Knowing What You Need
Digital photography has created a real revolution in the photography field, and digital cameras continue to become better and more affordable. With the technology developing at such a rapid place, however, it is easy to get lost in the jumble, especially if you are a first-time buyer.
The most important thing for you to determine when choosing your digital camera is: what are you planning to use it for? Is it just for casual use, to share photos with your family and friends? If so your needs are going to be very different than if, say, you intended to take professional photos to sell to magazines or internet websites. You’ll also want to know what sort of features you expect. For example, do you want zoom capability? Do you want to be able to take moving images? These are important questions when choosing a camera.
Knowing what you need in your digital camera will allow you to know exactly what sort of camera you’re looking for, and how much you should be spending on your camera (as well as how much you’re willing to spend). For example, low-grade casual use cameras can often cost well less than a hundred dollars, while professional cameras can cost you up to $5,000 and even more.
Some Digital Camera Basics
The primary difference between digital cameras and traditional cameras is that digital cameras do not require film. Depending on the camera you choose files will be saved in a variety of formats: JPG, MPG, BMP, or any number of other computer image formats.
Resolution is the largest determinant of picture quality in a digital camera and is one of the more important considerations when choosing a camera. Resolution is displayed regarding pixels, such as with a television or a computer monitor.
While a computer monitor’s resolution is generally understood by giving the number of individual pixel columns by the number of pixel rows (for example 640 x 480), in digital cameras resolution is displayed in terms of the total number of pixels in the image, given in megapixels (a megapixel is 1 million pixels).
For example, let’s look at our computer monitor with a resolution of 640 x 480. 640 x 480 = 307,200 pixels, or about 3 megapixels. The higher the number of megapixels, the higher the quality of the image will be. Current cameras on the market range between 1.3 and 22 megapixels. Some digital cameras take pictures of such high resolution they can’t even be properly read by the average monitor
Although there is no film, the images still have to be stored, although now in a digital format. Most lower end cameras save pictures on a built-in drive within the camera, while higher end cameras will have a removable media storage such as a memory card or a flash memory stick.
Once images are taken and stored either on the camera or a removable media, these images must be transferred to your computer to work with them. There are some different transmission formats that your camera can use. USB and Firewire are two popular options, as they are easily compatible with the vast majority of computers, although many cameras still use other formats. This is another subject where you will have to pay attention when choosing your camera, because if your camera is not readily compatible with your computer the purchase of new hardware might be required.
A Word About Batteries
One last thing that should be noted about digital cameras is that they are all battery hogs. Although energy efficiency is increasing, the sad fact is that they require a lot of power to operate. Cheaper models will be less energy efficient, and some have their special battery packs, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself investing a hefty penny in batteries with your new digital camera. It is best to look for the most energy-efficient ones when buying a new camera.
Choosing the Digital Camera That is Right for You
If you want a camera primarily for personal use, there are a wide variety of basic, straightforward and functional digital cameras out there. The quality of image ranges between 1 and 3 megapixels, good enough for most anything you will require. Data storage is usually built in within the camera, and data transfer is most commonly done through USB or Firewire for fast and easy downloading of images. Many basic digital cameras will cost less than a hundred dollars and will cost no more than three hundred.
If you are seeking to use pictures in a more professional capacity, such as for running an online store or auction site or for use in your publications, you will want a higher quality camera. You’ll probably want something in the range of 4-5 megapixels. If you’re running an online store, you’ll want to ensure that your camera can focus at close range to enable you to take quality pictures of your items. This class of camera is also good for taking traditional photographs, as the quality is about that of a 5×7 snapshot taken with a regular camera.
For those that need even higher quality, for example, if you are seeking to create specialized photo albums or create high-end professional websites, you are going to need the more top quality camera, most likely in the 5-8 megapixel range. For the most part, these are among the more expensive digital cameras on the market, and also offer the widest array of options. Purchasing one of these cameras is a significant investment, running in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars and you will want to make sure you do your research and know exactly what you’re getting before you buy.
Unlike most of the lower-end cameras, higher quality cameras are also often modular. That means that lenses, flashes, and other accessories are attachable and can be switched for taking different sorts of pictures. This requires a much more extensive knowledge of photography than the more basic and user-friendly models offered at lower prices and should be thoroughly researched before getting into the field.
If you are an actual professional photographer and are looking for the highest quality in digital cameras, there is a wide variety out there. DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) cameras are the most commonly used by professional photographers and are a whole new category of digital camera.