Camera Buying Guide UAE
The moment you start wishing your smartphone’s photos looked better, you know it’s time to buy a camera. Here, we went through hundreds of cameras available in the UAE and divided them into 9 different types, with prices starting as low as a few hundred dirhams up to tens of thousands.
First, some starting advice
You will always end up making a trade-off on specs: Unless you have a very high budget, at some point you will need to decide whether you want more pixels, more zoom, higher quality and so on. If a camera has the highest megapixels/resolution or includes the biggest zoom, it doesn’t make that camera the best. We are not really looking for those features in a camera when we want the best one.
Don’t choose a camera just because it matches one of your needs: It’s almost impossible to find a camera that beats all the major part that we look for in a camera: performance, photo quality, design and features. While it is possible that there are cameras that can beat all these parts, they are definitely not available at a pocket friendly price. For example, something that you believe is best for you may not give you the photo quality you look for, while having enough pixels is enough for pixel peepers. It depends both on your priorities and the four important thing that we mentioned earlier.
Try the device before making any final decision: Make sure you can handle it comfortably and it’s portable enough for you to take it anywhere with you. It’s important that you find it easy to use and get quick access to all the features that you are going to use every now and then. Some of the touch screen models include a lot of great features. However, if it’s not easy to learn, those features will be completely useless.
Understanding the Key Specs
There are two things to know when learning about lens: focal length and aperture. The focal length usually reveals the amount of scene you are able to cover using the lens and magnification of a picture. It’s measured in millimeters and things will look big when the number increases which also leads to taking a lot of space in the frame. A zoom lens can help users to cover multiple focal lengths and its spec shows the focal length from longest to shortest. For example: a 20-100mm lens includes 5x zoom. Prime lens include single focal length and pancake primes are flat lens. The focal length that are usually imprinted on the camera will not give you the exact length. Crop factor is only important when you have interchangeable lens camera and you are looking for lenses.
- Lens about 30mm to 70mm are known as normal lens for suitable for taking snapshots and portraits
- Lens about 70mm to 300mm are telephoto lens which are good for arena, portraits and sports photography
- Lens greater than 300mm are super telephoto lens which are used for wildlife, sports photographs
- Lens around 18mm to 30mm are wide-angle ones which are great for street, landscape, group photography
- Lens less than 18mm are ultra wide angle ones which can be used for large scenes where lens distortion can add appeal
This is just another word for megapixels. The resolution number can help you to understand the number of pixels a camera is going to use for creating an image. All the modern cameras out there include more than enough for decent photography. So, you can ignore this spec when looking for one. It’s a good idea to go for a combo of high resolutions and cheap cameras as they are quite slow when it comes to processing large images which is good.
Also referred as f number or f-stop, this is the size of the opening part that allows the light to come in. The larger the aperture is, the smaller the number you will see. The largest aperture mostly depends on the zoom range. The maximum aperture in lens specs are usually listed at the longest and shortest focal lengths. When the focal length says 18-55mm f3.5-5.6, it means the shortest aperture is f 5.6 at 55mm and f3.5 at 18mm means it’s the widest. The sharpness in the behind and front of the subject will increase as the aperture size increases. A lens is fast or bright if it’s wide while a narrow one is slow.
Sensor size and type
This is what produce the pixels which then turns into an image. It’s the array of photo receptors dimensions that can help your camera to create better photo quality. The bigger the sensor, the better photo quality you will get. However, the same goes for the size of a camera. Large sensors are both expensive and large in size which means it will require more space. Sensor sizes are usually mentioned in two different ways: with labels or with actual dimensions mentioned in millimeters. The labels don’t actually show the specific size. For example, 1/1.7 inch doesn’t mean 0.59 inch. However, it’s accurate if you think of it relatively: like 2/3-inch is bigger than 1/1.7-inch. CMOS are currently the most popular while BSI CMOS are usually used in compact cameras. Cheap cameras including point-and-shoots usually use CCD which doesn’t produce good photo quality like expensive CMOS sensors.
We see this feature titled as ISO sensitivity in camera specs. The bigger the number, the better that camera is capable of capturing in low light places. However, it also comes with more noise, the colored speckles that can ruin a perfect night shot. Some camera includes noise suppression but it will also lead to smeary look. You just have to do some guess work here. For example, a camera that mentions up to ISO 6400 will create good quality images only up to ISO 800.
It’s difficult to find viewfinders in most of the latest cameras nowadays. However, they are available in advanced models. They can be really useful when you fail to see the LCD screen under a bright light or the sunlight. There are usually three kinds of viewfinder: one can give you the view directly, one requires seeing through the lens view (TTL), EVF or electronic view finder and optical viewfinder which is also TTL (you see them in dSLRs). Optical viewfinders can help you to shoot action perfectly while EVFs are good for recording video as it can you an idea of how the photo will turn out. Some viewfinder include diopter adjustment which can help users to fine tune it.
Image Stabilization (IS)
This feature is what hides the camera shaking from your photos. There are two types of IS physically: in-lens optical and in-camera sensor shift. Optical IS works better when recording a video while sensor-shift gives you the freedom to look for interchangeable-lens that doesn’t include IS. Cheap cameras that include electronic IS actually use a combination of higher ISO sensitivity and fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur. However, it also means more image noise and low performance in place with low lighting.
Battery life and type
Cameras with lithium ion rechargeable battery pack offer more battery life compared to AA-size battery ones. A camera that require AA batteries are usually large megazoom ones and lower-end compacts. You can look for what the battery has been rated for a number of shots which is a specification standardized by CIPA.
