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Digital Cameras Topics Digital Cameras and Digital Photography Overview of Digital Cameras Buyers Guide for Christmas How to Use Digital Cameras Image Enhancement What is a digital camera? Digital cameras are similar to regular film cameras. They use lenses, flash, may require focusing, and the pictures are “processed” in some way when all the pictures have been taken. Digital means that the image is converted from a light image to a series of 1’s and 0’s and stored in some type of computer memory or storage device. No film is used in the digital camera. Some cameras may store the pictures on floppy disks, built in memory circuits, memory sticks, or even CD’s. So far, you can see that you will save all film costs. However, if you want to create prints from your photos like the ones you got from your film camera, you will still have to pay for the prints. You can print them on your own color printer. Digital photographs can be taken in different resolutions. This means that some photos can be taken in lower quality or higher quality. The difference is in the number of dots or pixels that make up the image. This is similar to the dots that form the print in newspapers. Low-resolution photos have fewer dots and appear grainy while high- resolution photos have many more dots and appear closer to film quality. The drawback is the number of dots relates to the amount of memory required for storage. A camera can take fewer high quality pictures in the storage system since the individual file size is larger. Since digital cameras use lenses like your regular camera, they can be used to take close- ups, wide-angle, or telephoto shots if you have the right lenses. The cheapest cameras will have fixed focus lenses and usually a switch that allows you to do “macro” or close photos. Better cameras have zoom lenses. These come with a real value related to the optical system and a mathematically based digital zoom that extends the zoom capability of the lens system. Some cameras have a built in flash, auto-focus, and special effects. Most digital cameras have a built-in LCD Screen like a notebook computer screen for setting up your shots and viewing final pictures. Some have the capability of attaching a cable and playing the pictures through a TV. (This is called an analog or NTSC output.) This is good if you want to record your photos on videotape to send to relatives who do not have a computer! To get the most from a digital camera, you will need a personal computer with a serial interface usually standard serial port or USB. (The cameras that use CD’s or diskettes bypass this and use the drives in the computer directly.) The computer is used to “upload” the pictures from the camera to the computer hard drive and to name, enhance, and format the pictures. Cameras ship with at least two types of software. First, the software that allows you to link and upload the pictures, and second, image enhancement software such as Photostyler. The link software is specific to the camera that you buy. The other types of software can be used with any digital photos. The cameras produce digital files that must be converted into a standard graphics format for use on the computer. Some cameras automatically convert all photos to JPEG files that are common graphics files. Other cameras have their own format and the link software enables you to “export” the files in a variety of formats including JPEG, BMP, TIFF, GIF, etc. (JPEG files from Sony and other cameras can also be loaded into the enhancement software and exported in other file formats. These formats are imported because some are compressed and result in smaller files while others are large. (E.g. BMP files are usually very large while JPEG is compressed.) All can be manipulated into smaller files and saved in different formats for things like web pages and e-mail attachments. Now you have photos on your computer that you can view and enhance. If you have a color printer you can buy “photo paper” which is shiny (and expensive) and print pretty good pictures. Or, you can now send the pictures that you really want prints of, to an online processing center that will convert them into prints just like the ones you get from film. They will even put your album on the web and give you a private link so that your relatives and friends can see your latest photos! All you have to do is e-mail them the link and they can check it through their Internet software or AOL, etc. Buyers Guide You received a diskette, which has a series of links to websites featuring all kinds of digital cameras for other opinions. You can check these out when we finish our discussion. My Buyers Guide 1. 640 x 480 Min. Resolution- Get at least this resolution to ensure high enough photo quality to make good prints and screen images. Most cameras will exceed this today but always have lower resolution settings to allow more pictures in storage or for web photos. 2. Rechargeable batteries- Digital photos take a lot of electrical current to create. Battery life is pretty short so a built-in charger or a charger attachment is a must. 3. Good storage capacity- you want to be able to take at least as many photos, as you would normally take on film. Get a camera with floppy diskette storage or CD if you want the cheapest way to add more capacity. High capacity random access memory will allow you to take quite a few pictures before they must be uploaded. Or you can use memory cards or “sticks” so that you can buy more than one and change when they run out of storage space. Beware: Diskettes and CD’s are much slower!!! 4. Built-in Flash- My camera does not have a flash and I wish it did. Indoor lights are not bright enough in all situations and the flash works just like the one on your film camera. 5. A/C Adapter- It takes a while to upload pictures to your computer. The adapter will keep you from having to stay on battery power during this phase. 6. Good LCD View Finder- Get a camera that makes it easy to see what you are trying to photograph. In addition, it will let you see the photo that you have taken so you can delete it and shoot it again. 7. Buy a camera that will do the things above not a cheapie- face it, you will not be satisfied with a camera that doesn’t do what you want. You can find some real bargains, but you usually get what you pay for. You diskette has some price comparisons. Find the best camera at your price and go test it. You can get an older model. My camera cost over $500 when I bought it on sale from over $600. It is still available on the web for about $100. (That is only about a 3year time frame.) You will have to spend at least $300 to get the things above unless you can find one that someone bought recently and is selling for some reason. 8. Port Requirement- Be sure to get a camera with USB connection if you have this type of serial port on your computer. If not, get a standard serial connector. Some cameras use special sticks that require you to install a reader on your computer. If you are not up to installing it, don’t buy this type. I would buy a camera with a good zoom lens and flash. Those are the only two things that I miss. Some cameras can take a minute or so of motion video but a digital movie camera can take much longer and also shoot singe frame digital pictures. If you want movies most, buy the movie camera and also get single frames. If you want digital photos buy a digital still camera. How to Use Digital Cameras Guess what? It is pretty much the same as your film camera! It is electric so you have to turn it on. Frame up your subject and push the shutter switch. The built-in computer will do its thing and a photo image is created and stored. You usually have a switch on the back for recording or playing. You will have to switch from record to play and then be able to see the picture you just took on the LCD screen. Switch back to record and you are ready for the next photo. You may have other switches on your camera. These may include Macro for the close-ups, and auto-exposure or a bright / low light switch. More expensive cameras will have more things to adjust including the Zoom, special effects, etc. Now you have a camera full of pictures. If it is a diskette or CD storing camera, take out the diskette or CD and place it in the appropriate drive on your computer. Since these cameras create JPEG files you can look at the photos in any graphics program or your Internet browser. If you have memory or memory stick storage you will need to connect your camera to a port on your computer. All computers have serial ports; newer computers have USB, which is a faster serial port. Attach the cable to the computer and to the camera, open the link software, and upload the files to your computer hard drive. Once you know the pictures are safely transferred you can clear the memory in your camera and start shooting pictures again. Remember, no film!!! Don’t worry about Mr. Kodak, he is big time into web photo processing and display. When you look at your photos you can print them on your printer, delete the bad ones, use your enhancement software to take out “red eyes”, etc. Image Enhancement The software that comes with your camera is usually a good start. You can also download all types of software to help brighten, darken, paint, crop, etc. your photo. The best thing, enlargements are just a matter of a click of the mouse. Don’t expect to make full wall posters, though. The bigger you make your picture the bigger the pixels appear and you can get to really blotchy photos that don’t look like photographs. If you want to learn to really use your Photoshop, Photostyler, or other imaging software it will take some practice or another class or more.
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