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Find the Best Camera Brands

by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Cameras are more accessible than ever, varying from simple point-and-click models to high-end systems that use different lenses and accessories. Use our guide to learn about and choose the best camera brand for you. We explain what to look for in image quality, portability and other features. With the right camera, users can find the perfect tool for artistic or self-expression.

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What features matter most when buying a camera?

Image quality

The foremost consideration for most consumers looking for a digital camera is the quality of the images a camera can produce.

  • Resolution: Resolution refers to the amount of pixels that can be captured in an image. The higher the quantity of pixels, the sharper and clearer the image will appear. Currently, the high mark for modern cameras is 4K resolution, though that quality may only be available on professional models.
  • Bokeh: In photography, the quality of the blurred area outside the focused subject is called the bokeh. For discerning photographers, some cameras and lenses have options to edit or alter bokeh for creative effects.
  • Image noise: Image noise, or grain, refers to variations in color and brightness in electronic images. High-quality lenses and cameras work to reduce or otherwise eliminate image noise and provide clearer pictures.


Modern cameras are far more portable than earlier models, though some may be more cumbersome than others.

  • Weight: As a general rule, a heavier camera means there is more technology, from microchips to mirrors, in the unit. Choosing a camera that weighs less may sacrifice a bit of power for portability.
  • Compactness: Weight is worth considering, but size can be just as important when evaluating a camera purchase. The larger DSLR camera systems may require a carrying case for transportation, while more compact cameras can fit in the user’s pocket.
  • Extra lenses and accessories: Extra lenses can make transporting a camera more difficult. Carrying cases for multiple lenses and accessories are available to make them more portable.
  • Mounts: Especially true of action cameras, mounts can enhance portability. Cameras can be affixed to sporting equipment like helmets or bike handlebars to capture footage and images in out-of-the-way places.
  • Toughness: Some cameras are designed to take a hit. More rugged cameras are usually shockproof, waterproof or dustproof for use in extreme conditions.

Look and design

For many consumers, the form of the camera is about as important as its function. There are camera types that cater to consumers with particular style preferences.

  • Retro style: Many DSLR cameras, and even some compact cameras, are designed to look like classic cameras from the mid-20th century. Some companies are known for their classic designs.
  • Modern looks: Consumers who prefer sleeker, more angular designs should look for companies that produce more modern-looking cameras. Lens-like cameras and compact cameras have more contemporary designs.
  • Accessories: Regardless of a consumer’s preference for modern or retro models, many cameras have customizable options. Choosing colors, camera covers, lens caps, straps and other accessories can help consumers make their cameras fit their styles.

Flexibility and features

Cameras, especially more professional-grade camera systems, can be outfitted with attachments. Even some of the basic models offer video and audio recording options.

  • Attachments: For entry-level hobbyists and professional photographers alike, having a camera with interchangeable lenses, flashes, microphones and other attachments gives them more photography options.
  • Video capability: Some cameras are capable of high-definition video as well as photography. Consumers who want the option of video should make sure their cameras have recording capabilities.
  • Audio recording: Not all cameras that record video also record audio. Some cameras have built-in microphones, and others can be outfitted with a microphone attachment.

Connectivity and applications

Digital cameras offer a wealth of connectivity options to the user’s smartphone or social media profiles. These capabilities give the user even more options to share or download their photos.

  • Wi-Fi: Most digital cameras have built-in Wi-Fi for sharing and downloading photos and videos immediately.
  • Phone sharing: Some cameras can be hooked up to the user’s phone or use the phone’s screen as a viewfinder. These cameras can share data with the user’s phone for immediate transfer of pictures and videos.
  • Image apps: Digital cameras often have photo and video editing software pre-installed in the camera’s operating system. Other apps can be downloaded and installed through the camera’s Wi-Fi connection.
  • Print from camera: Cameras that connect to printers through Wi-Fi can print pictures directly from the camera’s interface, giving the user instant access to physical copies of photos.


For entry-level photographers, ease of use is often a huge selling point. Cameras are complicated devices, so some models have been designed to eliminate user frustration with intuitive controls and options.

  • Controls: Digital cameras can have touch-screens or physical controls, though some have both. Consumers should take controls into consideration when making a purchase, especially since the more professional models tend to have more complicated interfaces.
  • Auto-focus: For consumers who want to take pictures easily, many cameras are equipped with auto-focus. These cameras automatically adjust to make the photographer’s subject clear, minimizing user effort.
  • Zoom: Most digital cameras have built-in zoom lenses. Most common in compact cameras, zoom lenses allow the photographer to get closer to the subject without moving. DSLR camera systems that allow for different lens attachments can sometimes be outfitted with a zoom lens.
  • Image stabilization: Some camera lenses have optical image stabilizers (OIS). The OIS reduces blur and movement to make the picture clear and still.

