best camera for photography under 30000

DSLRs and dedicated cameras have become pretty affordable, and act as a good starting point for users who want something more than what their phone can offer. For those looking to get started with photography, this compilation will help you with the best beginner cameras and the Best Camera For Photography Under 30000.

Since DSLRs are quite an investment, we suggest you start with a budget DSLR. Polishing your skills on an entry-level DSLR and then switching to a high-end/costly DSLR is usually the preferred path. So, here are some great options under Rs 30,000 that you can start with. Keep in mind, slightly more expensive cameras offer a lot more features such as faster autofocus, a touchscreen and newer image processors.

best camera for photography under 30000

Nikon D3400 with AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Kit 

The very latest in Nikon’s entry-level lineup. There’s news floating around this could well be the last of the D3000 series cameras that Nikon will build since the company has now decided to focus more on high-end crop sensor DSLRs as well as full-frame ones. Be that as it may, the Nikon D3400 is definitely a good DSLR for entry-level buyers and photography beginners.

It comes packed with features that would make you happy spending money on it. Although it features the same 24.2 megapixels APS-C CMOS sensor that the earlier D3300 carries, it does feature some important upgrades. Biggest of them all is probably the inclusion of SnapBridge in the camera which would allow you to transfer photos from the camera to your smartphone or desktop through the use of WiFi.

If you are really picky then you might rue the fact that it still does not have a dedicated built-in Wi-Fi feature, but SnapBridge does the job pretty good as well and after all, it’s an entry-level DSLR. You really cannot expect it to have features which are found in the more premium DSLRs.

The Nikon D3400 is typically offered with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and the AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300 mm f/4.5 – 6.3G ED VR kit lenses. The lenses are also upgraded over the same lenses in the AF-S series and are only compatible with the Nikon D3300 and Nikon D3400 and other new Nikon models.

These lenses are good, but if you want the D3400 to shell out professional grade images, I suggest you look at buying some other dedicated prime lenses. The kit lenses will do the job for you if you are an amateur, but professional grade photography asks for professional grade lenses.

If you are on a tight budget, I suggest you go for the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G, or if you really can spend a bit more I suggest you go for the new Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Lens.Both these prime lenses are superbly hot and produce really professional grade photos.

Pros:

  • A great 24.2-megapixel sensor
  • High ISO range
  • SnapBridge
  • Nice and compact design
  • Good kit lenses

Cons:

  • No WiFi
  • No touchscreen
  • No tilt screen
  • Not 4K Capable

Verdict:

The Nikon D3300 is meant for beginners and is probably the best entry-level DSLR available today in the market. So if you are looking for a DSLR under Rs.30000 then I the D3400 is a sure shot winner.

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Nikon D3300 with AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Kit 

Pretty much the same stuff as the D3400 with a bit less of the modern tech and at a lower price. The Nikon D3300 is as much as good entry-level DSLR as they have ever made. It has the same 24.2-megapixel sensor that you see on the D3400 and the same ISO range. Design and build of both the cameras are also pretty same. It’s lighter in weight and more compact in size compared the one it replaced i.e. Nikon D3200.

Just like the Nikon D3400, the D3300 is also offered in India with two kit lenses – AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and the AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300 mm f/4.5 – 6.3G ED VR kit lenses. If you buy the camera with both these lenses then the price would go upwards of the price bracket we are discussing here. But just buy the standard 18-55mm kit lens and you would get yourself a pretty sweet deal under Rs.30K.

As far as performance is concerned, the Nikon D3300 ticks almost all the boxes for an entry-level DSLR. Image quality is very good and paired with a good prime, it gets even better. Of course, don’t expect it to deliver full-frame like images. It’s an entry-level crop sensor DSLR after all, but I would definitely leave exchange my D7000 for a D3300 any day simply because of that 24.2-megapixel sensor.

Pros:

  • Great image sensor
  • Good noise performance
  • Relatively low price
  • Good design and build
  • Good image quality

Cons:

  • The absence of SnapBridge, WiFi
  • Absence of touchscreen
  • Absence of 4K

Verdict:

Perfect for photography beginners, the Nikon D3300 can be your all-weather friend and really help you to learn the tips and tricks of DSLR photography in a much better way. So if you want to buy one, there is no reason why you shouldn’t.

