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OK, first things first. If you're not a fashion-iska, paparazzi or the next David Bailey, then film is dead. It was lovely, we all have warm, fuzzy memories of that Kodachrome snap with the chord pants and the Xmas tree, but it's dead. As a dodo. And if you don't agree, then you're obviously far too clever to be looking at a buyer's guide to photography, so away with ye to the enchanted land of development, for we are not worthy!

So we're talking digital then. And let's face it, very few of us are as good photographers as we think we are. And that's our opinion, never mind our friends. So, what we want is a camera that does most of the work, but still makes us look artistic and interesting. OK then, here we go.

Basically, your choice of digital camera is almost unlimited. It all depends on what you want - a record of those priceless moments in your child's development, an artistic record of your growing 'feeling for the art of the lens,' or a record of the exact moment that the stripper poured champagne down your best mate's Y-fronts. The market is so huge right now that there's something out there for everyone, but for the sake of simplicity, let's break it down like this:

Happy Snapper: You want a digital camera that does all the work. You 'point' and 'shoot' the picture, and the camera does the rest. This is the sector of the market with by far the biggest range of choice, so take your time reaching a decision. The one that claims to have loads of clever features may sound like the best, but if you're trying to capture that perfect snapshot and then have to search through fifteen levels of an on-screen menu to get the settings right, it defies the whole point of the machine. Look for something that's easy to use and will let anyone take a decent picture within a few seconds of turning it on. Also, consider the size and shape that suits you best - if you tend to keep your camera in a shirt pocket, for example, then a slimmer, flatter model might work best for you.

Amateur: You're experimenting with your fist 'big ' camera, you want to take nice simple shots but you'd also like to experiment a bit without over-stretching yourself. If this is you then you should seriously consider one of the excellent 'family dSLRs' now available. (dSLR stands for digital single lens reflex, by the way). These machines are an excellent gateway between happy snapping and serious photography, as they offer both a 'point and shoot' mode that does all the work for you and the option to take total creative control of exposure, framing, etc, to create images exactly the way you want them. Most family dSLRs now come with an electronic zoom lens as standard, which should be more than sufficient for amateur use.

Serious Amateur: You've got the bug, you reckon that your talent is only limited by your understanding of the machine. You've read 'Photoshop for Dummies', know the catchwords like 'framing', 'depth of field' and' F-stop', and now you want to make your photos sing! Then go for something that you can customise to exactly suit your style of photography. Choose a model that has a wide variety of lenses available and hands complete control over to the photographer, without trying to override your decisions, even if the internal computer doesn't agree with them. In this category, it's well worth going for a brand that has a long and well-respected history behind it, otherwise you could end up forking over serious cash for something that won't be compatible with future upgrades.

Advanced Amateur / Professional: You're on the wrong web page and probably know a lot more about cameras than we do!

With all of the above, don't be fooled into thinking that just because it has forty zillion megapixels it must be the best. A 10 megapixel machine with a cheap lens will still take rubbish shots. You should also think about what you ultimately plan to do with your images - if you just like to e-mail funny shots to your mates and rarely make prints, then anything over 2 megapixels per inch will be absolutely fine for you, while if you plan to create 20 x 30 inch prints then 8 is the minimum you need for pin-sharp images.

Author R. Germain
date added Tue 04 08 2009

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