Whether you want one for yourself or buying it as a gift, a Digital Camera is the best toy anyone could ever have. It is your very own unique look into the world with moments that are captured and shared for a lifetime. Most people want this gift but never know what to buy. “I want a camera” is not enough of a statement and often buyers get stuck buying a camera beyond their needs. The Digital Camera industry is continuously advancing with new models every 4 to 6 months. So in order to get the right camera for you, you first need to ask yourself some questions.
Determine what you want out of the camera
- What do you need the camera for?
- What is your budget?
- Does size and portability of the camera matter?
- What environments will most of the photographs be in? (Indoor, outdoor, low light, bright light)
- What kind of photographs will you be taking? (Landscape, portraits, sports)
- What experience level do you have with photography? Will you be in auto mode mostly?
- What kind of features are you looking for? (Stabilization, large LCD display, long zoom)
After you have answered these questions you will have a better understanding of what you are looking for when you go shopping. This way the salesperson will also have a better idea of what you want and can help you find exactly what you are looking for.
When it comes to looking at the brands, there are a wide variety of Digital Camera brands you could take a look at. Whichever you choose comes down to personal preference of how the camera feels and looks to you. Some may feel too heavy, or too big and will end up sitting on the kitchen counter. That is why it is important that before you buy a camera you try it out and see if it is the right fit.
Types of Digital Cameras
Digital SLR Cameras are the most versatile cameras on the consumer market. The SLR is an easy to use camera with 99.99% of the features most newbie photographers need! This beloved camera is a perfect combination between point-and-shoot and being able to venture into all the features the camera offers yourself!
This camera is the camera for you if:
- You are an amateur photographer and would like to enhance your skills
- You want to have full control over the camera and are not afraid to venture in its features whether it’s in Full Manual mode, Aperture or Shutter Priority or even Program modes!
- Own a Film SLR Camera and have a set of SLR lenses and accessories to reuse
- Have an interest in microphotography and astrophotography and need a digital camera to connect the telescope or microscope too. (The Digital SLR are the best option for this because there are correct mounts available that would give better image quality versus having to deal with combination of lenses and eyepieces)
- You would like to have a camera in which can adapt to fit different situations and having the option of buying different lenses for each environment (Buying lenses with different zoom ranges)
Digital Compact Cameras are the perfect fit for someone who wants a camera that will fit right in the palm of their hand, pocket or purse and yet have great looking, quality images. These point-and-shoot cameras vary in features, price and even styles and usually come with a minimum three-time (3X) zoom. The basic compact camera doesn’t have manual adjustments, such as the Aperture or Shutter speed, like the SLR, but the automatic mode is set to the functions needed automatically, which makes it a great camera for beginners. In addition to the automatic mode, they are equipped with a variety of scene modes such as portrait, landscape, sports and those modes will automatically adapt to the different settings of each picture environment. More recently there has been a development in “Hybrids” which means it is a compact camera with the ability of adding a lens to it. The advantage to this camera is that it is lightweight and small, and the lenses for it would be smaller and lighter making it perfect for travellers and photography enthusiasts.
Optical and Digital Zoom
Optical zoom is how far the camera lens can extend from the camera body, allowing you to get a closer view of far-away objects. The optical lens does not distort the image quality. If you will be taking photographs in long distances make sure that your optical zoom is up to criteria. On the other hand, digital zoom adjusts the image by an in-camera image processing. This is much like any image photo-editing program you would use on your computer. In the cameras specifications there will be a total zoom, which is the optical multiplied by the digital zoom, for example 3x optical zoom and a 4x digital zoom equals to 12x zoom. Be aware when you get a camera if the optical zoom is up to standards with what you want.
Size, Style and Weight
Considering these features is important in buying the best camera for you. You don’t want a camera that is uncomfortable to hold or that is too big to take anywhere, it will defeat the purpose of having it. Your camera is like the comfortable shoes you love to wear, if it fits right, you will always have them on. This is why you must see how the camera feels, are the functions at a close by angle and can you easily locate the functions and buttons? Is it easy to hold? Try switching the way you hold the camera, once with two hands and another with one, does it feel right? Also consider how you want to carry around your camera, in pocket or perhaps in its own bag? Figuring these out will make your buying decision an easy one!
Digital cameras nowadays can shoot at least five different levels of resolution and this can be advantageous when it comes to selecting Quality Level and Resolution mode on your camera. Most photographers will find it easier to shoot in high-resolution mode but knowing when to use high-resolution versus low resolution will save you time and a headache! Here are a few tips on resolution selection:
- The resolution and image quality can be controlled through the menu system on your camera
- Select the highest resolution when you plan on printing your pictures, but remember that the higher the resolution the more storage the photo will take
- If you are planning to use your photo on the internet or send by email, taking low-resolution photos would be a better option as it requires less time to send and download
- Image editing software is available and can allow you to shrink large images but the reverse cannot be done. If you try to enlarge a low resolution image, it will get distorted
There are in camera features that open a horizon of different possibilities for your images such as the ISO, Exposure, and Aperture and Shutter speed. Having a basic knowledge on these functions can lead to better looking, sharper and smoother pictures!
