For the sake of simplicity, let’s break down the type of photographer you might be into two general categories.
Casual Photographers: First, you may be a casual or occasional photographer. That would include beginners as well. The casual photographer will probably take pictures at birthday parties, family gatherings, vacations, or other occasional events. The pictures that are taken will probably be shared online and usually won’t be enlarged to print sizes larger than 8 X 10.
If you fall into that category, then a Basic Compact Camera would be a good fit for you. The ease of use of and reasonable pricing are the main appeal of compact cameras.
Compact digital cameras are the least expensive type of camera to buy and the image quality they produce is usually very good.
They all have full automatic modes so you don’t have to worry about setting proper exposures to get a good picture. You can just turn the camera on and then “Point and Shoot”.
There are also scene modes included with compact cameras that allow you to choose a setting to match the scene you are shooting. Some of the common scene modes are the beach, fireworks, portrait, and landscape modes among others. However, those are all optional settings that you can use if you choose to do so.
As a starting point, the Canon Powershot A3400IS and the Nikon Coolpix 6300 are a couple of good compact cameras that you may want to check out.
Some casual photographers may be interested in having a little over the camera exposure settings besides the automatic setting.
There are Advanced, or “Bridge” type compact cameras available that can work for those individuals. These type of compact cameras have semi-automatic and manual controls that are not available on a basic compact camera. The most important settings that can be controlled with a Bridge camera are the shutter speed, the lens aperture (lens opening size) and the ISO (the camera sensitivity to light).
Another feature of many of these types of cameras is that they have very long zoom ranges. They are often referred to as Super Zoom cameras. Photographers who may be taking many pictures from long distances might want to consider using a Super Zoom camera.
The beauty of using a Bridge camera is that you can control the outcome of your images without having to pay for a higher priced Digital SLR camera. Bridge cameras are smaller and not bulky as Digital SLR cameras.
If you think a bridge camera might be something for you to consider, take a look at the Panasonic Lumix FZ200.
Advanced Photographers: If you find that you have a great interest in photography and want to take your skills to another level, then a Digital SLR camera can work for you. Also, if you have been takings pictures for a while or feel limited using a compact camera, a Digital SLR camera might be the best fit for you.
Every Digital SLR camera will have the same basic features as a compact camera including the option to shoot using the full automatic mode. However, when you use a Digital SLR camera, you will have full manual control over every camera setting. That will include the exposure settings as well as focusing.
The quality of the images taken using a Digital SLR type camera is better than that of the previously mentioned cameras. That is because Digital SLR cameras have larger image sensors and better camera lenses. The larger image sensor size can produce images that can be enlarged to greater than 16 X 20 print sizes without much, if any loss in quality.
Also, you will able to change the type or size of the camera lens to fit your shooting situation when you are using a Digital SLR camera.
As previously mentioned, Digital SLR cameras are larger than compact cameras and cost more. However, if you are truly interested in photography and would like more creative control over your images, a Digital SLR camera might be worth the investment.
The Nikon D3200 and Canon EOS Rebel T3I are very good entry level Digital SLR cameras to consider.
Lastly, if the best features of a Digital SLR camera appeal to you, but you don’t want to carry a large camera around with you, consider a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens camera.