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What's the best kind of camera for you?

Consumer Reports News: April 15, 2013 12:08 PM

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In our newest digital cameras ratings, you'll find three new advanced cameras from Nikon, including an SLR, the Nikon D5200 ($1,200), and two SLR-like mirrorless models: the Nikon 1 J3 ($600) and Nikon 1 S1 ($500).

This Ratings update shows that even a camera company like Nikon, which has a long history of producing top-notch SLRs, is now offering consumers more choice when it comes to advanced cameras. In fact, Nikon recently introduced an advanced point-and-shoot, the Nikon Coolpix A, which features an SLR sensor. We'll be testing that model shortly.

If you're thinking of buying an advanced camera but aren't sure which kind to go for, here are some distinctions between SLRs, SLR-likes, and advanced point-and-shoots:

Why choose an SLR? One reason SLRs are popular is that they include the most bells and whistles of any other camera type on the market. For one, an SLR has a mirror built inside that allows you to look through the viewfinder and see exactly what you'll be shooting before you snap the shutter. A TTL (through the lens) viewfinder is a valuable asset when shooting, particularly on sunny days when the bright light washes out the LCD. The downside of SLRs is that they're among the largest and heaviest models.

Why choose an SLR-like? Mirrorless SLR-likes are similar to SLRs in two ways: First, they accept interchangeable lenses, which give you more versatility when shooting your photos and video. And second, SLR-likes include a large image sensor, which is a major factor in determining image quality. What differentiates SLR-likes is that they're smaller, more compact, and lighter than SLRs. The downside? They don't have TTL viewfinders and often have fewer interchangeable lenses to choose from.

Why choose an advanced point-and-shoot? This type of camera is among the lightest and smallest of advanced cameras in our Ratings, but it differs in one significant way from the above two types in that it has a fixed zoom lens: In other words, you can't switch lenses. But most advanced point-and-shoots have smaller image sensors than SLRs or SLRs-likes, and fewer features.

For more on advanced-camera features and what to look for, check out our digital camera buying guide and Ratings.

Terry Sullivan

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