Canon 1300D with EF-S 18-55 IS II Lens 

How can we talk about DSLRs and talk about Nikon without really coming across its great rival Canon? Who is better? Nikon or Canon? This question has been dogging photographers and camera users across the world since the time these two photographic behemoths came into existence. It has never been easy to answer this question. But as things stand today, I can say with some bit of confidence that Nikon does have an edge over Canon in this segment at least.

No, I do not by any way mean that the Canon 1300D is a bad camera. It’s a very good entry-level DSLR, but just not up to the scratch when we compare it to the earlier mentioned two. But a Nikon vs. Canon comparison is NOT what we are doing here. So let’s take a look at what the Canon 1300D offers. The 1300D comes with an 18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and a native ISO range of 6400 which can further be expanded up to 12800. It has 9 autofocus points which are grouped towards the center of the screen and a viewfinder which covers 95% of the scene.

Just like Nikon cameras, the Canon 1300D is also offered with two standard kit lenses – EF-S 18-55 mm IS II and EF-S 55-250 mm F4 5.6 IS II. Both these lenses are good as far as kit lenses go, but not without their limitations. If you plan professional shoots with these two lenses then you better watch out since image quality is not that great. I suggest you buy Canon’s version of nifty-fifty and pair with the 1300D. It works out pretty well. If you can afford then the EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM lens goes really well with it.

The 1300D comes with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC. Something you won’t find in Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs. When it comes to performance, the Canon 1300D does fairly well. Autofocusing is fairly quick in good lighting conditions, and paired with a good lens quality of images are also pretty good. That’s why I would suggest you buy something other than a kit lens when you are purchasing the Canon 1300D. But the area where the 1300D lags far behind its competitors is noise performance. Images shot above 1600 ISO are almost unusable.

Pros:

  • Good design and build
  • Built-in WiFi and NFC
  • Low price
  • Good AF performance

Cons:

  • Bad noise performance
  • Pretty average image quality with kit lenses
  • Low megapixel count of the sensor
  • No 4K

Verdict:

In spite of having a few profound drawbacks, I feel the Canon 1300D is good for entry-level DSLR users. If you want to use Canon and really have a soft corner for everything Canon then go for this one. Otherwise, in the entry-level segment, Nikon cameras are a bit better.

Ultrazoom Point-and-Shooters under 30K

Sony DSC-RX100 

With only 3.2x optical and 14x digital zoom, the Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 is no zoom monster. But boy it packs a punch when it comes to image quality and performance. The camera is feature rich and that’s why it carries that close to the 30K price tag. The biggest premium feature of the RX100 is that 28-100mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* zoom lens with a fast aperture of F1.8 at the wide-angle setting. This lens is primarily responsible for the tack sharp images that the RX100 produces along with the 20.9 1.0-type Exmor CMOS image sensor. The camera can also record videos at full HD (1080P).

As I have said at the very outset, the biggest plus point of the Sony RX100 is its image quality and dare I say that in certain lighting conditions, the images produced by the RX100 are better than entry-level DSLRs. When it comes to design, the RX100 is built like a compact point and shooter and can easily fit in your pocket. Handling it is extremely easy with a well laid out menu and easy to reach buttons. The only missable feature in the camera is probably the viewfinder.

When it comes to noise performance, the RX100 does hold its ground till ISO 1600. But after that, images tend to become noisy and after 6400 ISO they become almost unusable. Chromatic aberrations can also be seen in images but they are within the control and can easily be tackled if you have good editing skills.

Noticeable misses in the RX100 are the absence of an articulating screen and absence of a hot-shoe for external flash.

Pros:

  • Tack sharp images
  • Awesome 28-100mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* zoom lens
  • HD recording
  • 10 shots per second Burst Mode. This is pretty damn fast for a point-and-shooter
  • Good battery backup
  • Excellent AF performance

Cons:

  • No viewfinder
  • No hot-shoe
  • No articulating screen
  • No 4K

Verdict:

If you don’t have a requirement for high zoom, then the Sony Cybershot RX100 is a perfect camera for you. You won’t get this kind of image quality in any other point-and-shoot camera at this price range.

