There are sensors to compare and megapixels to count. Depending on your budget and your skill level, there may be lenses to evaluate, and viewfinders and screens to try out at the local electronics store. There are always reviews to read. (And camera shopping mistakes to avoid.) But whether you’re comparing two cameras or haven’t even begun to think about how to narrow down your options, you should know that there are a few features you really don’t need on a new camera.
The problem is something akin to the dilemma of buying a new smartphone. There are features that you absolutely, definitely want on a phone. (Not just because they’re new and exciting, but because they’ll give you the closest thing to a guarantee that your device will be fast, fun, and easy to use.) But there are also features that you really don’t need in a smartphone. They’re often redundant or unnecessary, or they’ll cost you a lot more than they’re worth. Or, they may simply be more about marketing than about real-life functionality.
Features run the same sort of gamut when it comes to cameras. There are some features that you’ll definitely want on a new camera, whether you’re shopping for a point-and-shoot or a DSLR or something that falls somewhere in between. But there are also some features that either won’t help you create better images, or will just cost you too much, particularly if you’re looking to stick to a strict budget. Read on to check out the features we’d recommend avoiding if you’re in the market for a new camera.
1. More megapixels for the sake of more megapixels
Megapixels aren’t the most important specification to look at when you’re comparing cameras | Carl Court/Getty Images
It’s a common misconception that focusing on pixel count is a sure way to pick the best camera. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single specification that can tell you which camera is right for you, and that’s especially true of the camera’s megapixel count. For context, one megapixel contains one million pixels. But knowing exactly how many pixels a camera’s sensor contains isn’t quite as useful as you might think.
It’s true that the component you need to understand when you’re trying to figure out which camera will take the best photos is the sensor. But looking at the number of megapixels isn’t a reliable way to figure out which sensor is the best. The sensor, which captures the light and is the logical counterpoint to film in a digital camera, translates the light that enters the camera into an electronic signal. The image processor uses that signal to create the image.
The larger the sensor, the bigger the pixels can be. And the bigger the pixels, the more light they can collect (which results in better photos for you). A camera with a larger sensor will generally take better images than a camera with a smaller sensor, even if they feature the same number of megapixels. The pixels on the bigger sensor will be larger and let in more light, which will yield superior images with better dynamic range and less noise. This makes it obvious: More megapixels aren’t always better. And that leads us to our next piece of advice.