If you're looking for a digital SLR, check out our list of the best dSLR cameras. Be sure to also take a peek at our digital camera buyer's guide for an in-depth guide to picking the best digital camera for your specific needs.
Best Point & Shoot Digital Camera:
The 'point-and-shoot' camera is of the most common types of digital camera around today. Also called 'compact' cameras, the point-and-shoot camera is ideal for casual photographers who like to always have a camera handy. However, due to their smaller image sensors (compared to digital SLR cameras) and slower operational speeds, point and shoot cameras are not as well-suited for sports or action photography.
The small size of the Canon PowerShot S95 definitely qualifies as a 'compact point-and-shoot', but its capabilities approach that of the 'ideal DSLR backup camera'. The large (for a compact) image sensor and multiple customizable points of control make the S95 a joy to use in any condition, and the reward is fantastic image quality good enough for prints. Read Full Review »
With its larger size and chunkier appearance, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 caters more to the professional compact camera photographer. The high-quality Leica lens and larger 1/1.63 image sensor provides top-notch image quality, and the LX5 can capture 720p video as well. In a not-so-subtle nod towards its intended users, the LX5 is equipped with a hot shoe and dedicated buttons for frequently used functions. Read Full Review »
Even with all of the attention given to the PEN interchangeable lens cameras, Olympus hasn't forgotten how to build a high-end point-and-shoot camera. The XZ-1 competes in the same space as Panasonic's Lumix DMC-LX5, and offers similar features including a 1/1.63" image sensor, hot-shoe, and full manual control. The XZ-1 is equipped with a high-end f1.8 Zuiko lens, which is one of the fastest lens options available on a compact camera. Read Full Review »
Although the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX9V is an excellent camera on its own, the feature list is long enough to justify the higher price. Despite the compact camera appearance, the HX9V is actually a travel zoom with up to 16x zoom. GPS-based geotagging and 3D shooting modes are fun novelties, but the real benefit of the HX9V lies in its comprehensive video shooting abilities including full 1080p HD at 60 frames per second. Read Full Review »
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS is more than a fashion accessory, thanks to its high-spec CMOS image sensor and quick operation. The stylish design incorporates a slim form factor with easily accessible controls, including a dedicated movie record button that allows the 300 HS to immediately begin recording 1080p HD video. Read Full Review »
Best Low Light Camera:
One of the most common complaints about most ultra compact digital cameras is their inability to capture clean, vivid shots in low-light settings. To find the best ultra compact cameras for low light photos, we looked for models that produce clean, vivid images at high-ISO settings, include image stabilization for blur-free shots, and offer decent flash capabilities for indoor and night-time photos.
No other camera this size offers this many features and enthusiast-friendly controls, backed up by a huge (for a compact) APS-C image sensor and a wide lens base. Although the Sony NEX-7 is expensive and carries a learning curve to operate, its performance in low light conditions is largely unmatched. Read Full Review »
Depending on how you look at it, the Fujifilm FinePix X100 is either an absurdly expensive retro-styled compact camera or a fantastic bargain compared to a DSLR. The APS-C sized image sensor used in the X100 is almost comically oversized compared to standard image sensors found in compact cameras, and allows the X100 to produce clear, low noise high-ISO still images in low light conditions that regular point-and-shoot models would struggle to perform in. Read Full Review »
The Sony NEX-5N is aimed squarely at compact camera owners looking to move into the world of large-sensor photography. While the NEX-5N handles completely differently from a traditional DSLR camera, it offers a small form factor combined with highly competitive photo quality that stands up to the best APS-C DSLRs on sale today. Read Full Review »
The unique image sensor found in the PowerShot G1 X lends this camera its outstanding low-light capabilities. The bulky body pushes the definition of 'compact', but offers plenty of pro-friendly controls and a versatile lens. The only real disadvantage lies in the slow shooting speeds, which makes the G1 X unsuitable for 'action' photography. Read Full Review »
Canon's 'HS System' has been extended to the company's high-end PowerShot camera line, resulting in noticeable improvements in performance. The 'high sensitivity' CMOS image sensor and the fast f2.0 lens allows the S100 to excel in low light conditions, delivering better performance than any other camera of this size. Read Full Review »
Best Travel Zoom Camera:
These compact ultra zoom cameras pack a 10 - 20x optical zoom lens into a relatively small body. The top picks below are ideal for travel and every day-use, and are sure to satisfy both beginners and advanced photographers alike.
