Purchasing a new digital camera can become a very overwhelming experience. Technology is continually changing and there appears to be upgraded cameras available every month! With these changes you can always ensure that you purchase the right camera for your needs by understanding the technology. You won’t be in a position to understand all of it, however you can gain the knowledge necessary to make the right decisions. This article will focus on the features of digital cameras that are more important for you to understand.
For starters we have to fully understand the similarities of film and digital cameras. In short, a camera is a light tight box that allows exposure of a light-sensitive material through the use of a shutter and an aperture. This definition doesn’t change from film to digital cameras, nor does the process.
Both film and digital cameras have lenses. This allows you to focus the image and control how the picture will look (wide or telephoto). The lens is also one of the more important factors in determining overall quality of the image. The better your lens quality, the sharper and more clear your image will appear. Regardless if you’re using film or digital photography-poor lenses = poor image quality.
More Random Digital Camera Stuff
Images are made up of tiny cells called pixels. Images taken at higher resolutions will look much clearer and sharper when printed and large prints will usually look better. Plus, you can take only the best and copy them from your computer back onto the camera’s storage so you can provide a slide show of just the best images. Once images are in digital form, you can begin to take parts from various images and paste them into other images. Digital photography now makes it easy to put all of your images on the Web and show the world instead of just your friends and family. One nice thing about digital cameras is that you can display your images on a TV set using the a/v out.
And, to add to the discussion…
Shutters control the length of the exposure in the two types of cameras. Both film and digital cameras use an Aperture to control how much light hits the sensor during the time frame that the shutter is open. Very large apertures (2.8 Or 4) will let in a great deal of light, while small apertures (16 or 22) will let in very little light.
Digital Camera, Seriously?
Focusing will always be a necessary step in creating sharp photographs regardless of whether you’re using film or digital cameras. Manual and auto focusing can be obtained from both types of cameras. So what are the gaps between the two? The main difference is the way in which the cameras record light. The traditional camera uses film while the digital camera has a sensor and a processor. Understanding the way the sensor and processor work holds the key to knowing digital cameras.
So what are the differences? The main difference is the way in which it records light. The traditional camera has film and the digital camera has a sensor and a processor. Understanding the sensor and processor is the central to knowing digital cameras.
In the beginning, when digital cameras first became popular, something called Lag Time was a major issue. The ‘lag’ in between the time you clicked the shutter button and the time the shutter opened was very obvious. With the recent advances in technology there has been a substantial reduction in lag time. Even the most budget friendly cameras have a very quick turn around time in between shots or through a series of quick exposures. If your photography requires fast shooting and many frames per second (I.e. Sports photography), it would provide a smart idea to research the frames per second and lag time statistics prior to buying.
When digital cameras first became popular, something called Lag Time was a major issue. The ‘lag’ in between the time you pressed the shutter and the time the shutter opened was very noticeable. Recent advances in technology have reduced lag time significantly. Even most low priced cameras, have a very quick turn around time in between shots or through a series of quick exposures. If your photography requires fast shooting and many frames per second, it would provide a good idea to see the frames per second and lag time statistics before purchasing.
ISO One of the many benefits of digital cameras is the capacity to change ISOs at any time. ISO refers to the vulnerability of the sensor in a digital camera and film in traditional cameras. The higher the ISO the less light you need to find the film. With traditional cameras, if you had to get a faster shutter speed because of low light or fast action, you had to change to a higher ISO film. This could be wasteful or inconvenient at best. With digital cameras you can change the ISO on the fly. Now it’s possible to be photographing outside in bright sunshine with a low ISO (for better color and image quality) and then walk indoors, change the ISO and continue shooting.
Resolution Resolution is probably one of the more talked about but least understood features of digital cameras. Most people believe the higher the resolution the better. This is true, generally speaking. However more resolution does not always mean better photographs.
In today’s world almost all digital cameras have very high resolutions. Even the less costly cameras all come with resolutions sufficient enough to make good 8×10-11×14 prints. Higher resolution is basically a selling point to manufacturers. Higher resolution is good but what’s even better is a larger sensor size. The bigger the better. Sensor size is a much better indicator of the camera’s final image quality. In film cameras, a 35mm is better than an APS camera because the size of the image on the film is bigger. There is no different with digital cameras.
