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Archive for October, 2008

Top 20 Questions to Consider When Buying a Digital Camera

digital cameras
My top 20 key questions to ask yourself when buying a digital camera.

1. How many “megapixels” /resolution?

Once and for all, at least to me, you have to get the highest resolution your money can buy at the time you buy. Period.

2. Who made the lens?

Most cameras will give you an idea where the lens was made just by looking at the front of the lens. Know if the lens of your camera came from a reputable company like Leica, Zeiss, Canon, Etc… Lens quality is one of the most important factors you should consider especially if you’re going to use it for commercial, technical or scientific purposes.

3. Will I need interchangeable lenses? How many are available for my specific camera in mind?

Having the option of interchangeable lenses gives you the freedom to experiment with different kinds of focal lengths. Although some P&S (point and shoot) cameras can rival DSLR’s with a generous zoom range for a non interchangeable lens system.

Also note the number of lenses available for use with your specific camera because of flexibility reasons. You can practically cover the entire “zoom range” with interchangeable lenses versus modest zoom ranges on non interchangeable lens systems or P&S cameras.

4. Does it have a zoom capability? What’s the range?

Almost all applications that I listed above will need some form of zooming in (telephoto) or out (wide angle), especially if you don’t have the space to move around the object you are shooting.

For Landscape shots, wide angle shots are very common and appealing while zooming in on the details serves as a break and complements the wide angle shots.

For weddings and events, you need a zoom because there will be times where you are limited by the shooting space and you will have a difficult time moving around. Its a good thing to know that you can do all sorts of framing without even moving from your position.

A nice zoom will give you the efficiency and versatility in your photography, so my suggestion is to go for the longest range you can get (usually from a 7X to a 10X for Point and Shoots).

Also note the speed of zooming in or out as this will be a factor if you’re shooting events like weddings. You will fail to capture that “decisive moment” on a mediocre zoom speed.

5. Does it have the provision to capture raw images?

Many photographers will say you’ll need this digital camera feature if you want to have big prints from your pictures. Although this is correct, the main reason why you will want this is because of the benefit it will give you…pure total control of your pictures… from exposure, color, metadata, hdr and a lot more.

6. Can I attach an external flash?

Having an external flash capability will give you the power and creative freedom to light your subjects any which way you like.

You can connect your digital camera to all sorts of lighting equipment thus giving you more options and versatility. This comes in the form of a hotshoe or a PC-Sync socket.

If your digital camera doesn’t have this feature, there is still hope because accessories called flash slaves are being sold by third party companies in different flavors that will also do the same job more or less.

7. Does it have a tripod socket?

Some of the most beautiful landscape pictures that I’ve seen are undoubtedly made with a tripod, so this is a must have if you are planning to do this kind of photography.

The “available light shots” in a wedding, still life and product shots, studio and fine art shots … all need a tripod for successful execution… so guess what happens if you don’t have a tripod socket?… You cannot effectively use a tripod!

8. Does it have automatic and manual focusing?

It will not be evident at first why you’ll need this especially if you’re just starting out in photography. But if you’re like me… A total control freak when it comes to cameras… and you really want to express your creative side, this is definitely a must have.

9. Can you attach filters to it? and what filter size?

Creative expression through special effects is just one of the many reasons that makes photography fun and interesting, and experimenting with filters is one creative pursuit you should try with your photography especially if you’re a beginner.

Always remember to ask if the particular digital camera you are eyeing for can handle filters and ask for the filter size. (To save you from buying the right filter with the wrong filter size) Please note that most Digital SLRs should be able to to handle filters as most lenses that come with it have a filter thread built into the lens.

Most P&S (point and shoot) digital cameras normally doesn’t have a filter thread built-in and might need special accessories to accomplish this so you should check to know for sure.

Again, there are many third party accessories that you could buy to adapt filters to your P&S digital cameras that don’t have this provisions. I’ll discuss all about this in a future post so watch for it. (Or subscribe to my announcement list (feed via email) so you’ll know when it’s up.

10. Can I upgrade the firmware?

The good thing about some digital camera manufacturers is that they keep on improving their digital cameras even after they sold it to you… this comes in the form of a firmware upgrade.

Usually this involves an improvement on one or many features of a camera. Be sure that the digital camera you’re planning to buy has an easy way of upgrading its firmware. This comes in the form of either an easy download via the manufacturer’s website (find it and bookmark it now) or a FREE CDROM.

