buy or set a budget think about how you use a camera. Do you want
to take point and shoot photos? Or are you converting
from a beloved SLR? Do you want to just take a picture or is full
control of camera setting important to you?
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1) megapixel size- Refers
to the size of the image (1 megapixel=I million pixels) NOT the
quality of the image. Get
at least a 3 megapixel
option to print wonderful
decent 8x10 photographs.
Click here to compare megapixel sizes.
Click here for a megapixel to print size
2) lens- the quality of the lens can have equal bearing on the quality
of your image. Glass lenses are preferable to plastic lenses. Most
of the quality camera makers pair quality optics with their cameras.
Look for a threaded lens
if you plan on using filters or other lens attachments.
If you own a set of SLR lenses check with the manufacturer to see
if they make a digital camera body that is compatible. Be advised,
digital cameras offering this option are high end products with prices
3) optical vs. digital zoom lens- Optical lenses use the optics
of the lens to bring the image closer (like a telephoto zoom on a
film camera). Digital zoom enlarges the pixels of the image creating
a false sense of zoom and reducing the overall quality of the final
image. Don't compare optical and digital as equals.
As an alternative to zoom professional photographers will tell you
to GET CLOSER. This works well with babies and poorly with bears.
Another option is to use image software to enlarge the desired portion
of the image. This will create a final product that still retains
better quality than a digital zoom offers.
Bottom line: buy an optical zoom.
4) memory card
(digital film)- there are several
types of available. The key issue here is capacity. Tied closely
to this factor is the size of the image that the camera can take
(megapixels). The larger the image the more space it needs. Megapixel
vs. memory card comparison chart here. Another good comparision
here. The larger the card the more images (files) that it can
Compatibility is another
issue, particularly with Sony products. Sony markets a semi-propietary
Stick. This storage
works with their cameras, PDA's, phones, etc but not in many other
non-Sony products. Remember Betamax? If you have other devices
that use memory cards it might be useful to have a digital camera
that uses the same type of card. Read the shopping list below for
5) usability- Perhaps this should be number one on the list. Consider
the following before you buy:
-does the camera automate your photography to your satisfaction? This
is important of you are used to point and shoot cameras.
-does the camera offer enough options to control settings like aperture
and shutter speed? Do setting changes require menu access or can
you simply turn a dial? If you are used to a 35 mm SLR this is important.
-how do the buttons work for YOU? Are they conveniently located?
Are the buttons too small? Consider where you will take most of your
photographs. If you are thinking
you wear gloves?
6) shutter lag- this
plagues digital cameras. Shutter lag is the time that elapses from
time you press the shutter button to the time that the camera actually
takes the picture. There is nothing more frustrating than missing
candid, action or baby's first steps while the camera warms up.
There is a similar issue related to the time it takes a camera
to recycle between shots.
Bottom line: try before you buy. Visit a store where you can handle
the camera, turn it on and take a picture. If not, leave. Borrow
a camera for a day and see how you use it.
up time- "Look, he's crawling! Get the
camera!" The camera takes five seconds to power up and the moment
has passed. Most digital cameras take between two and five seconds
to start up. Manufacturers are addressing this issue as it has
become a hot button for consumers. Try before you buy.
8) viewfinder- do
you want one? Camera manufacturers have noticed that more users
abandoning the viewfinder in favor the LCD when taking photos.
Some have eliminated the viewfinder entirely. This does boil down
to personal choice- try different models before you buy. Remember
that an LCD screen may be hard to see in direct sunlight and the
glow may be distracting in some situations. Plus the LCD will increase
battery consumption. Example: Casio EX-757
>optical viewfinder- simple viewfinder for composing photos.
>EVF (electronic viewfinder)- provides a small duplicate version
of actual image and may incorporate a preview based on camera settings.
>TTL (through the lens)- This viewfinder carries over from film
SLR cameras showing EXACTLY what scene will appear on the image.
Given that a mirror blocks the LCD sensor until the picture is
taken most cameras with this feature will show the image on the
LCD until after the picture is taken. Commonly found on digital
9) Pictbridge- this
is an industry effort to create an easy connection between camera
and printer without the need for a computer. Cameras and printers
displaying the Pictbridge logo will seamlessly connect and print
images as requested. See photo printing below. Click
here to learn more about Pictbridge.
Shopping list-essentials return
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two sets of rechargeable batteries- digital
cameras burn through batteries so it is a good idea to have two
one charging or
charged and one in the camera.
card- most manufacturers include
a fairly small memory card that will not hold a sufficient number
of images to keep you
happy. Buy at least a 128 megabyte card. Remember, the higher the
larger the image (megapixel) the more space it will require on the
memory card. Storage capacities of up to 4 gigabytes are available
in Compact Flash Type 1 cards. Click
here for more details on card capacity vs. megapixel size.
memory card reader- saves batteries
by allowing you to pull photos from the camera to the computer without
powering up the camera. This
camera case- protect your investment.
Get a case that fits your camera and has room for batteries and a
Shopping list-extras return
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photo printer, toner and photo paper- turn your
home into a photofinishing lab. You can edit and print your photographs
conveniently at home with results that almost equal a professional
print. My personal bias: the cost of a printing supplies may equal
or exceed that of any online photofinisher. Plus, what is your time
worth? See the photofinishers
section for alternatives.
software- while your camera
will most likely include software for editing and organizing photos,
this new market
offers many options. Adobe
Photoshop Album 2.0 has received rave
reviews and I highly recommend it..
card- useful if you fill the first memory card up and
can't move the images to a laptop.
laptop- when you fill up the memory card and you have a week left
on you vacation the laptop provides storage for your photos.
If this seems excessive, consider the next item.
device- these devices provide a less expensive, more
portable alternative to a laptop. Look for a device that has
a slot for the type of memory card used by your camera. Some offer
the bonus of a small LCD screen so that you can view your photos
without draining your camera's battery. Examples: Epson
FlashPac and SmartDisk
USB Bridge ($69.00) is a promising option due in July of
04. It promises to connect your camera to any storage device-
usb flash drive, PDA, iPod, etc. This could be big.
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