The PowerShot SX260 HS represents a subtle update of Canon's high-end travel zoom camera. Although the 12.1-megapixel resolution remains unchanged, the 20x optical zoom lens now allows this compact camera to (nearly) challenge the zoom ranges of bulky 'bridge' cameras'. The SX260 HS comes with plenty of features including filter effects, GPS-based geotagging, and HD movie modes that work perfectly for traveling or everyday photography. Read Full Review »
Even with all of the advances in camera technology, it's still hard to believe that a digital point-and-shoot of this size can pack a 20x zoom optical lens. Combined with high image quality, well thought-out video modes, and a long list of features, the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 is easily worth the price of admission. Read Full Review »
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V is aging incredibly well, and is still able to hold its own against newer models steadily hitting the market. The HX9V packs a 16x optical zoom lens and a 16.1-megapixel image sensor, and offers excellent still image quality and a range of HD movie modes. This is still Sony's flagship point-and-shoot camera until the HX30V comes along, and will be available for reasonable prices until supplies dry up. Read Full Review »
Compared to other travel zoom cameras, the Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR stands out due to its EXR image sensor and the corresponding capabilities that the system provides. The F550EXR is surprisingly fast and responsive in use, and supports burst shooting up to 11 fps along with 1080p video capture. The F550EXR is also a better performer in low light conditions, and even features a reduced resolution (8 megapixel) mode designed specifically for use without requiring the flash. Read Full Review »
Canon has a tendency to keep 'old' models in the lineup, and sell them at discounted prices. This is excellent news for bargain shoppers, considering that the SX230 HS was one of our favorite travel zoom cameras at its regular price. The 12.1-megapixel 'high sensitivity' image sensor sits behind a 14x optical zoom lens, which allows the SX230 HS to be an extremely versatile travel camera. Image quality is excellent, and movie mode offers full HD resolution. Read Full Review »
Best Digital Compact Camera for Wildlife, Sports and Action Photography:
Shooting fast action close-up shots usually requires at minimum a semi-pro level DSLR camera, but sometimes it simply isn't practical to spend over $3000 for a heavy setup that is rather travel-unfriendly. While all of the cameras listed here are compromises, they are at the top of the 'compact' class for high-action photography.
The Sony NEX-7 is not cheap, nor is it very 'compact' when anything but a pancake lens is attached. Still, this is one of the best (if not THE best) cameras of this size that can stand up to the demanding requirements of wildlife, sports, or action photography. The 10 frame per second burst mode is handy for fast-moving subjects, while the responsive operation and outstanding image quality just about guarantees useful output. Read Full Review »
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 looks like a highly stylized compact camera (especially with a pancake prime lens fitted), but this mirrorless interchangeable lens camera is capable of performing on par with entry-level DSLR models from competing manufacturers. Although many controls have migrated to the touchscreen, the GF3 is responsive and is quick enough to use in a pinch for action photography. Read Full Review »
The numerous improvements found in the NEX-5N contribute to its fast shooting speed and snappy performance. Whereas the old NEX-5 had a tendency to be annoyingly sluggish at times, the NEX-5N is a genuine contender that offers quick DSLR-like performance without the bulky body. Read Full Review »
Amongst 'pocketable' compact cameras, the Olympus XZ-1 is one of the very few that has what it takes to perform admirably in demanding, high-action photography. Part of the credit goes to the fast f1.8 Zuiko lens, along with reasonably quick operation that never gets in the way. The hot shoe also accepts an electronic viewfinder in case the OLED screen isn't cutting it for a particular shot. Read Full Review »
The small image sensor found in the PowerShot SX260 HS may not be ideal for demanding conditions, but this travel zoom camera somehow manages to pull off the impossible. The 20x optical zoom lens is perfect for close-up shots, and the camera never lets users down with overly sluggish performance. Read Full Review »
Best Ultra Compact Digital Camera:
The newest compact cameras are small and slim enough to fit comfortably in your pocket, but still maintain a high level of image quality and performance. If you plan to carry your camera with you everywhere you go, these five ultra compact digital cameras should be at the top of your list.
