So many shots, so many ways

Last reviewed: August 2011

Basic cameras

Best for everyday events. Portable and low priced. Have enough resolution for enlargements. Shoot photos and HD-resolution video in fairly low light.

But most can't upload images wirelessly to Internet and social networks. Video quality is inferior to that of full-sized camcorders and SLRs. Smaller controls than on SLRs. No apps.

Typical specs 10 to 16 megapixels, 3x or greater optical zoom, 720p HD-resolution video, accept memory cards up to 64GB. Weight: subcompacts and compacts, 5 to 10 oz.; superzooms, 10 to 25 oz.

Price $75 to $500

 

Advanced cameras

Best for artistic and action photography. Top image quality and lots of manual controls. SLRs and SLR-like models can accept a variety of high-quality lenses. Enough resolution for enlargements. Superior image quality in low light. Respond more quickly than basic cameras and have a more powerful and versatile flash. Most have HD-resolution video.

But can be expensive. Heavy. No built-in capability to upload images wirelessly to Internet. No apps. Non-intuitive user interface.

Typical specs 10 to 24 megapixels, 720p or 1080i HD-resolution video, up to 64GB memory cards. Weight: advanced point-and-shoots, 10 to 21 oz.; SLR-likes, 17 to 27 oz.; SLRs, 28 to 45 oz.

Price $400 to $8,000

 

Smart-phone cameras

Best for immediate wireless sharing of images on Facebook and YouTube. Graphical interface is more intuitive than regular cameras'. Can use apps to expand shooting and editing features.

But lack features found on basic cameras, such as optical zoom and shutter control. Resolution usually too low for 11x14 prints. Image quality suffers in low light. Don't respond as quickly as basic cameras. Controls are small or virtual.

Typical specs 3 to 5 megapixels, 720p HD-resolution video, up to 32GB of memory (combined internal and cards). Weight: 4 to 6 oz.

Price $50 to $300 (with new, $15 to $30 per month contract)

 

Pocket camcorders

Best for informal shooting, suitable for uploading to the Internet.

But video image quality not as high as full-sized camcorder. No built-in capability to upload images wirelessly to Internet and social networks. Have useful onboard video-editing software.

Typical specs Usually 5 to 8 megapixels. 720p or 1080i HD-resolution video. Up to 64GB memory cards.

Price $60 to $230

 

Full-sized HD camcorders

Best for important occasions that demand the highest quality video, such as weddings and graduations, and capturing high-definition video and shooting from a distance. (Some have very long optical zoom lenses.) They have swiveling LCDs, helpful for hard-to-reach shots.

But they can be expensive. Interface is not as intuitive for photos as cameras. No built-in capability to upload images wirelessly to Internet and social networks.

Typical specs 2 to 14 megapixels. 720p or 1080i HD-resolution video. Up to 64GB memory cards.

Price $200 to $2,000