How to buy a digital camera

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CameraTron 2000: A choose-your-own-adventure camera selector

If you've got $1000 or more to spend on a new camera, a digital SLR is the obvious choice. DSLRs may be pricey and bulky, but they shoot the best-looking photos in any lighting situation, capture professional-looking video, offer granular exposure controls, and allow you to expand the camera's versatility over time by adding new lenses.

A DSLR seems like an air-tight recommendation for anyone buying a new camera, if not for one huge complication: You are unique like a magical snowflake. Don't feel too special about that, because everyone on the planet is also unique like a magical snowflake. In a world teeming with uniquely magical snowflakes, the compound modifier "one-size-fits-all" cannot be applied to any type of camera.

There are plenty of reasons why you might be better served by something other than a DSLR. You may be working with a tighter budget, you may want a pocket-size camera, you may be intimidated by a DSLR's control scheme, or you may want something that can withstand a few accidental drops onto concrete.

If "something other than a DSLR" sounds right to you, CameraTron 2000 is here to help. CameraTron 2000 may still decide you should get a DSLR, but you must let CameraTron 2000 work its strange magic in order to find out.

What is CameraTron 2000?

CameraTron 2000 is a made-up name, so let me explain what it is. It's a choose-your-own-adventure-style journey that will help narrow down your options to a camera built for your budget and shooting style.

(Photo credit: Flickr/mediafury)

CameraTron 2000 is not a sentient being, but the scientists behind CameraTron 2000 are well aware that some people do not like clicking so much. Thus, here are one-click options for using CameraTron 2000, in the form of decision trees based on your spending budget:
$200 or less | $200 to $400 | $400 to $700 | $700 or more.

For the full choose-your-own-adventure experience, you may enter the realm of CameraTron 2000 below. Click your answer to start narrowing down your camera prospects.

For starters, which of the following is more important to you?

Special thanks to Discount Camera in San Francisco for providing loaner cameras and hand models for this story. If you're ever in SF, visit Discount Camera (33 Kearny St. at Market St.) for all your camera and hand-modeling needs.

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