The dooyoo guide to trends in digital photography 2009 - With an increasingly bewildering range of features and a huge range of prices, determining which is the right Digital Camera for you can at first appear a daunting task. Here we will try to get to the bottom of the terminology and look at some factors on which to base your choice
You will find everything that you need to know about the top digital cameras from Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Canon and Fujifilm. We will attempt to provide an overview of the different types of cameras, sensors, lenses, memory cards and tripods, as well as introducing the season's newcomers and latest trends.
The dooyoo website combines consumer reviews and price comparison in an intelligent mix. We offer tests, opinions and the best prices all in one place and constantly updated. We show you current products and offer advice and information on selection and purchase.
Compact digital cameras: point and shoot - Light and easy to slip into a pocket, compact digital cameras are ideal for holidays, family celebrations and socializing with friends. Consumers can expect decent image quality (at least at lower ISO values), ease of use, value for money and a convenient size. Seven megapixel resolutions are not unusual, making bigger prints and enlargements possible but beware, image quality does not increase automatically with pixel count. Two factors are important in determining the quality of the image, the lens and the size of the image sensor.
In the case of the sensor (where all those pixels are stored) the size has remained the same despite the higher pixel count. Accommodating ever more pixels on the sensor surface often results in picture noise (unwanted digital artifacts and glitches in the frame) and some of the cheaper cameras struggle to produce a clean image above ISO 400 (i.e. in low light conditions). This is a problem also sometimes seen in the more expensive ultra-compacts. In general it is worth sticking with recognisable brands and anything under a £100 is likely to disappoint.
Worthy of note amongst the compacts are the 10 megapixel, with its high quality Carl Zeiss lens and 38-114mm focal length. It weighs just 151g and scores well in this class. Despite the high number of megapixels, effective software compensation means useable images up to 600 ISO, impressive in a camera at this price.
Also in this class the Fujifilm Finepix F50fd, an excellent camera for poor light conditions. Though neither the lightest nor most attractive of cameras, the Finepix also boasts a couple of unusual features uncommon at this price, Dual Image Stabilization, Face Detection 2.0 Technology with Automatic Red Eye Removal function, and ISO settings of up to ISO 6400, the F50fd takes compact digital cameras to the next level.
At the upper end of the range the stunningly designed sleek curves of the 8 megapixel Canon Digital Ixus 950 IS, puts 18 preset modes at your disposal as well as face recognition, a 4x optical zoom and Canon's impressive optical image stabilization technology. The latter a real advantage when it comes to reducing camera shake without the loss of detail associated with digital shake reduction techniques. The Ixus also features an optical viewfinder, a genuine rarity on cameras at this price and useful as the LCD screens can be hard to make out in direct sunlight. Canon's pre-eminence in the digital market is based on the consistently high build quality and reliability of their products. In the case of the Ixus, the only negative thing we can find to say about it is that at the equivalent of 35mm its wide-angle setting is perhaps not as good as it could be. Otherwise the Ixus is a truly outstanding and desirable camera.
Other inexpensive digital cameras worth mentioning include: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S730, Samsung L201 .
High end compacts: good things come in small packages. - The more expensive compacts offer a greater degree of versatility in terms of their ability to override automatic settings. Features like high quality optical image stabilisation (obviating the necessity of a tripod) are pretty standard as well as ergonomic design and a generally better build quality
One of the outstanding cameras in this price range is the 10 megapixel Nikon Coolpix P5000, With ISO settings up to 3200, a wide range of manual as well as automatic modes and excellent optical image stabilization (developed for Nikon's more expensive DSLR's) the Coolpix P5000 offers a degree of versatility well beyond the scope of most semi compacts.
Although pixel noise and quality is reportedly an issue at higher ISOs (the curse of the small sensor strikes again) this is more than compensated for by the Canon Powershot SX10 IS . Canon's superb image stabilization system also means slower shutter speeds are available. Operation is fairly intuitive, using a thumb wheel to navigate options but, as with the Coolpix, there is enough versatility not to disappoint those looking for a little more control. The Powershot is a seriously fast camera, taking significantly less time to boot up and save images (i.e., when you turn it on and 'recovery' time between shots) than the Coolpix.
Also in this price range: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18E-K.
Superzoomer: Telephototastic - With the versatility and quality of compacts increasing and the price of entry level DSLRs decreasing, the popularity of the so-called 'bridge' camera is waning. The bridge camera has a larger lens and sensor than the compact, combined with much of the functionality of the DSLR but it is generally lighter and often easier to use. The key difference between bridge cameras and DSLRs is that the bridge camera relies on a digital viewfinder as opposed to the mirror reflex systems of the DSLR. The digital viewfinder is a tiny LCD display that has some disadvantages in low light and in 'blacking out' between shots, it also can be a drain on battery power. Another important difference is that, for the time being at least, bridge cameras do not have interchangeable lenses.