Another caveat – be sure to consider if a downgrade is also possible or available with your digital camera… Why is there a need a downgrade you ask?… Because, you may want to reinstall an earlier firmware… just in case you don’t like the results from a firmware upgrade.

Occasionally there’s a feature that will be removed by the upgrade that you failed to read about and you decided that you just want to keep that feature instead of a bunch of trivial upgrades from the new firmware. (Yes, I personally experienced this.)

11. Are there extra goodies or software that come with it?

Some people ignore the fact that you can save a lot of money just by doing a simple arithmetic. Did you know that you could actually get your digital camera for a lot less if you study the deals and offers on the marketplace?

If you buy a digital camera and it comes with software that you can really use… like photoshop, elements, or any other image editing software for that matter, then you already saved some money you would otherwise spend. Some dealers will throw in lots of extras… If you just simply ask.

Always try to ask for these things that you’ll end up buying anyway if you don’t – like camera bags, extra lenses, extra batteries, memory cards, tripod, lens cleaners etc. Trust me… you will end up buying these things if you don’t ask for it on the deal. What have you got to lose? Simply ASK. Would you believe that I effectively lowered one of my camera purchase cost by as much as 30%? Ask away.

12. Is there Local Support in your area?

Finding the answer to this one will give you a great benefit in the long run. Wouldn’t you sleep better at night because you feel that extra security – that in case there is something wrong with your digital camera, you can bring it in for repair at a moments notice?

Not knowing when your camera will be repaired (or if it even arrived at a distant repair facility) is one of the worst feelings a photographer can have especially if you’re in the middle of a photoshoot or project.

13. What type of warranty does it have? Worldwide / Countrywide?

If you travel a lot its good to know that a countrywide or even better – a worldwide warranty can get your camera fixed wherever you are. Always bring the warranty card and glue it on your camera bag.

14. Does it have the ability to take video and audio?

I know, most DSLRs don’t have this function. But some non interchangeable lens DSLRs have it. This is a very useful feature to have if you’re on a project or photoshoot and want to document or record a procedure, a moment, or an idea that you would otherwise have trouble remembering or even writing. It’s always a good idea to bring a P&S camera backup that have this function.

The things that you could do with audio and videoclips on a photoshoot are only limited by your imagination… interviews, documentation, funny quips, training procedures, bloopers, etc..

15. Does it have a manual white balance?

White balance is one of the most interesting aspects of digital cameras. Its fun and fascinating to work with. Having this option puts the photography fun-o-meter way way up. In future posts, I will be discussing white balance in detail so be sure to stay tuned.

16. How sensitive is it to infrared?

If you’re planning to make infrared pictures or enter the exciting world of Infrared fine art photography then you’ll want to know if your digital camera can do it.

TIP: There is a simple way to test how sensitive your digital camera is to infrared using a very common device – a TV remote control. For P&S, you can aim the remote control towards the lens and gauge how bright the LED from remote is. This should give you an idea how sensitive your digital camera is to infrared. For DSLRs you will need to take shots of the LED and experiment a little or you can simply research or google the particular camera model you have in mind for other people’s experiences and thoughts about it.

17. How high is the ISO sensitivity? Is it manually adjustable?

ISO sensitivity is a term referring to the sensitivity of film to light. In the digital camera world, it refers to the sensitivity of the electronic sensor in your digital camera in relation to the ISO standard used for film.

The higher the ISO sensitivity of your camera the faster or better it can record a specific amount of light.

High ISO sensitivity is useful for taking better pictures in dark settings… such as inside a church or at night. The higher the ISO setting, the more details you can capture of a dark scene.

One caveat – take note of the amount of noise a particular camera exhibits at higher ISOs. Some people like it and some don’t. Again, don’t be afraid to ask or do research on the noise characteristics of your camera model in mind to see if this is the right choice for you.

18. How high or low can you set the shutterspeed? What are the minimum and maximum aperture settings?

Shutterspeed and aperture settings are the basic mechanisms that drive your camera and controls the amount of light that is exposed by the film or image sensor.

You use high shutterspeeds in action shots and to prevent camera shake, and you use low shutterspeeds for movement effects and bulb or long exposures. You can check for these figures on the websites that I gave you in part 1. You can see it in the technical specifications for a particular camera.

