Computer Help forum

General discussion

4/7/06 Need help deciphering the digital camera mumbo jumbo

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 6, 2006 4:16 AM PDT
Question:

I am looking for a good digital camera but don't know where to start. Are megapixels or optical zoom more important? I want to be able to take multiple photos instantly by holding down one button. I want panoramic photos, as well as photos that can be enlarged to poster size without losing quality. I want all of this in a camera that will last and not break the bank in initial cost nor the cost of cards. (Speaking of cards, which is the best type of storage type to get in a camera? Can the card actually affect the speed at which the photo is taken?) There are so many questions. Please direct me to a good brand and help me decipher the technology mumbo jumbo.

Submitted by: Lee W.

*******************************************************

Answer:


Big question with many subjective answers. Typically with technology, the more you pay, the more you get. While this is almost always true and applies directly to digital cameras, there are also times when you get more, but it's not always worth the price difference. Still, you should decide your budget first and figure what options you can afford. Depending on your budget, you may not be able to get all the options you want. Price aside, we'll discuss some of the options below.

Megapixels and zoom aren't directly related, but one of them can, in certain cases, affect the other. The term megapixel relates to the resolution (or picture quality) of the camera's image. A 1-megapixel camera will create an image composed of approximately 1 million pixels or dots. A good representation of this is that popular novelty item where you push your face into the box and all the small pin like shafts form around your face. You can tell that if that device had 10 pins in it, you wouldn't be able to make out your face, but with 1000 pins or more, the image produced more matched your face. Imagine if it has a million pins. So, the more dots, the less likely your eyes will notice the dots and the more clear and sharp the image will be.

There are standards when it comes to resolution and picture size. The specifics could be argued, but a basic rule of thumb is a 1MP camera can print a 4x6 or 5x7 picture at 100% with a decent quality. Of course, as technology gets better, our idea of "decent quality" increases, so these days, you may actually notice lower quality in a 1MP and some say you need 2MP at least for this size. In any event, just increase the size of the print proportionally to the resolution of the camera. If 1MP will print 4x6 ok, then a 2MP should print 8x12 (8x10 in photo world) ok. A 3MP could print 12x18 ok and so on...

Note these sizes are 100% which means you will not be enlarging the original photo or zooming, cropping, and enlarging that portion. This is where resolution relates to the zoom. More commonly a problem than just the actual 100% quality, people often realize that cropping a picture causes a quality problem. Say you take a picture of a landscape and while viewing it on your computer you see an owl in a tree that was fairly far away. You zoom in and want to print a picture of just the owl. Let's say of the entire 4x6 picture, the owl is only 1 inch tall. If you cropped an inch around the owl (creating a 2" image) and then tried to print it vertical (6x4), you would in affect be enlarging that 3 times. In this case, you'd need at least a 3MP camera using the numbers stated above. There are other factors that would affect this quality including aperture and other film camera settings as well as specific issues with digital cameras. These can become very detailed, but just for basic knowledge you should understand that if you often take wide, general shots trying to capture a small distinct image, you will want a camera with a higher resolution. In addition, if you know you only want to photograph something specific, it's a good idea to zoom in as much as possible - leaving a little room for editing. This brings us to the zoom options...

Optical zoom is probably the most important factor when purchasing any camera or camcorder. Of course it depends on your exact needs, but for the typical home photographer, even in a film camera, you will typically be more satisfied with your camera and photos if you can zoom in and out versus walking back and forth. Because of how optics work, there is always a trade-off between zoom factor and size/weight. Consider the telescopes that view the galaxies of space; there's a reason they do that with telescopes the size of large buildings. You just need larger glass and more distance between the lenses to view things farther away. The same theory applies to cameras. I'm no expert on this, but it appears there is a good balance at around 3x - 5x. In addition to the length, the larger the magnification, the lower the amount of light is let in. The only way to allow more light is to use larger lenses and as we all know, smaller is better. So, a higher optical zoom will always yield a more versatile camera, and with digital cameras, this will allow more flexibility when editing/zooming/cropping your final picture. Keep in mind, that this is also one of the most expensive parts of the camera and often a cheap camera will have cheap glass or will not work as well in lower light. Again there is a trade-off, but if you want the best zoom and the most versatility in low light settings, than you'll probably want to look for a camera with larger lenses.

You'll also notice the digital zoom options. Often you'll find a cheap camera with a 4x or 5x digital zoom, but no optical zoom. You think, "5xdigital sounds much better than 3x optical", but that's not necessarily true. The digital zoom only camera may be smaller and cheaper, but a digital zoom in essence just enlarges the picture. More expensive cameras may use software to enhance that enlargement and the higher resolutions make digital zoom more usable, but you will almost always lose quality with the digital zoom. It's is a great option for necessary tasks and even for certain effects, but for the best quality always value optical zoom over digital.

Take multiple photos quickly without releasing the shutter button (sometimes called burst mode) is most likely going to be best served in a higher-end (read expensive) and most likely, an SLR camera. Will discuss the SLR later, but in order for a digital camera to have a quick burst mode, it must process each image quickly. In a film camera, this was based mostly on the speed of the film advance image and the lighting conditions. With digital, the lighting is even more important, but the processing in general is achieved with faster processor, quicker data access, better optics - all of which equals more money. When a digital camera takes a picture, the light is detected by the image sensor, processed and converted to a picture through the camera's hardware and software, and then saved to memory card. In film cameras, more sensitive film is used to handle low-light conditions. In digital, a darker image forces the camera to take longer to process which will slow your burst mode. So, a better image sensor and better software will improve the burst speed. In addition, those larger lenses which let in more light will improve bust speed. Finally, in relation to one of your other questions, a higher-speed memory card (called Ultra II by one manufacturer) will allow the camera to save that image quicker and move on to the next. Some of the more expensive cameras have internal memory called a buffer which is much faster than your memory card to store the image temporarily so the camera can move to the next image while the current one is being written to the card. In many cases, you'll see a burst speed that is much faster for the first 5 -10 images and then slows. This is because of the limit of the buffer memory size. As memory prices drop, these buffers get larger and cheaper cameras may have them installed.

So card speed can affect the speed of taking the photograph, especially in burst mode. More of a nuisance than a problem is the lag time of cameras even when not in burst mode. Many point and shoot cameras take between 2 and 5 seconds to save an image after you press the shutter button. If they do not have buffer memory installed, it can take that long before you can take another picture. That doesn't sound too bad, but you will realize how frustrating this is. In addition to the actual save time, there is often a lag time from when you press the shutter button until the image is "snapped". This is even more frustrating - resulting in too many blurry pictures of peoples' chests because you press the button and then lower the camera thinking the picture has taken only to have it snap on the way down. In this case, you should make sure both you and your subject stay still for a couple seconds before and after the picture has been taken.

Panoramic photography is handled many different ways. The most common is either with reference marks in the viewfinder to align separate images (cheaper), to software (along with the reference marks) that automatically align multiple images and save them together when selected. The results are usually pretty similar, so you should just check the information on each camera as to what the benefits are of their specific system. You should note that many computer programs make creating panorama shots easy so you may want to put more money into that than the camera option itself.

Finally, let's discuss the SLR. SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex camera. Without getting technical, most older film cameras - before automatic point and shoot, smaller cameras were invented were SLR cameras. They are generally larger, with larger lenses and often interchangeable lenses. Usually, the image you view is the image that is seen through the lens itself. (Point and shoot cameras usually have a separate viewfinder that may be smudged, or worse, they may not be smudged but the actual lens is.) Also, because they are generally considered professional or prosumer, they usally have larger buffers and better processors. The drawback is that they are larger.

So, what type of camera is the best? As I stated in the beginning, it does have a legitimate relation to price. Larger lenses, faster processors, buffer memory, and better sensors all cost more money - and produce better results. Image quality (megapixels) is very important for cropping and zooming, but that resolution does not good if your picture is blurred or missed. Unfortunately, sometimes pictures are missed because you don't want to lug that big SLR around. So, you should consider the following:

Do you plan on printing your images or just saving and emailing them on the computer? This may affect your resolution decision, but most cameras are sufficient in this area. You may want to only consider the megapixel setting as it comes down to price and you have decided on the other issues.

Does size matter? This is probably the biggest decision maker whether people realize it or not. Why wouldn't you want a camera to throw in your shirt pocket and have with you all the time? If money isn't a factor and camera response time isn't an issue, this is probably the route you want to take. There are many options for small cameras and the prices aren't bad. Think carefully about your common lighting conditions and the response times. If you want a camera to take with you to the beach to throw in your carry bag or to the theme park for basic family photos, this is probably the best choice for you. The smaller package will have more issues with low light and may be slower because it doesn't have the buffer or as good a processor. But, if you pay enough, you might find a good middle of the road.

Are you a prosumer? If you take a lot of advanced shots; say you take macro photos of plants and bugs; you take delayed shots to blur car lights and let in more light in dark situations; you want that fast shutter response for burst mode and/or you take a lot of action shots with sports; or if you want different lenses and filters for special needs - wide angle lenses for panoramas and telephoto lenses for extreme zooms. In these cases, you cannot beat an SLR. SLR's will be more expensive and you probably don't want to lug it onto the roller coaster, but they will most likely provide the best quality, best light handling, and most versatility.

It really comes down to what your specific needs are and how much you want to spend. My two best recommendations are:

1. Research the cameras in your price range. Read user reviews and check the specifications. Don't consider one person's complaints that they can't understand the manual, but if that is the overall consensus, you may want to look elsewhere.
Two sites I use for reviews are:
http://www.dpreview.com/
and
http://www.digitalreview.ca/

2. Try it out. Most local electronics stores have test models. Check the obvious things; size and response time mainly. Check the zoom and see if it works well enough for you. Also, check the options and see if you can understand the camera easily enough. Many useful options are never used on the cameras for basic point and shoot photos. (While this is unfortunate since you may be able to make use of that option, it is also important to realize that you may not ever use them and therefore don't pay a lot for many buzz words that aren't necessary). One thing you can't really check in the stores is the quality. Most don't have memory cards for review and you can't really produce real-world situations. In this case, you may want to actually try it in the real world. Places like Best Buy and online resellers like Crutchfield offer hassle-free returns. You may pay shipping charges or something, but it might be worth it to see if you really like the way it works.

I hope this information was helpful and good luck with your search.

Submitted by: Aric W.
Post a reply
Discussion is locked
You are posting a reply to: 4/7/06 Need help deciphering the digital camera mumbo jumbo
The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Please refer to our CNET Forums policies for details. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Track this discussion and email me when there are updates

If you're asking for technical help, please be sure to include all your system info, including operating system, model number, and any other specifics related to the problem. Also please exercise your best judgment when posting in the forums--revealing personal information such as your e-mail address, telephone number, and address is not recommended.

You are reporting the following post: 4/7/06 Need help deciphering the digital camera mumbo jumbo
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
Collapse -
Honorable mentions
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 6, 2006 4:16 AM PDT
Answer:

As a professional photographer for 20+ years, having used DSLR?s as well as digital point and shoot cameras in my work, the answers to these questions actually change by the minute in today?s technology. What was sufficient today is superseded by tomorrow in the digital world of photography. Which is great for the technology but hard on the consumer to know what to buy and for what reasons.

There are two basic trends in digital photography right now, the DSLR and the All-In-One digital point and shoot. DSLR?s are typically more expensive to invest in, as like their SLR lineage, they often require buying different additional lenses and accessories such as flashes or add-on battery packs to meet the needs of the photog in more demanding situations. You can expect to spend initially $700+ for a basic DSLR with a standard zoom lens kit but as you expand the system, it could develop into well over several thousands of dollars before you are done.

The biggest advantage to DSLR users is that if they have a previous SLR system already, it?s possible to migrate their lenses and accessories into the digital line of camera bodies by their manufacturer and that saves significantly on startup costs when moving to digital photography. Users should check and see what is offered for their systems that will meet their needs and budgets before making a purchase. Information is readily available on the Internet and at their local electronics dealers.

In contrast, Digital All-In-One cameras have got a host of exceptional features for the price involved and are often smaller than their DSLR cousins in size and are easier to handle and reduce fatigue if you spend a lot of time shooting. These All-In-One cameras also use one lens that is permanently attached to the body and non-removable. This reduces weight, eliminates dust from entering the body and lens, reduces cost factor but also can limit the range of photography flexibility, as one lens probably can?t produce all the wide angle-to extreme zoom ranges a DSLR system can.

But most All-in One cameras can perform a big slice of what their DSLR cousins can at a cheaper price overall. Determining which models fit your needs and wants is the key.

As a professional, I use both DSLRs and Digital Point-and-Shoots with great success. As a non-professional shooter, I?d recommend the current offerings of Digital Point and Shoots as the way to go if you aren?t going to drop a bundle on your camera system and want the biggest bang for your buck. If you are a serious shooter, you should go the DSLR route, as the investment in additional lenses and accessories will not depreciate over the years as camera bodies and features change. If you want to upgrade your DSLR, you just purchase a newer body and keep your lenses and accessories and protect your investment.