The usability or user interface of a digital camera comes down to personal preference much like the brand, size or weight. Most point-and-shoot cameras are easy to use and can be connected to your computer. They come with manuals, technical support hotline and usually image editing software. If you need any help, it’s a simple phone call away. Also, there are many support forums online and tutorials if you want to learn tricks on your camera.
Megapixels and Resolution
It’s a common myth that people believe more megapixels means a better quality camera! The honest truth is most people don’t really understand what megapixels mean and salespeople take that to their advantage by selling an expensive camera to someone who doesn’t need all the functions in it or making you believe that you need a new camera because yours is outdated according to the megapixels. Up to a certain point, megapixels do matter, but these days most camera manufacturers are producing high-resolution cameras. The question now is what is a megapixel?
In lingo we can all understand, a megapixel is equal to one million pixels in an image. A pixel can be thought of as an individual piece of a large design. Up close you can see this individual element, but from afar you stop seeing the single pieces and see the greater picture as a whole, much like a mosaic. Why this matters to you is because the more pixels the higher image resolution, creating sharper and clearer images when printing in a large size. This is why when looking at megapixels of a camera; it should correlate to the image print size you want. An image will have different resolutions when looked at in different outlets. When looking at the image on your camera LCD screen will have a different resolution when looked at on a computer monitor, phone screen or a printed display. The image will render appropriately to each output.
Don’t forget that the number of megapixels you have is only one factor to be considered when overlooking the quality of the image. There are a few things to remember.
- Higher resolution cameras tend to be more expensive; be aware and buy what you need
- Higher resolution cameras will be slower in comparison to the lower resolution camera, of the same brand. This is due to the fact that it takes more time to process, compress and save a larger image.
- Higher resolution images will take more time to download and send, that’s why most people resize their large photos making them more useable
- Higher resolution cameras require more storage, as the image will be larger. This issue can be resolved by purchasing a larger flash memory card
Optical and Interpolated Resolution
Much like optical and digital zoom many of us get confused when we see two resolutions listed in the camera features. It is important to take a closer look and see what is stated; optical or interpolated. Understanding the difference is important. The optical resolution will give you a true indication of the image quality versus the interpolated resolution. What this means is if you have two megapixels of optical resolution, the CCD will use the two megapixels and use them as information to represent the image. On the other hand, the interpolation resolution will give the image an artificial push to the resolution figure creating three megapixels of interpolated resolution. This is done through software that uses mathematical algorithms, which inserts pixels between two already existing ones creating a higher image quality but decreasing its sharpness. When the interpolated resolution is high, the image will often looked blurred when enlarged. Many camera manufacturers or stores may state the interpolated resolution, as it will be higher than the optical resolution. Closely look whether it is the optical or interpolated resolution and remember the true indicator of a higher image quality is the optical resolution.
Pixels and Print Size
Higher pixel resolution correlates with image quality and sharper details in images. It is also an indicator of what print size would give the best image. Here is a table for your reference.
|Picture Resolution||Image Quality Print Sizes|
Memory Card Capacity
The table below shows an estimation of how many pictures can be stored according to the megapixels of the camera and the storage space provided.
|Storage Capacity||Camera Type|
The table below shows an estimation of minutes that can be stored for a digital movie with 640X480 pixels recorded
|Good Quality||Best Quality|
|16MB||50sec||1min 35sec||35sec||1min 15sec|
|32MB||1min 45sec||3min||1min 10sec||2min 20sec|
The table below shows an estimation of minutes that can be stored for a digital movie with 320X240 pixels recorded
|Good Quality||Best Quality|
|16MB||2min||4min||1min 20sec||2min 30sec|
|32MB||2min||4min||1min 20sec||2min 30sec|
Digital Cameras come in all shapes, sizes and functions. Understanding what you want out of your camera will pave the path to the right camera for you. Now that you have a better understanding between the differences in SLR and Compact, optical and digital zoom, optical and interpolated resolution, and the true meaning behind megapixels, you won’t be able to let anyone hustle you into getting the latest most expensive model with functions you’ll never use. Compare and contrast the models that you think you like and remember to try them for a better feel! Don’t forget there are many features the camera can explore to tweak an image to your liking. Read up on the cameras specifications as some come with cool effects, such as black and white or paint effect all done automatically when taking the photo! Consider taking a lesson or two on what you can do with your new camera, the lens awaits to see the world through your eyes!