The Cost of Digital Cameras
August 9, 2011
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There are very few hobbies that are so ubiquitous and yet extremely complicated as understanding photography. Nearly everyone owns some type of camera, whether it is a single use disposable or it comes on their phone, pretty much every person has access to the technology to visually save a moment. Photography can be extremely complicated as well and just understanding what the different kinds of cameras out there are can be a task in itself. To remedy that, here is a brief description of the different types of consumer cameras on the market, how they are different from one another and what they cost.

It should come as no surprise to you that to get a wide array of options, settings and accessories is going to cost more but give you more precise results. What might surprise you is how far digital cameras have come in the last decade. Even a relatively inexpensive camera performs exponentially better than one of a similar price even 5 or 6 years ago. Similar to computer processors, cameras have doubled their performance and halved their price every two years. So now it is expected that a $200 camera have over 10 megapixels when only a few years ago, 10 megapixels was considered a huge amount.

Higher end cameras have also gotten significantly more affordable. Entry level dSLR cameras can be had for around $500-700 when they used to be priced too high for anyone except dedicated hobbyists and professionals. There are also "bridge" cameras, cameras that bridge the gap between simple point and shoot and dSLR which have also made high end photography more available. Most purchasing of cameras comes down to the factors of cost, control over the picture and convenience.

Point and Shoot Cameras

Understanding Photography | Example Point and shoot cameras
The most basic model of cameras you are going to find on the market are point and shoot cameras. These include everything from the camera on your phone to cameras that cost a few hundred dollars. Point and shoot cameras are by far the most popular and available form of photography and are the simplest to use. They are primarily characterized by there compact design and simplicity. As the name implies, they are very simple to operate with the least amount of options and settings. These cameras are for people who want low cost and convenience over quality.

While these cameras may be the simplest to use, they still can deliver extremely detailed photographs and often come with some very convenient extra features. Even cameras under $200 usually take HD video, have a 4x or 5x zoom and can connect to the internet for easy sharing. Point and shoot cameras are also much smaller than their more expensive counterparts and are easier to carry around. For all these reasons they are the favorite of casual photographers across the world and have become a staple of even inexpensive cell phones.

"Bridge" Cameras

Understanding Photography | Example Bridge Cameras
For those users looking for some extra options and features over a normal point and shoot but are not ready to go up to a dSLR, there are now "Bridge" cameras that serve as a compromise between the two. These cameras are typically bigger and resemble dSLR cameras in size and shape while lacking some of its more complicated and expensive features. Typically they have attached lenses which cannot be swapped out but are a higher quality then typical point and shoots. Their lenses will typically have depth of field adjustments that can be made manually but also automatic focus as well.

As expected these cameras are more expensive than traditional point and shoots by a few hundred dollars but serve a needed niche between the casual and hobbyist photographers.

DSLR Cameras

Example DSLR Cameras | Understanding Photography
Digital single-lens reflex (dSLR) cameras are the pinnacle of quality and control for digital cameras and a need to know for understanding photography. These cameras have larger capture sensors so their photographs will be larger and more detailed even when compared to cameras with a higher megapixel count. DSLR cameras also have detachable lenses which give the photographer a huge array of options for a given photo.

With all their options and customization, DSLR cameras are the obvious choice for professionals and enthusiasts. Some of these cameras can be as much as $11,000 and lenses can be as much as the camera. However there are a number of entry level DSLR cameras as well costing only $600 with a lens. So for those looking to take the next step into serious photography, DSLR may not nearly be as expensive as it once was.

Cost

To give you an idea about the costs of cameras we created this graph that shows the cost and types of cameras on the market.
A Cost of Digital Camera Chart
As this graph shows, there is a steady progression of price to type of camera and it doesn't have nearly as much to do with megapixels. For instance, a camera like the Sony Cybershot 16.1 ($220) has 16.1 megapixels, much higher then the Nikon D3100 ($800) which has only 10.2. Megapixels are an important factor in the detail of an image, but there are many other considerations. One of the biggest is the size of the capture sensor. Most compact point and shoot cameras have a much smaller sensor so that the actual image being received is much smaller than say a "bridge" or dSLR camera. Even when the megapixel count is very high, a smaller sensor can only create an image relative to the sensor which lowers maximum size of the image.

Other factors to look for are zoom capabilities, lens options, connectivity and special features.

I hope this article gives you a rough idea on understanding photography, the cost of digital cameras, and you now know what to look for in your next camera purchase. If you have questions about this or any other article please feel free to contact me at tylergoering@gmail.com

  1 Comment

Danice    10.12.11

I raelly wish there were more articles like this on the web.

Lyddy     11.21.11

I feel so much hppaeir now I understand all this. Thanks!

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