Whereas, with the Digital All-In Ones, you may find that after a couple of years, what you bought initially maybe soon out-dated and if you want additional feature sets in your camera, you will need to re-invest in an entirely new All-In-One camera to do this and suffer a financial loss on your initial camera in doing so.

Which may or may not be a bad thing.

If you really are into photography, having more than one camera is essential since it?s commonly known that your digital camera will always develop a glitch or a failure of some kind right at the moment you have a prize-winning picture in front of you. Having a second backup camera in your bag is therefore required anyway.

Our reader asks several questions about performance and usage and cost and deciding which factors will dominate his decision process is the determining factor.

Megapixels- Having sufficient megapixels is important as the more your camera has, the better the detail will be rendered and when editing, if you have more megapixels at your disposal, you can easily crop your images without losing much detail. A 5.0-megapixel camera is the least I?d suggest considering and the most to be 10-megapixels. The more, the better, but when you start shopping prices, the more pixels, the more expensive the camera.

Multiple photos- Most cameras that are 5.0 megapixels and up also can shoot some form of motor drive sequence of pictures for the user. But it will vary with number of images it can record successively and the size of the images it can render. Generally, as you move up the megapixel chain of cameras into the higher megapixels, the cameras have additional processing power to handle the larger resulting images and the additional demands of motordrive shooting. You have to investigate exactly what the camera specifications are in each model to determine this ability.

Panoramic photos- this specific need can be met by any digital camera, regardless of type. There is software available both Freeware and Buyware that can take several images shot by the user and create super-wide angle panorama shots using some basic photography technique. But to do this well, it is necessary to start out with a camera/lens that has a good wide-angle ability if possible. Point and shoots are now being offered with 24mm wide-angle ability that previously was not possible before. DSLR?s obviously have very wide angle abilities, but these camera/lens combinations can be very, very pricey.

Poster size prints- Poster to me means anything that is 24?x36? in size and up and to acquire good image quality at these sizes, you are pretty strictly entering into a demanding specification that only a DSLR can do. Up to 24? x 36?, you can get a pretty fair to good print using anywhere from 5.0 to 8.0 megapixel ALL-In-One cameras. But beyond that, the higher professional level DSLR with their higher specs of 10-14 megapixels and better lenses is a must in today?s technology.

Camera lastability- Is that a word..? Anyway, you sort of get what you pay for in that specification. Cheaper digital cameras will be made of plastic and their lenses will have plastic elements in them. As you go up the priceline, you will see less plastic, better lenses with glass elements, better ruggedness factors overall and more metal in the bodies such as lightweight aluminum, magnesium and composite metals. If by lasting you mean electronic failures and such, I ALWAYS buy extended warranties with my digital cameras at the time of purchase. I?ve had several digital cameras fail as a pro and the extended warranties have saved me from huge repairs past the original manufacturer?s standard warranty. If you drop it on the pavement, no warranty is going to save you and the camera will fail. If not immediately, probably it will soon after the drop. So handling, storing and protecting digital cameras well is essential to making them last.

Media Cards- Cameras use a wide range of cards and time of their write speed is important as the faster you want to shoot, the faster you want the camera/card combination to perform. A lot of the decisions are made for you by the manufacturer of the camera selected. They will require a card that can keep up with the cameras? performance factor. In the cards that are 5.0 megapixels and up, the most popular cards are CF, Micro Drive and Memory Sticks. The price of these cards is determined by their capacity and their speed of transferring data from the camera to the card. CF cards specifically made for photographic use are preferred, but they are typically expensive and the larger their capacity, the higher their cost. Micro Drives are a good compromise between writing speed and capacity and lower cost. And Memory Sticks are also good, but they are limited when it comes to larger storage capacities and can be pricey. Cards and what your camera uses will be a factor in determining which type camera you buy.

As a professional, I use a backup portable HD reader when shooting that allows me to immediately copy to a 40GB HD my 4 GB Micro Drives after I fill one up. It also will accept my Memory Sticks, too. That allows me to erase the cards once copied and reuse the card in the same session. This means I don?t have to have 20 Micro Drives or CF cards or Memory Sticks in my bag to get thru a shoot. It also means that I avoid a CF or Micro Drive or Memory Stick failure later back at the computer trying to download them separately. This has happened before. That can be expensive, both for your income as a pro and your ego as a photographer.

Camera Brands-I use Canon DSLRs and Sony All-In-One digital cameras. But there are an ever-growing number of brands to choose from and which to use is strictly up to your determining factors of use, spec., cost and final output. I?d direct anyone to the website called

Digital Photography Review
http://www.dpreview.com

..where all the major brands and models are reviewed by professionals and in language that is understandable. They also have extensive forums where you can ask users for any camera what they like or dislike about their cameras and you will get real-life info on those cameras to help you make an informed buying decision.

I hope that helps and happy shooting..!!

Submitted by: Tim Q.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Quite a tall order. Before we begin, you should know that a camera that does all you are looking for will cost quite a bit, probably in the $500-1000 range or more. If that's breaking the bank, you might want to consider what features are most important and get a camera that can do most of what you asked for (you can actually do quite a bit for just under $300). If you're not suffering from sticker shock yet, then $1000 will get you the camera of your dreams.

Let's start with megapixels. Think of a photo you see on the cover of a newspaper--it's made of thousands of little dots and as long as you don't look too closely the picture is clear. Larger pictures need more dots to be as clear. Megapixels work the same way. You can't actually fit more than 3.2 megapixels on a 4x6 print, so if that's all you're printing, you won't notice a difference between a 4 and a 7 megapixel camera. For your needs, poster-sized prints, a camera with 7-10 megapixels should suffice, and cameras in that megapixel category would have those extra features you're seeking as well.

On to zoom. There are two different types of zoom, digital and optical. Optical zoom is "true zoom," the same type of zoom you would find on a 35mm camera, so it actually uses the lens. Digital zoom simply stretches the pixels on the camera, something you can easily do with any photo editing software. Extreme digital zoom will make your photos look grainy. So digital zoom is a throwaway, and you should get a camera with as high of an optical zoom as possible. On a side note, if you're going to go for a high level of zoom, like in the 10-20x range, you may want to either get a tripod, or make sure the camera has some sort of image-stabilization software, or both.

Going panoramic has its own set of opportunities. Many photo editing software packages now come with the ability to stitch several photos together (though for those pics to turn out well, you'll definetly want to use a tripod to ensure consistency). A quick search of froogle.com yielded many cameras that have "panoramic assist" modes than cameras that can take true panoramic photos. But the good news is that the panoramic assist function can be done right on the camera so you can preview the final product on scene and retake if necessary.

Being able to take multiple photos quickly is another beast altogether. Most digital cameras have a bit of a lag, both between when the capture button is pushed and when the camera actually takes a picture, and between when the camera takes a picture and is ready for another. You may have to sacrifice some image quality for rapid capture. Be sure to read user and professional reviews on a camera for performance on this feature, as what a company boasts and how it performs in the real world might be different.

http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-6451_7-6296352-1.html has a good chart that details the needs for you card based on the type of camera you buy, though as the article suggests, choosing a card is not an exact science. SD cards seem to work well, and Sony uses its own proprietary Memory Stick cards. Some Fujifilm and Casio cameras use XD. Those three are pretty much the standard now. Two bits of good news here though: most new computers and all in-store photo developing stations have card readers that can read just about any card type; and flash memory is a rapidly evolving field, so the cards keep getting cheaper, larger (in terms of capacity), and faster. Sandisk just released an 8GB SD card, and while it's near-a-grand price tag takes it out of availability for most consumers, it does underscore the growth of flash memory technology. You should buy a camera first and then get a memory card that maximizes performance on that camera (for instance, you would waste your money if you bought a memory card that had a write speed that was faster than your camera).

Once again, searching for cameras that do what you're looking for yielded results like the Canon PowerShot G6, a 7.1 megapixel camera. It retails for as high as $1300, and that much money would fetch you similarly featured products from other greats like Sony, Nikon, and Kodak. Many of the web retailers, and probably local dealers, selling these cameras offer accessory bundles, everything from cases to memory cards to tripods to photo-editing software that will maximize your performance and enjoyment. So before you buy, do your homework by reading pro and user reviews and look into accessory bundles. Happy shopping!

Submitted by: Jeremy S.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


You began your post by asking a very good, very intelligent question that most camera buyers never pick up on: Which is more important, optical zoom or megapixels? Optical zoom beats megapixels almost every time. Say that you have two cameras, one that can fill the screen with the subject because of it?s 6:1 optical zoom, another that can only enlarge the subject to fill one-quarter of the screen with the subject (that?s one-half vertically and one-half horizontally) because it only has a 3:1 optical zoom. At that point, a camera with only two megapixels of actual image sensor but the 6:1 optical zoom will be as good as an eight-megapixel camera and the 3:1 optical zoom. This is a point that a lot of people miss.

A related point that people often miss is that on any camera, the image quality depends very much on the lens quality. A digital camera is still a camera. You could build two cameras with absolutely identical specs across the board ... both optical zoom and megapixels, indeed everything. In fact, the cameras could be absolutely identical except that one might have a glass lens, and the other a plastic lens. Well, those cameras would not have identical image quality, because the lens ... not just it?s specs, but it?s construction ... counts for a lot. And there is no way to judge this from the specs, indeed most amateurs can?t judge it even in casual use of the camera. That?s why it is critical to supplement your own search with professional, objective reviews. Fortunately, these are available on the web at quite a few sites. The site that I like best is http://www.dpreview.com but there are others as well. You can also get opinions and comments from existing owners, but most owners tend to like the camera that they bought, so this is a bit less subjective.

[You also brought up another point, which is the sometimes annoying ? even critically annoying ? time from shutter button press to actual picture taking. And, related to that, how quickly can you take a series of photos. But you can judge these yourself in a store.]

As to panoramic shots, you can always crop any shot taken with any camera to panoramic proportions in a photo editing program after-the-fact. And, in fact, that?s essentially all that a camera with a built-in panoramic setting does also ... the camera really isn?t any different. However, when you do that, you are ?throwing away? perhaps one-half of the picture (e.g. one-half of the megapixels), so you want to start with a high-megapixel camera that will still have a good degree of detail left after you do this. Similarly, being able to blow up photos to poster size is also a function of getting a high quality picture to start with, and that again comes back to megapixels and the lens. But now I need to add one more complication, and that is that even with lens quality and number of megapixels being comparable, all n-megapixel cameras are not the same, because some image sensors (where the megapixels reside) are better than others. For example, the 6 megapixel sensor in a digital SLR is going to be dramatically better than a 6 megapixel sensor in a compact point-and-shoot camera, largely because it will be larger (a LOT larger, ten times larger), and larger sensors produce generally better photos with much less noise even if the number of megapixels are the same.

Which brings up the question of camera size, and of format: compact point-and-shoot, SLR-like ?pro-sumer? with a good but fixed lens, and a digital SLR. And there is another issue that you didn?t mention, the ability to shoot video as well as still images, which digital SLR?s generally can?t do at all (and some cameras that can do it don?t have sound). You have to trade off the pros and cons of these formats, because many people will sacrifice image quality and zoom for tiny size and ease-of-use, while other people put image quality first above all else. And, of course, there is the matter of cost as well: how much can you or do you want to spend?

In terms of quality, if you stick with the major brands, the overall quality today is pretty good.

As to the memory cards, most point-and-shoot cameras are going to use SD cards (secure digital) or sometimes xD cards, and in today?s world that is not a big issue. [Sony cameras will use their own memory-stick]. The higher end, larger cameras will take Compact Flash (CF) cards, and many of these have two card slots, one for CF and a 2nd slot for either SD or xD. CF, SD, xD and memory stick are all well supported, and for most people this isn?t a reason to choose any one camera over another. You do realize, I hope, that these cards are all erasable and reusable; I?ve run into a few people who did not realize that, and your question about ?breaking the bank? with respect to the cost of the cards leads me to point out this fact that many of us take for granted.

You asked about brands and there are almost too many brands and models: Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Kodak, HP, Sony (which recently acquired Konica/Minolta), Nikon, Panasonic, Samsung. Again, I?d really like to direct you back to the really good review sites (http://www.dpreview.com and others) where you can better investigate the characteristics of specific cameras that you might be considering.

Submitted by: Barry W. of North Canton, OH

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Hi, Lee! Digital cameras are a wonderful improvement over the old film based technology, but they're still in the process of evolutiuon; new features are constantly being added, and prices are falling with every new generation of cameras.

In reading over your letter, it looks like you 'want it all'; an inexpensive, yet durable camera that has sufficient resolution to enable poster size enlargements. Sadly, the industry just isn't there yet; durable, high resolution cameras are still expensive. However, expense is relative; with the money you'd spend buying and processing 100 rolls of 36 exposure color film, you can buy a very fine digital camera indeed. So, if you take a lot of pictures, even an 'expensive' digital camera may be an inexpensive solution.

Here are a few items to consider:

Durability: most cameras these days are made of a high impact polycarbon (plastic) which is reasonably resistant to small impacts. In the old days, camera bodies were made of metal; be aware that an impact great enough to dent a metal body, will shatter a plastic one. If you want a metal body, you can still find them; but they're expensive. Good examples of durable, metal bodied cameras are the Nikon D200 and the Canon 5D. Both are made of Titanium, and are very strong and light.

