The Insider: Stay focused to snap up your model camera
Saturday 28 March 2009
Digital cameras have revolutionised the way we take photos. Gone are the days of stuffing in rolls of film and waiting hours to get the pictures developed at Boots. Today, photos can be looked at instantly – and, without too much extra effort, you can download them onto the computer and then upload them onto the internet.
As a result, amateur photography tends to stretch much further than a few holiday snaps. Every trip, every unexpected snowfall, every new family birth is now recorded with hundreds of photos.
But the boom in digital photography has also brought with it an explosion in the amount of choice. You can pay anything between £15 and £3,000 for a digital camera, and between the cheapest and most expensive there is plenty of difference in terms of functionality, picture quality and battery life.
The first choice you need to make is whether you want to go for a SLR (single-lens reflex) or a more straightforward camera. SLR devices offer more control over, but they're bigger and much more expensive. These are only worth buying if you are serious about photography.
Smaller digital cameras, however, can take very good pictures these days – and you can get a decent device for well under £100. "Digital SLRs give the very best picture quality, but if you're a casual photographer then a standard 'point and shoot' camera will probably suffice – and it will be cheaper and easier to carry around too," says Martyn Hocking, the editor of the consumer magazine Which?.
"You can get a decent compact model for around £100 now, and some come with the kind of technology that used to be the preserve of more expensive models – like image stabilisation and face detection. More megapixels mean greater detail, but it's not the be-all and end-all. The camera's lens quality, sensor quality and sensor size also play a big role in producing sharp and colour-accurate pictures."
When Which? carried out its latest survey of digital cameras, the Canon PowerShot E1 (pictured) was rated best for casual photographers, costing around £140 and receiving a rating of 70 per cent from Which?'s team of testers. It was praised for its good image quality, great battery life, good flash and range of features.
At the bottom of the heap was the Kodak Easyshare Z1085IS. It may cost £20 less than the Canon, but it scored just 16 per cent in Which?'s tests, scoring particularly badly on battery life and movie functionality.
Aside from the main factors such as image quality and battery life, it's important to check how well your digital camera focuses and what the shutter delay is. Some cameras are very slow at taking pictures once you hit the button.
Where to buy
If you know which model you're looking for, you'll find the best prices online, using sites such as froogle.co.uk, pricerunner.co.uk and whichcompare.co.uk. If you prefer to browse, go to sites such as argos.co.uk, currys.co.uk and jessops.com – which all have a wide range to choose from. Argos, Jessops and Currys Digital can all be found on the high street too – you could also consider picking up a second hand camera at a Jessops outlet.
If you're out and about and want to check which cameras are the best, try downloading Which?'s digital camera application for the iPhone, priced at £1.79. Users can view test results on over 300 rigorously-tested cameras and can navigate the report by brand, model, features and price. You can also rotate the iPhone to see images of the cameras from every angle.
The Insider is written in conjunction with the consumer group Which?. For more information visit www.which.co.uk/cameras or download the Digital Cameras application on your iPhone. To get three issues of Which? magazine for £3, call 01992 822800 and quote INADVICE.
Five questions to ask
Do I want an SLR? If you're a more advanced photographer and want precise control over aperture and exposure settings, go for an SLR. But be prepared to spend upwards of £300.
What's the battery life like? Some cameras have a rechargeable battery, others require them to be regularly replaced. Either way, you want a camera that can keep going for several hours before it needs a top-up.
How many megapixels does it have? The more megapixels, the better the quality of picture. But if you're only using your camera for casual holiday snaps, 3 or 4 MPs is enough.
What's the zoom? Even compact cameras can now have incredible zoom capability. But the quality isn't always that good on long distance shots. If a big zoom is a priority, test it first.
What extra features does it have? If you want a camera that can take a burst of photos or has a face detection feature, you'll need to take a closer look when you're shopping. Features and functionality vary considerably.
Budget 2015: George Osborne is set to get tough with further cuts in public spending
Bargain Hunter: Our exclusive deal cuts the cost of buying foreign currency by 20 per cent
Five Questions On: GB Energy's new tariff
Simon Read: 'Taylor Swift tickets purchased on Viagogo were cancelled hours before the concert'
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
- 4 James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
- 5 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...
Day In a Page
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.