Part One: Consumer Digital Cameras
Part Two: Prosumer Digital Cameras
Part Three: Tips on Making Photos Better
There are quite a lot of people who come to me for advice on purchasing a digital camera. Below I list the basic guidelines I give. Please keep in mind that I'm kind of a snob when it comes to picture quality. All apologies in advance.
I italicize the techy/geeky stuff, so feel free to skip those portions if you like.
Megapixels aren't everything
This is the biggest number thrown at consumers. It's an easy figure to market at consumers. Don't rely on this as your sole reason for selecting a camera. Just as important are the lens, ease of use and optical zoom. I'll get into those a bit later.
As of this post, the average consumer will be more than happy with a 4-5 megapixel camera. You'll be able to get beautifully detailed prints up to 5" x 7". There will be a degradation in detail beyond that size. But again, I'm a bit of a nit picker. Most consumers will be satisfied with an 8" x 10" print from a 5-megapixel camera.
If you plan to you use your camera in a situation where it will be used in a print publication such as a magazine or professionally printed newsletter, a 5-megapixel camera will only produce photos with a maximum of roughly 4" x 6". If you need to provide an 8" x 10" photo, you'll need an 8-megapixel photo. This is because layout artists typically need to produce the photo at 300 dpi.
So, a typical image from an 8-megapixel camera measures 45 1/3" x 34" 3264 pixels by 2448 at 72 dpi. When you convert the image from 72 dpi to 300 dpi, the size of the print become 10.88" x 8.16". This is because you're compressing the number of pixel per inch.
If you shoot at full resolution, remember that your image file sizes and their respective pixel dimensions will be large. So, if you intend to e-mail the photos re-size your photos in an image editing program (e.g. Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elelment, etc.) A good size is about 640 x 480. It's small enough to mail, yet large enough to see details fairly well.
Alll digital cameras shoot at 72 dpi. That is the standard resolution for images on the Internet. You'll sometimes find people posting images at 96 dpi because that is the default resolution on the Windows Operating System.
Good Lenses are like Good Eyes
It's important to have a good lens on your camera. A good lens will give you sharp photos, good quality craftmanship, and a good optical zoom.
At the consumer level, you can be pretty confident that your camera has a good lens if it is one of the following brands: Nikon (Nikkor Lenses), Canon (Canon lenses), Sony (Carl Zeiss lenses, and Olympus (Olympus lenses).
Quite frankly, I haven't played with any Kodak digital cameras. The next chance I get to play with one, I'll be sure to give my thumbs up or down.
For more information on how Lenses work, click here.
Ease of Use -- Nobody Wins
I'm sad to say that consumer cameras aren't as easy to work as they should be. Nobody makes a completely fool proof camera. The problem is twofold: 1 - The digital camera industry is still brand new and they're still working things out and 2 - Ease of use is such a subjective thing.
An easy-to-use digital camera will give you:
- Easy access to the flash
- A large, clear color LCD screen
- Easy access to review and delete photographs
My suggestions are as follows:
- Play around with the camera when you're at the store. Ideally, you should be able to begin snapping photos on your own within 30-60 seconds of getting it in your hand.
- If you are technically-challenged and will not be able to snap photos even if you held the camera for 30-60 hours, please ask for help from a salesperson, a friend familiar with digital cameras or be comfortable reading through and understanding the manual.
Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom
First rule of digital camera zooms: Ignore the Digital Zoom feature at the store.
There are two different types of zooms on digital cameras: optical zoom and digital zoom. The optical zoom is the true, mechanical zoom. It uses the lens to zoom in on the subject. A digital zoom only crops out the extraneous image area.
Some manufacturers will artificially define their zoom by multiplying the optcial zoom by the digital zoom. For example, the Olympus C-8080 is listed as having a 15x zoom (See the "Seamless Zoom" spec)
because it has a 3x zoom and a 5x zoom. So, they multiply the two to get the 15x zoom figure. Sneaky, huh?
To learn more about Optical and Digital Zooms, click here.Digg it | del.icio.us | Add to Technorati Faves