Nikon P900 

Recently a point-and-shoot was used to click pictures of the International Space Station (ISS) from the earth and that camera was none other than the Nikon Coolpix P900. It was possible thanks to its gigantic 83X optical zoom which caught the ISS while it was passing in from of the moon. Let’s put its zoom range in perspective. Professional photographers use a mostly 600mm lens to capture birds or other objects from a distance. Most people do not go above that zoom length because those telephoto lenses are damn costly. If someone has the money to buy it then they go for 800mm lenses at most. But the Nikon P900 at its full 83X zoom gives you a capability equivalent to 2000mm, which is simply mind-boggling and it starts out at an ultra-wide 24mm. So effective range of the Nikon P900 is 24-2000mm. With a digital zoom, it increases to 4000mm. That’s something.

While all this ultrazoom capability is good, there is one crucial area where the P900 suffers and that is image quality. The more you zoom in, more the quality of images suffers. At lower zooms, the camera produces fairly good images thanks to its 16-megapixel CMOS sensor. The camera also boasts of built-in WiFi and GPS as well as a rotating screen for shooting tough angles.

Pros:

  • 83x zoom
  • Ultra wide angle lens
  • Built-in WiFi and GPS
  • Full HD recording at 1080p

Cons:

  • Image quality at high zoom not up to the mark
  • No RAW support

Verdict:

If you are someone who likes to shoot the moon then the Nikon P900 is a perfect choice for you. I am just waiting for the day when it comes to RAW and I will happily ditch my DSLR and buy this one. Who wants to spend a huge amount on buying lenses after all?

Sony DSC-HX400V 

50x optical and a hopping 540x digital zoom, 20.4 megapixel CMOS sensor and DSLR like shooting options – you get all these with the Sony DSC-HX400V. Other notable features of the HX400V includes built-in WiFi and NFC, built-in GPS, full HD recording at 1920P, high-speed AF and a 3-inch tilting LCD screen. Yes the Sony HX400V is packed with features for a point and shoot at this price range. If you can stop drooling over the Nikon P900’s zoom range and focus more on performance then the HX400V is something you should surely look at.

Design and build of the GX400V are of premium quality with a black matte finish and DSLR like buttons and controls. Since point and shoots are mostly used by amateurs, there is something called ‘SteadyShot’ built into the camera which acts as an inbuilt image stabilization. A Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T* f/2.8 lens provides tack sharp images on most lighting conditions.

Pros:

  • Manual focusing and manual exposure
  • Built-in WiFi, NFC, and GPS
  • Built-in IS
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • Articulating screen
  • 0 fps continuous shooting. Pretty damn fast for a point and shoot camera
  • 50x optical and 540x digital zoom
  • AE bracketing
  • Panoramic mode

Cons:

  • No RAW
  • No face detection. Glaring miss for a point and shoot camera
  • No touchscreen
  • No weather sealing

Verdict:

An excellent point and shoot camera for the price with realistic and premium features, good image quality and optimum performance.

Canon Powershot SX60 HS 

With a massive 65x optical zoom, the SX60HS is Canon’s entry into this super exclusive ultrazoom camera club. The SX60HS is a bit old in terms of the date it was launched, but even today the camera is doing good because of its performance and the features it offers. The SX60HS comes fitted with a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 3-inch LCD screen, built-in WiFi and NFC. It’s definitely a good camera, but it does have some glaring misses. For instance, image quality on the Canon SX60HS deteriorates as you zoom into your subject. So at 65x, the images become unstoppable (if the subject is small) because of low pixel count of the sensor. But at wider angles, the camera produces pretty good images.

A dynamic range of the camera is also not good since, in high contrast situations, the shadow areas tend to lose details. Noise performance of the camera is also not up to the mark. Images take at and up to ISO 800 are pretty good, but anything above that is better avoided.

Pros:

  • High zoom
  • Built-in WiFi and NFC
  • Good build and design
  • Decent handling

Cons:

  • Average image quality
  • Poor AF performance in low light
  • NO EVF proximity sensor

Verdict:

Although the SX60HS is a good point and shoot camera, it is an older Canon model and there are better options available today in the market at this price range.

So that’s it. These are the best cameras available today in the market for an under Rs.30000.

Basics of photography

Every camera, from the tiny webcam embedded in your laptop to the full-frame pro cameras built by Nikon and Canon, operates under the same set of basic principles. They come from the very name of photography, the roots of which are the Greek photos, meaning light, and graph, meaning to draw or record — ergo, a photograph is essentially a map of light. When you take a picture of your favorite cityscape, you’re not actually documenting the streets, or the skyscrapers, or the milling crowds — you’re drawing up a recording of the light reflecting off of them.

