.
Our selection ... the Panasonic Lumix GH5
It's hard to know where to start with the GH5. Rather than using a cropped area of the sensor when shooting 4K as in the case of the GH4, the GH5 uses the full width of the chip and then resamples the footage recorded in the camera. It also means that the frame will not be cropped, and you can use your lenses as if you are shooting still images. Currently, the Lumix GH5 allows you to shoot in 4K Cinema (4096 x 2160) at 60p with a bit rate of 150 Mbps, while Full HD video is also possible, up to a very impressive 180p. That's not all, as the GH5 offers 4: 2: 2 color downsampling and 10-bit color depth, resulting in more detailed color information and richer scale. The GH5 also offers live output to external recorders such as Apple ProRes via HDMI, as well as simultaneous internal recording. It is certainly a complete video specification, but Panasonic also plans to introduce a number of firmware updates in the coming months to further strengthen the GH5's recording capabilities.