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Digital cams: the big picture

They are getting smarter, savvier and come in a huge price range. We help you choose. Gagandeep Singh Sapra reports. Checklist for digital camera buyers | Cool tips | Key brands by category

business Updated: Mar 27, 2012 02:29 IST
Gagandeep Singh Sapra
Gagandeep Singh Sapra
Hindustan Times

They can cost as low as Rs 2,400 and go as high as Rs 500,000. Buying a digital camera is not easy when there is so much going on in there. Yes, some of them can shoot videos, but keeping the focus on still photos, there is a dazzling variety of cameras to choose from: point-and shoot, single lens reflex, mirrorless, and light field cameras!

Let's look at them to see what each type means.

Point and Shoot
Price Range Rs 2,400 to Rs 70,000

These thin, flat gadgets are now capable of clicking photos close in quality to that of single lens reflex (SLR) cameras. Of course, you cannot change the lens in these like in the SLRs but they fit easily into your pocket. Some are designed for first-camera buyers with features such as manual focus, aperture control and shutter settings.

When you take pictures, they come clean and simple. Works for most of us in family situations and picnics.

SLR Cameras
Price Range: Rs 28,000 to Rs 500,000

SLR or digital SLR cameras are bigger, sometimes huge. You can change their lenses and offer more control for you to compose a frame. Digital SLR cameras also have sensors that get more pixels into a picture, which means higher quality.

Brands such as PENTAX, Sony, Olympus, and Fuji have some good SLR cameras, but the availability of lenses over a long time could be an issue. Much of the market is taken by Nikon or Canon, which allow add-on lenses from companies such as Tamaron and Sigma. Some SLR cameras come with a lens and are called a "kit" while some without have stickers that say "Body Only" - in which case you need to buy the lens separately. Some kits come with two lenses. My suggestion is for a 'Body Only' option so you can ask the store to give you a combined lens that can make your machine versatile.

Lens come with numbers such as 18mm to 55mm or 55 mm to 200 mm that represent optical ranges. A good entry-level lens is a 18mm to 200mm combined version that gives you the range of two lenses.

Mirrorless Cameras
Price Range: Rs 23,000 to Rs 55,000

DSLR cameras actually have a floating mirror between the lens and the sensor that makes the bodies bulkier. So they thought of mirrorless cameras that make the lens project images directly on the sensor. These are positioned between the point-and-shoot variety and the bulkier DSLR cameras. If you are looking at owning the camera for a long time, and believe you will need lenses in the longer term, please check with your vendor on lens availability. You can also consider buying lenses online.

Mirrorless cameras have slightly smaller sensors than the DSLRs. They give you good quality pictures and some control over the cameras.

Light field cameras
Price Range: Rs 23,000 to Rs 55,000

These multiple-sensor cameras simply record what they see in the available light and do not let you make focal/aperture/shutter adjustments. Once you have the image, you can use your computer to focus on the part of the image you want. They are futuristic, and only just entering the market.

Checklist for digital camera buyers | Cool tips | Key brands by category

First Published: Mar 26, 2012 23:10 IST