Choosing The Right Digital Camera

Let's get something straight right out of the box. If you're looking to buy a new digital camera, you don't really have to be an expert in pixels and mega pixels and all that kind of stuff. If you expect to find that kind of deep technical discussion here, you're in the wrong place.

Actually, there's a whole lot of stuff you don't really need to know before tackling the daunting task of choosing the right digital camera for you.

First of all, forget all the high-tech jargon. It's mostly a lot of sales hype anyway. Choosing a good unit is pretty simple really...pretty much all you have to remember is that the higher the mega pixel rating on the front of the camera, the bigger picture you can make without it breaking up into little chunks (called pixels) and most likely the more cash it's likely going to pry out of your pocket. Each model has an array of techno-widgets that go by different names but they all have the same basic focus, to help you take a better picture.

I have a quick (and admittedly simplistic) overview of the pixel story. The shot on the left on my web page

http://www.great-nature-photography.com/digital-cameras.html

is one I took with a high pixel rating and the one on the right was with a much lower rating. They've been enlarged way beyond what you would normally do, but I do have a point to make here. If you look carefully you can see there's a terrific difference in the way they look or, in the 'resolution'. The image on the right has already broken up into small pieces (pixels) (I hope) you can readily see. The picture on the left was magnified several times more than the one on the right which should give you an idea of how big you can enlarge it and still retain a fairly decent result. By the way, these shots are of a very, very small piece of a picture I took of snapdragons in our front yard.

A camera with a 5.0 mega pixel rating or higher can produce a decent 16X20 print but one with a 2.0 mega pixel rating or lower should be restricted to a maximum of 4X6 prints. For the most part, you won't be happy with pictures any larger than 4X6 from the lower rated camera.

Okay, Let's Pick A Camera...

Well, I have my favorites and my not-so favorites.

When I looked at all the digital cameras available, I was more than a little astounded at the vast selection of available equipment. It seems that every company that's ever heard the word "computer" has jumped on the bandwagon. It seems they lay their hands on some lenses, wrap a computerized box around them, added a few techno-widgets and bingo, instant digital camera! What can you say...it's money in the bank!

Where did I start looking? Well, I went back to my tried and true method of buying a film camera that I talk about later. It's always worked for me and didn't let me down this time either.

My personal digital camera finally wound up to be an Olympus C-5050. By the way, in my opinion Olympus didn't do themselves or their customers any favors by dumping the f1.8 lens on the C-5060.

I chose this camera for the fast f1.8 lens and ease of use. I'm lazy at best and wanted a unit that's going to do most of the work for me while leaving me with the option of doing what I want to do when I want to do it.

This unit has all the automatic features I'll ever need but I also have the ability to set up the camera completely manually. I can still do minimum depth-of-field work among other things. I never want to completely lose control to a mindless computer although they do have their uses at times.

The first thing I did after I opened the box was print off the user manual - all 265 pages of it! I figured I had done my duty by it and promptly ignored it.

After very quickly killing my first two sets of "high-capacity" alkaline batteries, I sprung for a couple sets of Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) rechargeables. Not only did they last longer but it was a heck of a lot cheaper than replacing the alkalines every darn time I picked up the camera.

It boils me to have to admit this but I actually had to go back to the user manual. I wasn't getting the results I wanted and there was also some 'stuff' on the camera I had no clue about using. The moral of this story is that you're gonna have to at least have a nodding acquaintance with your user manual. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Back to choosing a camera...

Throughout the years I've learned that if a camera 'fit' my hand it worked well for me. It may sound a little strange at first but just think about it. If you're handling something that feels awkward, your results are going to look like it. I had a Mamiya RB-67 for a lot of years. It was a big, ungainly unit but it was a good 'fit' for me and produced a great image. I also used a Hasselblad for quite a while but I much preferred the Mamiya and it gave me better results than the Hasselblad. (Don't tell Hasselblad lovers I said this, they'll kill me!)

