Whether it’s a DSLR or Point-and-Shoot, our quick guide will help you find the best digital camera

Digital cameras seem to have advanced almost overnight. A few years ago, it was all about the megapixels. But today, even a cheap cell phone comes with a 3MP or 5MP camera built in. Instead, you’ll find many camera reviews pointing out the specific features of a digital camera based simply on how you intend to use it. Features like shutter speed, camera weight, interchangeable lenses should all play a key role in determining which is the best digital camera for you.

Should I buy a DSLR or Point-and-Shoot Digital Camera?

The first thing to decide when looking for a digital camera is how you want to use it. Do you want a small, lightweight camera to stick in your purse or jacket so that you can always have it at the ready to shoot pictures of anything and everything? Or do you want a top digital camera that you can take your time with to set up shots (like an annual family picture) and produce high quality portraits suitable for framing?

Let’s start with a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex). Read just about any camera review and you’ll learn about the many advantages of owning a DSLR camera.

DSLR Pros:

Superior image quality – Even with less megapixels than a standard digital camera, the quality of photos taken with a DSLR are better due to the fact that their image sensors are larger than those in a standard point-and-shoots.

Flexibility – Being able to change a lens on a DSLR just opens things up for photographers to hone in on specific types of shots (action, nature, extreme distance). Not to mention all the other available accessories (from flashes to lens filters) which further help a DSLR adapt to any situation.

Speed – In general, a DSLR digital camera is real fast to turn on, focus, and take multiple photos in succession.

Optical viewfinder – Instead of using a display screen to see what you’re shooting, a DSLR uses the traditional optical viewfinder. So basically, what you see, is what you shoot.

Control – While a DSLR comes with auto modes, the cameras are built around the manual controls, letting the photographer take full control of each photo.

DSLR Cons:

Price – The biggest downside for consumers would be the price of a DSLR camera. Prices can generally fall in the $700 to several thousand dollar range, just for a basic body. On top of that, any additional lenses can run a few hundred dollars apiece.

Size – The larger size and weight of a DSLR makes it extremely tough to be a portable camera, the type you just toss in your pocket as you’re running out the door.

No Video – While some DSLR cameras do let you shoot video (even HD), don’t assume that every one does.

Intimidating – If you’re not good with gadgets or want nothing more than to just click a button, a DSLR may be a bit too intimidating for you with its complexity and intricate features.

Now, looking at standard point-and-shoot digital cameras, there’s a wide range of prices, sizes and styles. Here’s a look at the good and bad:

Standard Digital Camera Pros:

Price – Especially compared to DSLR cameras, most basic digital cameras will be much cheaper.

Size – There’s something to be said about a decent quality camera that you can just slip into your pocket. Portability and weight could play a key role in deciding the best digital camera for you.

Quiet – Not that a DSLR is super loud, but most standard digital cameras are ninja quiet, to the point that your subjects won’t even realize they’re being photographed.

Ease of Use – With robust auto modes, even the most technophobic grandparents can figure out how to use some of today’s basic digital cameras.

Standard Digital Camera Cons:

Speed – Despite recent improvements, a point-and-shoot digital camera’s shutter lag (amount of time between pressing the shutter and capturing the image) is notoriously slow, and certainly much slower than that of a DSLR camera.

Inferior Image Quality – While the megapixels have increased over the years, a standard digital camera generally has a much smaller image sensor, resulting in a lower quality image. That’s not to say they take bad pictures, just that the quality may prevent you from enlarging the images for certain professional uses.

LCD – Instead of using an optical viewfinder where what you see is what you shoot, standard point-and-shoots rely on an LCD screen, which can result in a less accurate shot.

Adaptability – When you buy a point-and-shoot, you’re pretty much stuck with what you get. There’s not much opportunity to change lenses for a wide-angle or longer zoom, or adding a custom flash, etc.

Auto – While auto controls are great for ease of use, there are times when it’d be nice to have some sort of manual control on a digital camera. Many point-and-shoots are limited in what manual controls they offer.

How do I find the best digital camera?

Once you’ve made the decision on DSLR camera versus a point-and-shoot one, it really comes down to your preference in price and quality. The best thing for you to do at this point is research. Before you even start comparing prices, you need to look at some digital camera reviews.

Where do I get the best price on a top digital camera?

Countless electronics stores sell digital cameras, from low-end point-and-shoots to high-end dslr cameras. After you’ve done your research and plowed through tons of digital camera reviews, it’s time to start shopping! With so many stores selling the same merchandise, you should compare prices on your digital camera to find a wide range of prices and online merchants selling that particular model. Some great stores to consider include: Amazon.com, Best Buy, J&R; Computer, Newegg, Office Depot, Sears, Target, Thenerds.net and even Walmart.