What are different types of cameras?

DSLR systems

Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras combine the optics and mechanics of a film-fed camera with a digital imaging sensor. They can be outfitted with different lenses and often look like more classic cameras. DSLR camera systems range from entry-level models to professional-grade cameras and lenses.

Compact camera

Also called “point-and-shoot” cameras, compact cameras are designed for maximum portability and simple operation. They are often outfitted with zoom lenses, and they usually cannot be modified with other, more complex professional lenses.

Lens-style cameras

Lens-style cameras are full cameras that look like attachable lenses. Lens-style cameras often work with the user’s smartphone to increase its photography capabilities.

Action cameras

Action cameras are cameras that can be mounted on various vehicles or helmets that are designed for versatility. Many action cameras have 360-degree photography and video capabilities made to be experienced in virtual reality.

Rugged cameras

Rugged cameras prioritize function over form in every aspect. They are made to be weatherproof, waterproof and shockproof for users who enjoy the outdoors. They are built to be used in extreme conditions.

Who uses cameras?

Casual users

Many people are already familiar with cameras on their smartphones, but some may want the extra options that comes with a camera and the resolution of a higher-quality lens.


Consumers who want to get into photography as a hobby will want to look at entry-level cameras and camera systems.

Professional photographers

Established photographers are often looking for improvements in camera and lens technologies. Since manufacturers regularly update camera systems, professional photographers will want to upgrade their systems when necessary.

Athletes and people with active lifestyles

Athletes can benefit from reviewing their performances, and getting a clear perspective is key to seeing how they can improve. Action cameras can also help consumers capture images and footages of extreme sports from unique angles.

Outdoors enthusiasts

Hikers, campers, hunters, fishermen and others who like to photograph landscapes and nature may need the clarity of high-definition cameras and lenses. Many cameras have settings specifically for outdoor shooting.

Camera brands FAQ

How do I choose a good camera?
It’s best if you decide how you're going to use your camera — whether for travel photos, sports photos or candids — before shopping for a camera. Once you begin shopping, focus on specifics:
  • What size images do you need?
  • Will you be post-processing the images?
  • Do you want to be able to switch lenses?
  • Is it comfortable to hold and carry?
  • What is your budget?
A good camera allows you to adjust settings, is durable, shoots the pictures you want to take and is comfortable to hold.
What are the two basic types of digital cameras?
The two basic types of digital cameras are non-SLR — basically a digital point-and-shoot — and SLR cameras. SLR stands for single lens reflex and refers to the way the camera works to capture the image. You also see them referred to as DSLR, or digital SLR, cameras.
Do digital cameras lose picture quality over time?
A digital camera does not inherently lose picture quality over time. Still, many things happen to a camera over its life that affect how it creates or displays an image.
  • The lens can be scratched, get dirty or suffer other damage.
  • Dust can get inside the camera and affect the sensor.
  • Dirt, moisture and heat can affect the way the mechanics work.
  • Wear and tear can damage your camera, especially if you drop it or don’t perform proper maintenance.
What is considered a professional camera?
A camera is only as good as the person using it — professionals take pictures with everything from their cell phones to DSLRs with expensive zoom lenses. A professional focuses on composition, settings, light and any number of other things that go into crafting a great photograph.
How do I clean my camera?
Each part of a camera requires different cleaning and care.
  • Many DSLR cameras have a cleaning mode that helps prevent any dust from getting on the sensor.
  • Use a microfiber cloth or premoistened lens cleaning wipe for cleaning the glass lens.
  • You can clean the rear element of detachable lenses with the same products.
  • Use a damp cloth to remove dirt from the body.
It's best to leave sensor cleaning to the professionals — there are far too many (expensive) things that can go wrong.
Do DSLR cameras need servicing?
Yes. You should have your camera serviced at least once a year, but experts recommend you service them every six to eight months. SLR cameras generally keep a shutter release count, which you find in settings, to help you keep track of usage and when to get service.
How long does a digital camera last?
There isn't a standard lifetime for digital cameras because the technology changes so quickly. It's more likely that you'll want to replace your camera for an upgrade than because of wear. Damage is also more likely to end your camera's life than the camera wearing out. The shutter inside a camera may stop working, which is sometimes mistaken for a broken or dead camera, but you can replace the shutter to extend the camera's life.
Is it worth buying a digital camera?
It depends on what you want to use your camera for and how good the quality of your smartphone camera is. For most people, their smartphone takes high enough quality pictures and has enough capabilities, including night sight and panoramas, to serve their purpose. People who want to be able to edit or print high-definition images should consider buying a digital camera. Smartphones don't have great options for zooming in at long distances, and their shutter speeds aren’t ideal for photographing sports.

Not sure how to choose?

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    by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.