19 Features You Need When You Buy a Digital Camera
Enjoy Picture-Perfect Results Every Time
Capture memories and good times with one of the new smarter digital cameras. Camera technology has moved light-years ahead. You get better features like high-resolution, power zoom and bigger, brighter LCD screens. A digital camera with Image Stabilization compensates for moving subjects and camera shake, to give you sharper images. Some cameras adjust the Auto Mode by automatically select the best setting to use for great pictures. A new feature called Portrait System makes everyone look better by fixing red-eye, and detecting smiles and closed eyes. The new digital cameras are exciting.
Digital cameras have lots more features to improve your photographs. Of course, when you buy a digital camera, some advantages are obvious. No film to buy, no picture to develop and instant images for show-and-tell. As popular as they are, itís hard to believe that digital cameras have only been available since 1990. From the cheapest model to the ones used by professionals, the choices are numerous. What features do you really need when you buy a digital camera?
What digital camera should you buy?
- 3 Essential Features in a Digital Camera
- What's So Important About Pixels?
- Optical Zoom Versus Digital Zoom
- When You Need Close-Up Mode the Most
- The LCD Viewfinder Will Make Your Day
- Manual Mode Lets You Control Your Digital Camera
- Pros and Cons of Removable Memory Cards or Flash Memory
- How Digital Cameras Connect to Your Computer
- Do-It-Yourself Photo Printers
- Digital Camera Chargers and Batteries
- How Fast Is Fast Enough?
- Digital Camera Compatibility
- What Image Stabilization Will Do for Your Pictures
- Do You Need a Wide Angle Lens for Your Digital Camera?
- The Novelty of Panorama Photos
- Digital Cameras with Video Capability
- What Size Digital Camera Is Best for You?
- Digital Cameras Come Piggybacked
- The Pocket-Size Digital Camera
- Major Manufacturers of Digital Cameras
3 Essential Features in a Digital Camera
You should buy a digital camera with these three important features:
- a built-in flash
- a viewfinder for framing the picture. Stay away from cameras that use the LCD display screen to compose pictures, because it drains the battery.
- brightness control, a software feature that comes built into the camera to adjust picture brightness
What's So Important About Pixels?
The resolution of a digital camera is a key factor in how big you can print a photograph and how much you can crop your pictures. Higher resolution offers more picture detail, which allows you to make enlargements of your pictures without loss of quality.
A digital camera records the picture as an array of small dots, called pixels. The number of pixels is called the resolution. Naturally, the more pixels available for the picture, the more detailed the picture will be. If you donít plan to make portrait enlargements, a resolution of 4 or 5 megapixels, 4 or 5 million pixels, is enough. Youíll need a 6 to 8 megapixel camera if you will want enlargements bigger than 8x10, or if you want to crop and enlarge a portion of a photo.
There are several other factors beside pixel count that affect resolution. Some of these factors include sensor size, lens quality, and the organization of the pixels. Some compact digital cameras actually can have more pixels than the lens could possibly deliver.
Optical Zoom Versus Digital Zoom
You should buy a digital camera with an optical zoom lens. There are two types of zooms on digital cameras, optical zoom and digital zoom. A lens made of glass, rather than plastic, delivers better picture quality.
Compared to a non-zoom lens, a zoom lens gives you great versatility. With a zoom lens, you can magnify subjects or shrink them to include more area in the picture.
The optical zoom, the most important one, refers to a camera's ability to "zoom in" or magnify the object being photographed, using a variable focal length lens. Parts of the lens move to magnify the object. A camera with 10x optical zoom will project the image on the sensor surface ten times larger. Using optical zoom will not reduce the quality or the resolution of your prints.
Digital zoom, on the other hand, uses the cameraís software to magnify objects, instead of physically moving the parts of the lens. Digital zoom allows you to crop a shot before taking the photo, but with digital zoom, the more you magnify the image, the more the photo quality is degraded. Unlike optical zoom, using digital zoom reduces the overall size of quality prints.
When You Need Close-Up Mode the Most
You may want to buy a digital camera with a special mode for taking close-up pictures. Many digital cameras have a special close-up mode that opens the door to exploring miniature worlds. You can take close-ups of flowers, jewelry, 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.
The LCD Viewfinder Will Make Your Day
Optical viewfinders work like traditional cameras, requiring you to hold the camera up to your eye. Liquid Crystal Display viewfinders, LCD, are small screens that show what the image will look like. A digital camera with a liquid crystal display allows you to preview and center the picture. It also allows you to review and share pictures that have been taken. The size of the display screen, measured diagonally, can be from 1 to 3.5 inches. Check the LCD for good visibility in bright light.
