Cheap digital cameras seem to be everywhere you look these days. But there are some really expensive ones available too. So what is it that you are giving up when you opt for the cheaper digital models?
Broadly speaking, there are two main classes of digital cameras: point-and-shoot models, which aim to remove the complexities of taking a photograph, and digital SLR models, which sacrifice ease-of-use in favor of the ability to capture images that are just not possible with a point-and-shoot.
In an ideal world the perfect camera would be easy to use, and yet it would also offer all the outstanding image capturing capability of the finest SLR. In short, it would be an optical imaging device that could read your mind and configure itself at the speed of thought.
Well, the Matrix-like world I am thinking about right now is a long way off. So until the day comes when we can plug into the machine, what we are left with are choices about just how much we are willing to spend, and how hard we are prepared to work to get the perfect image.
Fortunately, with the advent of digital photography, the amount of work required to capture fantastic images grows less with every passing year.
The machines *are* getting both smaller and smarter. We now have digital cameras whose brains can detect and track dozens of faces at the same time. They can even determine whether someone blinked when the picture was taken. If you will be taking lots of family pictures, be on the lookout for face detection in point-and-shoot models.
Not only are the camera brains getting smarter, but the technology is moving into the lenses. It used to be that auto-focusing was the big new development in lens design. Now it is lenses that can detect self motion (caused by unsteady hands) and correct for it as the picture is being taken.
These image stabilizing lenses can be found in both digital SLRs and point-and-shoots. The payoff is many more great pictures that would otherwise have been blurred without the technology. You pay a little more for these features, but they are worth every penny.
If you need to find yourself a great deal on a point-and-shoot digital camera or a digital SLR with just the right features for your budget, I have put together a guide on each. In my guide on Recommended Point and Shoot Digital Cameras I summarize a half dozen top rated point and shoot models. Then I do the same in my guide on Recommended Digital SLRs.