Please do not forget, it is common to see cameras that are equal in resolution but have different size sensors. In cases like this I would go for the larger sensor. So how can you find out how much resolution you do need? It’s very simple really. Just ask yourself how large of a picture do you wish to make. The 3 and 4 Megapixel cameras are plenty sufficient for everything will print good quality pictures up to 8×10. If you want to make larger printsyou can move up to the 5 and 6 Megapixel cameras.
Remember, it is common to see cameras that are equal in resolution but have different size sensors. In this case I would go for the larger sensor. So how do you know as well as much resolution you do need? Simple really. Just ask yourself how large of a print do you want to make. The 3 and 4 Megapixel cameras are plenty sufficient for everything up to 8×10. If you want to make larger prints you can move up to the 5 and 6 Megapixel cameras.
As the number of pixels increases, normally so does the price, and sometimes the size of the camera, so choosing wisely will save you both money and effort in carrying. If you want to print standard photo size prints then a camera of 3-4 mp will be adequate, but if you wish to print large A3 prints at a good quality, then you really need a camera of about 6mp+. Remember you can adjust the quality down but you cannot use pixels you have not got.
Lenses Lenses play a major role in creating high image quality, along with the sensor and processor. Fortunately we’re in a technological era where most lenses are manufactured with high quality. With regard to lenses speed and length are the qualifications that you should look at when trying to understand what to purchase. Speed refers to the fastest-stop of the lens. 2.8 is faster than 3.5, which is faster than 4. Faster lenses enable you to shoot in lower light conditions without raising your ISO, as well as achieving a shallow depth of field which gives the product of a blurred background (or foreground).
Nikon is either of the two biggest manufacturers of cameras and lenses in the world. The computer chip inside and glass on their lenses are second to no one. These two elements define picture quality beyond MP count. Having a quality lens and camera body far outweighs a high MP count by an unknown company.
When it comes to focal length we have to bear in mind that two sets of specs are usually given. The first is often the actual focal length of the lens. For example, 7mm-28mm. This would be an extreme wide angle on a film camera. The digital camera however, has a smaller sensor area then the film camera which makes the 7mm lens look more like a 35mm lens. So the second set of numbers on this lens would be 35mm-136mm. This is normally called the 35mm equivalent. These are the numbers you should pay attention to when checking different cameras for focal range as they’ll be more familiar to you.
Most amateur digital cameras don’t provide real wide angle lens choices. They will commonly go down to 35mm or even 28mm but rarely can you find a 24mm or wider. This is primarily due to the difficulties in building such a small focal length lenses. So if you enjoy wide angle photography you many want to think about moving up to a digital SLR.
When it comes to long telephoto lenses, however, the digital cameras have a big advantage! Their smaller sensor size turns even moderate telephotos into very long lenses. For example a real 57mm focal length behaves like a 370mm! This is a real blessing to folks who like to shoot ‘long’. Beware however of cameras which claim their longest focal length as Digital Zoom. Digital Zoom should always be avoided. We are concerned only with real or actual focal lengths.
The lenses of the camera control the way under which the light is focussed on the sensor. Though the lenses in digital cameras are very analogous to those of conventional cameras, focal length is the major difference between the two. Focal length is zero but the gap between the lens and the area of the sensor. This length determines the zoom. Increasing the focal length, magnifies the image, while decreasing the focal length shrinks the image. A zoom lens is one in which the focal length can be adjusted. Digital cameras have optical zoom, digital zoom or both. Some cameras have a macro focusing feature. This helps in taking extreme close ups. Optical zoom lenses modify the focal length of the lens instead of just magnifying the information that hits the sensor. Digital zoom forms a full-size image by interpolating the pixels from the middle of the image sensor. This may lead to an output of grainy or blurry images. However, that hinges on the resolution of the image.
The last lens specification to consider is the focusing distance. If you like or need to shoot macro, look for a lens that focuses very close. They will commonly be signified by a ‘macro mode’ or be called ‘close focusing’.