Manual Mode Lets You Control Your Digital Camera
You may want to buy a digital camera that offers both automatic mode and manual mode for taking pictures. In automatic mode, the camera sets the aperture and shutter speed automatically. If the camera has manual mode, the user has the option of setting the aperture and the shutter speed manually.
Pros and Cons of Removable Memory Cards or Flash Memory
You should buy a digital camera with removable memory. Image capacity is the number of pictures a camera can store. Since there is no film, the digital camera stores your pictures on memory cards, or else flash memory cards. Memory cards are reusable and generally removable. They store pictures until you download them to a PC, after which the memory can be filled with new images. Memory cards are non-volatile, meaning that they do not require power to retain information. They are solid-state devices without moving parts. There are many types of memory cards, all with different capacities.
Youíll want to buy additional memory right away for your digital camera so you have enough room for all your pictures. Although memory cards are reusable, it's always good to have more than you actually need. There is no hard and fast rule about how much memory a picture requires. Each model is different. It depends on the file format, the content of the image and the amount of compression.
Secure Digital or MultiMedia memory cards are the size of postage stamps, for use with very small cameras.
The xD Picture Card is used in small cameras from Olympus and Fuji.
CompactFlash is a widely-used, inexpensive type of digital camera memory. It has a controller chip in the card for very fast photo transfer. Most high-end digital cameras, and all digital SLRs are CompactFlash compatible.
The Memory Stick was developed by Sony for their cameras. With a few exceptions, the Memory Stick cannot be used with other digital cameras.
The SmartMedia digital camera storage card is being phased out. If your camera uses SmartMedia, stock up while the supply lasts.
How Digital Cameras Connect to Your Computer
Nearly every digital camera requires a USB (universal serial bus) connection on the computer. Your camera will probably come with a USB cable, which plugs directly into the USB port. If your computer is an older model, it might not have a USB connection. You can download your pictures to your computer without draining the camera battery, because the USB port has its own power supply. USB is now the most widely used standard to connect to your computer.
Some cameras use a FireWire port, which is based on the communication standard from Apple computers. Other cameras use wireless connections, via Bluetooth or IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi to download pictures. Wireless download allows you to download photos to a computer without a cable connector.
Do-It-Yourself Photo Printers
You probably want to see your best pictures on paper, too. Some digital cameras will connect directly with your printer. A digital camera with Photo-Printer Capability allows you to connect your camera directly to your special photo printer with a USB cable. The printer also has slots to accept a digital camera memory card. Either way, you can print your photos immediately. No computer is required. The cost of photo ink and paper for your prints could be more than an outside service charges, but youíll have prints ready for your guests to take home.
The printer's built-in memory card slots support CompactFlash, Secure Digital, MultiMedia, SmartMedia and Sony Memory Stick cards.
To print high-quality pictures onto paper directly from your computer, you'll need special paper and ink. Or else, simply take your your memory card to any photo lab. If you ask, your pictures can be digitally burnt onto a CD at the lab. Today this is less expensive that the cost of prints developed from film. It's also easy to have your pictures printed by an Internet service. You send your folder by email and the printed photos and picture CD are returned by parcel post.
Digital Camera Chargers and Batteries
You should buy a digital camera that comes with a charger. All digital camera batteries are rechargeable. The best cameras give you 300 shots before the battery needs recharging. An inexpensive camera could give you only 50 shots before it needs recharging. Although proprietary batteries perform as well as AA batteries, AA batteries can be more convenient, because they are easier to replace if they run down during a photo shoot.
While standard batteries are widely available, proprietary rechargeable batteries must be purchased at a specialty store or from the camera manufacturer. Almost all proprietary batteries are lithium ion. Proprietary batteries are generally more powerful and allow more photos per charge. If the camera uses proprietary batteries, it should come with its own charger. Although the battery life begins degrading after about 500 recharges, the batteries provide considerable performance for their size. All pocket-sized cameras use proprietary batteries.
How Fast Is Fast Enough?
Check out the camera speed before you buy a digital camera. After each shot, thereís a delay while the digital camera processes the image. Most models take only a few seconds for this, but some keep you waiting up to 30 seconds. If you like to take several shots in quick sequence, a slow camera could be a drawback.