The most common technique for making this recording is by channelling light through a lens onto a photosensitive material that soaks it up and turns it into an image. That light-absorbing canvas was once film, which has since been replaced by electronic sensors in modern digital shooters. In either case, initiating the light capture is done by opening a shutter in front of the photosensitive surface. By adjusting how long that shutter stays open (shutter speed), the sensitivity of the digital sensor (ISO), and how much light passes through the lens (aperture), you can control exactly how your image appears.

Since light is the only information your camera collects, it should come as no surprise that well-lit scenes typically come out looking sharper and nicer than dark and moody shots illuminated only by a streetlight — more light just gives you more information to work with. When shooting in the dark, the camera must work either harder (with higher ISO) or longer (with a slower shutter speed) to properly recreate the image in front of it. That’s where the flash comes in, a strobe of white light synchronized with the opening of the shutter. It comes with tradeoffs of its own, though: the strength of the flash can wash out fine detail in nearby subjects or lead to the infamous red-eye effect. Tripods are also invaluable in counteracting the blur caused by shaky hands. Unfortunately, they can do nothing about motion within your composition, and they aren’t exactly portable.

Ultimately, the number one lesson in photography is that there are always tradeoffs. If you want the best possible image quality, you’ll need specialized, expensive, bulky equipment. Should portability be your highest priority, you’ll have to accept that some photos and creative ideas will be beyond your reach. There are a number of other considerations to take into account when composing an image — and, consequently, choosing the best camera for the job — which we’ve detailed below. Once you’ve wrapped your head around what they will mean for your intended photography adventure, you should have a good idea of the kind of camera that will best suit your needs.

The key settings

If you’re new to digital photography, the three things you should acquaint yourself with first are the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. The three work in concert, and if you can manipulate and control them all, you’ll take fabulous photos without even touching the rest of your camera. Together, they’re known as the Exposure Triangle, because they control how much light you’re exposing the camera to (aperture), how sensitive the camera is to that light (ISO), and how long your exposure lasts (shutter speed).

For some help calculating the depth of field for your chosen camera, aperture setting, and focusing distance, you can use Simple DoF on iOS or DoF Calculator for Android.

ISO

Coming from the International Organization for Standardization, ISO (it’s not an acronym) describes the light sensitivity of your camera’s sensor set against a common standard. It was originally known as “film speed,” as it was a static measure of the amount of light a given type of film could absorb, but in modern digital cameras ISO can be adjusted up and down. Higher ISO means a brighter image, which is achieved by digitally amplifying the information collected during exposure. It’s an imperfect process that generates errors, which become apparent in your pictures as discoloration and noise — the unattractive speckling effect you usually see in low-light photos.

The quality of your camera’s sensor and noise-reduction processing will affect the maximum ISO at which you can produce images that are still worth using. From among the cameras we’ve tested ourselves, Canon’s 5D Mark III and Nikon’s D4 are the best in that respect. They can shoot at ISO 12,800 the way most cameras perform at ISO 1000, allowing you to keep shooting in significantly lower light.AS BRUCE DICKINSON MIGHT SAY, I’VE GOTTA HAVE MORE LIGHT!

APERTURE

Measured using the horribly confusing f-number scale, the aperture is another dead-simple setting saddled with obtuse nomenclature. Basically, most lenses have the ability to constrict the light that passes through them using an internal element (called a diaphragm), which can be extended and retracted using controls on the camera. If you want more light in your image, you pull that diaphragm back as far as it goes, or if you need less, you extend it and limit the incoming rays to a narrower, more focused hole. Aperture, therefore, is just a relative measure for the diameter of your lens opening. Lower f-numbers indicate a wider aperture, with f/2.8 and below being the extremes, while higher ones signify that more light is being blocked.

One side effect of a wide-open lens is that it lets in a lot of unfocused light rays. The result is a shallow depth of field, meaning anything in front of or behind the area on which you’re focusing will appear blurry. Wide aperture settings tend to constrict the in-focus area to a razor-thin sliver, particularly on nearby subjects, giving you the much-desired soft background “bokeh” effect.

When you want a larger focus, the obvious countermeasure is to tighten up the aperture to f/8 or narrower — it bundles up the incoming light into a more focused beam, which will result in greater depth to your focus area. The most extreme depth of field effects are the exclusive preserve of large-sensor cameras; you simply can’t achieve the same defocusing effect with smaller sensors, which retain a generous in-focus depth even at f/1.4.

