Guide to Buying a Camera

So you want to buy a better camera. Maybe your camera phone seems like it’s a little restrictive, or perhaps you are planning on printing some photo’s and you have just realised that your camera phone is not producing good results.  For this reason you have looked on an electronics store website or even ventured into your local camera shop and have been left wondering what the heck is a CMOS and what’s APS-C got to do with anything?  Well I am hoping to remove the technical jargon and give you some really useful tips.  We also have some great tips on taking photo’s of your kids here.

First things first lets quickly list the types of camera then we can look at each one; DSL-R, Mirrorless, Compact, Tough Cam.

Prices range from £300 to £5000. This type of camera has long been the professional’s choice, this is mainly because they are extremely versatile. This type of camera can do anything you like, once you have bought the right lenses, adapters, stands and a big bag to carry it all in.  This is also the most expensive route into photography. Unless you are going to get really serious, then possibly not the best choice as it will take years to master the techniques and understand all the various settings available.

Mirrorless – Prices from £300 to £2000. This camera is a great choice for most people who need more than a compact camera but don’t want the bulk of a DSL-R.  A smaller selection of lens are available, but this camera still requires a level of knowledge to use it correctly.  These cameras are also fairly pricey, but offer an excellent entry to a keen hobbyist and serious amateur.

Compact – Prices from £25 to £650. You may have guessed these cameras tend to be smaller, and will easily fit into your pocket.  They tend to be a point and shoot, and are built for ease of use.  That being said, these little beauties can still produce images that will blow the socks off a smart phone.  Generally cheaper in price, but don’t be fooled, you will still need to spend over £75 to get anything remotely worth having.

Tough Cam – Prices from £75 to £450. One of my personal favourites, as it offers all the convenience of the compact, but also is water proof, freeze proof and drop proof.  Perfect for family holidays, this camera can handle everything you can throw at it.  They do tend to be a little pricier than a compact, but I broke my compact on the beach once and this was an ideal replacement.  Plus its super cool taking photo’s in the sea or pool.

Questions you may feel to silly to ask

What’s mega pixels?

Put simply the more mega pixels the bigger you can print your images with out loss of quality.  In most cases anything above 12mega pixels should be fine.  As an example a 16mp camera would produce an A3 print perfectly.

What’s APS-C & CMOS?

These are two phrases that get thrown around the sales room often, basically they are talking about the sensor that takes the photo.  The bigger the sensor the better the quality, the bigger the sensor the bigger the price tag, with some pro cameras costing as much as £15,000.

What’s 17-55mm?

This is the amount of zoom available, the smaller the first number and the bigger the second number the more ability you’ll have to zoom in and out you’ll have.


DSL-R – great for people wishing to use photography as a hobby and really put some effort in to learning their craft.  Wildlife, family portraits, weddings, sports the world is your oyster.  Mirrorless great for people wishing to learn some skills, but smaller and more convenient.  Compact – point and shoot, great for people that just want good photos with out worrying about settings.  Tough Cam – just like a compact but you don’t need to worry about a protective case or dropping it.

By Philip Aucott, Photographer & Owner of Philip Charles Photography Ltd