So, rule of thumb...if it fits your hand nicely, if the main controls are handy to your fingers, if it has the mega pixel number you want and falls within your budget, you can be pretty confident this will do the job you want it to do. Oh yes, if it's a brand you've never heard of before, be very, very wary. It may work well and it may not. If it doesn't, there may not be any tech backup for you to be able to access.

The major camera companies spend lots of money developing new photo technologies. Although the latest techno-widgets go by different names, they all have the same goal, to make your pictures look as good as possible.

Pretty well every company in the world that has even come close to producing a good digital camera has gotten into the "SLR Wars".

Single lens reflex cameras dominated the photo market for years until digital technology hit the market. Because of design and price limitations, SLR technology has not been widely available in the non-professional digital cameras until the last year or so.

The furious pace of technological developments has completely overtaken the market and even professional photographers are being boggled trying to keep up.

Remember the old Nikon F2? It was the major link in the Nikon chain of professional cameras for over 10 years! This was pretty much the norm until the computer hit the photographic industry big time.

Changes used to come slowly and deliberately and it wasn't hard to keep up with the latest and greatest when major new developments came along only two or three times in a decade. The battle now is to produce digital cameras that operate faster, can be sold cheaper and will produce a better picture. Severe competition even exists within the same corporate structure where teams of developers do their utmost to 'outgun' other camera designers who work in the same building as they do!

Nikon has a distinct advantage over many of the other manufacturers in that owners of some of the older series of Nikon lenses can use them with the new digital bodies, a tremendous dollar saving to the photographer.

Most of this rapid development is focused on the professional photographer. But, with technology changing as rapidly as it is, a camera technology that sells for several thousands of dollars today will undoubtedly become available to people like you and me in the next couple of years for a whole lot less money.

One of the hardest jobs a new camera buyer will have is determine which of the new techno-widgets does the best job and is the best value.

One thing to keep in mind about camera features?they all have the same job and that's to help you take a better photo.

Picture this if you will. If you lined up 10 cameras from different manufacturers, each with similar basic features, took the same picture with each, I think even the camera manufacturers would have a tough time picking out which of the resulting photos came from their units.

Getting feedback from all kinds of users is one very excellent use of newsgroups. Serious photographers, amateur and professional both, love to talk about their latest 'toys'. This is a good way to spend time and a good place to ask questions and (sometimes) get intelligent answers.

Don't wait until you've made the investment to start doing your homework.

Another rule of thumb, if you're happy with a particular brand name already, my suggestion is to stick with it. You'll probably be more satisfied in the long run.

Now, having said all that, there are currently five search engine 'favorite' companies among the people looking for information on the Internet, Sony, Canon, Olympus, Kodak and Nikon in this order of popularity. Of this group, Sony is the only one with no prior experience in camera building before digital.

Understanding how to set your camera's resolution is absolutely vital. There's no shortcut and there's no way around it. This is the core of taking a good, reproducible photograph. If, for instance, your camera is set for 240X360, you can forget making any kind of decent print above a 'thumbnail' size.

The low-end cameras are not a bargain if you're looking for good photo reproduction. Labs are constantly arguing with customers who submit low resolution digital images from a cheap camera for printing and then aren't happy with the results. They simply don't understand why the pictures from their brand new digital camera are so lousy. Lenses and the type of digital image recording technology are also critical factors.

I won't get into the technical details of why but I will suggest you consider spending in the $250 to $400 range if you want something that will satisfy you.

Let's spend a few minutes on lenses. Pretty well all of the digital cameras these days have a form of zoom lens. Most of the higher-end cameras have the capability for the user to add either an external telephoto or wide-angle lens. Depending on the type of photography you want to do will determine whether or not this is of value to you.

One thing to watch out for. The higher end cameras have very good glass lenses. It's part of what you're paying for. The lower-end units have progressively less expensive lenses and consequently, a lower image definition.

