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How to buy a new compact camera – what you need to know

Summer is nearly here and if you’re looking to buy a new compact camera then you’ve come to the right place – we’ve all the advice you need to buy a point-and-shoot.

However, compacts are no longer the one trick ponies they used to be and many now come packed with value-added features including image editing functions such as red eye removal after you’ve taken the photograph.

Choose a budget and choose it wisely

The most important thing is that you should have a budget in mind and stick to it. After all, you can pick up decent compacts for well below £100 now and with ranges stretching up into the several hundreds, it’s easy to get taken in by features you don’t need.

If you can, we’d start around the £99-£120 mark; you really can get some superb cameras at around this price point, and it’s where the less decent snappers have fallen by the wayside.

Megapixels aren’t always mega awesome

It’s important not to get too hung up on the megapixel count – it’s not like the difference between 8 and 10 megapixels a few years ago; most provide great quality images in the 12-16 megapixel range. More pixels don’t necessarily equal better quality photographs; it’s all about the lens.

More expensive compacts tend to have better quality optics but it’s always worth looking at the focal length for a lens – 28mm is where the better lenses start from now, cheaper models from 35mm; these can make it harder to frame close-up shots.

Zoom zoom zoom

If you often use a zoom, it’s worth looking out for a compact with a bigger optical zoom. While some compacts are still stuck with 3x zooms, there are many with 5x zooms. If you want to find something with an even greater zoom, that’s also possible, though make sure the lens is up to scratch.

Some superzoom compacts go up to 10x, 15x and above. Make sure you’re not confusing optical zoom with the inferior digital zoom which doesn’t rely on optics; the latter is basically reducing the quality of your image as it zooms in.

Screen size and shaky hands

Think about a backlit sensor for better quality if you’re going to be taking a decent amount of photos in low light – this will compensate for that. Image stabilisation is also included in many new digital compacts for crisper images where you have an unsteady hand, while it’s also worth looking at the screen size. Many cameras now have screens that are over 4-inches in size, while others have twist-out displays.

It’s also worth looking at the controls – are you happy with a touchscreen or would you rather have physical controls? Look for scene modes/presets for different lighting conditions such as sunlight/beach, sports and fireworks – these will help you set up your camera for common but difficult snaps.

Some higher end compacts will enable you to have greater manual control over settings – whether this is important to you is a matter of personal choice.

Test the goods

If you can, it’s definitely worth getting hands on with your favoured camera in a shop, though that may not necessarily be the best place to buy it; there are some top deals to be found online.  Whatever compact camera you choose, we’re sure you’ll have a great time with it this summer.

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