Camera Buying Guide

Do you want to invest in a quality digital camera or a drone with a camera to capture all the best moments and memories?

Noel Leeming can help you choose the best camera for you with our camera buying guide below.

Why get a camera when you have one on your phone?

For the vast majority of photo opportunities, a smartphone gets the job done just fine. Even so, there are times when a standalone camera becomes necessary: special occasions, travel and vacation, beautiful sunsets, and more. And for those looking for something more, the experience of taking pictures on a real camera is something no smartphone can emulate.

Other reasons to invest in a digital camera:

  • Many digital cameras have built-in real zoom lenses instead of computerised zoom (used by dual-lens phone cameras)
  • Smartphone cameras still can’t match the quality, speed, or control of great digital cameras. Phone cameras have come a long way since their inception, but having a dedicated camera for events & landscapes has not been beaten yet!

Key considerations

Buying your first camera can be a daunting task, especially since there are so many specifications and you don’t know where to start! Consider these points when starting your camera journey:

  • Camera specifications are hard to compare to tell you which camera is best
  • Resolution (megapixels) have little relevance for beginner photographers. Sensor size, autofocus systems, and image stabilisation are much better measures to compare cameras
  • Don’t focus on getting the newest or ‘best’ camera. Focus on getting the right camera for you based on the quality you need, performance you want, and other features & designs.
  • Try them before you buy them! Our Noel Leeming Wairau store and Moorhouse stores both have interactive camera testing stations, so you can try out our most popular cameras and see how they feel in your hands.

Types of cameras

DSLR camera

A DSLR (digital-lens reflex camera) is similar to a point-and-shoot camera in it’s ease-of-use, but the overall quality and response is much better. DSLRs have built-in mirrors so the image you see bounces up through to the viewfinder, which allows the user to see exactly what the lens sees. Once the shutter is pressed, the mirror flips up and the light passes through the lens to the imaging sensor (which is rated in megapixels (MP)).

One of the best features about a DSLR is the ability to switch lenses. Use a telephoto lens to zoom in on far away subjects, a wide-angle lens for landscapes and fisheye lenses for getting creative! The possibilities are endless.

Buy a DSLR camera for:

  • Interchangeable lenses
  • High photo quality
  • Highly responsive
  • Versatile cameras
  • Easily customisable photographs

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Mirrorless camera

Mirrorless cameras are interchangeable lens cameras that don't have the mirror and optical viewfinder that define a DSLR. In most other respects, they're extremely similar: with only a few exceptions, most mirrorless cameras these days are built around the same sized sensors as DSLRs, increasingly have similar lenses available, and can offer the same image quality.

Buy a Mirrorless camera for:

  • A smaller body. Mirrorless are generally smaller than a DSLR because they don’t need a mirror and so the lens can be mounted closer to the sensor.
  • Great videos. Because the camera is mirrorless, you can use your camera the same way to take photos or video.
  • Lenses that are optimised for high-resolution photographs
  • Great autofocus speeds. Mirrorless cameras now have both phase and contrast detection sensors built into the image sensor, and can use both to refine their autofocus.

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Compact camera

You’ve probably owned a compact camera before, if not currently! They are generally the small, simply 35mm cameras with automatic focusing and exposure. Compact System Cameras (CSC), or hybrid cameras, are designed for buyers seeking a camera that offers creative control, high image quality without the bulk of a DSLR.

Compact cameras take good quality photos but because of their contrast detect method of focusing, which is slower than the phase detect method used by DSLRs, compact cameras are not generally purchased for action photography.

The great advantages of owning a compact camera is their exceptionally modest prices, compact design (allowing you to fit it in a small handbag for a night out), and resilient build, makes them a great choice for families or teenagers who may be a bit rougher with the technology. Some models are even waterproof!

Buy a Compact camera for:

  • Modest price point
  • Resilient build
  • Compact, lightweight design
  • Everyday use

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Superzoom camera

Superzoom refers to a fixed-lens camera designed to give you 45x or greater optical zoom without having to invest in a DSLR and the additional lenses. Superzoom cameras let you shoot both wide-angle and telephoto (far away, zoomed in) images without having to swap lenses. This flexibility and their modest price point (when compared to DSLRs) makes them well-suited to photographing sports or distant architecture, making them popular choices for travellers.

Buy a Superzoom camera for:

  • Compact, lightweight design
  • Convenient for shooting on the go
  • Great value for money

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Action camera

Action cameras are small, lightweight, wearable, mountable, portable, and almost always waterproof camcorders. They're useful because you can mount them to pretty much anything—from skateboards, surfboards, bicycles, and drones, to helmets, body parts, and even your pets! Plus, they are designed for capturing action while inside the action.

Many action cameras come with auto-stabilisation which means you can be biking or running and the camera image will remain steady. Video quality is crucial to an epic video, and so 4k resolution will produce the best image but 1080p or 720p will still capture the moment. Most action cameras also have extremely compact designs making them portable for any adventure! Another advantage is that action cameras can connect to your phone or tablet, allowing to instantly replay footage on a bigger screen, and share online on the go.

Get an Action camera for:

  • Action photography and weekend adventures
  • Extremely compact, lightweight design & excellent portability
  • Durable build - Waterproof & dust resistant
  • High quality video
  • Phone or tablet connectivity

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Instant Cameras

One of the most popular types of film photography today is instant photography. It’s a great way to instantly relive memories and stay true to your commitments to print those holiday snaps!

Instant cameras work by developing the photograph within the camera. The film is coated with particles of silver compound that are sensitive to light and the film is inserted into the camera. In colour film there are three layers and each layer is sensitive to a different colour (blue, green, and red). When the photo is captured, the light reacts to each layer and a developer chemical is added to develop the film to create a photograph.

You can buy a photo printer instead if you prefer to take photos with your phone or camera, and print photos at your leisure.

Buy an Instant camera for:

  • Instant prints
  • Fun, interesting, retro-style imagery
  • Nostalgia
  • Great for parties
  • Scrapbooking, crafts, or journalling

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