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS is slim, stylish, and produces great results. While this may not be the most affordable ultra compact camera available, Canon's new 'HS System' makes the extra cost well worth paying. The 300 HS outperforms most other compact cameras in low light conditions, and features full HD 1080p video recording and up to 8.0 fps burst shooting. Read Full Review »
Considering its advanced capabilities, the Canon PowerShot S95 is deceptively small. This pocketable camera shares the same image sensor as the professionals' favorite PowerShot G12, and puts out similar-quality photos and videos. While the higher performance is a major plus, the PowerShot S95 is considerably more expensive than other cameras in this size category. If you want a small, highly portable point-and-shoot camera which can take outstanding pictures anywhere, have a look at the Canon PowerShot S95 first. Read Full Review »
The fact that Fujifilm was able to fit a 15x optical zoom lens into a body as small as this is an engineering feat. This truly compact camera is packed with attractive features including Fujifilm's 'EXR' image sensor which provides superior low-light performance. Aside from the 15x zoom, the F550EXR also offers 1080p video and a built-in GPS receiver for geo-tagging your photographs. Although the FinePix F550EXR is priced higher than other ultra-compact cameras, the extra features may justify the cost for some. Read Full Review »
Buying a camera on a tighter budget doesn't necessarily mean you need to give up features or image quality. The Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS carries a spec sheet which reads out like a much more expensive camera, offering 1080p HD recording and superior low-light capabilities thanks to Canon's 'HS System'. The ELPH 100 HS delivers good image quality for the price, along with excellent build quality and easy-to-use controls. Read Full Review »
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3 is one of the smallest interchangeable lens cameras on the market today. While the body resembles a compact point-and-shoot camera, affixing any lens on the mount adds considerable bulk which makes the GF3 difficult to pocket. Still, if you need a 'systems camera' and prefer not to lug around a full-size DSLR, the Lumix GF3 is an excellent compact alternative. Read Full Review »
Best Ultra Zoom Digital Camera:
Digital compact cameras with long zoom ranges provide great versatility, allowing you to capture everything from outdoor landscapes to extreme close-ups without moving your feet. Our top picks, equipped with at least 16x optical zoom, are excellent for all-around use and travel.
Canon continues to dominate the ultra-zoom segment, and has fortified its position by extending the 'HS System' to the SX40 HS. The 'high sensitivity' 12.1-megapixel CMOS image sensor delivers excellent image quality in both well-lit and low light conditions, and the clear 35x optical zoom lens allows long-distance close-up shots. The SX40 HS also boasts top-notch video capabilities, with full 1080p HD capture and stereo audio. Read Full Review »
Nikon's Coolpix P510 boasts a critical feature that sets it apart from the ultra-zoom crowd: 42x optical zoom. This is by far the longest zoom range offered on any current ultra-zoom camera, and is useful for anything from close-ups to landscape photography. Still image and video quality both leave very little to be desired, thanks to the high quality optics and well-sorted image processing. Read Full Review »
The Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V represents an incremental upgrade over the previous DSC-HX100V, with a slight bump in image sensor resolution and minor exterior modifications. Image quality remains superb despite the added pixels, and Sony's class-leading HD video mode puts the HX200V at the forefront for traveling videographers. Read Full Review »
The Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR offers superior image quality and low light performance, and its Fujinon 30x optical zoom lens provides plenty of versatility. Most of the features exist to improve image quality by taking advantage of the unique EXR image sensor, and various filter effects are included as well. If you want a RAW-capable ultra-zoom camera with dSLR-style controls, the Fujifilm HS30EXR is an excellent choice. Read Full Review »
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V may be an older model at this point, but that hasn't stopped us from recommending this highly capable camera. This pocket-sized compact camera houses a 16x optical zoom lens and a 16-megapixel 'Exmor R' image sensor. Image quality is sharp at all zoom ranges, and low-light performance is commendable despite slightly heavy-handed noise suppression. The HX9V excels in movie mode, with full 1080p resolution at 60 fps and top-quality video capture. Read Full Review »
Best Cheap Digital Camera:
You don't need to spend an arm and a leg to get a decent compact digital camera. Buyers in this range can expect a high-resolution digital camera equipped with a 3x - 5x optical zoom lens, good overall image quality, and point-and-shoot simplicity.
