Getting The Right Digital Camera For You
There are really great advantages in digital photography:
You can shoot till you drop
Taking digital images on your camera has no implication other then you have captured the image. Then you can review each image on the small screen on the back of your camera. You can shoot as many pictures of the same scene as you like - store them in memory - delete the ones that you do not like and print the one(s) you like.
Each image is a winner
Alternatively you can put an image up on a computer screen or email it to all you friends - can black mail be this easy?
Print at home or in a lab
You can print your image at home on a photo printer - turn your image into a greeting card, calendar, or a whole other list of photo memorabilia. Or hand over the job to the professionals.
So what digital camera should I buy?
A question we are often asked is 'what sort of camera should I buy'? There are literally hundreds of different models available from a large number of well known manufacturers.
This is a difficult question, which might be answered in a complex way. Rather, here we have tried to emphasise the salient points and assist you in your decision.
Key components of the camera, which will influence your buying decision will include: What do I want to use the camera for? How big an image can I print? Does the camera have a zoom? What size and weight is the camera?
How big an image can I print?
If your objective is to take a camera on holiday, take it onto the beach and up a mountain and to print memorable images of your time on 6 x 4 inch prints, then do not spend a lot of money on your camera. A small compact camera with an image resolution of 2 or 3 Mega Pixels will be adequate for your needs and should you drop the camera or get sand in its workings then you will be pleased that you did not spend too much money. More serious photographers will want to make bigger pints or selectively enlarge. They will want a higher image resolution and will benefit from a zoom lens. So - what is this MegaPixel thing? Well it is the image size - quality - taken by the camera. The higher the number - the better the quality and the larger the prints which can be made.
Does the camera have a zoom?
In past times zoom lenses were regarded as second best because of their distortion and fogging. This is no longer the case - zoom lenses are truly brilliant. 3 x zooms are common and 6 x zooms feature on the more expensive cameras. So you can have a single lens which covers both wide angle views and provides a short telephoto. All very usefully packaged in a lightweight camera.
Beware of Digital Zoom. This is a technique, which zooms in on a portion of the image by processing the picture and interpolating the image between pixels - a technique which always produces inferior results.
What is the size and weight of the camera?
Digital cameras do not have to be bulky or heavy. Indeed there are some very small models available, which will fit inside a handbag. However the more sophisticated gear tends to be bulkier - and heavier. Professional models with interchangeable lenses and external flash guns will require their own hold all.
Making the Right Selection
There is a fantastic range of digital cameras available on the market. Nonetheless manufacturers focus on their customers and target specific models at certain sectors of the market. The table below summarises the information, which we have discussed.
A fixed lens camera priced at less than £50 [Or $90 USD] which takes digital images of up to 1 MegaPixel - will be adequate for computer or television screen display.
A compact design camera with a fixed lens - cost up to £150 [Or $280 USD] - taking images of up to 2 MegaPixel - will generate good quality images suitable for printing up to 4 x 5 inches
Another compact design but with a 2 - 1 zoom lens and costing between £200 and £400 [$350 - $800 USD] taking images or between 3 and 5 MegaPixel which will be suitable for printing up to 10 x 8 inches
A SLR style camera with a 5 - 1 zoom lens costing between £600 and £1000 [$1000 - $2000 USD] and producing images of up to 6 MegaPixel which will produce prints of up to 12 x 16 inches
An SLR camera with interchangeable lenses and costing upwards of £1,500 [Or around $3000 USD], which will take images of up to 8 MegaPixel, which will print to poster size.
SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex. These are cameras, which do not have a separate viewfinder. Rather the operator looks through the lens of the camera. Momentarily before the shutter is opened a mirror flicks up and the light passing through the lens is allowed to hit the sensitive surface of the camera. In many cases the lens at the front of the camera can be changed for another type. A variation on this presents the image as seen by the camera in a digital liquid crystal display either on the back of the camera or through a viewfinder.
Flash. Many of the inexpensive cameras will have on board flash - remember that these will only work up to about 10 feet, and they might produce red eye. More expensive cameras will expect the user to use an independent external flashgun.
Most digital cameras come with interface cables and PC software bundled. So if you have a PC at home or work you can 'download' images from your camera to your PC, do basic editing such as removing red eye and delete the images you do not want! Your valued images you can store for future generations on CD Rom or another recording medium.
Digital Memory Media
Sometimes known as Smart Card, Compact Flash, Multi Media Card, Memory Stick. These are the memory chips on which your images are stored - some people refer to them as digital film. The larger the capacity of the media, the more images it can store. So buy one larger then you need - for now. Images can be deleted from the media - but back them up on a CD Rom or DVD before you erase the card.
Final Hint - Keep lots of batteries handy. Digital cameras use a lot of power!
Christopher Thomas is a keen photographer and company director of Viewlink Ltd based in Amersham, Uk. The company provides digital photo developing for both amateur and commercial photographers. For more articles by Christopher Thomas please visit the company website at view-link.com/guides.html
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