Know what you need

Know what you need

When I am asked - four or five 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 photography do you want to do with it?

The digital camera market has now been around long enough for many distinct types of camera to evolve, with different specifications and capabilities, so like any other trade or hobby, you need to find the right tool for the job. The comparison I made in the original buyer's guide was that if all you want is a screwdriver, you wouldn't buy an entire toolkit just to get one, and this is even more relevant today.

If you want a simple point-and-shoot for casual social photography, such as basic holiday snaps or pictures of your mates down the pub, and only ever display the results on Flikr and Facebook, you don't need to spend hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a high-spec bridge camera or digital SLR. A cheap compact will do the job perfectly adequately and be much easier to carry.

On the other hand if you are a keen hobby photographer you'll want a camera with a good quality lens, full manual controls and superb picture quality, and factors like build quality and the availability of accessories will be major selling points, so you're likely to find an all-auto snapshot camera to be much too restrictive. 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 (just as true today as it was two years ago) but there are a number of other websites that have good expert reviews, as well as a few good digital photography magazines. Not everyone's thoughts will be the same, so it makes sense to read several different reviews of a range of different cameras you get a feel for the prevailing opinions. Reading reviews will help you to become familiar with the current 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

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