Choosing Your Digital Camera


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When choosing a digital camera, you need to decide what type of photographs you want to take with it. This article will assist in choosing a camera to meet your quality requirements.

Cameras are generally rated by “Pixels", this term describes the tiniest dot on a monitor that a video card can set to an individual colour. Monitors when set to high resolutions, have small pixels which are more detailed. At lower resolutions they appear larger and more visible. This give the display the appearance of lacking in detail.

For a good quality appearance when printed a photo needs to be 300 DPI (Dots per Inch). You can work out the number of mega pixels you need in a camera for the appropriate size of photograph.

For example supposing we wanted to print a photo that is 4" x 6" the calculation is as follows:

4 inches multiplied by 300 DPI = 1200 pixels

6 Inches multiplied by 300 DPI = 1800 pixels

1200 x 1800 = 216000 which is 2.1 mega pixels.

You can now work out the best sized photographs you can take from the camera you are interested in.

A key factor in choosing a camera is the amount you can afford to spend. So set a budget first, and then see how powerful a camera you can get for the money.

Make sure you read the specifications and preferably handle the camera before you buy it. This way you can be sure that you are comfortable with the size and weight.

How many photos can you store in the camera at one time? You can store more at a lower quality, it is best to use the quoted total number for photos of highest quality as a guide. This total is before photos are copied to your PC. When downloaded onto a PC you can take the same number of photos all over again. If you are running out of space whilst out using the camera, you can always review the photos on the screen on the back of the camera and delete some to make more room. Most modern cameras will also allow you to swap the cameras memory card.

Can you plug the camera into your PC and use it as a web cam for video conferencing? This might not seem essential, but if there’s any possibility that it may be used as a web cam in the future, make sure that the camera has this function.

Make sure it has a built in flash unit. Without it, you will be unable to photograph in low light conditions, or you will have to artificially lighten every photo once copied to your PC.

You should choose a camera with a built in LCD screen and an optical viewfinder. The built in screen is at the back of the camera and allows you to immediately view the photo that you have just taken.

Preferably choose a camera that takes batteries that are easy to source, such as AA size. Rechargeable batteries can be expensive when they do need replacing. A couple of quick tips, first always carry spare batteries and second, use the optical viewfinder where possible as using the LCD screen as a viewfinder soon runs down your batteries.

Believe it or not, digital cameras don’t necessarily come with a case. Obviously handy for carrying the camera around and keeping it protected from the elements, especially rain! So you may need to budget additionally for a case if one is not supplied.

Don’t misunderstand the term “Digital Zoom". This simply means that you can closely examine a photo that you have already taken. It is nothing to do with zooming in to an object some distance away before you take the photograph. For that you need to look at the “Optical zoom", this being the real zoom value of the camera lens.

Finally, see how it connects to your PC. Most cameras come with a lead that has a USB plug for your PC. This may not be a standard USB lead, and the plug into the camera might have a unique fitting. Find out if the camera will be recognised by the PC as a mass storage device. This is preferable, because you can immediately connect it to most computers, without the need for custom software from the camera manufacturer.

Make sure your version of windows is supported whatever connection the camera takes to the PC.

Happy Snapping!!

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Copyright Mike Morris 2005


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