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Buyer’s guide to digital cameras

Unless you’re a professional photographer or serious retro guru, it’s likely the next camera you’ll buy is a digital camera. But where do you start, with so much choice out there? That’s where Crowdstorm comes in.

Here you get the best of both worlds. We let you compare all the best digital camera deals from the most popular brands, such as Canon and Nikon, then let you choose where to buy them from: you’ll find all your most trusted UK high street and online retailers here too. 

But more on how simple it is to buy below. First, let’s find you your perfect digital camera!

Types of digital camera

The first thing to narrow down is the type of digital camera you’re looking for. Narrow your search by choosing one of these standard digital camera types:

  • Action camera: Whether it's for extreme sports, or simply a holiday where you'll be shooting a lot of video on the go, these are ideal. The GoPro seemed to come from nowhere but it's now an established brand, offering great quality for their size and price. Plus, they're easy to use in any circumstance. 
  • Compact digital camera: These small, light 'point-and-shoot' cameras are perfect for happy snappers: ie, most of us. This category covers everything from colourful little £20 pocket models to feature rich cameras, slightly below bridge cameras, that can still set you back £500.
  • Bridge camera: More affordable than a DSLR with a large, variable lens, a bridge camera is a nice step up from your compact while still giving you some comfort options and having everything you need in the one box. You won’t get the quality of image you’d get from a DSLR or CSC, but you won’t have to re-mortgage or take an extra suitcase on holiday for your lenses either!
  • Digital SLR (or DSLR): These emerged as the first serious challenger to an SLR for professional photographers, who had previously turned their noses up at digital cameras. SLR stands for ‘single-lens reflex’ – which effectively translates to, what you see through the viewfinder is what you get in your picture. You buy additional lenses and focus by hand – there’s no autofocus or Facebook modes here! For the pro or enthusiast.
  • Mirrorless camera (or CSC – compact system camera): These have surfaced as a direct rival to DSLRs. They’re smaller, lighter and mechanically simpler but have many of those pro features you look for in an SLR camera. But cheaper versions often don’t have an optical viewfinder, while the number of lenses available is less than in the established DSLR market.  

Digital camera features

Once you’ve decided on your digital camera type, you may want to simply filter your options by price or customer rating – but here’s a list of the most common features you can dig a little further into via our comparison tables:

Optical and digital zoom: This can be crucial, especially if you’re taking a lot of long-distance shots. For good long range photos you’ll need optical zoom, as the lens itself shortens the distance and you’ll get a high quality image of the view you have. Digital zoom only zooms in on the image without physically altering the shot, so the more you zoom the less clarity the image will have once taken (it will start to pixelate). If a camera has 3x optical zoom, for example, you can make a target 150m away look as if it’s only 50m away in your shot.

Sensor type: You’ll find two types of senor – CCD (including super CCD and super CCD EXR) and MOS (live MOS, CMOS). The sensor is the replacement for film in a digital camera – so the place the light hits to record the image. Put simply, the bigger the sensor the better when looking at size. In terms of type, CCD sensors are generally considered to create higher quality images, but CMOS sensors consume less power – and tend to be much cheaper to produce.  So generally, CMOS cameras will be cheaper and have a better battery life – but as a newer technology they are also starting to close the gap in image quality.

Megapixels/resolution: You’ll see some big numbers here – five million this and 20 million that. The truth is that even if you want to print photos and keep all the detail, somewhere around 12-15m (12MP-15MP) pixels will suffice: most camera now have this level of detail. What is more likely to make a difference is lens size – hence an 8MP digital compact will take much better snaps than your phone, as it has a much larger lens. But, for the record, top end cameras are now reaching beyond 24MP.

Flash: Don’t take flash for granted – not all models will have one, especially smaller/cheaper models. If you’re going to take a lot of shots that will need a flash, consider a digital camera that has an attachment for a dedicated camera flash, rather than using a built-in or pop up flash.

Image stabilisation: If you’re not going to be using a tripod, like to take pictures on the move, or take a lot of snaps in poor of fading light, image stabilisation can be a life saver on your digital camera. Basically it steadies the image, illuminating or at least reducing any blurring that may be caused by movement while the shutter is open.

Ports and memory card support: Depending on what kind of device you’re transferring your data to, you may need a HDMI or USB port. If you’re hoping to use some old memory cards for storage capacity, also remember to check the type of memory card that’s supported – there’s a diverse selection out there nowadays.

Video/image formats: This won’t be an issue for a lot of buyers, but you may want to consider how you intend to use the pictures or video you shoot once you’ve recorded it. Not all digital cameras record pictures and video in the same formats, so think about how and what you’ll need to transfer them to before making your purchase – especially with video. You may also want to check the maximum video resolution available, if you’re expecting to shoot in HD quality (720p,1080p or 4K (3840x2160)).

I’ve chosen my digital camera: what do I do next?

At Crowdstorm we find all the best online deals and put them together for you to compare.

We’ll list the best one, but underneath you’ll find another link to show you all the deals we could find for that model – so you can choose the retailer you trust most if cost isn’t your only issue.

And remember – Crowdstorm isn’t a retailer, we’re just here to help you find the best special offers. When you click away from here you’ll be taken directly to the official website of the retailer of your choice to finish the transaction. 

We don’t charge you a commission – we make our money from online advertising, so don’t worry – there are no hidden costs at this end. Happy comparing!