Guide to buying digital cameras

Digital cameras have transformed the way we take pictures. Instead of the long wait for your snaps to develop you can now have the results in an instant. You can share with friends and family in the brief time it takes you to download your handy work. Poor shots can be reviewed and discarded and there's no more hanging on to negatives. You can just enjoy viewing those special moments again and again.

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The digital camera you choose may well depend on your budget and on how you plan to use it. It could be a travel camera or perhaps you want to get a little more serious with some landscapes.

What about digital SLRs? An SLR (single lens reflex) is a camera where light from the lens is directed by a hinged mirror. They are bigger than regular digital cameras but can give amazing results. You can expect to pay £300 upwards for your digital SLR.

If you want to take your digital SLR on your travels then you will find them more robust than cameras you've owned before. They're built with metal parts and toughened exteriors to withstand weather and difficult conditions.

Even with the same amount of pixels, a digital SLR sensor captures more light information than compacts. The images have improved detail and a better dynamic range.

What type of lens do you want, normal, wide-angle or telephoto (for faraway objects)? Obviously, this isn't going to be cheap but if you're serious about photography then it's worth it.

The greater amount of pixels your camera has the better you can enlarge your picture. If you opt for a five-megapixel picture (1200 x 1600 pixels) you'll find it is good enough for prints up to 11×15 or even larger. If you don't enlarge your prints, 3 megapixels will be fine.

Having video on your camera is a useful tool but you need to check whether or not your product has sound before you make your purchase. Most digital SLR cameras have the ability to record limited amounts of movie but the quality will vary with different models. Decent movie features however are restricted to top end models and if this is important to you then you may be better off with a compact.

Does your camera have an anti-shake facility? This automatically corrects the movements of your hands, to improve image quality. Some cameras come with built-in anti-shake but often it will be contained within the interchangeable lenses. This is preferable because you will see the final, steadied image through the viewfinder.

The latest compact models are very small which makes them extremely convenient to carry around. The good news is that the reduction in size doesn't mean a drop in quality either.

The advantages of compact cameras are not just that they are small and light, there is also a huge amount of choice available. The prices are a little more attractive; you can expect to pay anything from £50 to £250. Compacts generally make movie shooting a lot easier than digital SLRs and for half the price.

The drawback with compacts is that you won't have the same control over settings such as aperture or shutter speed compared to digital SLRs making certain shots very difficult.

Compact cameras can weigh a little over 100 grams whereas digital SLRs can weigh over a kilo, which may be an issue for some people.