My digital camera used to be my spare camera. I always relied on my faithful
film camera for all the important shots. Sure, I loved the idea of not having
to pay for processing or waiting a week for prints, but digital cameras never
seemed to measure up, at least the digital cameras I could afford. The resolution
was okay but not great; most shots were blurry, the delay time between shots
was frustrating and the batteries would last only a couple of hours. I gave
up on digital for quite a while until two things happened. My daughter turned
two, and my wife's birthday was right around the corner. It was time to reacquaint
myself with digital camera lingo. I was skeptical when I started, but what
I found when I started comparing cameras surprised me. But first some basics…
Digital images are composed from thousands to millions of tiny squares
called picture elements, or pixels for short. Each square is a single color
and when viewed all together allows for images to appear smooth when viewed
at original size. Consequently, the more pixels the better.
Basically, the term megapixel means one million pixels, and it represents
the maximum number of pixels found in an image created by a digital camera.
It is generally the criteria used to classify cameras. More megapixels mean
larger images, both in physical size and in file size. While this is generally
an important feature, it is not the only item to examine when choosing a camera.
Here is a little math: the megapixel count is achieved by multiplying the
number of one horizontal line of pixels by the number of pixels in one vertical
line. A camera with a maximum resolution of 1,600 by 1,200 pixels is a 1.92
megapixel (1,920,000-pixel) camera.
Digital cameras use a sensor to capture the image before putting it on
a flash memory card for storage. There are two types of sensors, and both are
between 20 and 40 millimeters squared. The CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide
Semiconductor) sensors are usually found in cheaper cameras and offer lower
image quality while the CCD (Charged Couple Device) can be found in more expensive
Optical and Digital Zoom
Optical zoom, digital zoom, what's the difference? Optical zoom is just
like a film camera. The lens moves in or out to change the magnification. Digital
zoom is a little different; it uses circuitry to enlarge a portion of the standard
sized image. Digital zoom image quality is never as good as optical zoom and
usually results in a fuzzy, less-crisp image.
Ah, the memory card – this is your film. And just like camera film,
this too has different sizes and speeds. Cards can come in a variety of sizes
from eight-megabyte to one-gigabyte or larger. I personally try to stick to
the 512 MB and the one-gig range; any smaller and you fill your card too quickly,
while locating specific shots on the larger cards can be like find a needle
in a haystack. The speed of the card will allow you to record quickly and be
ready for the next picture as soon as possible.
The aspect ratio is the shape of a digital image. The first number represents
the width of the image and the second number represents the height. Televisions
have traditionally had an aspect ratio of 4:3. The new wide-screen TVs weigh
in at about 16:9. Standard film cameras have an aspect ratio of 3:2, but most
digital cameras have adopted a 4:3 aspect ratio so that images better fit on
a standard computer monitor.
Downloading and Printing
The pictures taken by a digital camera have to be extracted by some means
in order to get them onto a computer or printer. If you are lucky enough to
have a camera that utilizes Bluetooth technology you won't need any cables
at all; the images can be transmitted to your PC wirelessly. The most common
connection is the USB cable, and if you have USB 2.0 support it is up to 40
When my daughter's Grandma heard we were getting a digital camera she bought
a wireless photo printer with card readers. Now every time we tell her we have
some great shots of our favorite model she reminds us that we can come over
(with our little angel) and print our pictures (two sets of course).
The most quick and convenient way to retrieve your photos is probably a flash
memory card reader. You simply remove the memory from the slot on the camera
and pop it into the appropriate slot on the reader, and then the computer system
can access the card like a local disk drive. And if you want prints from the
store, just take along your memory card. Pop it into the kiosk at your favorite
photo store, pick your pics and come back for them when they are finished.
The End Rave Result
By the time I finished my shopping I found a digital camera that I prefer
using more than my film camera. It is fast and simple, the images are sharp
and it has many different shooting modes that allow me take pictures in any
situation. But if you think this will save you money on film processing, consider
this: Film cameras have 24 or 36 exposures per roll, forcing you to choose
your shots carefully. If you have a good-sized memory card in your camera you
can take more shots. And you can also instantly review and delete bad shots,
resulting in a memory card full of great shots. It will be difficult to choose
which ones to print.