Welcome to the first in our major new series " Time to Click"!
You would be surprised how many people I come across who can not answer that question. Yet, as a teacher it is the first question I have to ask! It is also a REALLY important question to ask BEFORE you purchase a camera! What type of camera do you really need? What are the differences?
I always suggest you get a camera that not only fits your current needs but allows you to continue to learn a step more then you think you will. So let me first talk to you about some basic camera differences.
First, Phones. Phones are not Cameras. Ipads are not camera's. They can be great tools, some work well in a pinch, and some even have decent enough mp's to make up for the poor quality lens, some even have flashes. However... I strongly feel that they are not "camera's" for the sake of what I am going to be teaching and talking about. They don't have the same functions, quality, or standards. So most of what I teach wont make sense if your using your phone or other device.
Starting the line up are Standard "pocket" point and shoots. These are small, compact camera's. Every camera manufacture makes some style of Point and Shoot.
Compact digital camera's for our purposes will be any camera with a retractable lens, this lens will come back in to the body of the camera, it is not removable. This creates the nice, small, lightweight camera that can be tucked into a purse or pocket. Let's be clear, it is great starting camera and as such has all your basic modes, and important needs are covered, such as flash, zoom, and megapixels.You will find these cameras from any reputable manufacture will range from $80 on up. Depending on features, lenses, and other options. (By the way, if your interested my top picks for this category would be cameras made by Panasonic, Fuji, Nikon, Canon, Pentax not in any order, and those are not the only ones out there.. but I find these companies tend to put out a good product for most your needs at this level.)
Here are some important details to keep in mind tho, and I will go into more detail on these later.
1. Not all flashes are created equal.
2. Not all batteries are the same, or even "good" to use for photography.
3. The size of a CCD chip (what replaced the "film" and is the capture device on digital cameras) is MUCH smaller then on DSLR's, meaning the quality of detail wont be the same even with the same "size" of megapixel. 12mp on a compact camera is NOT the same as a 12 mp on a DSLR.
4. It is no longer a megapixel race. Any camera these days has enough for you to print and share your images with out the "digital" look.
5. Digital zoom, is NOT a feature you want to shop for or use. Ever.
Also, some of these camera's are water-proof, some weather-proof, some are impact resistant... etc... it is important if you will be using this as a travel, or "family" camera that you check out some of these options, and the warranties as they do vary. Personally, I like the rugged water proofing cameras for travel, beach and everyday wear. I would NEVER take my pro camera to the pool and let my kid take photos... where the waterproof one I wouldn't be worried about. Its a peace of mind thing.
Second on our list of types of digital cameras would be what I term the "Advanced" or "growing" P&S (point and shoot). Sometimes these are called "Bridge" camera's. This style of camera typically has a lens that remains out, in some way. It is larger and has some sort of Aperture, Shutter and/or Manual modes.
That brings us to our last style, which is the DSLR. This style is typically FULLY functional, interchangeable lens, flash options, full manual modes etc. These also "typically" have optical viewfinders, although many allow you for live shooting while using the back LCD screen as well. The important part for our needs is that you would have the ability to pick the lens, add flash or stobes, and have full control over your manual modes.
Also, as a disclaimer - yes I used all Nikon images, yes I shoot Nikon. NO I don't think this is the "right" camera for you in every case. It is simply what I had available because I do shoot one, I like the product and the company. Like I said earlier, there are a lot of really good companies and products out there. It will depend greatly on what your needs are, for you to find the "right" camera for you!