If you're a casual photographer, durability may not be as important as it seems. The reason is that with reasonable care, a plastic camera will still last several years; and over that span of time, enough evolution will have occurred in digital cameras that you may wish to upgrade your camera, regardless. Professionals and hobbyists, on the other hand, use their equipment enough that durability is important.

Another often reported statistic is resolution, which is expressed in megapixels; the more megapixels, the larger you can make an image without seeing imaging artifacts such as pixellation. Interestingly, a surprisingly small number of megapixels is necessary to make large prints; for example, you can make a very nice 20" X 24" print from the Nikon D50, which is just 6 megapixels. And remember, in order to double the resolution you need to quadruple the megapixel count; for example, in order to double the resolution of a 6 megapixel camera, you would need a 24 megapixel sensor! No commonly available digital cameras currently offer a sensor with that much resolution. Most professionals agree that there's no visible difference in the results generated from an 8 or a 10 megapixel sensor; large increases in the number are necessary to realize even a small visual difference.

What is even more important than the megapixel count - and is often not reported - is the physical size of the sensor. Manufacturers like to use small sensors; they're much cheaper to make, and they enable inexpensive zoom lenses with wide zoom ranges, often as great as 10:1 or more. But small sensors have a big problem: they're noisy. This noise shows up in the final prints, and results in a fine, static-ey overlay that looks a lot like film grain. There are aftermarket software programs such as Noise Ninja that will reduce the effect of noise; but they often reduce detail as well. If you want to make large prints, you'll want to avoid tiny sensors. How do you know which cameras have tiny sensors? Well, virtually all of the inexpensive pocket size cameras have tiny sensors; and usually, all the cameras with non-removable lenses and long zoom ranges - say, 8:1 or greater - have tiny sensors. One surprising exception to this rule is the Nikon D200, equipped with their amazing 18-200 zoom lens; however, this combination is almost $3,000.

You can evaluate the noise levels of different cameras, right in the camera store. Increase the sensitivity setting of the camera (called the ASA) to its maximum position, and take a picture of a grey card. Do this with several cameras, take the pictures home and look at them on your computer. This will allow you to eliminate any cameras that have more picture noise than you desire.

Another factor you'll need to consider is whether you want a camera with interchangable lenses, usually referred to as an SLR or Single Lens Reflex camera. These tend to be pricey, but offer a lot of additional flexibility; if you want to mount your camera on a telescope, or take extreme wide angle interior photos, or make extreme close ups of stamps or bugs or flowers, you'll need an interchangable lens camera. If you want a camera for casual holiday and family get together photos, you probably don't need interchangable lenses; but if you're more of a hobbyist, you might find benefit in this feature. Another advantage of an interchangable lens camera is that you're always looking through the lens that's taking the picture; so it's really a 'what you see is what you get' situation. There is a type of camera called an 'SLR-Like' camera; these cameras look like SLRs, but have non-removable lenses and really aren't SLRs at all. In 'SLR-Like' cameras, you are looking an an electronic image in the viewfinder; these tend to be hard to focus manually, have poor detail, and usually exhibit an awful lot of 'drift and delay'; the imaging doesn't happen in real time, and the lag between your moving the camera and the movement showing up in the viewfinder can be very distracting.

Regarding cards: the emerging standard is the SD (Secure Digital) card. The speed of the card does not affect the speed at which the image is taken, or captured; but it does affect the speed at which information flows from the camera buffer to the card. During this write time, the camera cannot take pictures. Most cameras that feature rapid fire imaging have an internal buffer that is large enough to permit several images to be taken without writing anything to the card. In addition, most cards are now fast enough that the write speed is measured in fractions of a second.

Another feature that is often available on digital cameras is optical image stabilization. Image stabilised lenses have a small gyroscope that controls a floating lens element in the lens; this lens element keeps the image centered on the sensor, even if the camera shakes a bit. Image stabilization can improve the sharpness of an image over 2 to 3 shutter speeds; that is, an image taken at between 1/15 and 1/30 of a second will exhibit sharpness equivalent to an image taken at 1/125 second. Nikon claims a full 4 shutter speed improvement on their latest VR (vibration reduction) lenses; this means that a picture taken at 1/8 of a second has no more image blur than one taken at 1/125 of a second! No matter who makes it, a good image stabilization system is a very definite advantage. Konica/Minolta had developed a system which acted to stabilize the sensor itself, with the result that all your lenses would benefit; but Konica/Minolta has now abandoned photography in order to concentrate on other products. However, this technology might show up in some future Sony cameras.

In terms of high end cameras, the two market leaders are Canon and Nikon. The Canon Rebel XT is an 8 megapixel, plastic bodied interchangable lens camera that has proven to be a runaway best seller for Canon, largely because of its impressive feature set and very attractive price point. Most enthusiasts believe that the standard 'kit' lens is not particularly sharp, and are opting for a better Canon lens than the base model. Competing against the Rebel are the Nikon D50 and D70, which are both 6 megapixel cameras; and the Nikon D200, which is a 10 megapixel, titanium bodied interchangable lens camera at a significantly higher price point. The D200 has met with rave reviews, and is currently considered by many as the 'one to beat' in prosumer camera equipment. However, times change, and Canon isn't sleeping. In very general terms, Canon is probably superior to Nikon in marketing, and in offering a wide feature set for a low price; on the other hand, most consider that Nikon cameras have somewhat better lenses, and have better ergonomics: they just feel better in the hand. But both companies make excellent cameras, and are fierce competitors.

In terms of less expensive cameras, The Panasonic DMC FX-01 combines a low price point with a 6 megapixel sensor, a high quality Leica zoom lens and optical image stabilization. However, the camera - like most in its class - has a small sensor which produces noisy images at higher ASA ratings; make sure you take some sample pictures in low light situations, and can live with the noise in the images.

So there you go, Lee! There's an awful lot of information here - without knowing more about your personal situation, I can't make more specific recommendations. But this should get you started, and let you sort through the claims intelligently. Good luck on your quest!

Submitted by: Charles W.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I know exactly where you are coming from. I am a marketer's nightmare. I never impulse buy and always dig deep before committing hard fought for funds. I started my search for the ideal digital camera over two years ago and once I got up to speed, I kept my finger on the pulse as they came and went. I came to rely on several of the independent review sites and as much as I love Consumer Reports, I didn't find their reviews as useful. My favorite review site is Digital Photography Review (http://www.dpreview.com) Standing in a store you'll never be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. The camera that captures your senses also often eats batteries voraciously. You just can't tell. Store shopping for look and feel is the last step before price shopping.

Megapixels are simply how many dots make up the picture. Large numbers of megapixels produce cameras that are more expensive as it is harder to manufacture flawless sensors. You'll also find on cameras with large megapixel values, it takes longer to transmit all of that extra data, either in the camera or over your USB or Internet connection. Keep in mind when using your pictures on line that many people still do not have broadband and will give up trying if your pictures take too long to download. They do, however make for sharp and impressive enlargements. I have a friend who is a lifelong photographer. His shot I adore most was taken in Death Valley with a 4 megapixel compact camera on a huge tripod. (Aside: As a backpacker I have invented what I consider the world's lightest "tripod". It is nothing more than a variation on the old beanbag tripod but I leave out the beans. I use a zip lock bag and fill with whatever I can find on the ground, wherever I go. Works great.) It's easy to go over kill on megapixels. Unless you regularly do big enlargements you probably don't need more than 5 megapixels.

Optical zoom vs digital zoom. Digital zoom is what you use, in a pinch, to get closer accepting the fact your picture quality will degrade. It simply fills a frame with a subsection of pixels available from a larger field of view. To appreciate the affect move your face closer to a picture in the newspaper. Optical zoom is different. With a good lens system, quality can be retained. Here is an example where a high megapixel camera can be useful. By looking at only a portion of a high resolution (lotsa megapixels) image you have a zoomed equivalent of a lower resolution camera. Much more importantly, any seasoned photographer will tell you the value of a good wide angle over a big telephoto. It's much harder for lens designers to create a zoom that goes to a decent wide angle and so it is less common and much more pricey. Most people find themselves wanting to back up more often, to get the full scene in, rather than zoom just a little closer. Remember too, big zooms accentuate camera vibration. Don't even consider a large zoom on a digital camera without a good tripod and/or image stabilization system. Quality varies a lot here.

Panoramic photos. This is another case where a wide angle will require fewer stitches to create a panorama. However, wide angle lenses usually have more distortion and are harder to stitch. A good tripod, good photo processing software and experience using them both make the difference here.

Re: Memory cards. There are usually high speed versions and low speed versions of each style. Higher speeds: faster transfers. It's that simple. Your camera manufacturer will pick the style and if you like their camera you go with it. All cameras come with a uselessly small memory. No one knows why they even bother and they could lower the price if they didn't. Regarding capacity; IMHO there is not a lot of point putting in a memory card so huge that it cannot possibly be filled within your camera's battery life. You are also putting a lot of eggs in one basket with big memory cards. You do need them though if you take movies with your camera.

There are a lot more issues but most review sites do a great job of explaining the details. Finally, the truth is I could not find a camera that met all of my requirements so I finally settled on an interim model. It lacks image stabilization and a wide angle but I am otherwise extremely impressed as are other users from what I read on the fora. To see what I bought (paid $316 on-line) see: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canona620/ To see user feedback see: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/read_opinions.asp?prodkey=canon_a620 Good luck.

Submitted by: Dave U.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Dear Lee W:
I will do my best to answer your many questions.
Q.Are mega pixels or optical zoom more important?
A. First of all based upon your other questions, you should look for at least a 5 to 6 megapixel camera. This way you can crop an area and blow it up without noticeable pixilation. That said, how important a wide ranging optical zoom is to you is dependent on the type of photos you take. If you are shooting mostly portraits, you only need an 80 to 100 MM (35 mm equivalent) range at the top end. If you are shooting landscapes you want a minimum of 36 mm at the low end. If you are shooting sports or nature a long zoom (300 mm or more) is best. You also need to couple this with a camera that has at least a shutter speed range up to 1/1000 of a second or better.

Q.I want to be able to take multiple photos instantly by holding down one button.
A. This is easy as most digital cameras have a continuous mode, some being faster than others.

QI want panoramic photos, as well as photos that can be enlarged to poster size without losing quality.?
A. Many digital cameras today offer a panorama mode that allows you to stitch photos together on your computer. See above about poster size.

Q.I want all of this in a camera that will last and not break the bank in initial cost nor the cost of cards. (Speaking of cards, which are the best type of storage type to get in a camera? Can the card actually affect the speed at which the photo is taken?
A. This question has many answers depending on your definition of ?break the bank?. Many point and shoot cameras can meet your needs that cost less than $400. As far as storage, I see no real advantage as to card type, manufacturers pick the one that works best with their camera, except for the fact that some like the xD are less readily available. A high-speed card version will cost more, but will load pictures faster, once taken, so it is a trade off that is affected by the way you shoot. The higher the mega pixels count the bigger card you need. The speed of the card has no impact on how fast the photo is taken. Most cameras have a secondary buffer to load the picture in before it is written to the card. Once your buffer fills up, you can?t take any more pictures until it is downloaded to the card, so that is the only impact of the card speed.

Q. There are so many questions. Please direct me to a good brand and help me decipher through the technology mumbo jumbo.
A. This is very subjective, as many cameras will fill your needs. I recently bought an Olympus SP-500 UZ point and shoot camera. This is a 6 MP camera, that has a 10X optical zoom with an equivalent 36 to 360 mm zoom range. It can also shoot RAW, which is rare for a camera this inexpensive (street around $345, though I paid less). It has a large LCD and an electronic viewfinder. It has a panoramic mode and many other scene modes, and can be used in both auto and manual modes. I love it and highly recommend it.

Submitted by: Robert B.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


In digital cameras optical zoom is better if you want to conserve space on your digital camera where as mega pixels are more important if you want to get everything and then edit out the bits you don't need on your computer later, or use the digital zoom to edit out the bits you don't need. One other thing watch out for with mega pixels is ensure the camera lens genuinely does the amount of megapixels advertised, some mention that the camera does 10 megapixels digitally (usually these cameras are about
Collapse -
Bad camera
by geriggs / April 18, 2006 6:34 AM PDT
In reply to: Honorable mentions

I had a Kodak 4900 5 megapixel digital camera that only lasted 3 yrs. It was NOT cheap! It took great pictures. The first to go was the Kodak rechargeable battery pack. That lasted a little over 1 year. Then one day I took several photos, plugged it in to my computer & it was just dead. No warning, nothing was failing on it..it just died. It was going to cost over $100 to send it in to repair OR I was offered a trade on a refurbished one for anywhere from $120 to $230!!! On a refurbished that wasn't even as good (technically) as mine!! The support on these electronic items are pathetic to say the least. I will absolutely buy the extended warranty next time but I will not buy another Kodak. The Kodak Easyshare program is pretty lame anyway. To sum it up, the camera was expensive, I had to buy the dock, an extra SD card & a new battery pack...total expense about $550. All in 3 years. I expect to get more when I pay more.