Canon's excellent PowerShot SX230 HS travel zoom camera is now easily found online for less than $200, making it one of the top bargains in the camera world. The SX230 HS pairs Canon's low-light-friendly 'HS System' with a 14x optical zoom lens, along with a filled-out feature list that includes GPS and 1080p video capture. Read Full Review »
The Canon PowerShot ELPH 100 HS is an affordable, easy-to-use point-and-shoot camera which incorporates Canon's 'HS System' for improved performance in all shooting conditions. The ELPH 100 HS is one of the best cameras in its price range for low light photography, and the HD video capture includes 1080p (24fps) and 720p (30fps) modes. In a nutshell, the PowerShot ELPH 100 HS delivers excellent performance and solid features for the price. Read Full Review »
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH25 features minor improvements over the FH20, including a higher megapixel image sensor and HD video capture. Image quality is high for the class, though don't expect great pictures if you're shooting in extreme low-light conditions. If you're looking for an inexpensive camera that offers a versatile zoom range and takes great pictures, the Lumix FH25 should be your first choice. Read Full Review »
The Olympus Stylus 5010 is a compact, inexpensive point-and-shoot camera which sports a 14-megapixel image sensor and can record 720p HD video. While the Stylus 5010 is not as stylish as the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS, this camera offers excellent performance from a small, lightweight package that easily fits into pockets, ready at a moment's notice. Read Full Review »
The Canon PowerShot A1200 is a straightforward, no-nonsense point-and-shoot camera aimed at casual photographers looking to take great pictures without breaking the bank. No manual controls are offered or needed - simply turn the A1200 on, point it at the desired subject, and press the shutter button to let the camera take care of the rest. For the price, the A1200 is a bargain. Read Full Review »
Best Advanced Compact Digital Camera:
These digital compact cameras offer superior performance and functionality over a typical point-and-shoot, but are far less bulky and expensive than a dSLR. We've selected the best digital compact cameras for advanced photographers based on image quality, low-light performance, customization options and manual controls, features, and value.
