For the casual photographer, who has no interest in learning the technical aspects of digital photography, all the Nikon CoolPix, Canon PowerShot or Sony Cypershot compact cameras can be used in their Auto mode. It will read, select and set all the necessary functions (primarily exposure and focus) to take highly acceptable digital photos and video.
Many of the Nikon, Canon and Sony compact models, especially at the lower and mid-range of prices, are made to look chic and trendy, so even the most fashionable individuals have choices that match their carefully created style. These cameras come in the colors and sleek designs, so they look like they belong at dressy affairs or an upscale evening at the finest restaurants, clubs or parties.
What surprises many compact camera buyers is that these little technological marvels are fully capable of taking quite creative and artistic pictures too; especially when the photographer learns about exposure, focus, etc. and takes more control of the camera. For these photographers, there are many Nikon, Canon and Sony compact cameras that look like DSLR cameras. Generally, they have larger sensors, zoom lenses with longer telephoto focal lengths and other features and capabilities that allow the aspiring photographer to learn the craft and art.
Nikon, Canon and Sony also offer a number of specialty compact cameras. For the outdoors adventurer—climbing verticals, snowboarding the powder, kayaking the white water or diving the reef—there are the Nikon CoolPix AW100, Sony Bloggie Sport Camera and Canon Powershot D10 cameras. These are waterproof to specified depths, dustproof and shockproof. Nikon also makes the Coolpix S1200pj, which is both a feature-rich compact camera and projection system. The S1200pf projects whatever you shoot (stills or video) onto a flat surface as large as 60 inches diagonally.
For the two other major groups of digital photographers—serious amateurs and professionals, the brand of camera they buy starts to make a difference. Maybe, the most practical reason that one brand is a better choice than another is that the Big 3 companies sell camera systems, not just a camera. Most serious amateurs and professionals will need (or want) to buy additional lenses, flash units, etc. during the future, which means they must be the same brand as the camera. Sure, a digital photographer could decide to change from Nikon to Canon, for example, but he or she would have to replace every piece of Nikon equipment with Canon and spend considerable time learning how use the Canon system. When making a choice, these photographers must also remember that it is more important to select the right lens, and then the compatible camera body. The type of photography a serious enthusiast or professional shoots—landscapes, weddings, fashion, sports, photojournalism, etc.—is often the deciding factor of what lens to buy and that lens must be paired with a camera body from the same company.
At this level of digital photography, often the choice has more to do with the individual buying the camera. For some photographers, a Canon will simply feel better and more comfortable in their hands than a Nikon or Sony, or vice versa. Some like how the camera fits their eye.
There are three excellent ways to help you decide whether to buy a Nikon, Canon or Sony DSLR camera.
1. Browse the Web. There are countless forums where photographers discuss (and often argue) the brands. PhotographyTalk’s Forum is a great place to start because you’ll also find how-to videos that may also help your decision-making.
2. Talk with other photographers via the Web, a local photography club, friends or the professional with a studio in your community.
3. Rent various models for a number of weekends, so you have the actual experience of a Nikon, Canon and Sony camera in your hands, and shooting with it.
The good news for serious amateurs and professionals is that Nikon, Canon or Sony makes a camera system that will provide virtually everything they need to pursue their passion or succeed at a digital photography career.
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Photograph by Photography Talk member Tyra O'Bryant