As digital cameras continue to grow in popularity, traditional film cameras will become a thing of the past. Many of the people I work with, however, are intimidated by some of the technological advances that these wonderful little gadgets bring about. Therefore people often have difficulty deciding on the right camera to meet their needs.
The fact of the matter is that a good many cameras will meet the needs of an average user. As we learn to navigate through the various screens and utilize the features, we become more and more comfortable with the one we have. So in this article I will try to explain the various important differences between them, and what you should understand when purchasing one.
New cameras come in a variety of megapixels, these days 3 to 8 megapixels are very common. Most people think that a higher megapixel camera means a clearer picture, and although that is true to some extent, it only really matters when you enlarge a picture, it is not necessarily true if you are only printing out 4X6 photo’s. A picture taken with a 3 megapixel camera will look just as good to the human eye as any other. So if you do not intend to print out poster size prints, then an 8 megapixel camera may be beyond your needs.
If you are into scrapbooking, or photo-editing, however you may want to consider a higher megapixel camera, because the picture will stay clearer when you crop out a small piece and enlarge it.
The trade off to a higher megapixel camera is a larger file size per photo. In other words each picture will take up more space on a memory card resulting in the card filling up faster.
Most cameras have two types of zoom, the first is called Optical Zoom, and is the better of the two. Optical zoom is the lens mechanism moving in and out, giving the appearance of a close up. This is the type of zoom you should be more concerned with. Most cameras come with between 3X and 12X Optical Zoom. A higher optical zoom requires a larger lens size, so a camera with 10X or 12X zoom will probably not fit in your pocket.
The second type of zoom is the Digital Zoom. What happens here is this, when the optical zoom is maxed out, the digital zoom takes over by pushing the picture a little closer by expanding the size of the megapixels. This can compromise on the overall clarity of the picture making it look fuzzy or pixilated. Pretty much all cameras have some sort of digital zoom, and less expensive cameras may have no optical zoom at all, but the digital zoom will be there. The clarity difference is less obvious in a higher megapixel camera.
Memory (Flash) Card
When you buy a digital camera you should also be prepared to buy a memory card. Although most cameras come with either a small card or a small amount of internal memory to store pictures on, many will not hold more then 10 or 15 pictures.
Memory cards have come way down in price these days. It is possible, if you watch the sales fliers, to get a 1 gigabyte card for around $20 bucks.
With a 3 megapixel camera, a 1 gigabyte card will hold over 800 pictures. That number goes lower with a higher megapixel camera.
Another important factor in choosing a camera will be what you want to use for batteries. Some camera’s come with a specialized rechargeable battery pack that is designed specifically for that camera. These particular cameras will also come with a charger. Others take AA batteries, however digital cameras are high drain devices, so alkaline batteries don’t tend to last very long in them. Most manufacturers will include a complimentary set of alkaline, but don’t expect them to last very long as many cameras can kill a set of these batteries in 5 or 6 pictures. It would be more beneficial and much less costly to purchase a set of NiMH batteries with a charger for around $30 bucks. These last longer and usually come in packs of four, giving you an extra set to take pictures with.
Many cameras offer a way to lessen the drain on the batteries, by switching off the LCD screen and using the view finder.
For most people, a simple “point and shoot” camera is adequate. Many easily fit in your pocket, and they take great pictures close up. Cameras with a larger optical zoom tend to be larger, and would not fit in your shirt pocket. If you intend to take pictures at your kids basketball game, you may want to consider one of these, not only for the higher zoom resulting in more of a close-up shot, but many of these larger cameras decrease the shutter time. Many of the smaller cameras have a lag time of up to a second between the time you press the button and the time the picture is actually taken. A second can be an eternity at any sporting event.
Photo Editing Software
There is also a range of photo editing software available, the most popular being Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. However there are many other titles available that you may be perfectly happy with, including the less expensive Photo Explosion and Microsoft Digital Image.
Many of these software titles give you the ability to enhance photos as well as a range of creative endeavors from making greeting cards to calendars etc.
Many new inkjet printers are photo quality, and you would never be able to tell the difference between one from your own printer and one from your local photo shop.
There are now also portable photo printers such as the Epson Picture Mate and Kodak Easy Share which are not inkjet printers, but instead complete photo labs in a small package. These use a dye-sublimation process to print your pictures. The benefit to these is mobility, and the claim is that your pictures will last over a hundred years in a photo album.
Other then that, be sure to read user reviews on any model you would consider purchasing. If some are problematic, people will talk about the defects, ease of use, clarity of pictures, etc. This way you can be sure to get the right camera for your needs.