Canon's 'not-quite-replacement' for the PowerShot S95 builds on an already-impressive portfolio, swapping out the old internals for the company's highly capable 'HS System'. The 12.1-megapixel CMOS image sensor and DIGIC 5 image processor allows the S100 to produce outstanding image quality, and movie mode now features 1080p recording. The S100 features plenty of external control points (for a compact), and caters to beginners and advanced photographers alike. Read Full Review »
Canon's PowerShot S95 may look like it's designed to appeal to consumers, but professionals will find lots to like about this little camera. While the sleek 'point-and-shoot' styling carries over from the previous S90, Canon has made some improvements that make the S95 a better camera overall. The 720p video capture mode opens up further options, and the entire body is now textured for a surer grip. The full manual controls remain, and image quality is excellent even without considering this camera's size. Read Full Review »
Unless you want to upgrade to a DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the Canon PowerShot G12 tops the charts when it comes to performance. The G12 may look nearly identical to its predecessor, but features additions that make it a more attractive package overall. The 10.4-megapixel image sensor remains, but the G12 now features a 720p movie mode and additional 'filter' effects. Image quality is practically unbeatable amongst compact cameras, making the PowerShot G12 an ideal choice for professionals who need a less bulky DSLR alternative. Read Full Review »
As a follow-up to the excellent Lumix LX3, Panasonic has equipped the Lumix LX5 with a versatile Leica f2.0 24-90mm zoom lens and bumped up the overall performance. Image quality is outstanding, and a full array of manual controls are offered for enthusiasts and professionals who know exactly what they want from the camera. The LX5 costs $100 more than the PowerShot S95, but offers more serious styling and includes an accessory hotshoe for external flash guns. Read Full Review »
Even in this highly competitive category, the Olympus XZ-1 stands out because of its f1.8 Zuiko lens and its long list of pro-friendly features. The XZ-1 stretches the definition of a 'compact' camera with its larger-than-normal body, but advanced photographers will appreciate features like the bright OLED screen and the ability to remotely control flash guns. The hot shoe can accept a variety of accessories including Olympus's own excellent electronic viewfinder, further expanding the XZ-1's capabilities as an advanced compact camera. Read Full Review »
Finding the Best Digital Camera
Also referred to as 'compact' cameras, the 'point-and-shoot' style digital camera is extremely popular amongst users who want a simple method of taking photographs without having to fuss over a heavy, complicated device. Often, point-and-shoot cameras offer simple operation which requires the user to point the camera at the subject and press the shutter release button to shoot the picture. Within the 'point-and-shoot' category, there are different classifications:
- Entry-level: Featuring less complex feature lists and intuitive, straightforward operation, 'entry-level' point-and-shoot cameras are aimed at casual users who have little to no knowledge of photography and simply want an easy-to-use device to take care of providing the best shot possible. A good example is the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS.
- Enthusiast: For photographers who want better image quality and more control over their tools, manufacturers offer 'enthusiast' models to cater specifically to this crowd. Enthusiast compacts usually feature brighter lenses, larger image sensors, and elevated performance which makes them better suited for those who know what they're doing with a camera. Examples include the Canon PowerShot G12 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5.
- Ultra Zoom: A digital SLR is undoubtedly the champion of long-range photography, but it's not always practical to take such a heavy and expensive device when travelling to areas you're not familiar with. An 'ultra zoom' digital camera offers the longer zoom ranges that specialty dSLR lenses can, but feature fixed lenses and a smaller image processor in exchange for a much lower price. Think of these as standard point-and-shoot cameras with extended zoom ranges, and you're not too far off. Some of the better ultra zoom cameras are the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS and the Nikon CoolPix P500.
- Travel Zoom: Though they may be 'pocketable' like standard compact cameras, travel zoom cameras pack long-range zoom lenses that allow photography from a considerable distance. These cameras are the best option if you need to travel but would rather not carry a bulky dSLR or even an ultra-zoom. The Canon PowerShot SX230 HS is a good example of a travel zoom camera.
- Rugged: Unique to the point-and-shoot category is the 'rugged' digital camera which is specifically designed to withstand impacts from drops, and can go underwater to a certain depth. Rugged digital cameras are the best choice if you need to take pictures in an environment where a normal camera would sustain damage and stop working. Whether you're at the beach often or like exploring rough terrain, these cameras shrug off being battered while still providing decent picture quality. Panasonic's Lumix DMC-TS3 and the Canon PowerShot D10 are good examples of 'rugged' digital cameras.
The 'Single Lens Reflex' camera has long been a favorite amongst serious photographers due to the inherent advantages baked into the design.
