| Choosing a Digital Camera|
Digital photography is growing in popularity, as the quality of digital imaging technology rapidly approaches that of traditional film, and as more people become both computer and web savvy. Digital images can be easily uploaded to your computer; from there they can then be manipulated using a variety of software, e-mailed to friends, or posted on a web site. The "film" used in digital cameras (i.e. storage media) can be used over and over again so there's no need to run out and buy a roll of film every time you want to take pictures. Digital photography also provides a certain level of instant gratification, as you are able to immediately view your images. Note that the both Mac and PC enthusiasts can use virtually all of these cameras, since the manufacturers make software for both platforms now, and removable media card readers will transfer pictures to either platforms. Listed below are descriptions of the key characteristics differentiating digital cameras.
Price Range: From $50 to $2,500. Most of the digital cameras fall within $200 to $900 with a median price of $450.
Delay Between Shots
The amount of time (measured in seconds) it takes the camera to process and store an image.
Why is it important? The delay between shots ranges from approximately 1 - 20 seconds. To some, this may not be much of an issue. For others, having to wait a while before being able to take another shot may be frustrating.
The flash makes a burst of light for shooting inside or in low-light conditions.
Why is it important? The type of flash available vary from camera to camera. The flashes built into most digital cameras have limited range and adjustability. Keep in mind that a camera with a "Hot Shoe" or "Flash Sync," will often come with the standard built-in flash as well.
A digital image is made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny dots, called pixels. The more pixels in an image, the sharper the picture. Some cameras have resolution as high as 2560 x 1920 pixels, while others only have the capability of 320 x 240 pixels. Most cameras offer several different resolution modes, allowing you to adjust your high pixel camera to other, less demanding needs. Consider what you'll be using your camera for, and pick the best resolution for your needs.
Why is it important? The higher the resolution, the better the picture.
An optical zoom magnifies the image using a real multi-focal length lens, increase your ability to take pictures of a subject that's far away. About two-thirds of the digital cameras on the market have an optical zoom. Note that digital zoom does not telescope into a subject; rather, it "interpolates" the picture, magnifying the existing pixels.
Ease of Download
This refers to how the camera downloads its pictures to your computer or printer. Some digital cameras offer more than one means of downloading your images.
What kinds are available?
· Via 3.5" Floppy - With this feature, the camera stores its images on the same floppy disks that you use in your PC or Macintosh. To transfer the images to your computer, you would remove the floppy from the camera and put it into your Macintosh or PC's floppy drive.
· Via Removable Memory - Many digital cameras store images on removable memory devices that can be swapped in and out of the camera like rolls of film. These can then be used with a variety of card readers (depending on the type of storage), which are typically purchased as an additional accessory. PCMCIA Type II or III cards are credit card size memory that do not require a card reader to download the images; you can insert the card directly into laptop computers.
· Via Infrared - Infrared transmission uses invisible light to transfer pictures to your computer or printer. Also known as "IrDA," this technology allows one to download images without using cables or wires, but is also extremely slow.
· Via Parallel Cable - This type of cable connection is quite common, and transfers images faster than a serial connection, as it is able to send multiple bits of information at the same time (i.e., "in parallel").
· Via Serial Cable - The most standard type of serial cable is identified as a "RS-232" interconnector. This method is relatively slow in comparison to a USB cable connection, but it's still quite commonly available.
· Via USB Cable - A USB (short for Universal Serial Bus) cable transports images from your digital camera via a connection that is much faster than a serial or parallel cable
· Via CDR - Some newer cameras use specially made recordable CDs to save images. This gives you the opportunity to save about 150 megabytes of pictures onto a disc that will slip into you computer's CD-Rom drive, where you can copy the pictures straight to your hard drive.
Most digital cameras have fully automatic operation. Some however, come with manual features. These are the creative controls on the camera, which allow you to adjust the focus, exposure settings, and white balance to allow for more precise picture taking.
What should you consider? Keep in mind that the degree of manual functionality can vary from one camera to another. Some cameras with "Manual Focus" have a traditional manual focus ring, for example, whereas others offer multiple pre-set options from which to choose. Please refer to the glossary for more detailed information about the following features.