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Digital Camera Basics

Are you interested in getting a digital camera, but don’t know what is available? Let me give you a quick overview of the most popular model types to help you decide which would fit your style best.

1. Digicam (Examples):

These cameras are small and easy to carry around in a pocket. As many of these cameras are very tiny, they have slower electronics in them. Their imaging sensors are respectively small, which means less light will be recorded. Less light tends to produce lower quality photographs, especially when there isn’t much light to record.

Major digicam benefits:
– Size
– Weight
– Ease of use

2. Prosumer Digicam (Examples):

These cameras tend to have similar electronics and sensors as Digicams, but are higher quality with more features. The imaging sensor sizes are most likely the same size as Digicams, but they are higher quality and faster. The physical build of these cameras are generally much better than basic digicams, with things like metal shells, numerous control buttons, and sometimes optical viewfinders. Prosumer models tend to have much finer control available in the camera’s operating interface, which is great for a person new to photography, but with the desire to jump right into the details.

Major prosumer digicam benefits:
– More control than Digicams.
– Faster than digicams.
– Usually cheaper than entry level DSLR cameras.
– Usually the construction is higher quality than Digicams.

3. Electronic Viewfinder (Examples):

These are newer cameras that came out on the scene (in 2010 when this article was first written…). They use large imaging sensors from DSLR cameras, but don’t have the optical viewfinder and mirror. These are not optimal for low light photography as LCD screens and digital viewfinders don’t function that well in those conditions. Many of these cameras are able to use different lenses. (2020 Edit: These cameras have advanced A LOT in 10 years. Electronic viewfinders can be very high quality at this point.)

Major EVFLSC benefits (aka. “mirror-less cameras”):
– Small size compared to DSLR cameras.
– Large imaging sensor beats Digicams in quality.
– Some of these cameras have exchangeable lenses, which can be good for quality, but bad for size and weight.
– 2020 Edit: Mirrorless cameras have advanced enough that they meet or surpass DSLR cameras in every respect.

4. Digital SLR (Examples):

These are the high-end photographers’ cameras. You are able to exchange lenses, which is a serious benefit to people interested in photography. The imaging sensors of DSLR cameras generally can produce cleaner output in all situations compared to Digicams due to the physical size difference between the two. Even the lens that comes as a kit with DSLR cameras is probably higher quality than most Digicam lenses, but generally not as much zoom range. Buying a DSLR and only using the kit lens is a disservice, as quality lenses can improve your photos’ quality, contrast, and nice background blur more than anything (Edit: not to say the kit lens is bad. They work just fine.) Be prepared to spend a large amount of money on quality lenses though, even much more than the cost of the camera body depending on what type of lens you are interested in.

Major DSLR benefits:
– Quality
– Speed
– Optical viewfinder
– A multitude of quality lenses available.
– Control