A bulb or “T” function is a nice feature to have because you can take exposures for virtually very long periods of time. Another feature to have is if your camera has a remote control to use this bulb or “T” mode. This gives you the capability to take pictures without holding your camera and adding to the “camera shake”.

With the subject of apertures, a small one (small aperture opening) lets you have a wider depth of field so your shots are sharp from near to far versus a large aperture (big aperture opening) where your shots have a narrow depth of field and appear “selectively focused”.

19. Does it have some form of an image stabilizer?

New cameras coming out as we speak often have this feature. Simply put, an image stabilizer is some form of a mechanism built into the lens or the camera body (depending on the manufacturer and their implementation) that basically prevents you from getting blurred pictures when taking pictures in low light or you are using a long or telephoto lens. Having this feature can mean the difference between a blurry picture (aka no picture!) to a usable one.

20. How close can it focus? Macro abilities?

The closer your camera can focus… the bigger the picture of an object you can take in relation to the image dimensions of the final photo… and the bigger the picture of the object… the more detail you can get. If you want to take pictures of small objects such as flowers and fine details then this is a must-have.

That’s it. Whew.

Do you really have to go over all these questions?… Of course not, but even if you only study and ponder on half of them…and take the time… I promise you that one thing will surely happen…

You’ll be…

a lot smarter!

than when you first started asking these questions… ergo you’ll be in a better position to decide what digital camera to buy… Because you are now armed with the most powerful tool anybody can have

the power of information!

In any case, I hope you find as much value in these questions as many of my friends have and be able to get the camera of your dreams.

Enjoy!

By: aldrin garcia

About the Author:

Aldrin Garcia is a Computer Consultant, Professional Photographer and Professional Blogger currently based in the Philippines. Current Projects include a digital imaging consultancy for the 350 page coffee table book “CEBU” and his Photography pursuits at http://www.aldringarcia.com. If you’re starting out as a digital photographer or doing it as a hobby you can check out and subscribe to his blog at http://digicamresource.blogspot.com for more tips, ideas, techniques and musings.

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Things you Need to Know Before you Buy Digital Camera

digital cameras
Digital cameras come in many sizes, colors, brands, zooms, resolutions, playbacks, etc. There are so many features and qualities that are being placed in the devices that buyers especially first timers become overwhelmed and dizzy with these outstanding arrays of gadgets. This is even without including the various advertisements and different ratings that are used to promote these products.

So what are the things to look for if you want to buy digital camera? To be able to answer these, there are 2 sets of information you have to know before you can decide. The first type of information is defining what YOU need and want in a digital camera. To do this, you can ask yourself the following questions:

– What do you want to take with your digital camera? Before you buy digital camera, it is important to determine what kind of pictures you want to take with it. If you are a digital photography enthusiast, any digital camera will not just do. You have to look for features that can support the zooming you need, the resolution, etc.

– How much is your budget? This is a very important question any person who intends to buy digital camera should ask. Because no matter what your needs and wants are for the device, your financial resource will play a huge part in dictating the type of digital camera you will buy.

– What are you resources? When you buy digital camera, sometimes the spending does not end there. You also have to consider the capacity and the power of the computer and the printer you will be hooking your camera with for your editing and printing needs. Editing software are already included when you buy digital camera but other devices aren’t. Aside from a printer, ink and paper for printing, you might also need additional memory cards for your camera and a more powerful computer to support image editing and image storage and retrieval.

After answering these 3 questions, the second set of information you need to know before you buy digital camera are the features that you need in the device. These are:

– Resolution. Before you buy digital camera, check first its capacity to produce high quality photo images. The number of pixels indicated determines resolution. The more number of pixels, the higher the resolution which can make photos to be enlarged without losing image quality.

– Built-in memory. Digital cameras need memory cards for picture storage. When you buy digital camera, make sure that the gadget that you buy does not only have a “built-in” memory but should also have a card slot for external and additional memory. This allows you to change full memory cards conveniently while shooting your pictures.

– Look and feel. It is essential for you to feel comfortable holding your digital camera while shooting. So, before you buy digital camera, it good to test and check if you are comfortable holding it and using it. Consider where the buttons are located and how they are spaced out and see also if you feel comfortable using the viewfinder.

