I am looking to buy a digital camera or a SLR for simple photography. By that I mean, photographs of family and such. I am not interested in professional photography or complex stuff like the discussions on this site!

I am having difficulty choosing between a digital camera and a SLR. My only concern is clarity -- size of the photographs doesn't matter much; not too less but I don't need gigantic photos also. I read and researched that megapixels doesn't matter. So what should I look for? Note again, I am looking for only clarity.

  • Hi Tobias. Welcome to the site. Can you, uh, clarify what you mean by clarity?
    – mattdm
    Apr 26 '11 at 21:04
  • @mattdm: Thanks. I am just interested in being able to see my loved ones 'clearly'. I am sorry I can't describe further... A clear photograph.
    – Tobias
    Apr 26 '11 at 21:15
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    It turns out that this goes into the complex stuff you said you're not interested in. Sharpness, contrast, color processing, and good exposure are all factors there, and each of those has its own considerations. (For example, sharpness is related to optics, focus, shutter speed, camera motion, and more.) In general, shopping recommendations are off topic on all Stack Exchange sites — see photo.stackexchange.com/tags/equipment-recommendation/info for some info on why. Would you mind rephrasing your question in terms of how to look for a camera with this attribute of clarity?
    – mattdm
    Apr 26 '11 at 21:21

If "clarity", which I'm going to take to mean sharpness only matters to you - just get a decent namebrand point and shoot. Something like a Canon PowerShot SX130IS is a decent little camera for family shots and doesn't break the bank. Its a decent balance of cost and power.

For average family shots - don't get an SLR, its way overkill.

  • Ok. So when buying a digital camera, is the megapixels the only thing I should worry?
    – Tobias
    Apr 26 '11 at 20:40
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    Not really - anything over 6 megapixels is appropriate. Your main concerns are going to be enough zoom range to cover the family when they're spread out, decent low light capability, image stabilization, and UI. The Canon P&S's are some of the better out there and I tend to recommend them - the UI is nice and you get good pics on average for the price.
    – rfusca
    Apr 26 '11 at 20:46
  • In fact, too much over six megapixels and the per-pixel "clarity" will suffer, especially with budget cameras. (However, for same-size prints of up to 8x10 or so, it won't matter either way.)
    – mattdm
    Apr 26 '11 at 21:03
  • @mattdm - very true - its just difficult to find new camera's with other good feature and lower than 10 megapixels these days
    – rfusca
    Apr 26 '11 at 21:05
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    Just a note, if you'll be taking photos of toddlers or young kids, an SLR makes a world of difference. I speak from experience here - they just don't stay still! Also if you'll be taking photos indoors, a good external flash really helps. You simply tilt it up and bounce it off the ceiling (helps if you have white ceilings).
    – Musaul
    Apr 27 '11 at 0:37

If I would take your demand for "clarity" serious I would strongly recommend a low end DSLR with a close to standard, quality lens. For DX format for instance a 35mm f1.8 lens or for full frame (not really low end DSLR anymore) a 50mm f1.8. Those lenses are reasonable priced, high quality resulting in sharp images, lots of light available, selective focus possible, limited distortion, ... all things that contribute to the "clarity" of a picture.

This will require you to study and practice the art of photography. If you're not interested in that and only want to make clear shots the Point 'n Shoot suggested earlier is a better option for you.

6 megapixels would be the limit for some occasional enlargements. You don't need more than 6mp when you only want to make snapshots.

Still the DSLR will let you make better pictures than any other Point and Shoot, but only after learning how to do so.


There are a lot of factors when buying a camera, and although most dealers are focused on Megapixels, that is actually one of the least important.

For a basic camera, that will take very high quality images, you can focus on a few pieces.

  • at least 6 megapixels (I didn't say it wasn't useful)
  • Max aperture of f/2.8 or lower (f/2.0 is great for a point and shoot)
  • Image stabilization

The aperture and IS both contribute to the ability to take pictures in low light, and also of fast-moving objects. For family, birthday parties, and children that comes in handy.

My picks for a point and shoot would be:

Beyond those, take a look at snapsort.com's best digicam search. That will have the most up to date info, and allow you to do a more specific search based on your needs.


Whether or not you should even get a DSLR camera would depend on the type of photography you will use it for.

Is closing on a subject far away important as well as taking a picture of a wide landscape? You should probably go with a Compact zoom such as the likes of the Canon PowerShot.

If you are willing to approach the subject and want a higher quality image then you should be looking at fixed "prime lens" likes of the new Fuji Pix X 100.

If you are still leaning towards a DSLR camera but want the convenience of not having to change lenses then you will want to get it with an "all-around or walk-about" lens, something that can go from wide-angle to a telephoto range. These lenses are optically inferior so you will have to sacrifice image quality for convenience. You will pay premium for a half decent "walk-about" lens and it will never be as good in a given focal length as a prime lens.

Ultimately, if you want a really smooth, crisp image then we should be discussing lenses not cameras.

You could always get a inexpensive DSLR with a mediocre "walk-about 18 - 200+mm" lens but in this case that's just an over-sized "compact zoom" (what you refer to a digital) camera. However, purchase an inexpensive fast 50mm lens and you will be able to achieve stunning artistic shots of your family with great bokeh and all. (Canon has one of those lenses for $100, couple it with a Canon Rebel and the 18 - 135+mm lens and you will not be disappointed)

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