Digital cameras buying guide: compare DSLRs, compacts, smartphones and more

We’ll walk you through the steps to choose the best digital camera for you.

Most of us carry our smartphones everywhere we go. This makes it easier than ever to snap and share photos of epic meals and all the cute dogs we see. Still, there’s no denying that smartphone camera quality is limited. If you’re unsatisfied with your smartphone camera or interested in pursuing photography as a hobby or a career, it might be time to upgrade to a digital camera. Depending on your budget and your level of interest in photography, a camera can set you back anywhere from $80 to $6,000 or more.

Our guide will help you compare different types of cameras from basic point-and-shoot models to high-end DSLRs. We’ll show you how to navigate through the extensive number of features available and let you know where you can buy the best cameras and how much you can expect to pay. Read on to find out how to choose the best camera to suit your needs.

Compare 10 of the most popular digital cameras for 2018

Data obtained at time of publication. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
Name Product Price (AUD) Type Touchscreen? Effective Resolution (Megapixels)
Canon EOS M3
Canon EOS M3
$475
Mirrorless
Yes
24.2
The Canon EOS M3 is designed to give you the power of a DSLR for a fraction of the cost.
Canon PowerShot SX620 HS
Canon PowerShot SX620 HS
$299
Ultra Zoom
No
20.2
The Canon PowerShot SX620 HS boasts a 25x optical zoom and a 25mm wide-angle lens.
Fujifilm X100F
Fujifilm X100F
$1,699
Mirrorless
No
24.3
Fujifilm offers something for every camera enthusiast with the X100F.
Leica D-Lux (Type 109)
Leica D-Lux (Type 109)
$1,450
Compact
No
12.7
The Leica D-Lux packs a lot of performance into a small, classic frame.
Nikon D7200
Nikon D7200
$2,249
DSLR
No
24.72
The Nikon D7200 is packed with features for amateurs and professionals alike.
Olympus Stylus 1
Olympus Stylus 1
$699
Compact
Yes
12.76
High photo quality and strong shooting performance make the Olympus Stylus 1 feel like a DSLR.
Panasonic DMC-FZ300
Panasonic DMC-FZ300
$799
Ultra Zoom
Yes
12.1
The Panasonic DMC-FZ300 is splash and dustproof so you can take it virtually anywhere.
Pentax KP
Pentax KP
$1,349
DSLR
No
24.32
With a swiveling monitor and weather resistant frame, the Pentax KP is designed for use in all conditions.
Sony ILCE-5100L
Sony ILCE-5100L
$799
Mirrorless
Yes
24.3
The Sony a5100 packs a DSLR-size sensor into a pocket-sized frame.
Sony DSC-HX90V
Sony DSC-HX90V
$499
Ultra Zoom
No
18.2
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V offers a first-rate zoom range and quick focus.

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Which digital camera is best for me?

It’s impossible to choose one best camera for everyone, so we’ve compared five of the most searched for cameras in the world to help you get a better sense of what the options are.

Type The good The bad
Canon EOS M3 Mirrorless
  • The tilted LCD screen lets you take photos from virtually any angle
  • Solid JPEG quality
  • Slower performing than other similarly priced cameras
  • Image quality suffers in low light, especially when recording video
Nikon D7200 DSLR
  • Takes high-quality photos and full HD videos
  • Performs well in all lighting conditions
  • Expensive
  • No touchscreen
Panasonic DMC-FZ300 Ultra zoom
  • Weather resistant rugged design
  • Features a 24x zoom lens
  • Some users find the navigation to be overwhelming
  • Larger and heavier than other comparable models
Leica D-Lux Compact
  • High-quality lens
  • Includes a large image sensor
  • No touchscreen
  • Expensive
Sony DSC-HX90V Ultra zoom
  • Features a 30x optical zoom lens
  • Quick focus
  • No raw image support
  • Image quality suffers in low light

What types of cameras are available?