– Battery life. Digital cameras use up batteries fast and batteries are expensive. Before you buy digital camera, consider if the camera’s batteries are rechargeable. This way you can recharge them. Take also into consideration an AC adapter when you buy digital camera. You can attach this to the camera when you are viewing your pictures or uploading them

– LCD. The LCD is a special consideration you have to look into when you buy a digital camera. This is a small screen located at the back of a digital camera that allows you to preview the pictures you took. This has to be considered when you buy digital camera because it uses up a lot of battery power.

– Special features. Special features that will suit your needs should be thought about, too before you buy digital camera. If you want your camera to have good zooming, you can opt for those with optical zoom lenses. A diopter adjustment on the digital camera’s viewfinder will also be beneficial to those who regularly wear glasses and wish to buy digital camera. Other features such as remote control, tripods, etc. can also be considered when you buy a digital camera.

With these information, you can now figure out what you really need and want before you buy digital camera. If you want to see ratings and rankings of these devices based on price, resolution or other features, check out various websites that have these in the Internet.

By: Nicholas Tan

About the Author:

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Digital Cameras

digital cameras
Today people are switching over from film cameras to digital models. The obvious reasons are the ease with which objects are framed and shot, pictures are stored, recorded, and displayed. To top it all you can download at the comfort of your home and print the pictures.

However if you are buying one for the first time, there are chances that you will be literally lost reviewing the specifications and features offered by the numerous brands out there in the market. Do you go by mega pixels or do you go by manufacturers or by price range or by….well, there are many more classifications possible. The following guide is prepared with the intention to help you arrive at a practical model of your choice.

Various Features

Weight

This factor depends a lot on the usage of the digital camera. You want one to carry around in your pocket or purse, go for the light weight ones. No doubt they are convenient, but the have tiny buttons, controls and dials which may make the handling a little difficult. The bigger ones weigh more and have more features too.

Resolution

Cameras are categorized as mega pixels of resolution. It narrows down the range of cameras and helps you sort out beginners, intermediate and advanced groupings from these. The range is 0.1 mega pixel to 18 mega pixel and some even more. The key to choosing the right pixel camera depends on how close you wish to get to target.

2 mega pixels and less- you get reasonably sharp images and enough details for prints of 8x10s and smaller. Prints are not of very high quality but suitable enough to be posted on emails and web sites. These cameras are inexpensive.

2 to 6 mega pixels- As the resolution keeps increasing in this range, the picture quality keeps getting better. You get sharper images all at an escalated price.Eg Canon PowerShot S3, Fuji FinePix V10 etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?resolution=0.1-to-5.1

6 mega pixels and more- More aren’t always good. Keep in mind higher mega pixels mean larger image sizes, expensive memory cards, and take more space of your computer’s hard drive.Eg. Canon PowerShot Pro1, Canon PowerShot S80 etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?resolution=6.37-to-8.32

Zoom

Optical zoom lens- Image gets magnified by lens-3x, 4x, 10x and more, however keep in mind that very long zooms are prone to camera shake. Use a tripod to cover up for this problem. A 3x optical zoom means it can make a subject appear thrice as close. An optical zoom produces the best quality images. You can’t get too close to the object, but then a photo editing software can help you crop the image. It gives better result than using the digital zoom.

Digital zoom is a simulated optical zoom; it enlarges only the central portion of the image. The lens is not used in this case. The digital zooming effect is given by software inside. The result is most often a blurry and digitized picture. You can use both zooming effects in cameras that offer both these features.

Lens

A lousy lens can spoil all that extra resolution and image processing controls. So, before you buy one assess the final image on a computer based on these criteria:

check the lens for overall focus and sharpness, whether corners are as sharp as in the middle

check for flaring, i.e. colored circles and reflections when shooting towards light source

check if the lens offer attachments, you can add wide angle or telephoto attachments to extend the focal length range

whether manual or electronic zoom control, manual zoom offers more speed and flexibility

Memory

Unlike the film cameras the digital cameras store images in memory. Thus each time the memory is full, you can download them and the camera is ready to shoot again. Memory is of two main types: built-in and removable. Most low end cameras have the built-in memory. Removable memory cards have the advantage of upgrading the memory, particularly useful when you are taking lot of pictures in one trip.

Flash Types

It all started with photographers igniting a tray filled with gunpowder to illuminate a scene. Today digital cameras come with built in automatic flash unit combined with a sophisticated light measuring and exposure control system. They are so convenient and easy to use that we often fail to notice it.