Collapse -
Other advice from our members
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 6, 2006 4:16 AM PDT
Answer:

My beginner's guide to knowing/buying digital cameras:

1. Megapixels- Megapixels is short for a million pixels.The more megapixels you have the more detail you capture.I recommend atleast 4 megapixels for user of any level.It also depends at how much DPI (Dots Per Inch) / PPI (Pixels Per Inch) you are going to print at.300-600 DPI is usually sufficient for prints rangeing from 5 x 7 to 13 x 17, 150-200 DPI should suffice for poster size prints.The following chart should help you decide how many megapixels you need for good quality prints-

Print Size:

Megapixels:

4 x 6" -- 3-4 megapixels
5 x 7" -- 4-5 megapixels
8 x 10" -- 7 megapixels
13 x 17" and larger poster sizes ? At least 7 megapixels for basic quality.

2.Memory cards-I recommend SD cards.It's not that expensive a format and it's pretty popular.It's popularity is a plus point in that you can switch it between different gadgets like Mobile phones, MP3 players etc. I haven't had any problems as yet with SD cards.I feel they are good enough for most beginners and intermediates.As for the speed of the card affecting the camera, any SD card with a speed of about 50x should be enough for taking pictures upto 6 megapixels.Taking pictures at a higher resolution like say 8 megapixels or using the TV resolution (640 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second) video capture capability available in most newer cameras you should get atleast a 60x SD card.I recommend the Sandisk Ultra II series.

3.Optical zoom-Having some extra optical zoom is always a boon.For most consumer photography 3-5x zoom should be more than enough.Anything more is useful if you do a lot of sports photography. And remember, don't get carried away by the digital zoom capability of any camera.It doesn't capture any extra detail, it just magnifies the detail already there just to reveal the fine imperfections in the image and make it more blocky.It's effect is similar to enlarging a passport size photo to A4.

4.Brands-There many good brands to choose from like Canon,Olympus,Sony etc. But I recommend Nikon.I have the 8 megapixel Nikon Coolpix P4 and I've had a good experience with it.

Submitted by: Ronak N.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Is this question or questions? LOL.

I have found the best solution to your problem is to just tuff it out and do the research myself. Everyone has an opinion on questions like these (that may not match your final opinion once you have decided to give it credence).

Then you will be very unhappy with yourself for not taking the time to investigate the situation thoroughly enough yourself. Very often when I have followed the advice of others I have regretted making my decision too quickly and wished that I had spent more time determining what I really wanted and needed and what of those was most important to me.

The FIRST stop on your quest should be a visit to a dedicated independent camera store to find a 'resident expert'. You should insure that the person you are seeking advice from is actually qualified to provide it. You should begin your interrogation by first finding out what camera/cameras your expert actually owns and what he/she uses each for. Often it is very difficult to try to have one device that handles all situations. For instance, if you want very high quality photos you will have to buy a digital camera that has a decent lens... most of these are not cheap.

You must decide what your primary use of the camera will be only AFTER consulting with the expert. Most likely you will decide on a feature rich, cost effective entry level camera for starters with the idea of acquiring a second more specialized camera at a future date. If you have the time you should consult with several of these types of experts. AVOID the mass merchandising stores that have retail sales help that marginally know the products that they are selling.

Second, you should do more research by finding some forums thru Google advance search or what ever internet search engine you use that deal with your primary issues. Read and search thru the forums for appropriate information and give the info as much weight as you deem appropriate.

By this point you are going to have a pretty good idea of what it is you are actually looking for including brands and models that actually meet your requirements and fit within your targeted budget. Every single feature of electronic devices is more important to one person than another. For example, your question about which media storage card is best, most cost effective, etc. applies only to those that are on the market today. The day after tomorrow may be a completely different story. Generally I personally avoid all items that are proprietary to the manufacturer since these often have the shortest life expectancy and availability. Just a little while ago who would be looking for thumb drives with 2 gigs of storage space or more for less than $ 50 on the street?

Some of the other questions you did not address in your 'questions of the week' that you will have to wrangle with are: will you be printing the digital images yourself or will you be using a service? Do you actually own a printer that is capable of printing anything more than a lower resolution image? What are you actually going to do with all of those digital images you took with 'multiple photos instantly by holding down one button'? Where are you actually going to store them and/or print them (really high resolution images are not small in size)? What is going to replace double layer DVD recorders? You get the picture...

I have found one website: http://www.myproductadvisor.com/mpa/home.do very useful in comparing features of different equipment... cameras, pad & phones, televisions or DIGITAL CAMERAS. From their website: "Receive an unbiased list of product recommendations based on your individual preferences." There are others that you can find with net searches...

After doing this kind of search and comparison you are almost ready to do price comparisons... and you have made up your mind what camera and peripherals you are ready to purchase... then you find out that there are four more new models on the market that you haven't had a chance to consider... Heck, just buy a good used camera on eBay and get started... You will then be able to make a rational decision if you haven't already gone crazy trying to decide.

Submitted by: Steven P. of Tallahassee, FL

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Lee, both are important you need enough megapixels to print a nice picture at the maximum size you want. You also need good optical zoom to minimize the amount of cropping needed.

I would suggest you look at this Cnet link to start with:

http://reviews.cnet.com/Digital_cameras/4520-7603_7-5023995-7.html

and also read this from PCMAG:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1585322,00.asp

There are many sources for how many megapixels you need, but you should consider the recommend megapixels as the minimum size to get, not the maximum megapixels count to get. I would say you need a camera with a minimum of 5 megapixels (or maybe more), raw or TIFF mode and a very good lens. (If it has digital zoom turn it off.) I would take a hard look at the Olympus E-Volt 500, 300 & 330, as will as the Cannon and Nikon cameras. Personally I like the Olympus treats the color, but you may not. Yes it is worth waiting a little a longer to get the camera that you need.

Settling for less will make you unhappy with digital, (and there may not be one that will do what you want and you can afford). Also, you may need to use and external flash as most built-ins are to short ranged for many shots.

For what you want I would say the print method will be as important as the camera. I have had prints from an ink jet that were only fair, but took the same file to Wal-Mart and using the 1-photo and had excellent results.

Why more pixels help. For example my first camera was 1.3 megapixels, it was fine for most of what I needed it for at full frame but if I had to crop to less than half the pixel count it was a very poor picture.
I now have an Olympus E-1 with 5 megapixels and when its picture is cropped to 1/4 (? height and ? width) of frame it is the same as the 1.3 megapixels camera full frame picture and I still have a usable picture. But I have at times wished I 100 megapixels because even with the best zoom you can?t always get what you want to be full frame (or even half).

There is one catch to the more is better my friend?s Kodak 6 megapixels camera best mode make a JPG file that is smaller then my E-1's best JPG mode so there is more detail the 5 megapixel camera file than the 6 megapixel camera file. So I would strongly suggest that whatever camera you get that it has the ability to save picture in raw mode and/or TIFF.

As for memory cards, yes the speed of the card affects how long you have wait between shots, or how long of burst you can shoot. From what data I have seen the Compact Flash seem to have the fastest save times. If you get a fast card. (If you can?t find out from the package/info page how fast it is you can bet it is slow.) I wouldn?t get anything under 40x (I use a 2gb, 80x with write acceleration) (Some are up to 133x) But not faster than the camera can take advantage of.

As for the panoramic photos Adobe Photoshop Elements does a good job of making them. You just need to overlap your shots, and tell which ones to use and it makes it, or you can do it manually.

Submitted by: Henry W.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Dear Lee,

You didn't specify what kind of shots you would be taking or what "break the bank" means. However, you seem to want to do some serious photography. To create large prints you need as many megapixels as you can get. Even then you may have trouble with poster size (depends on how large a poster you are talking about). Are you going to take mostly action shots, scenery, indoors, outdoors? All these are considerations. Since you talked about fast cards, you seem to be concerned with action.

All things considered, if you are really serious about a camera, I suggest you get a digital SLR. You can get a Cannon Digital Rebel body for $899 without lenses, but Nikons are also excellent. That seems like a lot but you won't regret it in the long run. Personally, I would skip the kit lense that will cost you $100 more and check out lenses at a camera store. (Be sure you get lenses for your specific camera - not any lense will work.) Porter's Camera has a good on-line site for seeing what is available. Cannon and Nikon lenses are excellent, of course, but Tameron also makes good lenses that are not quite so expensive. Once you have a good idea what you want you can also check out ebay, but be sure you know exactly what you are looking for. With interchangeable lenses you can have as much or as little zoom as you want and the lenses come in different speeds if you want to take action. I'm the school newspaper advisor for my high school and I take some of the photos myself just because I really like taking photos, despite my excellent photography staff. I've taken everything from scenery and talent shows to night football. I can't imagine not having a Digital SLR without zoom. Digital SLR's will take photo after photo with almost no lag.

If you are going to take panoramas you will definitely need a tripod. If you are going to take a lot of indoor shots at a distance you will probably eventually want an external flash also. As far as memory cards go, I wouldn't pick a camera based on memory cards. I use compact flash and they are fine.

All this probably seems like a lot of money and if you are just a casual photographer it is. However, if you really get bitten by the photography bug you will save in the long run. You can buy a camera for $200 or $300. Soon you will be dissatisfied and buy another for $600, etc. Sooner or later you'll want a digital SLR. I know because I went that route.

Submitted by: Barbara L.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Picking a digital camera from the huge array of available products can be challenging.
The requirement to take photographs that can be enlarged to poster size will require a megapixel camera (the more "dots" or pixels per inch the larger you can make your photographic print.) I think that to enlarge to 8" x 10" requires 4 megs. So you are looking for a high maximum megapixel camera and perhaps the ability to save "raw" files which are very large. When you take your photographs you can select whether to use the highest resolution of your camera or less -- If you are taking snapshots that won't be enlarged much or photos for posting to the Internet you would actually prefer to use a lower resolution and get more photographs per card -- the high res. means fewer pics per card and impossibly long uploads on the Internet without any benefit from the higher resolution because your CRT's cannot display it.

Optical vs. digital zoom are accomplished differently. Long story short -- optical zoom is accomplished without changing the resolution of your photo and will give you a better image -- especially if you intend to enlarge your photos.

Your requirement for rapid exposures in rapid succession probably will limit your choices to the DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras). This is because, without exception, the non-SLR digital cameras all have some degree of "shutter lag" even when taking a single frame. Photographers who want to shoot action, or capturing anything depending on the concomitant shutter snap as your finger hits the shutter button will constantly be frustrated by the non-SLR digital cameras. If this is not an issue for you, some of the non SLR digital cameras have plenty of megapixels and several (Fuji, Panasonic, and Canon) have ten to twelve times optical zooms. That would be like having a 28 to 400 zoom lens on your 35mm SLR.

For previewing or looking at the photographs that you take -- get as big and bright a viewfinder and you can afford. Two and 1/2 inch viewfinders are getting more common.

To meet the requirement to take continuous shots with your camera, you should confine your search to the DSLR cameras. There are many brands and styles that are very serviceable. They are getting more affordable but I think you may find that the a camera and lens will run around $700 and up. (I'm not sure about this -- search Cnet!)

Happy hunting.

Submitted by: Leigh D. of Falls Church, VA

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I saw your digital camera question for next week and thought of a similar and maybe a bit broader question that I answered for my step-mom, who knew very little about digital cameras, a couple months back. I?m forwarding her questions with my responses. BTW, she went with my primary suggestion and is happy with the Nikon 7600.

I am requesting information from you because I think/know you own or know something about digital cameras.

I am interested in purchasing a digital camera and I don't know anything about them.

Any pointers??


I think the most important consideration is your expected use and what you?re willing to pay for that use. You can get a great feature-packed point and shoot camera in the $300-$500 range. You can get a reliable point and shoot camera for probably $200-$300. You can get a good consumer level SLR in the $700-$800 range. Pro entry level cameras are $1500 and up.
A point and shoot camera offers few or no manual controls and very simple operation. Focus, exposure, and most other adjustments are completely automatic; all the owner needs to do is aim and push the shutter button.

SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex. In this sort of camera one lens is used for both focusing and taking this picture. In most SLRs light is directed between the 2 functions by means of a 45 degree mirror which swings up as the shutter is activated but before it actually opens.

For everyday use, quality pictures, and technology that won?t be obsolete next year, I would suggest spending at least $300. Canon and Nikon are likely your best bets. Both are reputable camera makers that have been around for decades.

Whatever brand you choose there are two key features to look for: Optical Zoom and Megapixels.

Optical Zoom refers to the actual zoom the lens on the camera is capable of. Digital Zoom on a camera is practically worthless and, when used, will degrade your image quality. You should look for a camera with at least ?3x Optical Zoom? to get your money?s worth out of a digital camera.

A camera?s megapixel count refers to the resolution of the image that the camera will capture on its sensor. Basically, the higher the megapixel count, the better image quality you?ll get from your prints. You should shoot for at least 5.0 megapixels, although, you can likely find cameras with 7 or 8 megapixels in the $300-$400 price range. Below I?ve listed a chart that I found online that is a pretty good guide of what you can expect for your print quality with a given size.

