TIPS FOR SELECTING THE BEST DIGITAL CAMERA Maybe you re by latenightwaitress



Maybe you’re finally ready to buy your first digital camera. Or it’s time to replace your sluggish 4-year old cam-
era. Or friends, co-workers and relatives often ask you for recommendations when they are shopping for a cam-
era. Whatever the reason, we’ve broken down the list of digital camera features into ten main areas to make it
easier for you to sort through the specifications and get the best camera.

MEGAPIXELS:          This really isn’t the most important feature, but it is probably the starting point for most
shoppers. A 3- or 4-megapixel camera has plenty of resolution for e-mailing photos and making 8x10” prints.
Cameras in the 5-megapixel and greater range can produce nicely detailed 16x20” prints.

Will a 6-megapixel “point & shoot” camera match a 6-megapixel D-SLR? Probably not, in spite of the sensor
resolution being the same. The reason is the D-SLR has a physically larger sensor with more room between
pixels. Each pixel is more sensitive to light, so less signal amplification is needed. As a result, there is less noise
(stray light and off-color pixels) and images taken at higher ISO settings are much cleaner.

 LENS: Virtually every digital camera above $100 has an optical zoom lens. (Cameras that advertise only a
“digital” zoom actually have a fixed non-zoom lens, and merely crop the image to “zoom” in. This results in
reduced image quality.) The power of optical zoom lenses is expressed by a multiplication factor, such as 3X,
10X, etc. A range comparing it to 35mm film cameras is usually given, since the 35mm film equivalent is familiar
to most people. The more powerful a zoom lens, the more versatile the camera will be. On the other hand, the
long lens will increase the size and price of the camera. When zoomed out to the maximum, the camera will
need to be mounted on a tripod to get the best sharpness due to camera movement.

Just as a fast lens (with a small f-number) makes it easier to shoot a film camera, the same is true in digital
photography. Pay attention to the lens speed when you’re reviewing specification lists if you shoot available
light or active subjects such as sports.

STORAGE MEDIA:              If you are upgrading from an older digital camera you may want to use the same
memory cards in both cameras. If this is your first camera, this isn’t much of an issue. Many cameras have a
small amount of built-in memory and a slot that accepts an optional memory card. Be sure to get the card right
away, since the built-in memory will fill quickly, perhaps before you can download the images to your computer.

CAMERA SIZE:             One of the most amazing features of digital cameras is the range of sizes available. From
ultra-compact models that scarcely add a bulge to a shirt pocket, to digital SLRs that are as big as (or even
bigger than) 35mm SLRs, you’ll be able to find cameras that fit your hands and offer the level of compactness
you desire. An ultra-compact camera will often have a lens that zooms internally and never protrudes out from
the body. If you have large hands, the buttons and controls on ultra-compacts may be too small. Consider how
you will likely carry the camera to help you decide on the importance of size.
BATTERY SIZE:           Digital cameras are powered either by AA alkaline (or rechargeable AA NiMH batteries),
or by proprietary rechargeable battery packs. These packs have a lot of power in a very compact space. But
compared to the AA-size batteries, the battery packs can be costly to replace. If you have several music players
and other devices that you power with AA rechargeable batteries, you may want to limit your camera choice to
one that takes this common power source.

CREATIVE CONTROLS: Even the most basic cameras have a few subject modes that automatically set
the best white balance, shutter speed and aperture settings for certain types of pictures, such as landscapes,
portraits and action shots. More advanced models will give you full control over exposure, focus, flash, white
balance and other factors.

FLASH:       All but some pro-model D-SLRs have a built-in flash. This flash is very small, so it is limited in dis-
tance to around 10 feet. Some cameras have a hot shoe for adding a separate, more powerful flash. On com-
pact cameras, the flash is usually very close to the lens. This makes red-eye a common problem. Some cam-
eras diminish red-eye by using multiple-burst flash, easy-to-use corrective software, or a combination of the two.

VIEWFINDER:            Digital cameras have an LCD display on the back that shows the picture after you’ve
taken it, and usually before, too. On some cameras, the LCD also serves as the viewfinder for framing and
composing the shot. The LCD draws quite a bit of the battery power and may be hard to see outdoors. A
camera with a conventional optical viewfinder as well as the LCD gives you more flexibility, but may not be quite
as compact as an LCD-only camera. Digital SLR cameras with interchangeable lenses have the same type of
mirror box and prism viewfinder as 35mm SLR cameras. With this type of viewing, you are viewing the actual
image, so what you see is what you get, in real time. Point & shoot style cameras with extended 10X or 12X
zooms usually have electronic viewfinders, or EVF. This type of viewing is like that on camcorders and shows
an electronic view of the scene. Earlier EVFs were notorious for having a noticeable time lag, but that has
improved and is seldom a problem except when shooting very fast action.

 FILE TYPES/SIZES: Cameras will typically give you a selection of several JPEG file sizes. The more
compressed the images, the more photos you can take on a given card size. However, the trade-off is image
quality, which is sacrificed as files get more compressed. Some high-end cameras offer uncompressed file
types such as TIFF and RAW. These uncompressed file types deliver maximum image quality and offer the
greatest enhancement and creative control flexibility, but require much more card memory space than JPEGs.

PRICE:       Ah yes, the price. No matter what camera you buy today, there will be a newer version in a few
months that probably will have more megapixels and a lower price, too. But if you wait for the absolute best
time to buy, you’ll miss countless opportunities to enjoy the camera while you’re waiting. Truthfully, this is a
great time to buy a new digital camera because there have been many advances over the past couple of years
that have improved performance and convenience, and costs have already dropped considerably. It is a very
competitive market, so you’ll no doubt have several models to choose from after you’ve used the other nine
areas in this article to find the features that matter most.

                                                 Courtesy of—
                                             Porter’s Camera Store

                                               ph. 1-800-553-2001

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