How to buy a digital camera

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Digital camera buying guide

Once upon a time, cameras competed with other cameras. Now, with the rise of smartphones as everyday photography devices, cameras have had to evolve quickly to compete with those mobile devices. Compared to just a few years ago, there are many more types of cameras to choose from; manufacturers are building specialized cameras for different types of shooters, a growing number of which have Wi-Fi sharing capabilities and phone-like features.

There are a lot of different styles of cameras to choose from these days: ruggedized point-and-shoots, high-zoom pocket cameras, premium compact cameras, mirrorless interchangeable-lens models, and full-fledged DSLRs. Depending on your budget, your size requirements, and your shooting style, any one of those cameras may be the best fit.

We're here to help you pick the perfect camera for your needs. This Digital Camera Buying Guide will help you make a purchasing decision based on the specs that you need to examine closely (and the specs you can basically ignore) before you spend your hard-earned cash. Select a place to start from the links below or in the menu at the top of this article.

A choose-your-own-adventure camera selector
Narrow down your options by clicking your way to a new camera in this interactive buying guide.

Choosing the right kind of digital camera
From DSLRs to pocket megazooms to basic point-and-shoots, we'll walk you through the different kinds of digital cameras.

Camera specs explained
Buying a digital camera isn't all about megapixels. We'll translate the jargon and tell you just how important each specification is to your purchase.

Quick tips for camera shopping
Before you head to the store, check out fast advice for making a smart digital camera choice.

If you want to just dive in and see the latest updates to our digital camera rankings by category, you can find them here:

Point-and-shoot cameras with the best image quality

Top-rated point-and-shoot cameras with manual controls

Top 10 pocket megazoom cameras

Top-rated point-and-shoot cameras for video

Top-rated compact interchangeable-lens cameras

Top-rated DSLRs

Top-rated DSLRs and interchangeable-lens cameras for video

Best in-camera GPS features

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