Digital camera reviews: FAQs

Woman holding a digital camera

To help you choose the best digital camera to suit your needs the Which? experts answer some common digital camera questions – from how many megapixels you need to the best digital cameras for long-distance photography.

Check out the Which? digital camera reviews to find out how different models performed in our tests, or compare digital cameras from a range of manufacturers including Kodak, Panasonic, Sony, Casio, Pentax, Olympus, Samsung, Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon.

Are digital cameras easy to use?

The best digital cameras in the Which? digital camera reviews score highly for ease of use. All digital cameras have an easy-to-use automatic mode, which normally gives good results. However, getting to know some of the camera's other settings can pay dividends.

Choosing manual white balance and setting the aperture yourself are just two examples of how you can improve picture quality on your digital camera and create more arty results. As a general guide, the more expensive the digital camera, the more manual settings it will have.

Do I need a computer to use a digital camera?

You don't strictly need a computer to use a digital camera, but you do need one to get the most out of it.

If you have a digital camera, you can bypass the computer with a PictBridge-enabled printer, which will print your pictures either directly from the digital camera, or from the memory card that holds the images.

Alternatively, you can use a digital printing service, which will print your digital images for you. See our reviews of digital printing services.

If you do want to use a computer, you'll be able to edit your images with photo editing software. For example, you can crop them, adjust contrast and fix problems, such as red-eye.

The other advantage of putting them on a computer is you can then email them to friends and family, as a quick way of sharing, or store them on your hard drive.

Do I need image-editing software for my digital camera?

You can edit digital camera images on a computer. Image-editing software lets you crop, enlarge, correct colour and add effects to your pictures. Most digital cameras come with software that lets you do this, but its quality varies.

If your digital camera doesn't come with software, or fancy some more advanced software, you can buy it separately. See our reviews of photo editing software for Best Buys.

Megapixels on a camera

When I'm looking for the best digital camera, how many megapixels do I need?

For a top-quality 6x4-inch print, all you need is a digital camera with 2.2Mp. For a 7x5 inches you need at least 3.2Mp and for a 10x8-inch print choose a digital camera with at least 7.2Mp.

You can still get good-quality prints with around half these recommended amounts of megapixels, just not top-quality ones. Bearing this in mind, you’ll see most of the digital cameras in the Which? digital camera reviews should have an adequate amount of megapixels for your needs.

If all you want to do is to put photos on a computer, shooting at 1Mp or even lower should be fine. Compare digital cameras to find one to suit you.

Which is the best digital camera type, DSLR (digital SLR) or compact digital ?

Although DSLRs can produce detailed, colourful, sharp pictures, particularly with a high-quality lens attached, most of the time a standard digital camera will do an acceptable job.

Unless you're after the best possible picture quality all the time or want a very quick camera, stick with a standard digital camera. 

They're also cheaper, and usually much less bulky to carry around. 

IF you're looking for something in between a compact camera and a DSLR, we'd recommend a bridge camera. Bridge cameras feature full manual control to help you get the best pictures, and they often have superzoom lenses and useful features such as viewfinders.

See our Which? reviews of the best bridge cameras.

If you're still tempted by the increased manual control and excellent picture quality afforded by DSLRs, check out Which? reviews of DSLRs, where you can find our recommended Best Buy DSLR cameras.

Is printing images from digital cameras at home cheaper than having them printed in the shops or online?

The high cost of photo-quality inkjet paper and inkjet cartridges means printing your digital camera photos at home often works out more expensive than letting the pros do it.

See our reviews of digital printing services for more information. Or you could try a digital photo frame to display your pictures.

How many pictures can you take with a digital camera?

This varies greatly, depending on the quality of images you want to take, and the capacity of the memory card in your digital camera.

Many digital cameras come with a small internal memory or a small capacity memory card, which is usually enough for only a handful of high quality pictures.

But you can high capacity memory cards which will give you a lot of storage for a day's shooting or more.

What type of battery do I need for my digital camera?

Most digital cameras come packaged with a purpose-made rechargeable battery.

However, some models require you to buy AA batteries to keep them powered. This can be an advantage, as when you're out and about it's easy to pick up fresh batteries.

Continually having to buy new high-quality non-rechargeable batteries is an extremely expensive and wasteful means for powering a digital camera, however. The best AA batteries for powering a camera are expensive Lithium batteries, but the costs add up if you keep on buying these.