- Entry-level/Beginner: Because manufacturers like to target photographers who want to move up from point-and-shoot models, entry-level dSLRs offer more basic feature sets and focus on ease of use. These dSLR cameras have various automatic modes and tutorials built in, which is an attempt to make the upgrade less intimidating. Virtually all beginner dSLRs feature polycarbonate construction and smaller APS-C image sensors. Image quality is noticeably higher than even 'enthusiast' point-and-shoot models, and even the most affordable entry-level dSLRs can accept a broad range of lenses from the manufacturer. Keep in mind, however, that manufacturers like to strip features and performance in order to obtain an edge in pricing. Examples: Canon EOS Rebel T4i, Nikon D5100
- Enthusiast/Advanced: For photographers possessing more technical skills, the enthusiast or advanced dSLR is the best platform. These models usually feature APS-C sized image sensors, but offer fine-tune manual controls and better image quality than entry-level dSLRs. Performance receives a drastic boost, and you'll also find other features like dual memory card slots and remote flash capability. Some models have polycarbonate bodies, but more common amongst advanced dSLRs are weather-sealed alloy frames which feel decidedly more 'serious'. Unlike professional dSLRs, however, cameras in this class are still relatively easy to use and don't carry shocking price tags. Examples: Nikon D7000, Canon EOS 60D, Canon EOS 7D
- Semi-Pro/Professional: For people who make a living through high-end photography, a 'professional' dSLR is the only option. These cameras are instantly recognizable by their larger body sizes which house full-frame image sensors and more convenient controls. The biggest difference between 'semi-pro' cameras and 'professional' cameras is the body size - not everyone is interested in carrying around a 3-pound dSLR with a bulky vertical grip. Professional-caliber dSLR cameras place extra emphasis on image quality, and feature controls designed specifically to make fast shooting as streamlined as possible. Professional dSLRs are prohibitively expensive, making them an unrealistic option for all but the most dedicated photographers. Semi-pro dSLRs include the excellent Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800, while professional dSLRs include heavyweights like the Nikon D3S.
Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera:
Recently, a new category of cameras has surfaced in the market. These so-called 'mirrorless' interchangeable lens cameras have caught on due to their portability and versatility. Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including some which resemble compact cameras to higher-end models that are shaped like dSLRs (only much smaller). Examples: Sony alpha NEX-5, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3
Developed by Olympus and Panasonic, the 'Micro Four-Thirds' system refers to the size of the image sensor used in these cameras. 'Micro Four-Thirds' cameras range in size, but all are significantly more compact than their direct rivals while still offering a full range of interchangeable lenses. On a separate note, Olympus offers traditional dSLRs equipped with Micro Four-Thirds sensors. Examples: Olympus E-P3, Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
Nobody likes a sluggish camera - especially if the unresponsiveness of the system causes the user to miss an important shot.
- Power on time: How quickly does the camera go from fully powered off to ready to take pictures? While this may seem largely irrelevant at first, there are instances where you want your camera to instantly be available to start shooting. A good camera should be able to do this in well under a second.
- Shot-to-shot times: For fast-moving subjects, shot-to-shot times are extremely important. A faster camera will be able to capture more of the action, while a slower system can quickly become frustrating due to its inability to keep up. Digital SLRs (and an increasing number of compacts) offer 'burst' shooting or 'continuous drive', which can range from 2 frames per second to more than 10. Most cameras are limited by the size of their buffer, though - don't expect to be able to shoot at this accelerated speed indefinitely.
- Autofocus: Autofocus is one of those things that a camera is either good at or isn't. Obviously, you want to pick a camera that performs this operation quickly and effectively. Generally, point-and-shoot cameras are noticeably slower than dSLRs when it comes to autofocus speed.
One thing to note - when considering lenses for dSLRs, remember that not all lens/camera combos support autofocus. Lower-end Nikon dSLRs do not have autofocus motors, and no Canon dSLR is equipped with one. This is not a problem with lenses which feature autofocus motors, but using a lens without the motor will require manual focusing.
- Megapixels: The maximum resolution of a camera's image sensor is given in the 'megapixel' count. 1 megapixel refers to one million pixels, and a higher megapixel count increases the size of the image. However, more megapixels will not automatically provide superior image quality. If the image sensor is not sized appropriately, bumping up the megapixel count will introduce noise and hamper low-light performance.
