When it comes to buying a digital camera, it's easy to get confused as there are so many options. Fear not. We're here to help. This guide will help you make a purchasing decision based on the specifications you'll need to examine closely (and the specs you can basically ignore) before you fork out your hard-earned cash.

Gone are the "megapixel wars" of recent years; it's hard to find a new camera with anything less than a 10-megapixel sensor. Instead, we're seeing a different kind of battle nowadays: manufacturers are building specialized cameras for different types of shooters.

Between feature-loaded cameras under £200, ruggedized point-and-shoots, high-zoom pocket cameras, hybrid still-and-video cameras, interchangeable-lens compact cameras, and full-fledged DSLRs, your options are growing – and getting a lot more confusing.

This Digital Camera Buying Guide will help you make a purchasing decision based on the specs you'll need to examine closely (and the specs you can basically ignore) before you fork over your hard-earned cash.

Choosing the right Digital Camera

If you're having a hard time figuring out which camera to buy, you may be tempted to make a decision based solely on megapixel count.

However, outside of making huge prints or blowing up small portions of an image, megapixels can be meaningless. In fact, a high megapixel count can lead to noisier, less-sharp images unless you're using a camera with a larger image sensor (such as a DSLR or a compact interchangeable-lens camera).

Other features are often more important, and they depend on what you'll be using the camera for.

For example, a lethargic camera that takes too much time between shots is a lemon for sports or action photographers, and a big, heavy DSLR that takes amazing photos may spend more time on the shelf than in your carry-on bag.

A camera with no manual controls may take fabulous shots in bright sunlight, but lousy ones in more challenging situations.

Starting at the top of the photographic food chain, here are the pros and cons of each type of camera.

Digital SLR (DSLR) Camera

Strengths: Superb photos, videos, and low-light shooting; no shutter lag; versatile interchangeable lenses; manual controls for exposure and focus; through-the-lens optical viewfinder

Weaknesses: Expensive; lack of portability; not all DSLRs shoot video; can be complex and intimidating

If money's no object and performance is your top priority, a  digital SLR camera yields the best photo quality and imaging controls of any type of digital camera.

The combination of a large sensor, high-quality lenses that you can swap out to achieve a wide range of effects, great high-ISO performance in low light, and lightning-quick shutter response times make it the go-to camera for hobbyists and pro shooters.

A DSLR is also the only type of camera that lets you frame shots using a through-the-lens optical viewfinder, meaning that what you'll see through the eyepiece is a true-to-life representation of your shot.

Though the prospect of using a DSLR can be intimidating for novice users, most modern models are outfitted with point-and-shoot-like features and LCD-based viewfinders to make the migration easier.

Beyond user-friendly auto-exposure and scene modes, you also get room to grow as a photographer due to a DSLR's full range of manual controls.

The only major drawback to a DSLR is its size, which makes it a tough camera to bring anywhere you go. Price is also a major consideration, even after you spend an initial £500 to several-thousand dollars on the camera body alone.

Additional lenses are a must when it comes to unleashing the full power of your DSLR, and they usually cost several hundred pounds a pop (at least).

If you're interested in shooting video, make sure your DSLR supports it; these cameras capture stunning HD video, but only the newest DSLRs are video-capable.

NEXT PAGE: Compact interchangeable lens cameras

  1. Chose the camera that suits you
  2. Compact interchangeable lens cameras
  3. Pocket Megazoom
  4. Ruggedised Point-and-Shoot camera
  5. The specs explained
  6. Size, weight and design
  7. RAW Mode
  8. Battery life
  9. Menus
  10. LCD and Viewfinder
  11. Digital camera shopping tips