Print Size Good Results (200 ppi) Excellent Results (300 ppi)
4 by 6 inches 800 by 1200 pixels (about 1 megapixel) 1200 by 1800 pixels (about 2 megapixels)
5 by 7 inches 1000 by 1400 pixels (about 1.5 megapixels) 1500 by 2100 pixels (about 3 megapixels)
8 by 10 inches 1600 by 2000 pixels (about 3 megapixels) 2400 by 3000 pixels (about 7 megapixels)
11 by 14 inches 2200 by 2800 pixels (about 6 megapixels) 3300 by 4200 pixels (about 14 megapixels)
16 by 20 inches 3200 by 4000 pixels (about 13 megapixels) 4800 by 6000 pixels (about 29 megapixels)

Additionally, memory cards will also be required. So, the question is what kind do you need and how big does it need to be? If you go with my suggestions, Nikon and Canon use SD, MMC, and Compact Flash cards depending on the models. I would recommend using at least a 256MB memory card. This size will hold about 100 pictures from a 5 megapixel camera; 80 pics on a 6 megapixel camera; or 75 pics on an 8 megapixel camera. A 512MB memory card will hold about twice that many on each camera. A standard 256MB card, whether Compact Flash or SD, runs about $35. A 512MB card, about $50. [*Note: These prices have dropped even further since this initial response and you can likely find a 1GB card in the $50 range.] It just depends on how long you?re going to be away from your computer before you download them off the card and have a blank card again. Think about it this way, 4 rolls of 24 exposure film is 96 pictures, which hopefully covers a weekend of camping. In that case, you?re probably covered with the 256MB. If not, you can always buy additional memory cards later on. I have several myself, a 512MB, two 1GBs, and a 4GB, which I?ve never filled up all at the same time. You can find also find deals on memory cards. Joey found some 256MB SD cards at Wal-Mart recently for $13. He bought 2.

What brand is your digital camera?

I have 2. Sony DSC-P8 and Canon Digital Rebel XT.

What are the specs of your digital camera?

The Sony is a 3.1 megapixel point and shoot camera with a 2x or 3x optical zoom. The Canon is a 8 megapixel SLR with detachable lenses.

What do you like about your digital camera?

The Sony was my first digital camera. I bought it when 3.1 megapixel was top of the line for point and shoot cameras. It?s been a good camera and it?s great for carrying along when the Canon would be too bulky. It has a preview screen, so I can frame the image in the screen before I take the shot or I can look through the viewfinder like in a traditional film camera.

I love the Canon. I?ve had it for about a year now. The picture quality is phenomenal and the ability to fine tune the photo before taking it is great. It has interchangeable lenses that allows me to really customize the camera for a variety of situations. Most of the time I?ll shoot with my 18-55mm lens. It creates a rather wide view at 18mm and then has a moderate zoom of 55mm that serves most of my needs to get in close. However, if we?re outdoors and I?m going to be a long way from the shot I?ll use the 55-200mm lens, which is a monster zoom for a digital SLR. I also have a high speed 50mm lens that is great for portraits. I used the 50mm for the picture on our Christmas card.

What do you dislike about your digital camera?

With the Sony, the photo quality begins to degrade in prints above a 4x6. And an 8x10 is obviously grainy. Sony uses the Memory Stick format for storing the pictures, which is only used by Sony and, therefore, comes with a higher price tag. That?s the one crappy thing I hated from the beginning with it and I?ll probably never buy another Sony camera because of the Memory Stick issue. Finally, the Sony is just outdated now, especially since I?m used to the quality I get from the 8 megapixel Canon. I only use it when I have to now.

The Canon is bulky and expensive. It?s taken some getting used to for me to carry it to Dollywood or wherever. It?s got a lot of bells and whistles that Adrienne never uses and doesn?t understand. I like all those bells and whistles though. This is kind of where the personal preference comes in. She always keeps the camera on the automatic setting and it behaves like a point and shoot type camera. I tend to tinker with the settings a lot more. Although, this isn?t a dislike, I think it shows that a point and shoot camera would suit her needs just fine, whereas I like the customization and some pro-level options.

Do you know of any good deals on digital cameras?

Your best chance of finding a good deal is probably with a place like Best Buy or Circuit City. When it comes to retail prices on point and shoot cameras, I like the following cameras.

Nikon CoolPix P1 ? 3.5x Optical Zoom ? 8 megapixels - $550
Nikon CoolPix P2 ? 3.5x Optical Zoom ? 5.1 megapixels - $400
Nikon CoolPix 5600 ? 3x Optical Zoom ? 5.1 megapixels - $250
Nikon CoolPix 7600 ? 3x Optical Zoom ? 7.1 megapixels - $330
Canon PowerShot A610 ? 4x Optical Zoom ? 5 megapixels - $300
Canon PowerShot A620 ? 4x Optical Zoom ? 7.1 megapixels - $400
Canon PowerShot S2IS ? 12x Optical Zoom ? 5 megapixels - $500
Canon PowerShot SD400 ? 3x Optical Zoom ? 5 megapixels - $300

If I were buying a point and shoot camera for myself, I would go with the Nikon Coolpix 7600. I think its features are the best bang for the buck today. These prices came from Wolf Camera at West Town Mall. I?ve got a catalog from Wolf too that has a Nikon Coolpix 8400 (8 megapixels) for $400 that?s not a bad deal. Check Best Buy, Circuit City, and Wal-Mart and see if any of these cameras are on sale. Best Buy is always putting these things on sale, although I didn?t see any of these in this week?s flyer. Let me know if you?ve got any more questions. I?ve tried to cover all the basic stuff and if you?re interested in SLRs I?ve got tons to say about them too.

Submitted by: Eric R.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I am no expert photographer, but I have, or have had, six different DIGITAL CAMERAS. My first, a CASIO QV 700; a truly fantastic camera for the period. It is still in constant use because of it's many features not found in any other camera. It is lacking in resolution, has no viewfinder, and no zoom, but still great for everyday snapshots.

I also have a CONCORD 3340z. It hasn't the features found in the CASIO, but is very satisfactory, with a resolution of 3.1 Megapixels, zoom, and takes a quite satisfactory picture. I do find fault with the small LCD screen, and tiny icons.

My last, and currrent most used camera is a KODAK EASY SHARE Z740. I have used it for 6 months or so, and have found NO faults. It is easy to use, a nice size so it fits the hand perfectly. It has 5 Megapixels resolution and a 10X zoom, and color rendition is great. Of great importance is the battery life. I have taken hundreds of pictures, a number of movie clips, and have just changed batteries for the first time. It uses standard AA batteries, and an SD extended memory which is available at reasonable prices. For anyone, other than a professional photographer, I can highly recommend the KODAL Z740.

Submitted by: Charles D.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


In response to Lee W's inquiry.......In my opinion based on owning 3 dig cams......anything above 5 megapixels should give you high quality enlargeable photos that you seek. Most of the quality SLR'S and better cams will give you multiple shot burst that you need also. I don't think the type of card you use affects the speed of the photo taken either but the capacity simplifies how many shots you can take to store. As for zooms that depends on how you use the cams and what you are photographing....the short length zoom will give you a wider panorama and longer lets you narrow in on a subject such as a portrait or closeup of a flower. No one can guarantee the life of a camera no matter which brand you buy. Price is affected by many features you prefer and I find interchangeability of lenses important. Shake control to reduce camera vibration sharpens your pictures. Settings for different light conditions you may encounter is another important feature. The ability to choose preferred speeds for sports or in motion subjects is always a plus. At times the need for preferred light condition settings becomes the priority. I would say that you should spend as much as you feel comfortable affording since camera features seem to change alot lately but, photos have a huge sentimental value which overrides the dollar cost usually. My photo CD's contain 3,000 pictures taken over 50 years which are priceless in retrospect. Go for the quality much as a car purchase in my opinion.

Submitted by: Joe F.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Hi Lee,

You have described he exact camera I want too. As far as I know it doesn't exist yet. I guess the first thing to determine is what are you going to shoot with it? Is this for your son's hockey games or are you a landscape fiend? I'm guess the former as you asked for a camera that'll fire bursts. (holding down the button and shooting continually. You asked a few questions so I respond to them in the order asked. There are two main catagories of cameras: Point and Shoots and SLRs. Point and shoots come in some pretty slim sizes now. You can even score some decent megapixels with them. I've seen 8MP so far. But you'll suffer in zoom. You might get 3-4X optical zoom and if there is more it'll be digital zoom which is not as desirable. Basically the camera will crop a picture for you lowering your megapixel count. SLRs have megapixel and you can buy the zoom afterwards via some pretty nice lenses. The cost is a little more than a point and shoot. But now you'll have flexibility. Next time you want zoom, attach the 300mm lens and shoot your boys face through the cage on his hockey helmet from across the rink. Megapixels are great for detail. For blowing up to poster size though you'll need lots. The Canon 1Ds Mark 11 has 16.7 of them, but the camera without a lens costs 10 grand. Probably more than you want to spend. This is also a pro camera with a full sized sensor. It would be way cheaper to up-res your pictures through photoshop elements (about $100) As for bang for your buck there are some pretty good things available from Minolta EVFs. <electronic view finder>For under a thousand you can get set up with some consumer glass <read: inexpensive lens, but quite acceptable results>and a camera body. Spend a couple of hundred more and get a rebel from Canon. Careful. The slope is slippery and before you know it you can get hooked and spend a fortune camera goodies. Hope this helps

Submitted by: Dan F. of Parksville, B. C.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Here?s the short answer to you question: megapixels are more important than optical zoom, look for a camera with ?burst shooting? and a good memory buffer, any camera can shoot panoramic photos, 8 megapixels and up can give you good poster-sized prints, memory card prices are all pretty cheap these days, however, SD and Compact Flash are slightly less expensive than proprietary brands, and the camera brands I prefer are Nikon, Fuji and Sony. Asking these questions is a great start to purchasing a digital camera, but here?s what you really need to know when shopping for a digital camera.

As a professional photographer, I too want a simple easy to use camera that takes great pictures. I would love one that does everything my professional grade digital camera does; very sharp pictures, no shutter lag, great low-light shooting, fast flash recycle time, large memory buffer and many lens choices. The good news is cameras are getting better everyday and the prices are coming down. From my research, when it comes to digital cameras, price equals quality plain and simple. It?s not the number of megapixels. It?s the $$$.

On the flip-side, if you haven?t bought a digital camera in a while, you?re going to be blown away by how good your pictures look for the price you spend.

Maybe the question really is, ?how much do I have to spend to get what I want?? Knowing what my professional camera could do, I set out to find a point and shoot that juggled many factors and produced the best results.

Currently here?s the relationship I found of camera prices to quality of pictures: Good cameras cost $300. Better cameras cost $500. The best consumer level cameras cost $1000. The cameras between $300 and $1000 are generally a step up in all areas, sharpness, color, lens quality and file handling. The trade-off for better image quality is bigger size. In fact the cameras with the biggest and therefore better lenses produce the best pictures. Show me a good lens and I?ll show you a good camera.

Here?s what I look for in addition to image quality when shopping for a digital camera. Either in written reviews or by testing, find out about: shutter lag time (the time it takes for a camera to fire after you push the button?the shorter the better), low light handling (shooting in lower light with a minimum of noise?auto ISO adjust is nice too) and buffer size (how many pictures you can take in a row without waiting). Finally, important factors include battery life, company track record, and special features such as video.

Key factors I looked for were: 1) size?it must be convenient to carry. 2) video?I don?t like carrying separate video cameras 3) low light ability?most cameras these days have no problem in sunlight?look for the quality of nighttime photos. Personally, the camera I bought turned out to be a super-compact credit-card sized camera. My needs prioritized convenience?so I went with a sub-compact model and I?m pleasantly surprised by the quality.

Good luck on your search for the perfect camera!

Submitted by: Jim P.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Since you want to enlarge images up to poster size, megapixels are more important.

If by "take multiple photos instantly by holding down one button" you mean "drive mode" (great for action shots), most point and shoot cameras that have that capability can take a max of perhaps 3 images/second, and probably not more than half a dozen in a burst.
Might be cheaper/easier to find a camera capable of taking video/clips and then get editing software to capture individual frames. (To get up to 8 images/second and be able to "drive" for a few seconds, you may have to look to a "professional" camera, like a Canon 1D, but that's thousands of dollars for just the body, much less the cost of lenses. As a professional action photographer of ice hockey, the most annoying thing I've seen in point and shoot cameras is the 1/2 second or so delay between the time the button is pushed and the image is captured.)

Panoramic images, ala 35mm panoramic photos, might be best taken by a camera with a good "wide angle" capabilities and software to crop the image to the panoramic view. Alternatively, many cameras come with special software that will allow multiple images to be combined electronically to get a 180 or 360 view.

The memory card writing speed effects how fast images can be written to memory, and therefore may limit drive mode capture. The cost of cards keeps coming down. I can get second generation SanDisk 1Gbyte cards for under $60 at my local Costco, when a few years ago, I paid
up to $200 for a first generation 1Gbyte card. Many office supply
and electronic stores have smaller cards with higher prices. 1Gbyte may be more than the non-professional photographer needs.