If you are mostly going to capture holiday videos or things that include your kids, 1080p video at 30 framerate will be enough. Here, 1080 means 1920×1080 pixel resolution which is also known as Full HD, while the 30fps means frame per second. Cameras that can capture videos at 60fps support creating slow-motion videos. Video recording also includes bit rate like audio files and the more amount of bit rate, the better the video quality will be. It refers to the amount of data encoded in the video per second.
Best Cameras by Category
Point and shoot
Budget range: 600-1800 AED
Designed for: People who just want a camera better than their smartphone’s one with good zoom lens and photo quality.
Key features to look for: small sensor, easy to take anywhere, maximum 12x zoom lens.
Performance and image quality: These cameras are great for capturing short video clips and attractive images for social media. It works quite fast which means you can capture moving objects easily like your kids in action, while playing.
Budget range: 600-2300AED
Designed for: For those who want an upgrade to their smartphone cameras with a better zoom that can help them to capture far away things easily.
Key features to look for: Easy to carry, minimum zoom range 16x, small sensor and includes both manual and automatic operations.
Performance and image quality: Slightly better than the point-and-shoot ones but good for capturing moving things and short video clips.
Budget range: 1000-2500AED
Designed for: For those who are eager to shoot close-ups and capture peoples’ face from really really faraway places.
Key features to look for: zoom range above 20x, small or medium sensor and includes both automatic and manual operation. Some cameras are titled as bridge cameras which means bridging the gap between dSLRs and compact ones. However, they are just like point and shoot and won’t really work like dSLR. For those who are looking for less expensive models, you won’t find EVF feature inside.
Performance and image quality: The video and photo quality is similar to the point-and-shoot ones. It’s also good for capturing moving objects but best for slow-moving ones.
Zoom requirements: Zoom is a key feature in a camera that allows you to get closer to your image subject without a lot of movement. For example, when taking pictures of a 100 story building using a 250mm zoom, you will be able to see the rooftop of that building. If you use a 1,000mm zoom, you will be able to detect people who are standing on that rooftop from a picture taken of that rooftop. To help photographers take wide-angle shots of a place entirely and also take close-ups from long distance, there are lenses available with bigger and really bigger zoom ranges. The most difficult part of using telephoto range at extreme is to keep the subject you are capturing inside the frame. Moreover, a lens that calls itself jack of all trades (focal lengths here) is actually not good at any focal length. Usually 20x is more than enough.
Budget range: 1500-12000AED
Designed for: This type of camera is perfect for those who love taking pictures and find it interesting to do experiment with settings. Some cameras also include a small number of automatic features.
Key features: not too big and can be carried easily, lens attached to body (fixed), large or medium sensor and small zooming feature. Some of these cameras include optic or electronic viewfinders with some automatic operation and mostly manual ones.
Performance and image quality: For those who want to sell images or short video clips or want artistic images, this one is good. However, it’s not really perfect for shooting action stuff.
Entry-level Mirrorless Interchangeable-lens Camera
Budget range: 1500-3000AED (comes with lens)
Designed for: Who want better image quality than compact ones but not interested to buy large cameras.
Key features: Supports swapping lens, There is a wide range of sensor sizes starting from compact camera like sensor to as big as dSLR like sensor. Some of these cameras include EVF as optional and they are designed for a little bit of manual operation and mostly automatic ones.
Performance and image quality: Images captured using these cameras can be compared to dSLRs that are in entry level range. Video quality is also better than the ones you get using a point and shoot or a compact. It’s great for capturing subjects in motion if you are ready to accept some shots missing.
Entry level dSLR
Budget range: 1500-4000AED
Designed for: For those who is not ready to compromise both better quality and speed compared to compact and also want an optical viewfinder for shooting.
Key features: Supports interchanging lens, quite large APS-C sensor, includes either automatic or manual operation and optical viewfinder through the lens.
Performance and image quality: Photo quality can be compared to entry level ILCs while the quality of video mostly depends on the brand. It’s good for capturing images of pets and kids in action.
Budget range: 2500ED+ (For body only)
Designed for: It’s good for both advanced photographers and professionals who are not ready to spend too much money behind cameras. It can give users good quality and speed.
Key features: Big sensor which is either full-frame or large APS-C, supports interchanging lens and created for managing manual operations. These cameras also include TTL optical viewfinder.
Performance and image quality: Good for people who want to take artistic photo and also interested in selling them. Photo quality is comparable to prosumer dSLRs. Video quality differs depending on the brand but is suitable for indie video capturers. It’s also good for capturing fast, moving subjects.
Enthusiast Mirrorless Interchangeable-lens Camera
Budget range: 2500AED+
Designed for: People who love capturing videos or images and love to do experience with settings and changing lenses can try this type.
Key features: Supports interchanging lens, easy to fit inside a pocketbook, the size of the sensor ranges from compact camera ones to the ones you see in dSLRs, includes some automatic operation and mostly manual ones. This type of camera also includes EVF.
Performance and image quality: Photo quality can be compared to prosumer dSLRs and is good for capturing artistic images. People who are interested to sell their images can also try this one. Video quality depends on brand but is suitable for indie cameraman. It’s good for capturing moving objects.
Budget range: 6000AED+
Designed for: For those who are looking for a fully configurable camera with durability, reliability and consistency. A camera that provides top notch images and also performs great when shooting fast action stuff.
Key features: All the operations are completely manual, includes viewfinder, and supports interchanging lens and sensor with full frame or large APS-C (the bigger the better).
Performance and image quality: Image quality is perfect for even selling to buyers with great knowledge in photography including videos. Performance is great for capturing actions like sports or a group of birds flying and it’s quite fast.