Holiday buying guide: What is the right camera?

Posted at 11:54 AM, Dec 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-12 11:54:48-05

With the advent of Facebook and Instagram in recent years, Americans are taking more photos than ever. Of course for many of us, we are taking our photos using a cell phone. While cell phones are great for capturing surprise moments, i.e. running into your long-lost friend from high school in the airport, cell phones often fail to capture the best photos. 

The best part about photography these days is many Americans can now afford to buy cameras that deliver professional results. 

Find the best deals on electronics and digital cameras

With Christmas and New Year's Day coming up, the moments with our family call for a good, lasting photo. 

We have compiled three reasons why you should avoid taking all of your photos with cell phones and three things to look for if buying a new camera.

3 reasons not to use cell phone photos:

1) Cell phone photos oversell their quality

You have probably seen advertisements for cameras that are capable of taking pictures at better than 20-megapixel resolution. While having such high fidelity is certainly a plus, achieving this photo requires perfect lighting conditions for your cell phone camera. For holiday gatherings by the tree, most cell phone cameras are going to be unable to properly capture the eyes and faces of your family. 

2) Size does matter

Remember that the main function of your cell phone is not to take photos. Cell phone makers attach a tiny lens to the camera and wire it to your cell phone's motherboard. What makes a photo pop is not the number of megapixels, but the size of the sensor. The sensor on a camera is what processes light bouncing into your camera and turning it into an image. While cell phone sensors are becoming larger, they are no where close to what you can get for consumer digital cameras.

3) Customization is key

For most cell phones, telling the phone what kind of photo you want to take is practically impossible. Need to take a shot without proper lighting? It is next to impossible. Wanting to capture your child's soccer or basketball game? Cell phones don't know you need to freeze the action. Buying a dedicated camera allows you this option.

So what camera is right for me?

1) Just like with cell phones, megapixels don't really matter

Manufactures love to pump up high megapixel numbers to get you to buy their camera. But don't be fooled. Sometimes a camera with 12-14 megapixels is capable of taking better photos than cameras with 20 megapixels. A lot depends on the sensor, lens and how easy the camera is to use. 

2) Should I buy a DSLR camera?

Almost all Americans have had point and shoot digital cameras for better than a decade, but more and more people are buying digital cameras that come with detachable lenses. There are two things you need to factor: Your budget and how often will you use it. DLSR cameras help users customize the photo they want, and the best part is you can get an entry-level DSLR camera for less than $500. The best part about getting a DSLR is not just taking higher quality photos, it is the ability to upgrade your lens and accessories as you go. With point and shoot cameras, you are essentially stuck with what you bought.

3) Can I still get good photos with a point and shoot camera?

Absolutely. Many of these cameras are light, portable and take quality shots. Of course they are also less expensive than DSLR cameras, which definitely helps this time of year. Because point and shoot cameras lack versatility, it is important to weigh what you want. For instance if your children play sports, you should consider a camera that allows you to shoot with a fast shutter speed. If you are going to the beach or traveling, consider a smaller camera that is more portable. 


The No. 1 tip is to buy what you're comfortable with. Another thing to consider is try buying a camera in person or at a local camera shop. This will allow you to see the model and ask questions, and make the best possible purchase.