Today people are switching over from film cameras to digital models. The obvious reasons are the ease with which objects are framed and shot, pictures are stored, recorded, and displayed. To top it all you can download at the comfort of your home and print the pictures. However if you are buying one for the first time, there are chances that you will be literally lost reviewing the specifications and features offered by the numerous brands out there in the market. Do you go by mega pixels or do you go by manufacturers or by price range or by….well, there are many more classifications possible. The following guide is prepared with the intention to help you arrive at a practical model of your choice.
This factor depends a lot on the usage of the digital camera. You want one to carry around in your pocket or purse, go for the light weight ones. No doubt they are convenient, but the have tiny buttons, controls and dials which may make the handling a little difficult. The bigger ones weigh more and have more features too.
Cameras are categorized as mega pixels of resolution. It narrows down the range of cameras and helps you sort out beginners, intermediate and advanced groupings from these. The range is 0.1 mega pixel to 18 mega pixel and some even more. The key to choosing the right pixel camera depends on how close you wish to get to target.
2 mega pixels and less- you get reasonably sharp images and enough details for prints of 8×10s and smaller. Prints are not of very high quality but suitable enough to be posted on emails and web sites. These cameras are inexpensive.
2 to 6 mega pixels- As the resolution keeps increasing in this range, the picture quality keeps getting better. You get sharper images all at an escalated price.Eg Canon PowerShot S3, Fuji FinePix V10 etc.
6 mega pixels and more- More aren’t always good. Keep in mind higher mega pixels mean larger image sizes, expensive memory cards, and take more space of your computer’s hard drive.Eg. Canon PowerShot Pro1, Canon PowerShot S80 etc.
Optical zoom lens- Image gets magnified by lens-3x, 4x, 10x and more, however keep in mind that very long zooms are prone to camera shake. Use a tripod to cover up for this problem. A 3x optical zoom means it can make a subject appear thrice as close. An optical zoom produces the best quality images. You can’t get too close to the object, but then a photo editing software can help you crop the image. It gives better result than using the digital zoom.
Digital zoom is a simulated optical zoom; it enlarges only the central portion of the image. The lens is not used in this case. The digital zooming effect is given by software inside. The result is most often a blurry and digitized picture. You can use both zooming effects in cameras that offer both these features.
A lousy lens can spoil all that extra resolution and image processing controls. So, before you buy one assess the final image on a computer based on these criteria:
check the lens for overall focus and sharpness, whether corners are as sharp as in the middle
check for flaring, i.e. colored circles and reflections when shooting towards light source
check if the lens offer attachments, you can add wide angle or telephoto attachments to extend the focal length range
whether manual or electronic zoom control, manual zoom offers more speed and flexibility
Unlike the film cameras the digital cameras store images in memory. Thus each time the memory is full, you can download them and the camera is ready to shoot again. Memory is of two main types: built-in and removable. Most low end cameras have the built-in memory. Removable memory cards have the advantage of upgrading the memory, particularly useful when you are taking lot of pictures in one trip.
It all started with photographers igniting a tray filled with gunpowder to illuminate a scene. Today digital cameras come with built in automatic flash unit combined with a sophisticated light measuring and exposure control system. They are so convenient and easy to use that we often fail to notice it. Digital cameras are specified by a guide number which basically gives the flash power. Higher the guide number, greater the flash’s useful range. With changes in sensor speed and /or lens focal length, the guide number changes. So manufacturers instead specify the flash’s maximum range with the assumption that flashes is fully charged and the lens aperture is wide open.
Some of the common modes:
Auto mode is well known! Cameras with red eye reduction mode first fires a short burst to close the subject’s irises then the main flash and finally the picture is taken. Fill flash modes to fill in shadows.
Flash off mode to capture the object in natural light.
Night scene mode exposes the foreground subject without underexposure of background. For maximum flash flexibility select a camera with an external hot shoe.
Some models come with just the external flash units.
Some varieties have both external and built-in flash units.
Some very compact digital Camera models come with no flash units.
Most digital cameras have a combination of different focus modes. In the automatic mode, when you press the shutter-release button half-way down, the focus is locked. It is also confirmed by a change of color of the focus indicator.
The Auto focus is achieved in different modes. The most common of them is the single area focus mode. The focus is on the central area of the image you find on the screen. In the spot focus mode, the focus is precisely on the center area of the screen. For shooting slow moving objects you can use the continuous auto focus mode. Be aware of the huge consumption of power in this mode.
Manual focus- This feature allows you to manually focus on the portion of a scene which may or may not be at the center of the screen. Select the area to be focused by using one of the several focus area indicators by toggling a cursor button to achieve close ups and macro shots. Some models have the focus rings for manual focus, turn it till the subject is in focus.
Fixed focus- This feature can be used to your advantage when there is pre-determined distance between the camera and the object.
The various combinations of the focus types are:
Auto focus and manual focus
Auto focus and fixed focus
Auto, manual and fixed focus
Standard Point and Shoot cameras- Point and shoot models are available with basic features to the ones with advanced controls and options and excellent macro capabilities. The flexibility with which these cameras can be used like in situations where it is hard to frame the subject or shooting at waist levels makes these models much sought after. It is a silent performer ideal for shooting in locations where a loud shutter clack is not appropriate.
SLR/Professional- More interesting features like interchangeable lenses, flashes, sophisticated controls and other accessories, these models are specifically designed for photographers and professionals. Eg. Nikon D40, Nikon D40x etc.
Compact- The features are moderate, yet small enough in size to slip it in to your pocket before you go for the party. These models are comparatively higher priced than the similarly featured standard sized cameras. Eg. Canon PowerShot SD800, Kodak EasyShare V550 etc.
Ultra compact- With technology improving at a fast rate the size of the cameras is getting smaller and smaller. Cameras of the size of credit cards, slightly thicker shoot amazing pictures. No compromise on features like LCD screens (as small as 2 inch), optical viewfinder, good resolution (some with even 7 mega pixels), and good battery life too. Eg. Casio Exilim EX-S500, Samsung NV3 etc.
There are two types: rechargeable ones and disposable ones. Since digital cameras consume power very fast, especially if you are using a LCD, it is best to invest in the rechargeable ones. Some digital cameras come with AC adapters, if yours doesn’t have one, purchase one separately. Some batteries are:
NiMH batteries are the most sought after ones today. They are rechargeable, last long, and come in various compact designs and no memory problems.
Alkaline ones are not rechargeable and don’t last long.
Lithium ion batteries are small and recharge quickly.
NiCad batteries if not charged properly can have loss of memory.
AC adapters enable you to keep shooting long after your batteries are dead!
Luckily you don’t have to spend huge amounts to own one.
Even a couple of hundred bucks can fetch you a very good camera with video capabilities and nice zoom. And they are not the sub-par models of yester years. Eg. Nikon COOLPIX S5,Canon PowerShot G7 etc.
A lot more features get added, more of mega pixels, and more powerful lenses are available in this range of cameras. Eg. Nikon D80, Nikon D200 etc.
These ranges of cameras are mostly for professionals with superb image rendering capacity and produce excellent photos. Eg. Nikon D2Xs, Canon EOS-1D Mark III Body Only etc.