Shooting your digital camera in the field Taking photographs ought to be the fun part. It is important to not let all of the bells and whistles confuse you when you’re out in the field. I agree that there are several choices and they can be a little bit overwhelming. Here are three among the most important things you should always check before you start photographing.
They may take excellent pictures with an inexpensive digital camera, while someone else might shoot pathetic photographs with a summit of the line SLR. It is all about the photographer and his camera, not only the camera.
Light is the absolute of all photography. Its critical components are when the sun is low in the east or west-most photographers take pictures within two hours after the morning sunrise or evening sunset. Elements such as fog, rain, mist, or atmospheric haze always make things interesting to establish a mood in the picture, or an overcast sky with STRONG foreground subject matter. The light during these particular times will stand out, throwing shadows and light in unique ways, created by the photographer’s emotions (the ability to ‘feel’ the picture as it is shot) and the technical aspects related to the shoot. This makes a better picture as compared to excellent technical work with no feeling or emotions. Try to be in ‘sync’ with the camera if at all possible.
ISO-Keep it set to a low (100 or 50) if you’re outdoors or in places where you have plenty of light. Raise it only when you need to retain from getting camera shake. Most digital cameras provide great images all the way up to 400 ISO. If you need to go higher than 400 ISO, you can take the risk of introducing a noticeable amount of noise to your photos. Play with your digital camera to figure out which ISO produces unacceptable noise levels.
Jpeg vs. Raw-This choice is an easy one. If you ‘d like to work on every image in your computer, shoot RAW. This format is far more flexible and enables you to correct for errors in exposure and color cast without degrading your image quality. If you don’t have the time or willingness to work on every image, then shoot in the highest quality Jpeg mode. This mode will use a minimal amount of image compression which will provide extremely high quality pictures.
Image Size-Many cameras will come with multiple resolutions. Your choices may look like this: 2304×1728, 1600×1200, 1280×960, 640×480. Simply put, always choose the highest resolution. In this case that would be 2304×1728. This will supply you with the highest quality images possible.
Digital Camera Accessories There are nearly as many accessories for digital cameras as there are digital cameras. There are lots of options available: cases, cards and storage units. Don’t open your wallet just yet, there are only a very small number of accessories that are considered absolute necessities.
Compact Flash-The first is the kind of storage that your camera uses. Personally I prefer cameras the use Compact Flash storage option. This medium appears to be the best all around Flash Card. These cards are sturdy, durable, and not too small to lose or to big to be bulky. It also comes in very large capacities-up to 8 gigabytes! I recommend you have a least two cards on the off chance one becomes damaged or lost. The total amount of storage available to you’ll be determined on how much you wish to spend on your cards (cameras rarely ship with a card that is adequate for most photographic purposes). Having two 512Mb cards appears to be adequate for most shooting situations, unless you’re very trigger happy. Having 4 of these cards or two 1 GB cards will ensure that you’ll never be without storage.
Portable Storage-If you have an ample amount of Flash Card storage, you’ll not need a portable storage unit. This is however contingent on downloading your cards on a daily basis. If you’re in a position where you’ll not enjoy access to your computer for long periods of time you may wish to consider a portable storage unit. The most basic form of storage is one that enables you to plug your card into the unit, and download your images. You can then put the card back into your camera, reformat it, and continue shooting. When you get home you simply attach the storage unit to your computer and transfer the images. Most of these units come with adequate storage space for many days of shooting. I would consider a unit with at least 10Gb of storage.
Storage and transfer are the most fundamental function which all of the models will perform. From here they can get really fancy. There are units that will automatically burn Cds from your cards. This produces an immediate archive of your images. Others come with an Lcd screen that enables you to view your images right on the storage device. Advanced features will even allow you to organize your images into folders and albums. Think about the length of time you’ll be away from your computer before purchasing one of the following storage units. You may not need one.
Extra Batteries / Charger Digital cameras use batteries at an alarming rate. You will definitely need to have back up batteries. Because you’ll be using so many, rechargeable batteries are the intelligent choice. Most digital cameras come with a proprietary battery with a charger. This is a good thing as it allows a stronger battery. If this is your situation, purchase extra batteries when you buy your camera. If your camera is powered by common AA batteries, you would be a good idea to buy a couple sets of rechargeable batteries.