One area where bridge cameras are still highly relevant however is that of the so-called superzoom camera. Whilst all digital cameras feature some degree of zoom capability, the ability to shoot clear, blur free close-ups without having to acquire additional expensive and heavy telephoto lenses is a boon to many photographers. It is important to make the distinction here between digital and optical zoom, the digital variety effectively just crops the frame resulting in blurry and pixilated close-ups whereas the optical zoom results in no loss of quality.
Other Superzooms include: Canon Powershot SX110 IS, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10, Kodak Easyshare ZD710.
Digital SLR: professional quality at a price. - Not that long ago digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras were so expensive as to be out of the reach of all but serious professionals and the wealthiest of hobbyists but with prices falling dramatically the cheapest are now not much more than the price of a (very) high end compact.
What distinguishes the DSLR is their ultimate versatility; interchangeable lenses, extremely fast shutter responses, large pixel sensors and compatibility with accessories like flash units. Another important factor is their support of the RAW file format, which allows for much higher image quality. It is worth bearing in mind however that the trade off is that these cameras are far heavier and generally more complex to use. RAW files are enormous and almost without exception DSLRs do not come with memory cards as standard and these will have to be purchased separately. Shots are composed using an optical viewfinder (the LCD screen on the back of these cameras displays the menu functions and allows viewing of shots after they have been taken). Beginners may find the complexity of these cameras intimidating. If you are going to use the automatic settings most of the time then a DSLR is really not appropriate however for the more demanding user their range and quality will prove indispensable.
The 6 megapixel Nikon D40, is one of the cheapest DSLRs on the market, recently upgraded the D40 (x) - now 10 megapixels - (including a 18-55 mm kit lens) its only obvious disadvantage is that since it lacks an integral lens motor only Nikon compatible lenses with built in motors will be capable of using the autofocus functions.
The 10 megapixel Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel Xti) features an integrated ultrasonic dust suppression mechanism (the larger sensors in DSLRs can prove a magnet for dust) and quick on screen setting adjustment as well as including a 18-55 mm kit lens.
Other recommended DSLRs include: Sony a (alpha) DSLR-A200, Pentax K10D.
Bells and whistles, the latest features and trends - Weather and waterproof cameras
If you live in a desert or spend a lot of time at the beach then it should be noted that sand and salt water are not your camera's best friends. For outdoors types consider a weatherproof model such as the Olympus µ[MJU:] 760 or, if the lure of the (not too) deep is hard to resist try the Pentax Optio W20, waterproof to a depth of 1.5m. Alternately you can acquire special underwater housings for many specific camera models and both Hama and Aquapac make a waterproof bag, which should enable you to capture an underwater scene.
With cameras available in all different shapes and sizes it was perhaps inevitable that some users and manufacturers aspire to a product that evokes photography's golden age. The Minox Digital Classic Camera Leica M3 4.0 is actually a beautifully realized tiny replica of the classic Leica. Unfortunately, though its looks are irresistible, its extremely limited performance makes it hard to recommend as anything other than a "stocking filler", presumably the box brownie with 'daguerreotype' mode is coming soon.
As if the choices presented to the prospective digital camera buyer weren't already complicated enough the latest generation of products sees a blurring of the lines between digital camcorders, mobile phones and digital cameras. The majority of compacts are capable of video capture with some high end models (such as the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T20/P stretching to HD quality and stereo audio recording.
Our advice? For the time being at least if you want a phone, buy a phone, if you want a camera buy a camera. With the file sizes generated by even low-resolution video restricting capture to a few minutes this function remains little more than an appealing novelty and should certainly not be a deciding factor when choosing a digital camera that is right for you.
Seven Top tips for buying a digital camera -
- Ask yourself what do you intend to do with the photographs you take with your new camera? If you are printing them at standard sizes or sharing them via the computer then a 5 megapixel camera will be more than adequate for your needs. For most users a point and shoot compact with a variety of preset modes and flash will cover most of their needs but if you are serious about photography then advanced modes and manual options will hold more appeal. If you are only going to use the automatic settings then don't go overboard and buy a DSLR, usability (and weight) should be key considerations, the most sophisticated camera in the world will not produce a good photo unless you have it with you and know how it works.
- Set yourself a budget and stick to it. A number of factors should be considered here. Increasingly cameras come with little or no memory so expect to budget a little extra for a memory card, also a spare battery is a worthwhile investment, we'll discuss these issues in a little more detail below. Although buying online can save you a lot of money, once you have narrowed your choice down to three or four alternatives it is well worth trying these out at a high street retailer before committing yourself. Deals, online or otherwise, that include lots of extras (extra batteries, memory cards, tripods, cases etc) can save you money but check the cost of buying these separately and also whether you really need all those extra bits and pieces. Unscrupulous dealers will use these deals as a way of getting rid of old stock and sub-standard models at inflated prices. As with everything in life if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.
