Planning to buy a compact digital camera – but you don’t know which camera will cover your needs?

Compact digital cameras are generally small sized cameras. Unless you are an experience photographer your first digital camera is likely to be a compact. There are endless choices of compacts and it is difficult decide on which camera to buy.

The biggest issue with most compact digital cameras is the small sensor. The sensors in these cameras are very small (it has to be to keep the camera size down).

Often the sensor diameter is about ¼ of the diameter of a 35mm film.

At low ISO the picture quality is generally good in all cameras on the market today. The problem is when the light conditions are dark, and the camera push up the ISO to compensate for the lack of light. In these conditions the small compacts are likely to have a lot of noise in the pictures.

To help you sort out a few among all the compacts, I have grouped them in three types:

Ultra compact digital cameras – pocket sized, easy and simple to use

Most compact digital cameras are small and portable. Some ultra compact cameras are pocket sized and can easily been carried in your pocket or purse. The most simple and inexpensive of these cameras have very limited advanced features. They are what we call “point and shoot” cameras. The optical quality is not the best. Most of the cameras have fixed focal length. Also worth knowing is the limited flash range in these cameras. There are no possibilities of connecting external flash.

    If you are considering a pocket sized camera your priorities are more likely to be:

  • You don’t want to spend too much money on a camera
  • You want an easy to carry camera
  • You will do very little or no software editing of your photos
  • You don’t care about advanced photography techniques
  • You want it simple – point and shoot

Ultra compact recommendations

Compact digital cameras – standard sized with more advanced features

Slightly more weighty and bigger sized than the pocket type, but still easy to carry around. These cameras have more features and possibilities of manual control in the case that is needed. The zoom range in these cameras as well as the quality of the optics is better. Standard cameras have fairly good video possibilities.

    If you are considering a standard sized camera your priorities are more likely to be:

  • You want to have the possibilities of manual adjustments
  • You are more concerned about the quality of your photos
  • You plan to edit and print your photos
  • You buy it as your secondary camera
  • You want to record video

Compact recommendations

SLR-like cameras (also called bridge cameras)

SLR-like cameras are higher end cameras that physically look very similar to real SLR cameras. Most SLR-likes also have many of the advanced features found in SLR`s. New SLR-like models have good optics with very long zoom ranges. You should however know it is not possible to chance the lens on such a camera if you later find the zoom range is to narrow for your needs.

With digital SLR-like cameras you have the option to look through the viewfinder like on regular SLR. However since digital SLR-like cameras do not have the mirror and reflex systems found in real SLR, what you see is not through the optics (TTL), What you see in the viewfinder is an electronic made picture (EVF – electronic viewfinder).

They are usually slower to operate than a true digital SLR, but they are capable of very good image quality. You should know however most DSL-like cameras still use the smaller sensors similar to those used in compact digital cameras, with the disadvantages this have.

Digital SLR-likes are more compact and lighter than digital DSLR`s but still have resolutions comparable to low and mid range DSLR`s.

Due to theses cameras similarity to real SLR they are often marketed as and confused with digital SLR.

    If you are considering a digital SLR-like camera your priorities are more likely to be:

  • You have more than average interest in photography
  • You want good picture quality and freedom to experiment
  • You want a camera with DSLR features combined with video possibilities
  • You have decided you will not need interchangeable lenses
  • You will not risk the sensor dust problems seen with DSLR cameras

SLR-like recommendations