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    Thumbs up Photography in an instant: Digital cameras

    Do you find changing film for your manual camera troublesome? Have you ever experienced ruined photos from over exposure or a jammed camera? Well, it may be time for you to consider buying a digital camera! Find out what you need to know about digital cameras in this useful guide where features and functions that should be considered before making your first purchase is discussed.
    Digital cameras are very much like the standard 35mm film cameras that most of us are familiar with. Both contain a lens, an aperture, and a shutter. The big difference between traditional film cameras and digital cameras is how they capture the image. Instead of film, digital cameras use a solid-state device called an image sensor, usually a charge-couple device (CCD). On the surface of each of these fingernail-sized silicon chips is a grid containing hundreds of thousands, or millions of photosensitive diodes called pixels. Each photosensitive diode captures a single pixel in the photograph to be. When the shutter opens, each pixel on the image sensor records the brightness of the light that falls on it. When the shutter closes to end the exposure, the charge from each pixel is measured and converted into a digital number. The series of numbers can then be used to reconstruct the image by setting the colour and brightness of matching pixels. Each time you take a picture, millions of calculations have to be made in just a fraction of a second. It's these calculations that make it possible for the camera to preview, capture, compress, filter, store, transfer, and display the image.
    With traditional cameras, the film is used both to record and store the image. With digital cameras, separate devices perform these two functions. The image is captured by the image sensor, and then stored in the camera on a storage device of some kind (discussed later in this article).
    With a digital camera you can immediately see your images on a small LCD screen on the back of most cameras. Digital photography is instant photography without the cost of film!
    Once captured, digital photographs are in a format that makes them easy to distribute and use. For example, you can insert digital photographs into word processing documents, send them to friends by e-mail, or post them on a Web site where anyone in the world can see them. Majority of cameras now are capable of capturing not only still photographs, but also sound and short video clips- effectively becoming mini multimedia recorders in a camera!
    So, if you are thinking about buying a digital camera you need to understand the following features. These are the most common features for all makes and models.

    The resolution is how many pixels the camera's image sensor uses to split-up and reassemble the picture. The megapixel rating would give you a good indication of the quality of the camera (the higher the megapixel number, the better the resolution). A 1-megapixel camera makes prints as large as 4 x 6 inches, a 1.3- to 1.5-megapixel camera makes 5 x 7-inch prints, and so on. The chart below gives you a rough idea of how many megapixels you'll need for a given print size:

    Digital Camera Resolution vs. Photographic Print Size
    Megapixel Rating
    Typical Image Size
    (in pixels)
    Maximum Print Size Recommended
    (in inches)
    Less than 1.0
    640 x 480
    800 x 600
    Web or e-mail only.
    Maybe 3 x 5 inches.
    1 megapixel
    1,154 x 852
    4 x 6 (4R)
    1.3- 1.5 megapixel
    1,280 x 960
    1,280 x 1,024
    5 X 7 (5R)
    2.0 megapixel
    1,600 x 1,200
    8 X 10 (8R)
    3+ megapixel
    2,048 x 1,536
    8 X 10 (8R) or larger

    The Camera Lens: Fixed, Optical Zoom & Digital Zoom
    To take good pictures, a camera has to have quality optics (glass, no plastic). The most common error beginning photographers make when taking pictures is to stand too far away from their subjects. Like inexpensive film cameras, many low-priced digital cameras use fixed-focal-length lenses. The only way you can change the framing of your picture with a fixed-focal-length lens is to back away or move closer.

    An optical zoom lens allows you to adjust the apparent distance between you and your subject without moving backwards or forwards. You can change the framing of your picture (i.e. adjust the distance between you and your subject) by "zooming" in and out from a wide-angle to a telephoto view, or anywhere in between and the subjects will appear much closer than they really are.
    Optical zoom lenses are commonly referred to by their zoom ratio, which is the difference between their focal length at the widest-angle setting and maximum telephoto. A zoom ratio of 1:3, or 3x, means that the maximum zoom range is three times further than the closest wide-angle setting. The most common zoom ratio for digital cameras is 3x, but some compact cameras have only a 2x zoom.
    Don't be fooled by the terms "digital zoom" or "digital telephoto"! A digital zoom is not a true zoom lens. They work by cropping the image, throwing away the information around the edges, which increases the apparent magnification of the lens. The result, however, is decreased resolution and soft-looking images.