If you’re looking for a digital camera, you have several styles to choose from. Each type of camera is suited to different activities.

Check out descriptions, pros and cons of some of the most common camera styles below:

Pros Cons
Smartphones
  • Convenience
  • Camera quality is improving every year
  • Instant photo-sharing
  • Poor image quality compared to digital cameras
  • No optical zoom
  • Limited creative control over images
Compact or point-and-shoot
  • Small and ultra-portable
  • Affordable
  • Virtually silent
  • Easy to use with minimal set-up
  • Image quality can’t compete with larger cameras
  • Limited flexibility in terms of zoom, cropping and manual controls
  • Typically slow to focus
  • Most do not have an optical viewfinder
Superzoom, megazoom or ultra zoom
  • Relatively small
  • Easy to use with minimal set-up
  • Optical zoom offers more versatility
  • Cost can approach many low-end DSLRs
  • Image quality does not match those of higher-end cameras
  • Can be noisy
Mirrorless
  • Smaller and lighter than a DSLR
  • High image quality
  • Interchangeable lenses allow for more flexibility
  • Fast shutter speeds
  • Virtually silent
  • Most include built-in image stabilisation or optical stabilisation
  • Slower autofocus than DSLRs
  • An electronic viewfinder can be hard to view in low light and some models do not include a viewfinder at all
  • Shorter battery life than DSLRs
  • Fewer choices in lenses than DSLRs
DSLR
  • Professional image quality
  • Interchangeable lenses allow for more flexibility
  • Fully manual control options
  • Fast autofocus
  • An optical viewfinder shows you exactly what the camera will capture
  • Long battery life
  • Larger, heavier and less portable than other types of cameras
  • Expensive, especially if you plan to purchase additional lenses
  • Require some knowledge of photography to get the best results
  • Can be noisy
Action cameras
  • Portable
  • Durable
  • Designed for adventures and extreme conditions
  • Limited photo quality
  • Not usually designed for still images

Cost

Generally, you get what you pay for. However, there’s no point paying more for features that you won’t use and buying the most expensive camera won’t necessarily make you a better photographer. One important thing to keep in mind is that if you purchase an interchangeable lens camera (ie mirrorless or DSLR) you will have to pay for additional lenses to get the most out of your camera. These lenses can cost as much as or more than the camera itself.

Type Typical price range
Compact $80 to $1,000
Superzoom $200 to $1,000
Mirrorless $400 to $4,000
DSLR $500 to $6,000
Action $100 to $600

How to compare digital cameras

One of the first things you should consider is the size and weight of any potential camera. While a DSLR might help you capture amazing photos, if it’s too big to carry around with you regularly you’ll miss photo opportunities. Next, consider what you need in terms of the following essential features:

  • Additional features to look for

Where to buy cameras in Australia

The most convenient way to buy a camera is typically online. No matter your budget and level of experience, you can find a camera to suit your needs on the Internet. Many online stores and warehouses offer frequent discounts. To help you find the lowest prices, we compiled some of the best deals and coupon codes for cameras and accessories.

The downside to buying a camera online is that you won’t get to try out gear before you buy it. If you haven’t had a chance to test out the model you’re buying, make sure the store has a decent return policy. You can find a wide range of cameras and accessories at any of our top ten sites for cameras and lenses.

You can also purchase a camera at a large retailer or a speciality camera store. Large retailers, like online stores, tend to offer frequent sales and discounts but may have a limited selection. Speciality camera stores typically offer high-end cameras and accessories for professionals and serious amateurs. While specialty shops often have higher prices than large retailers, they are usually staffed by knowledgeable photographers who offer invaluable customer service.

If you’re interested in taking your photography to the next level, start browsing our featured digital cameras today.

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Sarah Brandon

Sarah Brandon is a writer for finder.com.au and loves the challenge of tackling a new comparison. When she’s not at the office, she can be found writing novels or searching for the perfect artichoke dip.

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