There are both optical and digital zoom capabilities on digital cameras. The term "optical zoom" simply means you're using the glass lenses to do the magnification. "Digital zoom" on the other hand simply increases the size of the pixels to make the image larger. For reasons of image clarity, the optical zoom is a far better way to go.

One last note - if you run across the "best deal in town" on a very low-priced name brand camera, check to make sure it isn't badly out-dated. Buying well-priced clearance stock is okay if it isn't too old. In this computer age, pretty well anything over a year old is considered 'old technology'. As new technologies are developed the price keeps going down so you could actually be money ahead by investing in the 'latest and greatest'.

Always keep in mind the old adage that 'you usually get what you pay for.

If you go to a 'box' store looking for the best price, don't expect service. The folks there simply don't know what they're selling. Their job is to move as much merchandise as they can as quickly as possible. It's not to give you advice.

Go to the Internet to get the latest data directly from the manufacturers. It changes very, very quickly. When you do this, try to climb through all the sales hype to get to the 'meat' of what the cameras are all about. Newsgroups can also a very excellent source of advice for 'newbies'.

Most people will be very happy to give you their personal opinion of what you should buy. Just remember, they won't usually tell you what the downside to their purchase is. They don't want to look less than 'expert' in your eyes. Do your own homework. This is an investment you probably won't repeat for several years.

A specialty camera store on the other hand gives the buyer both service and product and usually very well. Keep in mind that the specialty store personnel are quite often very highly trained and will probably be well prepared to help you find the best equipment for you and will also give you a 'leg-up' in getting started using it.

We need to spend a couple of moments on storage media. Whatever size media card you stick in your camera will determine the number of pictures you can take and store. It's like a roll of film, the bigger the roll the more pictures you can take. Digital images are no different. The greater the number of available megabytes (Mb), the higher the number of pictures you can take.

A word of caution - never, never, never leave your media card in a photo lab. The incidence of loss is high and most labs won't replace lost cards. Quite frankly, I don't blame them. Far, far too many false claims have been made and labs now refuse to take any responsibility for your memory cards.

That's it for now. Keep your film dry your lenses clean!
Gordon
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Gordon has been involved in the photo industry in one way or another for over 30 years. Long after he stopped using his mother's pie plates as developing trays in the family bathroom, among other things, he owned his own photo lab and professional studio for a number of years.

See more at: http://www.great-nature-photography.com

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

Richmond.com

Richmond's first modern tintype studio practices 1860s-style photography
Richmond.com
The 1860s photo technique (and the dour expressions that tend to come along with it) is making a minor comeback in Richmond as photographers and portrait clients look for something to set themselves apart from the ubiquitous perfection of modern ...


Fstoppers

Traits of a Successful Photography Business
Fstoppers
Professional photography is a business, and like any business there are patterns and traits that exist when looking at what works and what doesn't work. Here are a few traits every successful photography business shares that you can incorporate into ...


WIRED

Photographs of Buildings That Become Abstract Art
WIRED
Although the Serbian-born Olic has always had a passion for taking photographs, it wasn't until 2013 that he had the epiphany that would lead him to what has become his signature style. While crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in New York he was mesmerized ...


Fstoppers

Five Essential Tips for Building a Professional Photography Website
Fstoppers
A photographer's online portfolio is paramount in this day and age, but you already know that. However, we are at a juncture in which the caliber of a photographer's website can be the difference between being hired and being overlooked. Here are five ...


UPROXX

A Photographer Shares How To Take Great Nature Shots As A Beginner
UPROXX
We interview a lot of dope photographers, and we always ask them to explain how to better capture images that impress and inspire. They've all given some awesome advice, but we haven't yet tailored an interview for people who are just starting out. And ...