Submitted by: Gail B. of Mountain View, CA

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I found that at least a five megapixel camera will fight off planned obsolescence. Pricing as of this time tends to point to the 149.00 to 250.00 price point. The holiday season will be great as 5 megapixles will be the starting point. I predict price points will start at 149.00. It might be a good thing to look at the format you will be using to save your pictures. You will have several types and if you like a particular brand of camera you might want to stick with that brand as it would be using the same memory media and you could use them interchangeably as you upgrade and you will upgrade.

You need to ask yourself what am I using the camera for? Are you a casual photographer or are you a fussy, never leave the house without, looking for that magic shot type. The size and feel of the camera is very important. Will your hands fit the tiny brick style camera or do you need the SLR type to hold on to. I have both and prefer the SLR type as it feels like a conventional camera and is easier to hold. The tiny brick types are ergonomically deficient and you may tend to shake the camera when you take that magic shot. Do you want to hang your camera around your neck or do you want to put it in your pocket?

When you get one of these cameras you should have some sort of way to print the pictures. You have two alternatives. You buy a printer which may or may not hook up to your computer or you go to your corner drug store and make the prints yourself. Some printers work independently of a computer and will do a reasonable job of printing your images. The downside is buying the printer cartridges or refill ink. We all know how much carts and ink is. I prefer going to the drug store, printing what I want. Once there you take your memory media out of the camera and view and choose your prints. There is even an enhancement program to correct a less than perfect image.

As far as megapixels go for the highest number you can afford. The so called benefit is when you make an 8 X 10 or higher print. The saturation will be more like your looking at a photograph instead of a Seuratt painting. 3 megapixels and upward will make decent 5 X 7 prints and possibly 8 X 10 acceptably. Most camera's now have a digital movie feature. Check to see if it records sound. The filming feature is really crude at 640. At this rate the movies are reminiscent of those 16 millimeter home movie camera's. The images are charming but not at all sharp in most cases. You will need a separate digital movie camera for fine images. Most digital movie camera's have a portrait or camera feature but only to 2 to 3 megapixels. To date there is no really nice all in one unit so don't ask. If you have a digital movie camera check to see if it has camera capability. You just might have what you need in your digital movie camera.

Optical zoom versus digital zoom. Always go for the optical and not the digital. Digital zoom uses a sort of digital trick to enlarge a picture by expanding the pixels. The result will be a sloppy, waterstained looking mess. The optical zoom works like your eyeball focusing in on items with moveable lenses. Make sure the optical lenses are made of glass. The camera sees the image as sharp as your eye does. The megapixel saturation will be tighter and will yeild a picture closer to film.

So there you have it! Summers coming and digital cameras take great outdoor shots. So go shoot something!

Submitted by: David H.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Short & Sweet:

What has worked for me best is following 3 basic ?rules? on compact cameras look for:
a) the highest resolution (Mega-Pixels);
b) the largest optical zoom, as digital zooms only mimic sacrificing on resolution, if you have 2 similarly priced cameras one with higher resolution with a lower optical zoom multiplier, and the second with a better optical zoom an a notch down on resolution, choose the second, as any close-ups you can reframe them on your computer;
c) get the largest capacity memory card (the larger the resolution, the larger the file)

Practical Tricks:
Under set-up menu, set your camera to the highest resolution, you can always lower it once is in your computer, never the other way around; additionally, when you share photos with family and friends, outlook, gives you the automatic option to send the files in low resolution or in full resolution. Purchase a card reader, its simple to visualize and manage photos (files), especially as many systems use a file system. Generally Card-Readers are faster than using the camera connectors.

Good luck

Submitted by: Goyo

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I can tell you this right now. You should consider looking at some of the top brand cameras: Nikon, maybe HP, Canon, Olympus, and Kodak. Check out their stats and prices on their main web sites.

If you want to posterize your pictures, should consider getting a camera that has a gross of 5 or 6 megapixels. The camera must also be able to handle at least 1/2000 of a second. The faster the shutter speed and the more light emitted into the camera, the better the quality. 1/2000 of a second is really good in really bright places like the outdoors or a very lit up enclosed building. Also you should always use your flash to take pictures because it helps to improve the shutter.

Oh yes, about panoramic pictures. You might want to consider an HP in that case with the specifications I've given you because their camera has a great guide to help you provide accurate split ups of your subject. This way when they are stitched together, you have 3 pictures all in one picture accurately. Buying an HP is your decision to make.

You asked if the card affects the speed of the camera. It does not, the shutter speed does. However, the format that you've taken your pictures in can affect the cards read speed when you view the pictures and browse through. With formats like RAW which is an uncompressed format, it will take at least 5 seconds for the camera to read the picture file. Whereas if you take a picture in SQ, it would only take 1 second. Also, a cards storage space should be determined by the gross megapixels that your camera offers. This means that if I wanted to make it a habit of taking pictures at the highest resolution of 7.2 megapixels, I should consider getting a 256 megabyte card. With this I would be able to take at least 50 pictures. The card should be judged according to the size of the slot. Check with a salesman to see if your camera comes with the size card that you want and what kind of card is it. If you want to you can get cards that are at least 1 gigabyte maybe 2. I hope this answer helps you. God Bless.

Submitted by: Joe R.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


When purchasing a camera there are always compromises that must be made. You ask whether megapixels or optical zoom is more important. This is largely a personal choice, but you should be aware of the megapixel myth. This is the marketing hype that surrounds the megapixel count of cameras. Not all megapixels are created the same. Most smaller point and shoot cameras have tiny sensors which come with more noise (random colored speckle) at higher resolutions. For poster size prints and panoramic images you will need as much quality as possible, which can best be attained from a DSLR. These are cameras that are like traditional SLRs, with normal viewfinders-but they have digital sensors in place of film, hence Digital SLR. These cameras do allow for several pictures to be taken just by holding down the shutter button (even lowest end cameras can take 3 photos per second). DSLRs also tend to be built much better and can last over five years, in comparison to one or two for a point and shoot camera. The only two problems with DSLRs are the initial cost (usually at least $650) and they are much larger than other cameras. The list of advantages is almost endless with a few examples being much higher image quality, no shutter lag, better build, the possibility for interchangeable lenses and increased battery life. In this category I would recommend either the Nikon D50, Canon Rebel XT or for a higher budget the Nikon D200. Good luck with your search!

Submitted by: David H.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I've been a photography fan since the 1970's, starting with a Canon FTBn SLR, lugging 3 or 4 lenses, all the way through the digital revolution. I've had 4 digital cameras.

I think first of all, almost any good brand will suffice. I really do. There are bargains and overpriced cameras (like Nikon), but they all take serviceable pictures. Buy features and megapixels. Kodak, FUji, Canon, Olympus, Pentax, HP, Nikon, etc. are all fine. Sony is fine. Try to get one with a good lens name if you are going with HP or Sony. Get at least 5 megapixels. Any card is OK. Try to get one with AA batteries, so you don't have to worry about lugging a charger, although when I travel, I do. I bring a battery charger, a half dozen sets of 2 AA rechargeables, and a few disposable AA's.

I currently have a fuji 550, which will do 6 mp and goes for the low 200's. Very good quality. Has about 6 different settings, auto, manual, etc. Can do self timer and multiple exposures. I've easily enlarged to 8 x10 and resolution is terrific. Very slight noticeable curvature of parallel lines noticeable, like in a tall building. Low light is good, not great. Like I said, many of the cameras are very serviceable; I wouldn't get hung up on a name. IF you want a fine camera and want to overpay for the name, get Nikon. However, if you look at Nikon historically, you are always paying a premium for the name versus the quality of the competition. But if I woke up with Nikon camera in my bag, I wouldn't be upset. I've owned Sony, Toshiba, Canon, and two Fuji's and frankly other than megapixels they were all very good. If I upgraded, it would probably be a canon, or Olympus, just because I don't like to worry about proprietary batteries.

On a recent trip to France I took my FUji and a 1 and 1/2 GB card, and got more than 800 pics on it. The video is also very good, believe it or not, and I have forgone carrying a camcorder when I need snips of video.

Submitted by: ChimayRed

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Your questions deserve several answers:

1. Megapixels and optical zoom are both important. More to the point, megapixels and optical quality are both very important. Megapixels cameras can't take quality pictures with a plastic lens and a quality lens can't take pictures that can be enlarged without the camera having sufficient resolution. Optical zoom has the capability of taking better quality pictures that digital zoom has.

2. Most quality cameras will allow the user to take 3 to 5 fps pictures and some will take short movies.

3. Panoramic pictures can be taken with the use of a good tripod and a digital editing program such as Photoshop Elements.

4. In order to enlarge a digital picture to poster size, a camera with at least 8 megapixel capacity and good optics is required.

5. There is no "best" card, there are cards that are made to strict standards and there are cards that are shoddy. The type of card will be governed by the camera that is selected. The quality of the card is up to the user.

6. The card does not affect the "speed" at which a photo is taken but it can affect the speed at which multiple pictures are taken.

7. Your requirements can be met with a Camera such as the Canon Digital Rebel. I am sure that the other quality manufactures, Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, etc., have cameras that are in the same price range (about $900) and have the same operating capabilities.

Submitted by: Don B.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Megapixels are pushed very hard by the camera companies, but they are over-rated. If you plan to print pictures in standard 4x6 or even 5x8 size, 3 megapixels is plenty. For larger enlargements, more are necessary to give a sharp print. If you plan to enlarge to poster size, you will probably want as much as 8 megapixels, but you will pay for it!

As for zoom, I personally looked for the longest optical zoom I could find, which was 10X at the time that I bought. This is important if you plan to do any distance photography, such as nature and wildlife. Only optical zoom is truly useful. Digital zoom is meaningless-- it just enlarges each pixel, so you lose resolution as you "zoom".

Many cameras have a panoramic mode that will format the shots so that they can be easily stitched by the editing program bundled with the camera. (Olympus does this with its cameras). But any good editing program (Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, etc) will make panoramics out of overlapping standard shots with little difficulty.

I don't think any particular storage card type is clearly better than any other. The prices have come way down, so you can now buy a 1 GB card for less than $100, and this will hold hundreds of photos, or even a 1000, depending on your megapixels and resolution chosen. I carry a portable hard drive (X's-Drive II), to which I transfer my photos and can then re-use the card. It takes any card format (including xD with an adaptor). There are also now small CD writers you can carry to do the same thing.

I personally have been very happy with my Olympus Camedia C-740, which is an older model that has been replaced by ones with more megapixels.

Submitted by: Stephen K.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Unfortunately, fast, cheap, simple AND high-resolution is an impossible combination. The good news is that digital SLR cameras (necessary to meet all the requirements) have dropped in cost enough to now be consumer-affordable. Specifically, you are asking for a 6 Megapixel minimum resolution, with variable f-stop and sensitivity (shutter speed in a film camera). Removable lenses are desirable, though not absolutely essential. Most qualifying cameras will use either CF or SD memory, and either is fine; just keep in mind that a 6M shot will consume 2.4 MB of memory in .jpg format, and much more if you shoot RAW. I found SmartMedia cards to be slow at data transfer, but notice no delays using CF (no experience with other types).

As for specific choices, it is probably between Nikon and Canon; both companies have long experience making film cameras, and have transitioned to digital very well. I chose a Nikon D70 because I was familiar with their film cameras. It is simple to use in "automatic"
mode, but has a wealth of special options if you care to learn about them. It's only real drawback is that it is much to large to drop in a shirt or pants pocket. Originally $2000, it was down to $700 when I bought mine, and has since dropped further in cost. It also now has a "little brother" D50 which is worth consideration.

Submitted by: Joe M.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I am a professional photographer and I am ALWAYS asked the question?which camera should I get?

The answer lies mainly on what are you going to do with the pictures? Most mini-labs, the ones at Sam?s Club and Costco can only make enlargements of 8x12. For that size a 5 or 6 megapixel camera is more than adequate. Most important SHOOT AT THE HIGHEST RESOLUTION THE CAMERA ALLOWS, don?t scrimp because you don?t have enough cards (see below) they are inexpensive and last?not like film. Furthermore cameras get their best resolution at the lowest ISO, the native resolution of the camera, all other ISO?s are interpolated from that point. It also sometimes helps to shoot in RAW mode, be sure the camera has that option.

That being said, it isn?t the number of megapixels but the QUALITY of the pixels. If the camera does not process the image properly all the pixels in the world will not remedy a bad file. If you are shooting outdoors with strong backlight the best camera won?t fix the overexposure. I often say it isn?t the camera, it?s the eye six inches BEHIND the camera.

When looking for a camera, look for the best OPTICAL zoom available and one that fits your hand. In addition, an EYE LEVEL viewfinder is best because of several factors:

? Most cameras in automatic mode tend to favor low shutter speeds. Holding a camera away from your body causes the camera to shake. Holding against your eye creates a tripod (remember 3 sides is the strongest construction?) and will steady the camera
? Cameras with eye level finders tend to be of better quality.

