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I am a StackOverflow user and new to this forum. So, I'm sorry if I'm asking unrelated, ultra amateur question :)

OK, my only camera at the moment is my iPhone4's! And I don't think seriously of the photos that I take with it.

I used to have a Sony DSLR (don't remember the model, but it was a fancy one), and I liked the simplicity of taking photos (point_and_shoot) with it in trips, gatherings, etc.

On the other hand, I was always amazed by professional photos taken by semi-serious photographers. So, I took a basic photography course last year.

Trying to do the homeworks with the manual mode of my DSLR Sony during that course was annoying. Plus, every example the instructor would make was always with Cannon or Nikon and again it wasn't really fun to map it to similar functionality on my DSLR. So, I was sort of discouraged to take photography seriously after that course. Now I'm not sure was it me not being the type for photography, or my annoying experience with the DSLR!

TLTR;

  • I don't have a single camera and I need one because I like to have nice pictures from trips.

  • I do enjoy "watching" good photos taken by pros or amateur photographers , and I "wish" I could take good photos too, but I don't know if I am the type of person, you know, to put the effort, have the patience, be eager to learn all the editing magics, etc.!

What should I buy now, to not regret wasting the money later? :)

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    At the moment, this is far too general a question for us to be able to give a helpful answer - the requirements at the moment aren't much more than "I want a camera". – Philip Kendall Feb 16 '15 at 8:38
  • But I would need to start from general! First know if I should choose SLR or Compact, and then go to further details of what Compact/SLR camera will fit my needs! – Yalda Feb 16 '15 at 8:44
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    We can't tell you want you need unless you're able to refine your requirements. Until you can better articulate what you want to improve about the photos your phone can take, the correct answer is almost certainly "buy nothing". – Philip Kendall Feb 16 '15 at 8:46
  • @philip we can provide some guidance about the advantages of each class. It is also pretty clear that the OP wants something simple yet with the ability to take 'polished' photographs. – damned truths Feb 16 '15 at 9:05
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    The thing is, there are a lot more categories than these, and actually some of those might be better for what you really need. Any answer is going to have to basically be a book. – mattdm Feb 16 '15 at 15:45
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Before I start: Past a certain point (where the camera does not limit the ability of the photographer to take the photos they want to), it is the photographer who makes a photograph good (with composition etc.), NOT the camera.

This question is one only you can answer completely, however, as always, guidance on where to begin can help. Below I have made a brief summary of the main points for each class.

Compact

A compact camera (do not confuse with a Compact System Camera, which are much the same as a DSLR) is generally easy to use with many automatic functions. It has a fixed lens (i.e. you cannot choose what range of focal lengths to have available), often with the ability to zoom from moderate wide angle to moderate telephoto. Without the ability to choose lenses it is often more difficult to achieve special effects.

Compact cameras generally also have much smaller sensors than DSLRs and so, as an unavoidable consequence, have more noise at high ISO and less ability to achieve narrow depth of field (often used to enhance artistic appeal).

Despite often being viewed as only for the casual happy snapper or not-at-all serious photographer, many compacts are now being designed for more advanced groups, for example Sony's RX100 or RX1.

In Summary

Advantages:

  • Small and light
  • Easy to use
  • generally cheapest

Disadvantages:

  • less flexibility in regards to lenses
  • less manual control
  • less control of artistic effects

Useful for:

  • complete Beginners
  • anyone without an interest in the artistic side of photography
  • anyone who wish to learn about composition etc. without the need to learn about DSLRs.

Film SLR

Without an deep understanding of manual functions and the more complex functions of a camera, a film SLR is probably not for you.

Digital SLR

A DSLR is generally larger than a compact camera and has the ability to change lenses, allowing focal lengths of less than 10mm all the way to 800mm (and more if you are willing to spend A LOT of money). Most consumer grade DSLRs include automatic functions to make it easy to use the camera. These Cameras will be the most flexible and provide the best base for moving to more advanced (and expensive) cameras. Consumer grade DSLRs are comparable in cost to the upper tier of compact cameras, however tend not to be as easy to carry and transport. These cameras have better noise performance at high ISO than the lower tiers of compact cameras and have better control over artistic effects.

"Professional grade" DSLRs tend to be far more expensive and have less automatic features, instead requiring a better knowledge of the principles by which cameras work.

A Compact System Camera is similar to a DSLR, except does not have and optical viewfinder or mirror, but it can have many different lenses. They are generally smaller than DSLRs, with comparable image quality and flexibilty, however are easier to store and transport.

In summary

Advantages:

  • greater flexibility
  • more control of artistic effects
  • greater room for improving photographic skills

Disadvantages:

  • costlier
  • bigger and bulkier
  • often more complex to use

Useful for:

  • someone wishing to advance their photography skills
  • someone who would like to have a large amount of artistic control over photographs
  • someone who wishes to have a large amount of flexibility
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    Another advantage of a compact: it weights next to nothing, so you don't have to think whether you want to carry it or not, you just do. A DSLR takes some more will to grab, so you will use it less. On the other hand, if you are photographing people, the bigger the camera, the more seriously they take you. – Davidmh Feb 16 '15 at 13:15
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In general, I think you want something that has manual and semi-manual modes easily available so you can experiment and grow those skills, but still have full auto and be something you will carry around all the time.

Certain classes of cameras have manual settings, and others have dropped them completely so it's hard to find a pocket p&s that can go manual.

How large/heavy will you carry around? You might be led to the more compact end of things just so you'll use it (when not on vacation).

Meanwhile, the traditional teaching and culture of photography came from decades of SLR popularity, so best matches DSLR which are mase with the express intention of being like the old ones in a number of important ways. As mentioned in your Q, you would be best off using the same as what your teacher has. Older models can be found cheap, as can some kit lenses, and have the same general control system as a newer model of the same brand and tier.

  • Upvote and thanks :) (Still don't have enough credit to upvote) – Yalda Feb 16 '15 at 8:45
  • A good teacher could teach the general principles of photography, which can apply to any camera. Not just how to use a particular make/model. – vclaw Feb 16 '15 at 12:25
  • The OP said that figuring out how the general principle worked on his camera detracted from his enjoyment. I suppose it may be all the modern computerish features and menus, not the basic "this knob is shutter and that knob is aperture". – JDługosz Feb 16 '15 at 12:29
  • @jdlugosz You're right. I didn't have problems with general principles. But my Sony DSLR was probably even more "computerish" than Nikon and Cannon DSLRs, and it wasn't fun working with it. – Yalda Feb 17 '15 at 7:10
  • It is often noted that cameras have poor UI design in the menu structure. That is used to appeal for the ability to load apps that then let 3rd parties improve upon the usage. Already many (newer) cameras of different brands can be operated by universal USB connections. (My new Sony QX1 can only be operated by wire) – JDługosz Feb 17 '15 at 7:46

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