choosing compact camera singapore

As mentioned on the previous page, we’ll be going through some of the features camera manufacturers often promote in their product pages and specification sheets that may be important in your purchasing decision.


Once upon a time, camera manufacturers sought to cram as many pixels into their cameras as possible, trying to fool the unsuspecting customer into thinking that megapixels equate image quality. That’s not entirely true, of course. More megapixels merely means a bigger image, not necessarily a better image. After a certain point, the additional megapixels become unnecessary, and over the past few years, we’ve reached an equilibrium of about 16 megapixels.

Despite saying this, I would like to add that perhaps having more megapixels may become useful in the near future. Displays these days are starting to push 4K (8.3 megapixels) resolution, and 8K (33.2 megapixels) may not be too far-off. If you’ve noticed, camera images usually don’t look that good when zoomed to 100%, and thus most images you see on the Internet are resized versions that look sharper in comparison. For example, I might resize a photograph on my phone camera to 50% for it to look sufficiently sharp. In order to do so while maintaining a 4K resolution on a resized image, I would need a camera that has 33.2 megapixels.

So, while megapixels may not be the most important factor right now, it’s safer to opt for something on the high side if your budget permits. Something 12 megapixels or more, at the very least.

Image Sensor Size

(Yep, I know I mentioned this a lot on the first page.)

A simplified view of how a digital camera works is that photons hit the camera sensor, and in turn the camera translates it to pixels. With a larger sensor, the camera sensor is able to absorb a larger number of photons in a given amount of time, so you’ll be able to see photographs that would otherwise be pitch-black on a camera with a smaller sensor. A larger sensor also means lesser interference, all else being constant, leading to clearer, less noisy images.

As mentioned on page 2, a larger image sensor also allows you to obtain a ‘bokeh’ effect more easily.

To get an idea of how the various image sensor sizes stack up, refer to the image below, which I took from Wikipedia (click to enlarge):

(Image Source: Wikipedia)
(Image Source: Wikipedia)
Aperture Size

You may be curious about the ‘F’s you see in camera spec sheets. That indicates the aperture size of the lens. The aperture is the small opening between the lens and the image sensor where photons flow through. A smaller ‘F’ number indicates a larger aperture size. A larger aperture size allows more photons to flow through, leading to better low-light performance. It also enables a better ‘bokeh’ effect.

In spec sheets, there are often two F numbers quoted. The first F number is the aperture size at the wide end of the zoom range, and the second is the aperture size at the telephoto end. In most lens, the aperture size gets narrower as the zoom range increases. This means you’ll need to adjust the ISO (which leads to noisier images), or decrease the shutter speed (which leads to more blurry images) to compensate. Ideally, both numbers should be as low as possible. For a basis of comparison, the Sony RX100 Mk3’s widest aperture is F1.8 at the wide end and F2.8 at the telephoto end.

Shutter Speed and ISO Speed

The shutter speed controls the amount of time the shutter stays open. A slower shutter speed gives rise to more blurry images, especially if the subject is moving. On the other hand, a slow shutter speed captures more light and may be useful in capturing fireworks, stars, and auroras.

Meanwhile, ISO speed was a metric that was used back in the film days, but has carried over to the digital era. A higher ISO speed means more gain. That means brighter images, at the expense of noise. Large sensor cameras are able to deal with high ISO speeds (e.g. 6,400 or 12,800) without exhibiting much noise. The advantage of a higher ISO speed (with little noise penalty, of course) is that you don’t need such a big aperture or a slow shutter speed to be able to capture the same amount of light.

Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)

This is a really important feature to have. Some mirrorless cameras feature OIS in the lens, however, so be sure to get a lens that comes with it. OIS enables you to lower the shutter speed by one or two stops, while not exhibiting camera shake. It really adds to the flexibility of your camera, especially in low-light situations where you prefer not to use flash.

P,A,S,M Controls

P,A,S,M stands for Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual respectively. Program mode allows you to adjust white balance, ISO speed and some other settings. Aperture Priority, as its name suggests, allows you to set your preferred aperture setting, while it handles shutter speed for you. Similarly, shutter priority allows you to set shutter speed while aperture size is determined for you. Manual, on the other hand, gives you full control over both shutter speed and aperture, as well as everything else that can be controlled.

While many of us are comfortable with Auto or Program mode (which is found in virtually all cameras), if you’re looking for a little more flexibility, try to get a camera that at least offers Shutter Priority, or better still, full manual mode. This allows you to take excellent night and scenery shots like the fireworks and auroras mentioned above.

Hybrid Autofocus

Conventional autofocus in a non-DSLR is contrast-based, which can be slow at times but usually pretty accurate. On the other hand, DSLRs have this feature called phase-detection autofocus which makes autofocus really quick. Today, manufacturers have brought phase-detection autofocus to some higher-end compact cameras, mostly in the mirrorless segment. I own a Nikon J1 which has this functionality, and autofocus is really, really quick. Though, it won’t work as well as DSLRs in low-light situations (because the mirror, which is absent in compact cameras, helps greatly in the phase-detection process), which is why they fall back to contrast-based detection in such situations. And the combined use of contrast and phase-detection naturally leads you to ‘hybrid autofocus’.

If you engage in sport photography, or are simply sick and tired of slow autofocusing, then make sure you opt for a camera that has hybrid autofocus capabilities.

Electronic Viewfinder

The electronic viewfinder works similarly to the optical viewfinder in a DSLR, just that the image in the viewfinder is basically an LCD screen. Some people swear by this, and it’s probably pretty helpful in bright daylight situations, but I don’t consider it to be essential (though you may feel otherwise!).

Wi-Fi and GPS

Last but not least are what I consider to be the ‘niceties’: wireless control. They’re not really essential, but they can get really convenient especially when you transfer images to your computer on a regular basis. Opening up the memory card slot every now and then may lead to wear and tear, and Wi-Fi helps mitigate this. Of course, you can just as easily purchase a Wi-Fi enabled SD card.

As for GPS, I guess it makes it really convenient for geo-tagging, though I doubt it is a killer feature for most.


Phew! This is probably the longest article ever published on Buyfromwhere. Hopefully you know a little more about cameras now, and are better equipped to make your purchasing decision. If you still have any doubts, or would like to correct any factual errors, feel free to leave a comment below!

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