When it comes to digital cameras, there are nearly as many different features as there are different types of models on the market. And each type of camera is typically better in one area while lacking in another. This is why it can be so difficult for consumers to compare different cameras and find the one that will suit them best.
When compiling our list of the five best digital cameras, we used the criteria that people tend to want the most: good photo quality, performance, and features, such as zoom. Design is another big factor, as it will determine whether you need to lug around separate bags and accessories or tuck it into your pocket, but we’ve included one of the best from each design type to make it easier.
Compact Digital Cameras
Compact digital cameras are one step up from smartphone cameras, but with the Fujifilm Finepix F800EXR, you would think you were getting something much more advanced. It’s not the smallest compact on the market, due to the large 3 inch LCD screen, but it’s still small enough to stash into a pocket or bag and not feel as though you’re being weighed down. Within that small package are many features, such as the 20x optical zoom, image stabilizer, red eye reduction, continuous shooting, self-timer, and face and pet detection. With 16 megapixels, this Fujifilm camera has the best photo quality among all compact digital cameras. One of the features we like best about this camera is that you can create photobooks right on the camera, taking away the need to scroll through all those photos to find the one you want. That will be helpful to you as well, as you can take up to 300 photos on a single battery charge, and even if you’ve left out the memory card the Finepix F800EXR will hold up to 50 low-resolution photos for you.
If there’s anything bad to say about this camera, it’s that the flash isn’t very strong and so you may not find the picture quality as good when using it in low-light situations. And with all of the included features, you’ll find it’s the same price as many point and shoot models.
Point and Shoot Digital Cameras
With lots of features and giving even inexperienced photographers the ability to snap beautiful photos, the Panasonic Lumix ZS30 is undeniably the best in its class. With a CCD imaging sensor, the Lumix will capture every bit of light it’s given in order to capture clear and bright pictures, even when you’re in low-light situations. Because the shutter speed is 1/4,000 of a second, it’s the fastest point and shoot camera on the market for reducing blurring in action shots. You can also adjust the shutter speed for those times when you’re taking darker pictures, so the camera has more time to take in even more light. This camera’s ability to take in maximum light is important, as the only drawback of it is that it doesn’t have an automatic shadow adjustment, meaning it won’t reduce the darkness surrounding the subject of the photo.
The Lumix does have a very large memory capacity, allowing you to take up to nearly 100 pictures before having to download. And as long as you only have it on when you need it, you’ll be able to take up to 260 pictures before the rechargeable batteries run low. It also comes with a video and audio setting, allowing you to take great panoramic videos. What sets this camera apart from others though is the fact that you can instantly share the photos you take simply by touching it to any smartphone or tablet for easy transfer. However, it’s also most likely this feature that boosts the price tag to more than you’ll pay for nearly any other type of point and shoot digital camera.
Bridge Digital Cameras
Bridge cameras are for the photographer that needs something a little higher-quality than point-and-shoots can deliver, but aren’t yet ready for a professional grade camera. In this category, it’s the Sony Cybershot HX200V that stands out as the best. With 18.2 megapixels, along with an optical zoom of 30x, anyone who views images taken with this camera will feel as though they’re right there living the moment.
The small screen size of 3 inches is counteracted by the fact that the battery life will let you snap up to 450 pictures before it runs low, and it also has tons of features to boot. Those include image stabilization, noise reduction, face and blink detection, burst shooting capabilities, in-camera editing, 3D panorama, and a 3D imaging mode. Panoramic shots can also be taken at the touch of a button so you don’t have to spend a lot of time fiddling with different settings. The in-camera editing and Cyber-shot features also blurs out background noise and images so you – and the camera – can focus on your subject. However, that Cyber-shot also doesn’t allow you to take pictures in RAW mode, for those budding professionals.
And while the Sony Cybershot will take much higher quality pictures than a point and shoot camera, it sits right in the same price range as you’ll find with any of the smaller cameras. It also won’t fit into your pocket, but can be tucked into your carry-along bag or purse quite easily.
ILC Digital Cameras
ILC cameras are just one step away from being the most professional types of cameras – the DSLR. The only major difference really is that ILCs don’t come with a mirror to direct light into a separate lens the way DSLRs do. When looking for something that’s nearest the quality you’ll get with the most professional models though, it’s the Sony Alpha NEX-5 you’ll want. Be careful though. The price of this Sony is nearly as much as many professional quality cameras you’ll find on the market.
This camera has an effective sensor resolution of 14,200,000 pixels that works with the Exmore APS HD CMOS optical sensor and the 15.6×23.4 mm optical sensor. The standard that many photographers go for, the optical zoom, is 3x, allowing you to get up close and personal with your subjects. The flash on the camera is one of the best, and is detachable, which can be seen as either good or bad depending on your preference. It works for those that want full control of their flash, but the additional accessories and the hot shoe flash terminal can be intimidating to those just getting into more professional picture taking. That being said, the many shooting modes such as sports, sunset, night portraits, handheld twilight, night view, macro, portrait, and landscape, can all help give you that control you’re looking for.
Along with the price of the Sony Alpha NEX-5, the bulk and weight of it is also very comparable to the price of a higher-quality DSLR. For those looking for the best in ILCs, you may want to step this camera type altogether and just go for the real thing. If you feel you’re still not quite ready though, this Sony is definitely the best ILC in the market.
DSLR cameras have the unique advantage of including a built-in mirror that directs even more light into a separate lens, making shots crisper and clearer. And when it comes to choosing the very best, the Nikon D5200 was our choice for the many different features that are not only above other models, but that also come at an extremely reasonable price.
Those with technical considerations in mind will appreciate the 24.1 high resolution, the shooting speed of 5 frames per second, and the maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 per second. Those looking for convenience will like the fact that the Nikon D5200 has 16 different scene modes, the built-in pop-up flash, the auto and manual focus, and the 660 pictures per battery life. The LCD screen does also flip outwards, but that doesn’t make it any larger. Those looking for a big screen might want something else, as this one comes with a pretty standard 3 inch screen that you can find on even compact cameras.
For those that just want to take professional-looking pictures, or are just starting to seriously consider taking up photography professionally, this Nikon is a great tool. However, this camera is still considered to be less than professional, so if you’re looking for a new camera to replace your old professional one, you may want to look in a higher price point for a camera that comes with more features. For those that want a great camera without paying too high of a price, this Nikon does provide a great compromise that will give you great pictures.