Member-only content

Digital cameras 2012 test

We compare DSLRs, Micro Four Thirds, Four Thirds and some bridge cameras, including models from Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Leica.
Learn more
  • Updated:26 Mar 2013

04.What to look for

Essential digital SLR features

• Effective resolution (Megapixels) All these cameras have at least 10 megapixels, which is more than enough for A3-sized photo printing. We list effective megapixels in our table, which gives a reasonable indication of the maximum number of pixels the camera uses to create an image.

• Memory cards Aside from making sure the type of memory you buy will suit your camera (see memory type in the table), the most important aspect to consider is how much storage you need on each card. You should factor in about $10 to $15 for an 8GB storage card, which is a good size for a DSLR, with capacities up to 64GB or more available.

• Video output A video connection port allows you to look at your pictures on a TV, usually using a cable supplied with the camera to connect to the video input of the TV. HDMI connections can carry sound as well.

• Viewfinder type All the DSLR cameras we tested have an optical or electronic viewfinder that you look through to compose your photo, as well as an LCD monitor on the back of the camera to view images or change menu controls. Some of the Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds cameras don't come with a viewfinder, or you have to buy them separately. 

• Liveview This is the ability to take a photo by looking at your subject through the LCD screen on the back. While it’s been available on compact digital cameras for years, it’s a recent feature for DSLRs and isn’t available on all models. Liveview can be very useful when you need to hold the camera at an awkward angle to take the shot.

• Image stabilisation Optical image stabilisation can help prevent shaky images by making adjustments internally for the camera’s movement. Some cameras also have a mechanical system - the next best option after optical image stabilisation, where the camera's sensor moves to counter any movement. Electronic image stabilisation is performed by the camera’s processor and is generally the worst type and not of much use.

• Exposure/playback This is usually accessed via a selection dial or button and changes exposure settings to suit different situations, such as a snow scene, backlit, landscape shot or indoor photography, as well as a play mode to preview photos already taken. Macro, landscape and flash modes can be selected with a single press of a button or turn of a dial.

• Preselection of aperture/shutter speed Aperture controls the depth of field in your picture, allowing you to determine how much of the image is in or out of focus. Setting the shutter speed is handy if you’re taking photos of fast-moving objects or to compensate for low lighting. All the DSLR cameras we tested have this feature, which is not as common on compact cameras,

• Delete This button [use trash icon] allows you to look at the previous photo and remove it without having to switch to review mode.

• Manual focusing is useful for situations where the automated function isn’t up to it, such as when the light gets low or the subject is behind glass.

• White balance Light comes in many colours — fluorescent is usually greenish, tungsten (normal household bulbs) is red/orange and daylight is blue to red, depending on the time of day. Automatic white balance makes adjustments for these most of the time, however you'll sometimes get a better result if you manually override the automatic setting, which you can do with all the models we tested.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.