SHUTTER SPEED

Shutter speed controls how long the camera spends collecting light, as opposed to ISO and aperture, which direct how much light is absorbed at once. It’s measured in fractions of a second, so a shutter speed of 1/125 means the shutter is open for one 125th of a second. Higher shutter speeds mean the camera captures a shorter period of time, which is key for getting blur-free action shots, while lower speeds allow you to soak up more light, albeit at the risk of blurry results if your camera and subject aren’t still.

Of course, you don’t always have to fear motion blur. Strap your camera to a tripod and you can exploit the blur to your advantage — that’s how the pros create those pictures of highways decorated by streaks of light or waterfalls that look like they’re composed of cascading wisps of smoke instead of frozen drops of water. Most of the time, you’ll want to match your settings to your circumstances, but it’s also good fun to sometimes start with a given set of attributes and rearrange your scene to match them.

Other features that matter

The trifecta above represents the most important controls on your camera, but there are other attributes you need to be mindful of in the pursuit of the best image quality.

LENS SHARPNESS

You can tweak your settings as much as you like, but without a truly sharp piece of glass to filter light through, your pictures will never look their best. The distinction between sharpness and softness in imaging is one of detail: sharp photos retain a clear separation between edges and colors right down to a pixel level.

Unfortunately, nobody has yet invented an easy metric for quantifying lens quality, so you won’t be able to simply walk into a store and order up the Superlative Edition of your favored lens. Part of the problem is that lens performance varies both with aperture and zoom level. The sharpest lenses at f/4 are typically f/1.8 or f/1.4 lenses that have been pulled back from their highest setting. Similarly, lenses start to exhibit distortion at the extreme wide (16mm and lower) and telephoto (135mm and above) ends of their zoom range, which some cameras are able to automatically correct for with software.LENSES ARE LIKE SUNSCREEN: ALL-IMPORTANT

There are a couple of easy guiding principles that can steer you in the right direction. First: construction materials matter. Canon’s L series of lenses and the higher end of Nikon’s Nikkor line are both built out of real glass on the inside and extremely robust materials on the outside. The kit lenses bundled with DSLRs and the non-removable lenses on cheaper cameras are made from plastic both on the inside and out, which makes them less reliable in the long term and less impressive when you come to review your results. That’s not a universal rule — there are some exceptionally good lenses with plastic optics — but generally, you’ll be able to tell a good lens by its considerable weight and durable feel.

The second point to remember is that prime lenses — those without a zoom function, whose focal length is fixed — tend to perform better than zoom lenses thanks to their simpler construction. For the absolute best results, you’ll want a camera capable of exchanging lenses, along with wide-aperture lenses at each of the most common focal lengths: 24mm, 50mm, 80mm, 100mm, and 200mm, for instance. That’s more than a backpack’s worth of gear to heave around with you (and quality glass weighs quite a bit anyway), so do it only if you’re unwilling to compromise a little sharpness for a lot more flexibility.

AUTOFOCUS

A common misconception is that shutter lag actually has anything to do with the shutter. Sure, there’s a minuscule delay between the instruction to open and the shutter actually opening, but the lion’s share of lag actually comes from the automated focusing and metering systems. Metering is where the camera judges how long it needs to expose the image for, while autofocus is a little more self-explanatory. Cameraphone makers have gotten wise to the fact that people want to see the picture taken the moment they press a button, so we now have phones that continuously refocus and re-meter the scene so as to be ready at a moment’s notice. Samsung even features a “Best Shot” feature on the GS4, which takes a dozen photos while you’re focusing and firing and then chooses the best one automatically.

Every phone and camera maker is trying to dodge the problem of focusing speed, but the only true solution is more focusing points on your camera combined with a faster focusing motor for the lens. The reliability and speed of autofocus, particularly in low light, is one of the ways in which professional cameras still stand head and shoulders above the rest. Canon’s EOS 1D-X packs in a whopping 61 AF points, 41 of them of the more precise cross-type variety. Stick a fast-focusing lens on that camera and you can bid adieu to shutter lag.