Forbes

How A Search For A Stable Job Led This Entrepreneur To Follow Her Passion For Photography
Forbes
Giggling herself as she moves around her beautiful light-filled studio in Manhattan, she explained that she is passionate about the niche of maternity and newborn photography because it provides the opportunity to “create experiences where mothers have ...


My Modern Met

Early Highlights of the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards
My Modern Met
Whether an animal is the hunter or the hunted, surviving in the wild is serious business. And while many wildlife photographers aim to capture this “dog-eat-dog” world, some have been able to show that even the toughest creatures have their silly moments.


Vintage views from the Illinois College of Photography
Effingham Daily News
The Illinois College of Photography in Effingham was started by Lewis H. Bissell. He owned and operated Bissell photographic studio on the southwest corner of the courthouse square. Lewis published many cabinet cards which are real photos of people ...


The Boston Globe

At Harvard, seeing the importance of the print in photography
The Boston Globe
CAMBRIDGE — With a photograph, what you see is what someone else got — and with an analog photograph it's someone else twice over. First, a photographer selected some slice of the external world and put a frame around it. That's obvious enough.


TechRadar

Street photography: 10 top tips to help you get your best-ever shots
TechRadar
Fantastic street photographs are readily available in every public space, but over-familiarity with our environment means we often miss out on special moments and scenes unfolding in front of us. These street photography tips will help you see those ...

and more »
Google News

Digital Camera Basics

Digital Camera Basics? The VocabularyShopping for a digital camera can... Read More

Who Had The Better Brushes Leonardo or Michelangelo?

Ordinary photos of dull subjects do actually sell, but the... Read More

Guidelines for Printing Great Photos at Home

So you have this great digital camera and you've taken... Read More

The Paradigm: Going Digital

As you might imagine the paradigm shift from traditional film-based... Read More

Infrared Photography and the Car Thief ? Successful Digital Imaging

Infrared photography is sometimes placed on the outside edge of... Read More

Is Film Better than Digital for Weddings?

As a professional wedding photographer I get this question asked... Read More

Black and White is Beautiful

Think about Laurel and Hardy for a moment, or Charlie... Read More

The Advantages of Underwater Camera Housing

You will need an underwater camera housing to keep your... Read More

The Alligator Farm - Home to Beautiful Winged Creatures

Your first thought when you read "Alligator Farm" might be... Read More

Light Meter Readings for Film and Digital

Reflected Light Readings for Film and Digital ImagesIn order to... Read More

Traveling to Europe with Your Digital Camera?

The Vacation Season is fast approaching and naturally you will... Read More

Birthday Party Photo Tips ? How to Make Yours Truly Stand Out

How many of the birthday party pictures you've seen are... Read More

Safari Wildlife Photography Top Four Tips

I've been practising wildlife photography on safari for over twenty... Read More

Digital Camera Memory - An Introduction

The digital camera is essentially a computer-based device, whose core... Read More

Creating Personalized Photo Calendars

About Personalized Photo Calendars:Photo Calendars are 12-month, wall-hanging calendars that... Read More

Cropping Digital Photos Into Shape

Did you know that in many cases digital photos are... Read More

10 MORE Ways to Make Money with Your Digital Cameras

1. Pet photos - advertise a Pet Photography business where... Read More

Kodak CX7300 Digital Camera

Quality digital cameras are becoming affordable for just about everyone... Read More

How a Digital Camera Works

The digital camera is not something of a magic box... Read More

Digital Cameras vs. Film Cameras- the debate goes on

One of the biggest debates in the photography world is... Read More

Photography 101 Part 3

ContentEven if you feel that you already know what kind... Read More

10 Steps to Buying a Digital Camera You Must Know

You are anxious to purchase your new digital camera! You... Read More

Light and Depth of Field

With such a fantastic device as the digital camera for... Read More

The Beginner Buyers Guide To Digital Cameras, Or The Ins And Outs Of Megapixels

The most important part of buying a digital camera is... Read More

Exposure Compensation

The digital camera is in reality a great possession with... Read More