Digital cameras are specified by a guide number which basically gives the flash power. Higher the guide number, greater the flash’s useful range. With changes in sensor speed and /or lens focal length, the guide number changes. So manufacturers instead specify the flash’s maximum range with the assumption that flashes is fully charged and the lens aperture is wide open.

Some of the common modes:

Auto mode is well known! Cameras with red eye reduction mode first fires a short burst to close the subject’s irises then the main flash and finally the picture is taken.

Fill flash modes to fill in shadows.

Flash off mode to capture the object in natural light.

Night scene mode exposes the foreground subject without underexposure of background. For maximum flash flexibility select a camera with an external hot shoe.

Some models come with just the external flash units.

Some varieties have both external and built-in flash units.

Some very compact digital Camera models come with no flash units.

Focus Type

Most digital cameras have a combination of different focus modes. In the automatic mode, when you press the shutter-release button half-way down, the focus is locked. It is also confirmed by a change of color of the focus indicator.

The Auto focus is achieved in different modes. The most common of them is the single area focus mode. The focus is on the central area of the image you find on the screen. In the spot focus mode, the focus is precisely on the center area of the screen. For shooting slow moving objects you can use the continuous auto focus mode. Be aware of the huge consumption of power in this mode.

Manual focus- This feature allows you to manually focus on the portion of a scene which may or may not be at the center of the screen. Select the area to be focused by using one of the several focus area indicators by toggling a cursor button to achieve close ups and macro shots. Some models have the focus rings for manual focus, turn it till the subject is in focus.

Fixed focus- This feature can be used to your advantage when there is pre-determined distance between the camera and the object.

The various combinations of the focus types are:

Auto focus and manual focus

Auto focus and fixed focus

Auto, manual and fixed focus

Camera Type

Standard Point and Shoot cameras- Point and shoot models are available with basic features to the ones with advanced controls and options and excellent macro capabilities. The flexibility with which these cameras can be used like in situations where it is hard to frame the subject or shooting at waist levels makes these models much sought after. It is a silent performer ideal for shooting in locations where a loud shutter clack is not appropriate.

SLR/Professional- More interesting features like interchangeable lenses, flashes, sophisticated controls and other accessories, these models are specifically designed for photographers and professionals. Eg. Nikon D40, Nikon D40x etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?cameraType=SLR%2FProfessional

Compact- The features are moderate, yet small enough in size to slip it in to your pocket before you go for the party. These models are comparatively higher priced than the similarly featured standard sized cameras. Eg. Canon PowerShot SD800, Kodak EasyShare V550 etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?cameraType=Compact

Ultra compact- With technology improving at a fast rate the size of the cameras is getting smaller and smaller. Cameras of the size of credit cards, slightly thicker shoot amazing pictures. No compromise on features like LCD screens (as small as 2 inch), optical viewfinder, good resolution (some with even 7 mega pixels), and good battery life too. Eg. Casio Exilim EX-S500, Samsung NV3 etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?cameraType=Ultra-Compact

Battery

There are two types: rechargeable ones and disposable ones. Since digital cameras consume power very fast, especially if you are using a LCD, it is best to invest in the rechargeable ones. Some digital cameras come with AC adapters, if yours doesn’t have one, purchase one separately.

Some batteries are:

NiMH batteries are the most sought after ones today. They are rechargeable, last long, and come in various compact designs and no memory problems.

Alkaline ones are not rechargeable and don’t last long.

Lithium ion batteries are small and recharge quickly.

NiCad batteries if not charged properly can have loss of memory.

AC adapters enable you to keep shooting long after your batteries are dead!

Price

Luckily you don’t have to spend huge amounts to own one.

Low range

Even a couple of hundred bucks can fetch you a very good camera with video capabilities and nice zoom. And they are not the sub-par models of yester years. Eg. Nikon COOLPIX S5,Canon PowerShot G7 etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?Price=0.01-to-237.49

Mid-range

A lot more features get added, more of mega pixels, and more powerful lenses are available in this range of cameras. Eg. Nikon D80, Nikon D200 etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?Price=237.49-to-599.84

High range

These ranges of cameras are mostly for professionals with superb image rendering capacity and produce excellent photos. Eg. Nikon D2Xs, Canon EOS-1D Mark III Body Only etc.

http://www.reviewgist.com/digital-camera-reviews?Price=1437.12-to-7999.99

By: Ryan

About the Author:

For Digital Camera Reviews you can visit:

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