- Size of image sensor: One of the most important aspects of a digital camera is the size of the image sensor used. This is why an 8-megapixel camera on a smartphone will never produce images that look as good as a point-and-shoot camera which offers the same 8-megapixel resolution. A general rule is that larger image sensors provide better picture quality, but other factors such as sensor quality, placement, lens/optics, and image processing will affect the overall outcome. Larger image sensors perform better in low-light environments, and minimize noise in all conditions.
Point-and-shoot/compact cameras generally use small image sensors (with a few notable exceptions), which is mandated by the smaller physical size of the camera itself. Digital SLR cameras use larger image sensors, with entry-level models using APS-C sensors while semi-pro/professional models feature full-frame sensors.
- Noise reduction: The term 'noise' describes the 'grainy' appearance that digital photographs sometimes exhibit. All cameras attempt to compensate for this by introducing 'noise reduction', which is the image processor's attempt to minimize the visible effect that 'noise' has on the photo. While 'noise' detracts from overall image quality, heavy-handed 'noise reduction' can also impact image quality by reducing detail.
Although all digital cameras perform the basic task of taking pictures of the subject, some come with more features than others. This goes for point-and-shoot models as well as dSLRs.
- Video modes: Virtually every digital camera sold today offers some sort of video capture mode. More desirable among these are the cameras that offer HD video capture, though be sure to find out the various resolutions and framerates specified by the manufacturer. 720p is common, as is 1080i. Be careful not to confuse the latter with 1080p, which represents much higher quality video.
- Effects: Some digital cameras offer the user the ability to add 'effects' to the image, including various 'filter' or lens distortion simulations. This is more of a novelty than a real feature, though creative photographers will appreciate the fact that built-in effects can reduce the amount of effort to produce unique-looking pictures.
- GPS: Usually found on the consumer end of the market - built-in GPS functionality allows the camera to add 'geotag' information to the picture. This little tag records the precise GPS-verified location of where the picture was taken, which is handy for sharing vacations or special moments with friends and family.
- Touchscreen: Every digital camera offers a rear-mounted screen which is used to display information or act as a viewfinder of sorts. Some higher-end and beginner-friendly cameras feature touchscreen controls, moving the interface to the screen as opposed to relying on dedicated buttons. Though advanced photographers may not like touchscreen interfaces, certain cameras offer selectable focus points by tapping the corresponding location on the touchscreen.
- Hot Shoe: Don't expect to find a hot shoe installed on entry-level point-and-shoot cameras. This is a feature reserved for cameras with more advanced feature sets and capabilities, and allows the user to connect various accessories such as external flash units, microphones, and add-on viewfinders. If you're serious about expanding your photography skills, definitely look into a camera equipped with a hot shoe.
- Live View Mode (dSLR only): Although all point-and-shoot cameras can display the image that the sensor sees directly on the screen, this is a trickier proposition for dSLRs. Due to the way these cameras are designed, switching on live view limits a dSLR's autofocus abilities and often introduce sluggish performance. Live view is also the only way to see what is being captured when using a dSLR in movie mode, as the mirror must be flipped out of the way to expose the image sensor (thus blocking off the optical viewfinder).
Digital cameras cover a wide range of prices, with the most affordable models available for as little as $80. High-end professional cameras can easily exceed the price of a new car, and that's before counting extra accessories or lenses. The most affordable digital cameras are basic point-and-shoot models, while digital SLR cameras are substantially more expensive. There is overlap between the point-and-shoot market and the dSLR market, though - manufacturers offer high-end or 'advanced' compact models that are priced similarly to stripped-down, 'low-end' dSLRs that are designed primarily to appeal to amateur photographers. Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras also split the difference between point-and-shoot compacts and dSLRs, but offer their own unique attributes as well as disadvantages.
For digital cameras, 'value' takes on a whole new meaning. While it is entirely possible to spend less than $100 for a new digital camera, this would be an absolute waste of money if you plan on shooting sports or other fast-moving subjects. Likewise, purchasing a $1600 Canon EOS 7D is pointless if you don't plan on learning the fine details of digital photography. Each camera serves its own purpose, so it's important to assess exactly how the camera will be used before making a purchasing decision.