Choosing a Digital Camera

Choosing a Digital CameraOver the next few issues we will explore the topic of digital cameras, what to buy, what features and how best to use, what accessories, what controls are needed, how to email and print etc. Whether you are ready to buy a digital camera or are interested in getting the most out of the one you own, we have the help you need right here.

CHOOSING A DIGITAL CAMERA

Choosing a digital camera is exciting because you get to explore and play with the latest gadgets loaded with cool features. Your main goal is to find a camera that lets you easily take and use pictures and that fits in your price range. You have to decide whether you can handle a totally cool, techno-loaded camera or would be better off with an easy-to-use one or something in-between. Things to consider include.

EXPENSE

The cost of snapshot digital cameras ranges from $100 to $1,000. Those at the low end give low-resolution pictures suitable for e-mail and monitor viewing but not for prints. Those at the high end give exceptional quality pictures and often have advanced camera functionality.

You’ll have to find the right balance of cost and capability. Watch the prices. When new models come out, the prices of older models are often lowered, making them a good deal. And don’t forget to add in the cost ($50-$75) of a few accessories, such as extra batteries and memory cards.

EASE OF USE

Do you take family snapshots or do you photograph a variety of subjects, from race cars to school plays to wildlife? As camera capability increases so do cost and complexity. With a complex camera, you’ll need to read the manual—maybe twice. You’ll have to practice with the camera to learn its many features. But once mastered, you can take incredible digital pictures. With a simple snapshot camera, you’ll be taking good snapshots minutes after opening the box. And should your Aunt Em ask to borrow it, she’ll be able to take pictures, too. But neither of you will have quite the versatility and capability of a more advanced camera.

SIZE AND STYLING

Do you covet a sleek, stylish camera that looks cool and slips into your pocket? Or do you want a practical camera with large, well-positioned controls? Find a camera that fits your style, but don’t ignore the trade-offs. The main trade-off of small, stylish cameras is that the controls are harder to find and can be difficult to manipulate. The main trade-off of a bigger camera is its size. You’ll be less likely to take it with you. Whereas, you may carry a small pocket camera almost everywhere you go and get some unusual pictures.

WORKING WITH COMPUTER

If your computer is fairly new, the camera will almost certainly work with it. But don’t take a chance. Before you buy a camera, review the specs to find out what the computer requirements are. Nearly every camera requires a USB (universal serial bus) connection on the computer.

DIGITAL CAMERA FEATURES

Digital cameras abound with software-based features and functions. Such features can be useful but are usually less important than hardware features. For example, every camera you consider should have a built-in flash and a viewfinder for framing the picture. Avoid cameras that force you to use the battery-draining display screen to compose pictures. One important software feature is the plus/minus brightness control so you can adjust picture brightness during picture taking. Of the dozens of camera features, focus on the ones described below.

RESOLUTION

Resolution—determines picture quality
Resolution is a key factor in how big you can print and how much you can crop your pictures. It also affects camera cost. The higher the resolution, the greater the cost. For general picture taking, we recommend a camera with a 2 to 3 mega pixel resolution. Read on if you want to know more about resolution.
In addition to a camera’s maximum resolution, review its other resolution settings. Many offer a range of settings, which can be convenient to fit more pictures on a picture card or save time making later adjustments. For instance, if you know you’ll only e-mail a particular picture, you could set the resolution setting low and not have to resize the picture later.
Resolution Maximum print size

1 megapixel 5 x 7 inches
2 megapixels 8 x 10 inches
3 megapixels 11 x 14 inches
4 megapixels 20 x 30 inches

Resolution is the digital version of square footage. In other words, how many pixels (picture elements) are there on the sensor that creates the picture? The sensor is the digital equivalent of film—only it is used over and over. The number of horizontal pixels expresses resolution on the sensor multiplied by the number of vertical pixels.
Resolution for a typical sensor might be as follows: 2,160 horizontal pixels x 1,440 vertical pixels = 3,110,400 pixels. Or in the language of digital cameras – 3.1 megapixels (mega equals million).
This affects quality and versatility
is it made of glass or plastic? Glass gives much better quality pictures. Is it a zoom lens or a non-zoom lens? A zoom lens adds costs but also great versatility. With a zoom lens, you can magnify subjects or shrink them to include more area in the picture. If you choose a zoom lens, what is the zoom range? 2X? 3X? More? The greater the zoom range, the greater its

TYPE OF LENS

versatility.
Digital zoom shouldn’t be an important factor in choosing a camera. In effect, it crops the picture as you take it, reducing resolution of the picture and the size you can print it.

CLOSE-UP MODE

Lets you photograph small subjects
Many digital cameras have a special close-up mode that opens the door to exploring miniature worlds. You can take close-ups of flowers, jewellery, stamps, coins, and other small objects. Not only is it a great way for online auction sellers to show their wares, it’s a desirable feature for the rest of us, too.

MANUAL MODE

This gives you extra creative control; many cameras offer several creative controls so you can get better pictures in a variety of situations. Keep in mind the more controls, the more complex the camera, and the easier it is to make mistakes.

Here are some creative controls to consider:

  • Special exposure modes, such as portrait, landscape, and close-up, that improves your pictures in the situation they’re named for.
  • Manual exposure mode that lets you set shutter speed and lens opening to get the effect you planned for.
  •  Burst (action) mode that lets you take a rapid sequence of pictures (usually at a lower resolution).
  • Creative effects, such as black-and-white or sepia pictures, or built-in coloured filters.

Extra flash modes that simplify fill-flash pictures, allow attachment of an external flash, or allow creative effects.

OTHER FEATURES

Here are a few other features and options that may sway your decision.

  • ISO (speed range); typically 100 to 400. A higher number enables more picture-taking in dim light—the trade-off being lower picture quality.
  • Video capability to make short movies.
  • Acceptance of add-on wide-angle, telephoto, or close-up lenses increases versatility.
  • Product bundles with a complete starter’s kit or desirable items, such as picture-editing software, an extra picture card, and a camera bag. But if you find a camera that seems to fit your needs, don’t give it up for a promotion on another less-desirable camera.

Next issue we talk about Digital camera controls and how they help you take better photos, and discuss comparing cameras.

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About Anthony Hood 174 Articles
Anthony Hood – Freelance Contributor Anthony is an avid motoring and photography enthusiast. His interests lie in performance cars, street rods, drag racing, 4WDriving and camping, burn out competitions, circuit racing and hill climbs. He is our resident hoon with heaps of experience. Married with two children and a qualified diesel mechanic and fitter, he has worked in the industry since leaving school over 16 years ago. His sheds are full of race cars and engines in various stages of working order. Anthony doesn’t get caught up in the marketing hype of the automotive industry and is fairly blunt. He brings a very laid back approach to reviewing vehicles.

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