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STRAYING BEYOND 8 MEGAPIXELS IS OVERKILL FOR ALL BUT THE PROS
Url-28Highres-pen_e-p5_silver_back_2_1366982150WHETHER OPTICAL OR ELECTRONIC, A GOOD VIEWFINDER IS WELL WORTH HAVING

SENSOR SIZE

If there’s one rule to follow in photography, it’s that bigger sensors mean better photos. That’s a generalization, of course, but it’s based on a very basic empirical truth: the bigger the photosensitive surface area, the more light is taken in at a time. Practical evidence for this is abundant, from the Nikon 1 series that disappointed everyone with its undersized CX sensor, to the Nokia Lumia 1020, the best cameraphone on the market largely thanks to its enormous 1/1.5-inch sensor.

Full-frame cameras derive their name from the size of their sensors, which match the “full frame” of 35mm film, and are predictably the professional’s favorite option. With a full-frame camera, a 24mm lens gives you exactly that focal length, whereas with smaller sensors, you’re subject to a crop factor that tends to turn everything into a slightly more zoomed-in version of itself (i.e. if the sensor is 1.5 times smaller than full-frame, as with Nikon’s popular DX format, you get 1.5 times the focal length; with a 24mm lens; that’d mean an effective focal length of 36mm).

Alas, price and sensor sizes scale rather proportionally, so medium format and full-frame cameras are usually outside the reach of most enthusiasts, which is why the most popular digital SLRs like the Canon Rebel T4i today feature the APS-C format. It’s a happy compromise.

MEGAPIXELS

Strictly speaking, a megapixel contains 1 million pixels, but it’s somewhat meaningless to know that your camera shoots 10 million pixels at a time. What you want to know, and what the megapixel count truly tells you, is how big you can make your image without having to enlarge it digitally (and suffer the resultant degradation in image quality). A 3-megapixel photo is more than dense enough to be printed out at the US standard 6- by 4-inch size at 300ppi, while 9 megapixels get you closer to a regular sheet of paper at the same density. Compromise a little on the pixel density, say down to 200ppi, and you’ll get massive printouts from a humble old 12-megapixel shooter. Now, there are no guarantees that the actual photo would look good — megapixel numbers only measure the number of data points recorded by the camera — but at least you’ll be able to do it.

Practically speaking, however, you’re not likely to need such huge images. Most digital imaging ends up being consumed on computer screens, and if all you need are new profile shots for Facebook even a solitary megapixel will suffice. If you’re shooting for billboards, murals, or other enormous photo sizes, you should get all the megapixels you can (like the whopping 36 from the Nikon D800) but for the average photographer, other specs matter far more.

VIEWFINDER / LCD

Optical viewfinders are a funny thing. Until you use one, you wonder why everyone bothers with the effort, then you get your first DSLR and suddenly you can’t live without one. Mirrors in SLR cameras reflect the exact image that will be imprinted onto the sensor through a sort of porthole atop the camera: that’s your viewfinder. Once again, the more expensive models offer a more luxurious experience, with the Canon 7D and Nikon D700 featuring bigger, more comfortable viewfinders than entry-level DSLRs. Electronic viewfinders (EVF) are getting much better and starting to compete, particularly in Sony’s line of single-lens translucent (SLT) cameras like the A77, and they offer helpful guides and more information to make your shot better anyway. It’s features vs. accuracy, and while the purists tend to stick with optical viewfinders, the electronic variety is catching up quickly.

If your camera doesn’t have a viewfinder, then you’d better make damn sure it’s equipped with a good LCD. You’ll be using it to both frame and review photos, so any shortcomings in terms of color fidelity or resolution can force you into a guessing game you don’t want to play. LCD resolution is measured in dots, with 230,000, 460,000, and 920,000 being the typical values. The more dots the better, obviously, but do take a moment to check out the quality of the screen as well. Sony and Samsung are using OLED displays in some of their latest cameras, which look fantastic. Touchscreens are finally starting to get good, too, from the tap-to-focus features on the Olympus PEN E-P5 to the completely touch-friendly Canon T4i — they’re not essential yet, but are increasingly a great thing to have.

WHITE BALANCE

Like a big-name actor who’s too important to sit in the middle of the cast list but not so crucial as to headline the show, the camera’s white balance (WB) gets a dedicated slot at the end. This is the function that everyone leaves on auto, which is why the majority of indoor pics on Facebook look yellow. In simple terms, cameras are a bit dumb. If you don’t tell them that you’re under incandescent lights (which cast a yellow hue), they won’t account for it and will try to balance the colors before them based on their presets. All modern cameras have a WB preset for artificial lighting, but only the more professionally inclined ones give you granular control over white balance and the ability to easily tweak it on the fly.

