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Choosing a new digital camera, Pt.1

May 14, 2008 - Dave Hecei
So it’s time to buy a digital camera. Maybe the old 35mm film camera is dead, or maybe it’s just time to enter the digital era. Digital has come a long way and can easily be recommended to all but the most diehard film fan. Unfortunately, buying a digital camera can be a very confusing process. Megapixels, LCDs, optical zoom, shutter lag, memory cards, white balance, all these terms and features can make anyone’s head spin.

The hardest part in going digital is finding the right camera. Pretty much every electronics maker (Casio, Epson, HP, Panasonic, Sony, etc.) and film camera manufacturer (Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, etc) have dozens of models in every shape and size. This means that there are hundreds of cameras to have to choose from. Hopefully we can help cut down the confusion and allow you find the perfect camera for your needs.

The Digital Difference

A digital camera’s basic functions are the same as film. Focusing the light onto a sensor, instead of film, creates an image. Exposure is still controlled by using the proper shutter speed (the amount of time the shutter is open) and aperture (the amount of light coming through the lens).

The focal length of the lens still determines the angle of view, or magnification of a scene, for a digital camera. Since the sensor in most digital cameras is much smaller than 35mm film, the focal length of the lens can be much smaller, making it possible to make the camera much smaller. An average 35mm point-and-shoot camera has a 35-90mm lens. On a digital camera, this is going to end up being about a 6-18mm lens, or on a DSLR, 18-55mm.

What makes a digital camera ‘digital’ is the sensor. This is usually a CCD (Charged Coupled Device) or a CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor). The sensor acts just like film, recording the image it sees as digital data on a memory card. While film needs to be developed before you can see the picture, a digital photo can be previewed on the camera’s color screen, instantly. If you don’t like the image, just delete it and try again. This is one of the greatest features of digital photography, knowing that you have the shot you need, instantly, and not having to pay for film and processing.

(to be continued...)


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