We'd recommend choosing high-quality rechargeable AA batteries instead. They're less wasteful as you don't have to keep throwing them out, and in the long run they're much more cost-efficient.

See our Which? reviews of rechargeable and non-rechargeable batteries for more information on picking a Best Buy battery.

What’s the best digital camera for indoor shots, such as at parties?

The best digital camera for indoor shots will have a good flash performance and a high maximum manually selectable ISO setting (look for 800 or above) for the times when you don’t want to use flash.

Also, when inside a small room, it’s sometimes hard to fit in a wide group of people in your shot – sometimes you can’t walk back far enough.

Therefore it's good to look for a digital camera with a low first number in the optical zoom range. For example, a digital camera with an optical zoom range of 28-105mm will be better at zooming further out, than a camera with a range of 35-105mm. 

And the best digital camera for long distance photography?

Some pocket cameras now boast impressive zoom magnifications of up to 15x.

However, if you really want to close in on distant subjects, we'd recommend going for a superzoom bridge camera. Superzoom bridge cameras have huge zoom lenses of 20x, 26x and even 30x.

See our expert Which? reviews of the best bridge cameras.

When zooming in far, your pictures are more likely to be blurry due to camera shake, so it's a good idea to choose a digital camera with image stabilisation as well.

Most digital cameras also have a digital zoom. The purpose of this is to give you even more zoom power beyond what the optical zoom can extend to. There is a downside – the more you zoom in with a digital zoom, the more your picture quality degrades.

Action shot - kids jumping

How about the best digital camera for action photography?

If you want the best digital camera for action shots, a fast shutter delay certainly helps, as does a good burst mode – the more shots the digital camera can take per second, the better. Go for a DSLR (digital SLR) if you want to take action photography seriously, as these are fast cameras.

Fast and easy focussing either using autofocus, or the lens manual ring to manual focus, is essential – and again DSLRs come out on top here.

How much memory do I need on a digital camera and what type of card should I buy?

When you take a photo with a digital camera, it's stored on the camera’s internal memory, or a memory card. There are various types of memory card (details below).

Cards advertised as having high speeds are usually only worth buying if you have a high performance digital camera, such as a DSLR – otherwise you probably won't notice the speed benefit.

Amount of memory

Digital cameras usually come with a small internal memory or a small capacity memory card, usually around 16 megabytes (MB). This usually only has enough space for a handful of pictures, so buy a large capacity memory card allowing you to store more. A 1GB card (equal to approximately 1,000MB), for example, holds around 250 8Mp photos

Type of memory

There are several different formats of memory card for digital cameras. They all work in essentially the same way and, for almost all types, prices per megabyte of storage are roughly the same. But there are differences in physical size, compatibility and maximum memory levels.

These are the main types of card:

  • Compact Flash Often abbreviated to CF, this is the bulkiest card (although still small). Often found in larger cameras like DSLRs
  • Memory Stick Duo Memory Sticks are mainly used in Sony products. They are a usually a bit more expensive to buy than other types.
  • Secure Digital (SD or SDHC) Often abbreviated to SD, this is the most commonly found type of card. It's about the size of a postage stamp. SDHC cards are a type of SD card, but visually they look identical. SDHC cards are available only in capacities of 4GB or more. A few older cameras that accept normal SD cards don't accept them, but all cameras that accept SDHC also accept SD.
  • xD These are commonly found in Olympus and Fujifilm cameras. They're also about the size of a stamp. A few printers with memory card slots don't accept them so it's worth checking if this is important to you.

How do camera phones compare with digital cameras?

With mobile phones becoming more and more capable of taking good photos, it's fair to ask whether small digital cameras makes much sense. Which? says it does.

The best digital cameras usually have a better lens, flash and sensor, leading to better image quality, especially in dim light conditions. Digital cameras also have many features a mobile phone may lack (eg an optical zoom, scene modes etc) that make taking good pictures in different situations much easier.

If you're taking pictures outside then a very good mobile phone can compete, but indoor shots and dim light will see the digital camera comfortably on top.

See our mobile phone reviews for information on mobile phones and our latest Best Buys.

More on this...

  • Best Buy DSLR reviews - read our Which? Best Buy DSLR reviews to get the best DSLR for you.
  • Best Buy bridge cameras  - see the best bridge cameras from the Which? labs test and reviews
  • Digital camera brands - learn more about which camera brand to buy