The best solution we’ve found for overcoming unnatural color tinging is to feed your camera a sample image. The majority of DSLRs now have the option to set WB by taking an image of something that you know is white under the particular lighting conditions you intend to shoot in. Thus, when the camera snaps a nice white sheet of paper under the lurid orange and violet lights of a trade show floor, it’ll calibrate itself to know that white looks a little different at that spot.

VIDEO CAPABILITIES

It was only a few years ago that video recording was considered a novelty in still cameras, but today HD video is a standard, and assumed, feature. Still, there are pitfalls to beware, such as a selection of cameras that will lock the focus and zoom when video recording starts (for example, the otherwise excellent Canon S95), significantly limiting your options. Reliable autofocus, in the cameras that are capable of it, remains a mirage. You’ll do well to learn to love manual focus if you want your videos to be free of the irritating focus jumps that cameras do when they get confused as to what you’re trying to film.

Cameras with larger sensors make capturing video a harder process compared to simpler point-and-shoots, owing to their greater sensitivity, bulkier bodies, and typically mechanical zoom and focus mechanisms. They give you more to worry about, as lens operation noises are often picked up by the integrated microphone. However they also provide access to a range of cinematic effects that smaller cams can’t touch. Want to start your movie masterpiece with a gorgeously circular bokeh that gradually comes into focus on your leading man? You’ll need something in the class of a Canon 60D with a wide-aperture lens to match.Zoom-comparison-5602Zoom-comparison-5604Zoom-comparison-5603Zoom-comparison-5601FIGMENTS OF MARKETING IMAGINATION: DIGITAL ZOOM AND DIGITAL IMAGE STABILIZATIONPanasonic-fz70-top2-800

ZOOM

Zoom is a simple concept — it’s how close you can get to whatever you’re shooting without having to physically move closer — but it’s not always obvious what you’re really getting. The actual x-multiple of your zoom is much less important than the angle measurements at the widest and closest settings, which measure how much you can fit into your photo. A camera that starts at 28mm and has 10x zoom will ultimately get closer (280mm) than one that begins at 24mm (240mm when zoomed in), though the tradeoff is a slightly smaller field of view when you’re zoomed out. If you want to be as close as possible to your subject, the most important number is the telephoto angle — more so than the x-multiple.

But be warned: cameras with huge zoom tend to be hard to hold steady when zoomed in, so getting sharp photos might be tough even with the best image stabilization. Additionally, as we’ve mentioned, great zoom comes with image quality dropoffs — lens makers have to compromise on something, so if you’re going after a massive zoom range, it won’t deliver sublime images the way a fixed focal length might.

When it comes to zoom operation, fixed-lens cameras have the upper hand. They usually have powered zoom mechanisms, allowing you smooth control at the press of a button. Interchangeable lenses are more fiddly for the newcomer, as their zoom is usually (but not always) controlled mechanically with a ring around the body of the lens. That gives more granular control to those who want it, but can be off-putting to the casual user.

Finally, do yourself a favor and ignore the very idea of a “digital zoom.” It’s done either by enlarging the picture (and reducing its quality) or cropping down to a smaller area of the sensor, both of which you can do much better with dedicated post-processing software on your computer — a few phones like the Lumia 1020 offer clever ways to zoom and re-process on your device, but they can’t match Photoshop or even your average desktop viewer.

IMAGE STABILIZATION

As with digital zoom, digital image stabilization (IS) is more of a marketing ploy than a useful feature. The optical stuff, however, is a whole other story. Lenses with optical IS are equipped with internal elements that move in the opposite direction of any small movements you make, steadying the image that arrives onto the sensor. Nikon’s “Vibration Reduction” is particularly effective, allowing you to shoot at two or three steps slower shutter speed than you usually would be able to without motion blur. For example, if 1/40 shutter speed is your floor before you start seeing blurring on a regular lens, its VR version will move that down to 1/25. Canon’s version of this is called the “Optical Image Stabilizer,” Panasonic’s is “MegaOIS,” and virtually every other camera and lens maker has its own variety too.

Sony and Olympus have made a habit of building image stabilization right into the body of their DSLRs, simplifying lens design and reassuring users that all of their lenses will be stabilized. Ultimately, whichever system you choose, each serves the purpose of reducing the deleterious effects of unintended motion and should be considered highly desirable in a camera. If you’re going after a shooter with a long telephoto zoom, optical IS should be the first thing you look for.

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