- Megapixels aren't everything. The resolution of a digital camera is measured in megapixels, the little dots that make up the picture, however what this tells you is only the size of the image. The quality of the image is determined by the size of the image sensor on which all those megapixels are stored and the quality of the lens. Another thing to watch out for when looking at the megapixel count is to make sure that the number refers to the actual pixel count and not the 'interpolated' figure which refers to a bit of software jiggery pokery which artificially increases the image's pixel count when printed but will not improve its clarity. It is worth bearing in mind that very high resolution pictures will also take up a lot of space on your hard drive and the difference, when printed at 8x10, will be barely perceptible.
- Think carefully about the kind of photographs you are likely to take and choose a camera with the right lens. 3X zoom lenses are increasingly common but if you are interested in macro photography or likely to be taking shots of very distant subjects then a more powerful zoom is a good idea. Also consider the lens' wide angle capability, you may regret not doing so as you back further towards the edge of the swimming pool to make sure you get everyone in the frame. Two other factors are very important when considering the lens. Firstly digital zoom is best ignored as it simply crops the frame and the results are unimpressive - only optical zoom counts. Secondly if buying a camera with a long zoom lens (a superzoom), high quality image stabilisation will make a lot of difference to your results.
- Memory. As a rule most digital cameras ship with very little memory so its important when buying your first camera to budget for an extra memory card or two. Memory comes in a variety of different formats, the most common is Compact Flash followed by SD (secure digital) there are also some proprietary formats, for instance Sony's Memory Stick, which will only work with its products. Very high-resolution images eat memory and it's a good idea to have more than one card to avoid loss or accidental erasure of your photos. High speed memory cards are really only worth considering if paired with a DSLR which can take full advantage of them and unless you are transferring hundreds of very high resolution pictures its unlikely to make a great deal of difference.
- Batteries. Often overlooked but worth some consideration is the question of your camera's power supply. Digital cameras have a huge appetite for batteries, the propriety rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries used by some cameras retain charge longer but it's worth considering buying an extra if you can. Some cameras still use standard AA batteries (or better still their rechargeable relatives), which mean that they are a lot easier to replace when, needed. Best avoided at all cost is a camera which uses disposable proprietary batteries (thankfully there aren't that many of these around) those unfortunate enough to own one of these beasts will find that feeding it costs an arm and a leg.
- Manual. A minor point but one worth some consideration is whether the camera's manual is on CD or a printed booklet, the former will not be of much use 'on location'.
Here is a brief summary of our buying advice - For snapshots, parties and holiday photos a compact camera, ideally with a shutter delay of under 0.3 seconds, is a great choice. A range of useful presets mean that the flexibility offered by higher end models will only be missed by the more demanding photographer (he, and it usually is a he, is the one standing on the beach weighed down with camera bags and tripods).
Image stabilization (preferably optical rather than digital) is also a feature worth looking out for, though it won't cure the effects of a hangover it should result in less blurry snaps. Face recognition is something that might also be worth considering if friends, family (or total strangers) make regular appearances in your snaps.
The cheaper cameras are susceptible to picture noise especially in poor light conditions and professionals and enthusiasts will find the lack of manual options frustrating. For the budding David Baileys amongst us the Digital SLR is the way to go. Though heavier, more expensive and complex to operate, interchangeable lenses, larger image sensors and higher quality electronics mean that with digital cameras the creative possibilities are virtually limitless.
Digital Camera / Brand: Pentax
Digital Camera / Brand: Nikon
Digital camera - compact - 16.1 Mpix - 10 x optical zoom - The ST200F enhances the advanced optical zoom and image quality that the WB range is known for, with smart capabilities to facilitate the easy sharing and storing of images - wherever you are in the world. A...
Digital camera - prosumer - The performance of a DSLR without the size and weight.
Brand: Panasonic / Digital Camera / 5m Waterproof / 1.5m Shockproof, Freezeproof and Dustproof Protection / HD Video Recording MP4 Format / 16.1-megapixel CCD Sensor / MEGA OIS / Active Mode to Suppress Blur / 25mm Wide-angle / 4x Optical Zoom Lens / 8x Intelligent Zoom / IA Mode / Panorama Shot
Digital Camera / compact
Digital Camera / compact
Digital camera - compact - 12.1 Mpix - 10 x optical zoom - black - Focus on style and performance with the IXUS 255 HS. Get closer or fit everyone in with an ultra-wide 10x optical zoom and use Wi-Fi to share instantly online. HS system ensures exceptional results.
Digital camera - SLR - 18.0 Mpix - 3 x optical zoom EF-S 18-55mm IS STM lens - Step into DSLR photography and let your creativity grow. Produce superb photos and video with an 18-megapixel sensor and enjoy shooting with an easy to use Vari-angle Clear View LCD II touch scr...
Brand: Panasonic / Digital Camera / 5x Optical Zoom / 14 Megapixels
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