Digital Camera Compatibility
If you have other cameras, you should buy a digital camera that is compatibility with your other equipment. If you are buying your second or third digital camera, you might want to choose a camera with the same type of battery and memory card as your others, so that your cameras can share them.
What Image Stabilization Will Do for Your Pictures
Image Stabilization, IS, is available on only a handful of cameras with large zoom lenses. Image Stabilization steadies the image projected back into the camera to compensate for vibration and hand-shake that can be an issue with long focal lengths. IS can be particularly useful when photographing moving objects in low light conditions with a large zoom lens. Image stabilizer is a feature most subcompact cameras donít offer.
Do You Need a Wide Angle Lens for Your Digital Camera?
A wide angle lens has a wider than normal angle of view and usually a shorter focal length. Lenses adjustable to 35mm focal length or less are generally considered to be wide angle capable. A wide angle lens is essential if you take photographs of real estate, interior design, travel locations, outdoor landscapes, or large groups of people. It's the best way to capture the scope of a wide subject in a standard photo shot.
The Novelty of Panorama Photos
Panorama photos are a series of images, shot separately and joined together for a very wide-format photograph. They are useful for nature shots, travel pictures, team photos and family reunions. Some digital cameras have built-in guides to use if you want to take a series of shots and join them together for a panorama photo.
Digital Cameras with Video Capability
Would you like to buy a digital camera with video capability? Some digital cameras can record movie clips. MPEG-4 video is a popular feature even in subcompact cameras. However, digital cameras are not generally optimized for both still and video photography, due to their different requirements, so a camcorder will usually provide better quality video than a digital camera. Video sound capability refers to whether a digital camera can record sound along with video segments.
The quality of the video clip depends upon the cameraís video resolution. Full video resolution is 640x480 pixels and provides images as sharp as the images recorded by standard video tape. Half video resolution is 320x240 pixels and provides an image that is less sharp. For comparison, the resolution of High Definition TV (HDTV) is 1920x1080 pixels or about 250% of full video resolution.
What Size Digital Camera Is Best for You?
You can buy a digital camera in three sizes: The subcompact pocket-sized digital cameras, the compact cameras and, for serious photography, the high-performing SLR models.
The pocket-sized digital camera is best to buy for casual snapshots. Typical mid-sized digital cameras are too small for your pocket, but fit into a glove compartment or purse. They are often priced from $200 to $400. The super-small and the mid-sized digital cameras are designed for ease of use and automatic focus. High-end digital cameras are generally full-featured, bulkier and pricier. An advanced camera for serious photography comes with wider zoom range 6x to 12x, a picture resolution of 8 megapixels and the manual controls that let you choose shutter speed and lens opening.
Digital Cameras Come Piggybacked
Digital cameras are found piggybacked onto other communication devices. They come with some cell phones. PDAs, laptops and BlackBerries. Digital camcorders can also take digital still photos. These camera devices offer lots of convenience, but, compared to a digital camera, the image quality is poor and storage capacity is limited.
The Pocket-Size Digital Camera
If you want to buy a digital camera that is ultra-light and fits in your pocket, look at the super-small, pocket-sized subcompact digital cameras. They are convenient and deliver all the photo quality of a larger model. With the small size, itís important to find a camera that is easy to grasp in your hand. You donít want the camera to shake when you shoot it, and these miniatures usually donít have an image stabilizer. The LCD and menu controls are miniature sized, too. They are missing many advanced features of larger models, like manual controls and zoom ranges of 4x to 6x.
Pocket-sized cameras weight between 5 and 8 ounces. They generally come with 5 to 8 megapixel resolution. Optical zoom is usually limited to 3x. They generally come with build-in flash. The range of the built-in flash varies greatly by camera model and brand, somewhere from 4 feet to 16 feet. A wide angle lens is a feature no subcompact cameras offer.
In these small cameras, their tiny, rechargeable batteries have a shorter life span, and are often proprietary brands. Pocket-sized digital cameras generally canít use off-the-shelf AA batteries. The batteries need recharging more often in the small cameras. They all come with their own charger. A pocket-sized digital camera could still cost more than a compact camera. Prices for the miniature cameras range from $200 to $350 and up
Major Manufacturers of Digital Cameras
Now you have lots of information to buy the digital camera thatís exactly right for you. Here are some of the major camera manufacturers: Agfa, Canon, Casio, Contax, Epson, Fujifilm, HP, JVC, Kodak, Konica, Minolta, Kyocera, Leica, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Ricoh, Samsung, Sanyo, Sigma, Sony and Toshiba.
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