How to choose the best digital camera for you – Popular Science

Point-and-shoots will take care of the average user’s photography needs. But if you’re gunning more flexibility or maximum image quality across a variety of situations, you’ll need to invest in a DSLR (short for Digital Single-Lens Reflex), or a mirrorless camera. DSLRs use a mirror-and-prism system to show you what you’re shooting through the camera’s viewfinder. Mirrorless cameras often have a similar form factor, but lose the mirror and instead use the camera’s imaging sensor and a viewfinder or the rear LCD screen for composing your shots. Various companies have different names for this type of camera like compact system camera (CSC) or mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera (MILC), but in the end, the category represents any camera that can swap lenses and doesn’t have a mirror inside.

Both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras start around the $300-$400 range, but can go up over $6,000 for a pro-level DSLR and over $4,000 for a high-end mirrorless body, and that’s before you add the lens. These interchangeable-lens cameras typically offer stronger specs and faster operating speeds than their compact, fixed-lens counterparts. The bigger cameras also often have larger image sensors inside, which typically translates to better overall image quality, especially when you’re shooting in low-light.

In recent years, mirrorless cameras have been catching up to DSLRs, which have typically offered the best overall performance. Mirrorless cameras like the Sony’s beastly A9 have spec sheets that surpass its DSLR competition in several areas like megapixel count. Buying a DSLR from one of the big manufacturers like Canon or Nikon, however, does open you up to a much bigger lens market, including a whole host of used gear available at cheaper prices on the secondary market. DSLRs are also typically much better on battery life than mirrorless cameras, too.


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