As for fast shooting holding down the button a camera with a large write buffer becomes expensive, generally only available in Digital SLR?s i.e. Nikon D70, D50, Canon Rebel, 20 D, and their big brothers, Nikon D2x and Canon Mark II and Mark II ds.

The card is an issue when rapid shooting multiple images, since you are at the mercy of the write buffer, the faster the camera writes, the sooner the buffer clears. Look for San Disk Extreme II or III

Submitted by: Fred L.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Digital camera can be expensive but also more effective than film cameras. A good card to get is XD because they're small and inexpensive. For good photos get ones with 4.0 6.0 megapixels, there are those outrageously expensive 8.0 megapixel cameras but they're for professional photography. The cameras I went for were : Olympus IR300, It has an XD card slot, Docking Bridge, 5.0 megapixels, But no view finder and my other one, Fujifilm S5500, has good zoom capabilities lots of selections for different conditions e.g. landscape, fast motion, portrait, it also has a view finder so it's like a regular film camera. It takes 4 (I think) AA batteries and has a/v out and 4.0 megapixels. I'm sure there are better cameras but that is entirely up to you.

Submitted by: David P.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


The Question of a decent camera which will take wonderful pictures up to at least 20? x 30? is one I am about to buy after using a similar camera for over a year so I know what to expect. The camera I would vouch for is the Kodak Z650 which is a new model and would take great pictures with a 6.1mb resolution and has manual as well as auto moods, slow speeds on timer and faster speeds for action photos. The card inserted to take extra photos does not effect the speed of the photo taken, cards come in two speeds, the only effect is when printing out the photos which really does not really matter. The optical zoom is great as it gives a 10X zoom so one can get into far places one needs to photo and also for effects. This is a very pleasing camera and well suited to a keen photographer to get great photos.

Submitted by: Roy O.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


The Casio Ex-Z750 is 7.2 MP and takes amazing stills. You can also take MPEG 4 videos. It's has a lot of manual control. It will allow you to take as many consecutive pictures you want by just hold the shutter button down, it automatically stops when button is released. Costo.com has the camera for $299.99, they also have a great return policy if the camera doesn't work for you.

I use a SanDisc 1GB SD card. I have read that the Ultra II are faster but I haven't noticed any difference. Hope this helps.

Submitted by: Abby

***********************************************************************

Answer:


As for the camera, I checked Consumer Reports and CNET, and bought an Olympus D-580 zoom. It will do what you want it to, and well, and I paid about 200 bucks for it. I'm a technical writer, I write textbooks and occasional web content, and for what I need, it's great. It's a 4 megapixel, which is adequate unless you plan to do prints larger than 8 1/2 x 11. It has optical and digital zoom capabilities, up to 12x. And it fits in my shirt pocket. Kodak has an equivalent, rated similarly by the ratings folks, but I was used to Olympus from my 35 mill, so I went with it.

Submitted by: Robert H.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I think that the digital camera I have now is good for what your asking, I have the HP R717

For making big pictures, Megapixels will matter, normal size will not.

Optical zoom yes is a pretty big, but if you get about 3+ You should be pretty good.

Digital zoom is ok, but I wouldn't rely on it.

SD (Secure Digital) is the best I know... And heard of from all my computer buddies.
I have a 256mb SD card in my 6.0MexaPixel camera and I can get 145 pictures!

Submitted by: Justin C.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Megapixels and optical zoom are both important. Digital zoom just crops and enlarges the view without changing the pixels. In other words you'll (more times than not) end up with a blurry, pixilated photo. If you have that option on your camera (Digital Zoom) you're better off not using it and cropping and enlarging on your computer at home. Megapixels is actually a slight bit more important than optical zoom. You can also get closer to your subject but not add pixels. As far as storage cards, I prefer compact flash cards. No special reason; I'm just used to them and they hold a lot of pictures at a (relatively) low cost.

As far as cameras go, everyone has their favorites. I have a friend who swears by Nikon. I found that specific Nikon camera became hot when used. (Battery thing.) I personally like Canon cameras. I have an old G2 (4 megapixel camera) that I take everywhere. It's my basic work horse. I've dropped it and had it crack; put a piece of tape on it and I'm still using it 4 years later! My advise is to go online and read all the photography sites choices (that's how I ended up with the G2, many years ago.) Ask your photo bug friends and go with what you can afford! Remember what you'll be using it for. You don't need a $4000 camera to take birthday snaps! Don't forget your software! Adobe is great but Corel (Paint Shop Pro) is a bit more affordable! Good luck, Jon

Submitted by: Jonathan L.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Digital cameras come in many forms from the point and shoot type to the SLR (35 mm style). A lot of manufactures push optical and digital zoom as a selling point on their cameras. I can tell you optical zoom is better then digital since all the digital zoom does is spread out a single pixel across 2 or more depending on the amount of zoom. Optical zoom is just like a magnifying glass in front of the camera (simplest terms). As far as mega pixels go the more the clearer the picture will be to a point (see below). Also another thing to consider is the size of the lens on the camera. The larger the diameter of the lens, the more light the lens can gather. This makes taking picture in dimly lit areas easier, especially if using a flash is not allowed or practical.

I originally (3 years ago) bought a 3.2 mega pixel point and shoot camera for my everyday type pictures, but it just would not produce the quality pictures I was use to. I like the old school 35 mm film photography (SLR cameras) and was not too impressed with digital cameras, but developing 35mm film was getting expensive, so I decided to look into getting a digital camera that could replace my 35mm camera. I did a lot of research (several months) before I bought my camera. I bought the Canon Digital Rebel XT (SLR type) camera last month. I am very impressed with this camera, I also found out a lot of professionals (wedding photographers) use this camera as a back up. It cost me around $1,200 from Amazon.com with 2 lenses and the memory card (a 3 gig micro drive). This camera is 8 mega pixels and has interchangeable lens, and you can take full control of the camera or let it choose the settings for you. You can do full stop motion photography, it has a 14 picture burst mode with up to 3 pictures/second, and it produces 35mm film quality pictures. You can blow them up to poster size and not lose much quality. The smaller point and shoot cameras won?t do that very well. The reason is this. The point and shoot cameras have anywhere from a 1/8 inch to ? inch CCD (the CCD is the image sensor) the Canon how ever has a CCD that is the same size as a 35mm slide. Remember the vivatar film cameras with the small negatives, the larger you made the print, the grainer the print was, it is the same thing with digitals.

Now to the mega pixel question. If you take two cameras both with 6 mega pixels but one has a CCD that is 1/8 inch and one the has a CCD the size of a 35mm slide (SLR type camera) and take a picture of the same object, then make a 8 ? by 11 inch print from each camera the one from the SLR camera will be much clearer. This has to do with the size of the CCD. As far a doing panorama type pictures I don?t know of any digitals that do it, I am not saying they don?t exist, I just don?t know. As far as memory options go, you need to decide on the camera first, they all use different types of memory to store pictures on. Once you decide then you can choose the type of memory that fits your camera. The memory, as far as I know, does not affect the speed at with the picture can be taken since the memory can be written to faster then most cameras can take pictures anyhow.

Submitted by: Scott S.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Megapixels and optical zoom are both very important for what you want to do. I own a Nikon D50 and it has all of the features with a low learning curve. For your panoramic shots, also invest in a wide angle lens. The best thing about Nikon SLR cameras is that lens from other Nikons fit them. The D50 is a six megapixel camera and creating posters from that is going to give you excellent results. It also shoots in the RAW (NEF) format which will give you optimum clarity while allowing you to adjust color, sharpness, brightness and all to your liking. One of the most impressive features is the instant, multiple shots you are looking for. It is incredible how the subtleties of each frame varies and changes the shots from frame to frame. As for storage, I buy different brands depending on cost and amount of storage. You will want to buy from 512 to the largest size they have because of the multiple shots feature you want. The higher the resolution of the shots, the fewer photos you will get to store. For example, when I shoot in RAW, I shoot at 300 dpi resolution using a 1 gig storage SD card. That only gives me approximately 156 shots. The card only records what you shot and how you set your camera features affects speed.

The D50 also has bullt-in adjustable flash with an extra spot light for highlighting the subject. You can adjust the lightness/darkness of your shots with the plus/minus button. The lens kit is extra as the original price is for the body only. My advice comes from my own experience... if you can afford it, go for the D70 because the lens is well worth it.

There are numerous sites that will give you an explanation of all its features. Since turning to digital, I have only used Nikons that have been in the $1000 range and have not regretted doing so.

Submitted by: Ethel M.

***********************************************************************

Answer:


I recently purchased a Canon S-80 online from Costco so I could return it without any hassle if I was unhappy but I love it. My only complaint is the manual is not as user friendly as I expected although the camera is.

I purchased at a great price with the help of ZD Net a Corsair 133X Secure Digital card 1GB for extra storage; you may want to buy a 2GB card if you plan to take many pictures on a trip.

Submitted by: David S. of Los Angeles, CA

***********************************************************************

Answer:


Which one is best.........we wanted to upgrade our digital camera so 6 months ago I
started reading forums to get opinions. I ended up with the Canon SD500 Digital Elph.
As we are basic point and click users, this one sounded perfect - and it is. We could not
have made a better choice. Quite honestly, I don't believe you can take a bad picture
with this little camera even if you try. Even pointing into the sun, I have great luck. The LCD screen
is large with a great picture. I even dropped the camera the other day outside. It was fine -
"takes a licking and keeps on ticking". And it fits in any pocket or handbag.

Submitted by: Suzi in Ohio

***********************************************************************

Answer:


If you are looking for a compact digital camera that will do all
of those thing's look no further than the FUJI F11 also the
natural light mode on the camera give superb results with
no flash and far superior in low light situations.

Submitted by: Robert J.
Collapse -
Digital cameras
by telli97 / April 7, 2006 2:28 PM PDT

Hi,
I am an amateur photographer with no formal training in photography. I've always had point and shoot film cameras Yashika, Pentax, Vivitar etc. Around 2 years ago I decided to make the switch to digital camera and the main reason was the ease of transfer of images to storage media and sharing via internet/email. At the same time if I needed an urgent passport size photo of myself or any of my family members I could get that done in the comfort of my home. I have a photo quality Canon printer and very functional Photoshop software on my PC.I travel a lot and take a lot of outdoor shots as well.
So if you are like me; who needs a multi-task camera which would'nt get obsolete soon and give me an option to go manual also; then I suggest you try out the Olympus C8080 (8 megapixel, 5x optical zoom with auto&manual modes) It has given me fantastic results.

Collapse -
Megapixels and scaling
by aflockhart / April 6, 2006 6:28 PM PDT

>> If 1MP will print 4x6 ok, then a 2MP should print 8x12 (8x10 in photo world) ok. A 3MP could print 12x18 ok and so on...


Actually if you double both the length and width of the printed image you need 4 times as many pixels.

So if 1MP is required for a 4x6 picture, you will need 4MP for an 8x12 ( and 9 MP for a 12x18)

Collapse -
Use your math...
by ktwilson86 / April 6, 2006 7:44 PM PDT

The suggestion that print size increases linearally with megapixel size is dead wrong. Why? if you say 1MP is good for a 4x6, then 2MP is good for a 8x12, you're doubling the number of pixels, but quadrupling the surface area. This definitely won't hold up by the time you get to saying a 32x48 inch image is ok with a 8MP camera. If you want to quadruple surface area, you have to use 4 times as many pixels to keep the same amount of quality.

(just in case you're wondering why 8x12 is 4x the surface area of 4x6, you're doing this kind of multiplication: 2(4)* 2(6). since multiplication is communitive, that's the same as (2 * 2) * (4 * 6) or 4(4*6).)

Collapse -
Personal experience
by pfdurand35 / April 6, 2006 8:19 PM PDT
In reply to: Use your math...

Something I can say from personal experience is that at 11 x 14 (the largest size most labs print before going to poster) you are unlikely to see a difference in quality whether you used a 6 MP or 8 MP camera. In otherwords, once you are looking at 5 MP or more and so long as you are not usually printing larger than say 8 x 10 (or heavily cropping either), discerning variances in image quality comes down to splitting hairs. I would recommend researching the lens on a prospective camera. The lens is what lies between the real world and the CCDs. Chromatic abberation can become an issue with cheap glass. My experience with digital is still too limited to know if reciprocity failure is an issue. This is a phenomenon that occurs during longer exposures (when the shutter is open for more than say 1/2 a second) causing color shifts as a result of wavelengths of colored light traveling at different speeds. To sum it up in a simple terms: if you shoot through a clean window you will always get a better image than if you shoot through a dirty one, no matter how many megapixels you have.

Collapse -
Partly right, partly wrong
by whfite / April 6, 2006 9:55 PM PDT
In reply to: Personal experience

Thanks to the writers who clarified the error in the prize-winning post about the relationship between megapixels and usable print size. It certainly is not linear.

The remark about reciprocity shift, however, missed the target. Reciprocity shift has nothing to do with the speeds of varying wave lengths of light. Rather, it reflects a phenomenon in which film emulsion loses sensitivity to light during long exposures. Because the color layers may vary in this property, bizarre alterations of color balance can occur, some of which are quite pretty. Digital cameras are NOT subject to reciprocity shift. The problem with long exposures and digital media is pixel noise.

