By David Pierce and Vlad Savov

Cameras are everywhere. There’s one in your laptop, two in your phone, and probably a pair in your tablet that you’ve never used. There’s maybe one in your doorbell, even, or strapped to your head while you bomb the slopes. We’re taking more pictures in more ways and sharing them in more places than ever. Yet most of us use our cameras with the bare minimum of knowledge, just pointing and shooting and hoping for an Instagrammable moment. And even if you’re buying a camera because you’re ready to move beyond your iPhone and take pictures you’ll want to save forever, it’s hard to know what to do.

Camera companies don’t exactly make life easy, either. Spec sheets are laden with alien terms like ISO and f-numbers, and once you manage to get a grasp on what they mean, you’re still confronted with a spectacular variety of options. So we’ve put together this guide to help you navigate the quagmire of excess information, acronyms, and jargon. It’ll enlighten you about which specs are important when, and what cameras are suitable for whom. Sound good? Then read on!