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Digital cameras - A buyer's guide

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Digital cameras have been around for well over ten years now, and for every one of those years they have got more powerful, more complex and more popular. Mass production and the economies of scale mean that a semi-professional digital SLR costs less today than a three megapixel snapshot camera did just five years ago, and consequently more and more people are jumping on the digital bandwagon.

Despite this, there is still a lot of confusion over the choices that are available, and so many people end up buying cameras that are unsuitable to their needs. To help rectify that situation, and to provide a one-stop answer to many of our readers’ most common questions, here’s a quick and easy guide to buying a digital camera.

Know what you need
When I am asked – at least three times a week – “what camera should I buy?” my first answer is always the same. How much money do you want to spend, and what sort of pictures do you want to take with it?

If all you want is a screwdriver, you wouldn’t buy an entire toolkit just to get one. Likewise, if all you want is a simple point-and-shoot camera for your holiday snaps you don’t need to spend £500 on a digital SLR. Unfortunately the guy behind the counter at your local electronics retailer or camera shop wants to make as much money as possible, so he may try to convince you that you should spend more money than you really need to.

However if you are a keen photographer who likes to experiment, you’ll be very disappointed with a cheap camera that has no manual controls and a limited zoom lens. Knowing what you want out of your camera is the first step to making the right choice.

The best advice I can offer is to read as many product reviews as you can. Obviously TrustedReviews is the best source of these (well what did you expect me to say?) but there are a few other websites that have good expert reviews, as well as several good digital photography magazines. Not everyone’s thoughts will be the same, so if possible read several different reviews of a particular product so you get a range of opinions. Reading reviews will help you to become familiar with the current range of models that are available, what features are useful, what problems to look out for and how much you should expect to pay. Digital cameras cost anything from under £70 to over £20,000, so it’s a good idea to know what you’re looking for before you get your credit card out.

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