What camera should I buy: pros and cons of each type (and what they’re best at)

What camera should I buy: pros and cons of each camera type (and when you should use them)

This time of year many of us ask ourselves, “What camera should I buy?” Truth is, it can be tricky to decide what camera to buy because we like to shoot different subjects which have different needs. In this jargon-free buyer’s guide our head of testing Angela Nicholson has some advice that will put you on the right track.

What camera should I buy: pros and cons of each camera type (and when you should use them)

“What camera should I buy?” When you ask yourself this it can be helpful to ask yourself a few follow-up questions.

For example, what do you want to photograph, and when do you want to use the camera? Also, do you want to be able to change lenses and how much control do you want over the settings?

Let’s take a look at the main options available.

What camera should I buy: Compact camera

What camera should I buy: compact cameras

Compact cameras range in complexity from simple point and shoot models that are easy to use because they take full-control, to advanced models that let you set the shutter speed and aperture along with a host of other features if you want to.

Although the name implies small size, some compact cameras are actually quite large these days because they contain sensors that are the same size as the ones inside many DSLRs.

The lens on a compact camera is fixed and cannot be removed, but most have a zoom lens so you can change focal length if you need to.

Wideangle lenses with short focal lengths are useful when you’re shooting inside or in confined spaces, or conversely when you want to shoot landscapes, while middle focal lengths are better for flattering portraits and longer optics are good for picking out distance details.

Although there are a few exceptions, compact cameras don’t tend to have viewfinders and the image must be composed on the screen on the back of the camera.

SEE MORE: First camera crash course – simple solutions for mastering your new DSLR

Generally small and light
Easy to use
Better image quality than a cameraphone

Often no viewfinder
Most have a fairly small sensor, which limits image quality
Control over settings may be limited

Good for
Family photos
Holiday photos
Generally everyday snaps

Not good for
Sports photography
Low-light photography (although most have a small flash)
High-end photography
Controlling depth of field (reducing the size of the sharp area in an image)

PAGE 1 – What camera should I buy: Compact camera
PAGE 2 – What camera should I buy: Bridge camera
PAGE 3 – What camera should I buy: Compact System Camera (CSC)
PAGE 4 – What camera should I buy: DSLR camera


10 common camera mistakes every photographer makes
How to use a camera: exposure modes made simple
New camera anatomy: 12 key camera settings to get you started right
24 camera features every beginner must memorize
44 essential digital camera tips and tricks

  • Vanessa

    Well my kids are slow AF in doing EVERYTHING, unless of course it involves candy or destruction. Thankfully, that gives me the patience I will need when using the slow AF screen!

  • Vienna Li

    yes I laughed at that unintentional pun too!