    The best thing to do when working with a digital camera is to stand as close as possible to your subject without zooming in. The flash on a digital camera does not travel as far as manual cameras and you may end up with very dark or blurry photos.

    Image Storage
    Most digital cameras store captured images on removable memory cards- the top three are SmartMedia, CompactFlash and Memory Sticks with their capacity ranging from 8MB to 512MB. Upgrading your digital camera will be as easy as plugging in a larger memory card or swapping multiple cards. Be aware however, that some inexpensive digital cameras only have internal memory built in, which may limit your photo taking capacity.

    Computer Connection
    This is an often-overlooked feature: How do you get images from your camera to your computer without using a card reader? The answer is the same as with any other computer peripheral (printers, scanners, or storage drives). Most of the newer digital cameras provide a choice of two or more ways to interface to your computer. So regardless of the make, model or age of your computer you will normally be able to transfer the pictures directly from the camera to your hard drive.

    The real question is: which connector works best? By far, the fastest computer connector is Firewire (also known as IEEE 1394), but it's expensive and is rarely found on anything but the most expensive professional models of digital cameras. Next in line, in terms of speed, is the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. This is the computer industry's most successful attempt to date of standardizing computer-to-peripheral connectors.
    Old computer that do not have USB ports will have to use the standard serial port connectors. This is the slowest method of transferring image data from camera to computer, but this interface is still common on many digital cameras. Just check before buying that the interfaces on the camera match one of the interfaces on your computer.
    If it is still not possible to download the photos on your own, the best thing to do is to seek help from your local photography or camera shop. They will be able to download and burn your photos into a CD-R for a small fee.

    The camera's power source is important. Many digital cameras use standard AA-sized batteries for power, but it's important to note that cameras really don't do well on standard alkaline cells. Digital cameras draw large amounts of current, far more than alkaline batteries are designed to provide which results in very short battery life- sometimes measured in minutes! In fact, most digital camera manufacturers recommend higher capacity and more economical rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries (1800-2100 volts). Some cameras come with custom designed battery packs that is smaller in size and weight making cameras more compact although buying a second custom battery as backup can be quite expensive.

    Lastly, do not be put off by bulkier digital cameras- although some require as many as 4 rechargeable batteries, you can be sure that they will last for at least a day or two compared to less bulky digital cameras.

    Having creative control
    It's important to realize that even the most sophisticated digital cameras offer a "full auto" mode, in which the camera makes all decisions, and all a photographer does is to push the shutter button. If you leave the camera in its auto capture mode, you'll never have to deal with the complex list of features, modes, and functions that many cameras offer as shooting options. All you really need to do is snap the shutter in auto mode, view the pictures in playback mode, and transfer the pictures to your computer.

    However, to really be in control of your images, you have to cross the bridge into manual control. It's only then that you can creatively choose to have backgrounds out of focus or choose between blurring and or freezing a fast moving subject or adjusting the lighting. Full manual creative control is generally only available on the more expensive or high-end digital cameras.

    Digital cameras have improved so much over the past few years that even the lower-end 2-megapixel models can deliver acceptable colour and quality. Our advice is to set your budget, choose the feature set you want, and then review at all the models that fit within your budget and specifications. There are so many digital cameras with so many different features that it's hard to compare them unless you know what features are available and how they affect your photography. To make the best camera choice, read reviews from sources you trust and try to look at side-by-side comparisons of images.

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    DSLR is a definite choice... altho it is bulky ...but it is a pro bulk.. no one is going to show any disrespect with it.. a dream which is yet to achieve.... nice article...
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