Collapse -
my math is more simple
by adid / April 6, 2006 8:24 PM PDT
In reply to: Use your math...

For most nonpro aplications 100 dot per centimeter (or 250 per inch) is enough for printing.
so 1600 X 1200 (~2Mp) is good for 15X10 (cm not " )
2592 X 1944 (~ 5Mp) is good for 26X20 (cm not ")

Just read what the size of the picture, divide by 100

and you have your optimum printing size,
for inches divide by 250.

- All this is based on a test I did, printing 20 15X10cm pictures using two cameras. One 4mp 300$, the other 600$ 5mp. Same setup for all, only size and compresion changed. I went to a pro photographer and asked him to select the best one, resolution wize (not colur).
Belive me, he did'nt select the 5mp uncompresed image.

Collapse -
Simple does not mean correct
by alaw168 / April 7, 2006 2:13 AM PDT
In reply to: my math is more simple

Simple math does not mean it's correct math. Besides, yours is neither simple nor correct.

First, you stated that 2Mp is good for 4"x6", which I agree. However, to support a same quality, 8"x12" print, which is 4 times the size of 4"x6", you should need 4 times the number of pixels, i.e. 8Mp. So saying that 8"x12" is twice the size of 4"x6" so you need twice as many pixels is plain wrong.

After people pointed out your error, you try to defend yourself by switching your point to pixel per cm / inch, which is certainly correct. However, not a lot of poeple, definitely the non-pro's, can relate 2Mp to 1600 x 1200, or 5Mp to 2592 x 1944. It's certainly not simple.

Collapse -
Correct is the following math
by yenaro / April 7, 2006 12:20 AM PDT
In reply to: Use your math...

multiplying the number of pixels by n is multiplying the area of the photos by square n, that means n x n.

Come in to knowledge, I invite you!

Collapse -
Nope - the answer is
by billdenv / April 7, 2006 2:10 AM PDT

The number of pixels is a measure of the AREA. If a 1 megapixel will do a 4 x 6 =24 sq in, a 2 megapixel will do a 48 sq in = 5.6 x 8.4 (as you double area, the lengths go up by square root of 2 = 1.414)/ A 4 megapixel will do 8 x 12 = 96 which is 4 times the 1 megapixel.

Collapse -
Great Question Lee!
by MattSC / April 6, 2006 9:18 PM PDT

First of all, I would like to say, "Welcome back Lee!" It's good to see you back and I hope the new addition to your family is doing well. Along with you, the wife and the rest of your family.

Second, ...I would like to say thank you to Aric W. That was a great in depth post and answered many questions I had running around in my head. As Lee mentioned, I've been pulling my hair out at times trying to understand all the points of digital photography.

I have a job where I do reports daily via a PDA. I just received an addition that will add to the same reports. A C-300 by a popular maker we probably all relate to when it comes to pictures.

I must take daily pictures of work that has been done during the day(in a Garden Center of a major Retailor) and send them back to the corporate office via the PDA.

Reading the instruction manual that was over 100 pages informed me of a lot. At the same time I felt more confused as I turned each page to just read more. Aric's response answered a lot of simple questions.

I will read more responses as I have time. For the time being I would like to say thank you again to Aric for his in depth response that answered questions in laymen's terms. ...lol

I would also like to thank Lee again for asking a question that couldn't have come at a more perfect time. :O) I think we have both gained some wisdom from it. We all know how hard it is to keep up to speed with the fast pace of technology in today's world. When I received this digital camera from my employer I had one thought, "Oh NO! More technology I must look into and learn." ...hehe

Thanks again,
MattSC

Collapse -
Think before you buy
by cviviana / April 6, 2006 9:21 PM PDT

The Question of what camera you should buy takes me back to the days of film and cheap camera's, when like everyone else you buy a box camera because it was cheaper, then you look at the SLR and think they were expensive, well today it appears the same, most people buy a less expensive pocket Digital Camera which are fine for the average daily use, I did this my self and then after a short period of time you think
''I wish This had interchangable Lens,''
''I wish I could switch to manual control'',
''I wish this was faster taking Pictures'',
''I wish this had speeds upto 1/4000 sec'',
''I wish I brought a Digital SLR Camera'',
Hey this is were I came in.
The moral of this Story is
if you only want to take snapshots then there is nothing wrong with all in Digital Cameras, I still have one, but if you are serious then Buy a Digital SLR.
By the way when I used Film I had a Pentax and Minolta, My Digital SLR is a Nikon D50
so think carefully what you want out of your Camera
Happy Snapping

Alan

Collapse -
Alan is correst
by natemann / April 7, 2006 7:43 PM PDT
In reply to: Think before you buy

All the major disappointments I've seen have to do with his list of choices. Beginners will learn, but not without expense and regret. Listen to him.

Collapse -
Enlargement vs. MPixels
by Socratis / April 6, 2006 9:25 PM PDT

Great post! Just a correction: at constant quality if you want to enlarge a picture twice you need four times more resolution/MPixels.

Collapse -
Erratum
by shorman / April 6, 2006 9:43 PM PDT

Aric's reply needs a small correction. When deciding on the number of MP you need, remember that this number depends on the square of the image size growth required. I.e. if you want to blow up one third of a photo's width into a new photo of the same size, you will need not 3 times as many pixles, but nine. Similarly, if you assume that you can just barely print a 4 X 5 inch print with acceptable quality with a 1 MP camera, you will need 4 MP for an 8 x 10 inch print to keep the same print quality.

As Aric suggested, looking at a photo taken under the conditions of interest, and printed at the size of interest is very valuable. Some cameras have better optics than others. A photo taken with a 4 MP camera with a mediocre lens may look no better than one by a 1 MP camera with a good lens.

Roger H

Collapse -
Good article - poor math
by Sam1940 / April 6, 2006 9:51 PM PDT

Aric W.'s article is very informative, but has some math errors. An 8x12 photo is 4 times as large as a 4x6 and a 12x18 photo is 9 times as large as a 4x6. Picture quality is determined by the number of pixels per unit AREA.

Sam

Collapse -
Good article - poor math
by the_other_Trev / April 6, 2006 11:16 PM PDT

Agreed, first thing that stood out to me. Other than that lots of good information in there.

Collapse -
Excellent post.
by bsmith3163 / April 6, 2006 9:59 PM PDT

The answer given is a very well thought out and honest discussion of digital photography. My only comment is about the MP discussion. The author writes "If 1MP will print 4x6 ok, then a 2MP should print 8x12 (8x10 in photo world) ok." This is not true. if a 1MP will print 4x6 then a 4MP should print a 8x12. It is an exponential growth because it doubles not only in height but also in width.

Collapse -
Sony digital camera batteries are defective, cameras are A+

I've own three models of the more expensive $400-$600 Sony digital cameras with the Carl Ziess lens. Sony uses their own Lithium-Ion batteries. These batteries list for $60 each. Sony batteries are defective. I've had nothing but problems with them failing after six months of normal use. I've been to many forums finding the same complaints. I've missed hundreds of wonderful split second shots because the battery died after only 6 pictures on a fresh recharged battery. Sony's digital images turn out Excellent. But my recommendation is to find a camera that uses standard (rechargable) AA or AAA batteries. Those cameras take 75-100 high pixel images without the batteries dying. Will save you a few hundred bucks on junk Sony proprietary batteries.

Collapse -
Don't forget image stabilization - and movie mode
by ia3d / April 6, 2006 11:56 PM PDT

Excellent answer. However, don't forget that an older person or one who wears glasses may also appreciate having image stabilization on their camera. Being both a senior and wearing glasses, I cannot tell you how many times the image stabilization on my Canon IS-S1 has saved a picture where my shaking hands or slippery glasses (depending on which viewfinder I used) would have caused a blur.

Also, many persons like myself enjoy having a movie mode incorporated in their camera. The movies I have made from my Canon IS-S1 are DVD quality and have saved me from having to carry two cameras to do what I want to do. Just last night, I **** quality video of my grandson's last basketball game, then used the same camera to take stills of the team grouped for a team picture - all with a camera having 10X optical zoom and not being overly large.

Collapse -
don't forget flash
by mforan / April 6, 2006 11:57 PM PDT

The smallest cameras tend to have a built in flash that will only illuminate your subjects out to 6 or 8 feet. Shooting a room full of people will result in much brighter foreground folks than those further away. They may actually look like they were in a dark room. Mid and larger size cameras frequently have a much more powerful built in flash, shooting out to 12-18 feet. Because digital cameras thrive on adequate lighting it is surprising how often one uses the flash, for example "for fill" even when ambient lighting is pretty good. Having the better flash is an important feature to consider.

Collapse -
A quality flash unit with multiple settings is a must have!
by torchfanatic / April 7, 2006 3:08 PM PDT
In reply to: don't forget flash

mforan is 100% correct in stressing the importance of the flash unit when purchasing a digital camera. If you never plan on taking pictures inside or using the camera on an overcast or cloudy day, then don't worry about the flash unit. But speaking from personal experience, if the camera's flash unit does not have at the very least a high, medium, and low setting adjustment you are in for a frustrating and in the end very disapointing experience. In my experience,and especially in the last year and a half, you can pretty well judge a digital camera's overall quality and versatility by the flash unit itself. The better the flash unit, the higher quality the camera, and in all likelihood, the better your experience with taking digital pictures.

Collapse -
Overall quality
by Monte521 / April 7, 2006 12:49 AM PDT

Another point to remember is that once you get past about 3 megapixel, other quality issues become more important to overall picture quality. In other words, high resolution (megapixel) camera images can be compromised by: a)low quality lenses; b)compromises in lens design (that ultra compact camera has a very small lens); c)bad alignment of lens and CCD; d)low quality image processing circuits; e)low quality firmware in the camera.

You may see an advertisement for a "10.5 megapixel ______" brand camera that you have never heard of before. The CCD may be 10.5 megapixels, but the lens, body, software, etc. may not produce a good image.

The review sites are very helpful. They allow you to see the differences in image quality produced by different cameras you are considering.

Having said that, if you choose a camera from the major makers (Nikon, Canon, Sony, Kodak, Olympus, Casio) you should be able to find the right camera for yourself.

Collapse -
Another site for reviews
by stoneysilence / April 7, 2006 12:55 AM PDT
Collapse -
EVERYTHING you'll ever need to know about digital cameras...
by gary85739 / April 7, 2006 1:05 AM PDT
Collapse -
mega-pixels
by pevgyrt / April 7, 2006 1:12 AM PDT

If one doubles the size of a print it doubles in two directions requiring four times as many pixels for the same resolution.

Collapse -
Holy Molly. Too many posts about pixels!
by NYCJim / April 7, 2006 3:06 AM PDT
In reply to: mega-pixels

Those of you who buy cameras based on megapixels are missing the point. (read the winning answers. You'll see that the point being made is that more expensive cameras produce better, bigger pictures. While this may seem obvious, it's actually the ONLY easy guage of picture quality. Megpixels are only one factor of MANY factors of image quality and almost of no value. In short the proof is in the puddin' not in the megapixels!

Judging a sample photo from a camera is the only way to tell how big prints can be made from a camera. Burn this into your head.

Quick example: I have an orginal Nikon D-1--just over 2 megapixels; however, it can produce pretty darn good 16 x 20 prints.

All cameras have a size limit; usually one for pictures taken in daylight and a size limit for pictures taken in low light. Looking at a print is the only way to tell. Other than that, price is the best measurement you have.

Resolution is better left to the topic of printing your pictures. Now that's where dpi matters.

Collapse -
Great Advice with one cavaet...
by ptctom / April 7, 2006 1:25 AM PDT

Lee,

Aric W, gave you great advice concerning your search for a digital camera. I would like to add a few items.
When looking for megapixels, what Aric said is mostly true. However, an 8x12 is 96 square inches which is four times the size of a 4x6 24 square inches, and an 8x10 is 3 and a third the size of a 4x6, therefore a 4 megapixel
image inan 8x12 would have the same resolution as a 1 megapixel 4x6, all other things being equal.
Also, what Aric W. mentioned about carrying your equipment around is so very true. If you opt for a DSLR with a zoom lens which gives you excellent images, but do not carry it around, because of the size, apoint and shoot which is easily carried will give you good images and a good images is inferior to an excellent image, bu a good image clearly beats no image at all.
One final note, if you coose an all in one, not only is optical zoom size important, but perspective is important also. There are a number of cameras which now give good wide angle perspective, 24mm or so and those which have better telephoto 200+ perspective. First decide if wide angle or tele is more important to you.

Good luck and happy hunting,

Tom

Popular Forums
icon
Computer Help 49,613 discussions
icon
Computer Newbies 10,349 discussions
icon
Laptops 19,436 discussions
icon
Security 30,426 discussions
icon
TVs & Home Theaters 20,308 discussions
icon
Windows 10 360 discussions
icon
Phones 15,802 discussions
icon
Windows 7 7,351 discussions
icon
Networking & Wireless 14,641 discussions

Smartphone tip

Hoarding photos on your phone?

Those picture are hogging memory and could be slowing down your phone.