Digital Camera.

Published Date
01 - Dec - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2006
Digital Camera.
Digital Cameras-everyone seems to either have one or want one! If you haven't already taken the plunge, there's no reason not to… if you're clueless, here's a handy guide.

Myths and Realities
Digital Zoom: A totally useless feature, it's pure marketing hype. Also known as interpolation, it causes severe deterioration in shot quality. Never buy a camera on the basis of this feature. Look at the other specifications on offer (like optical zoom).

Megapixels: Important, but severely overrated. Two decent cameras, one with a 6-MP rating and the other with an 8-MP rating could produce startlingly similar results.

Onboard memory: Not really important; after all, 32 MB will allow you to store just five or six photos at 6 megapixels. You'll need a memory card anyway, so you can safely overlook the onboard memory available.

Large LCD viewfinders: Flashy but not really useful. The larger the display, the quicker your batteries will run out. Something in the range of 2 inches should be good enough.

Questions To Ask
What form factor is right for you?
Is portability important, or do you want a bigger camera big on performance? Size and functionality is generally a trade-off. Choose between the ultra-compact, compact, SLR-like and SLR form factors.

Do you plan on using your camera for video recording?
Most cameras support video recording at 352 x 288. Some newer ones support 640 x 480. The frames per second rating is important: at 352 x 288 it should be around 30 fps, while at 640 x 480, look for at least 15 fps. Don't expect great quality though, that's what camcorders are for. You'd be better off buying a digital video camcorder that offers still photography as a feature if what you're really looking for is video recording.

Do your hands shake while clicking?
Look for image stabilisation. This assists in taking blur-free shots by compensating for hand-shake.

Future Trends
Standardised file formats are perhaps the biggest drivers of digital imaging, maybe even more so than the digital camera itself. While all digital cameras support the JPEG format, a few support TIFF, and even fewer support the RAW format. Most professional photographers will swear by the sheer flexibility of RAW, owing to the 16-bit quality of RAW images (all other formats offer a maximum of 8 bits).

Despite the enormous size of RAW files, manufacturers are slowly beginning to add RAW capture support to digicams. This is possible partly due to the diminishing prices of Flash memory.

What To Look For

5 Megapixels: Do not go below this-output quality will suffer. If you want 5 x 7 prints of your photos, 6 or 7 MP should suffice.

3x optical zoom: The minimum. For outdoor shooting, you'll need much more-12x should suffice.

Memory Options: Flash memory is getting cheaper, and rapidly. 1 GB cards offer the best bang for the buck, and we recommend at least a 512 MB card. At a resolution of 5 MP in high-quality mode (applicable to JPEG), you'll get about 200 photos. Brands are important as far as Flash memory goes. Don't buy unbranded memory cards: transfer rates, performance, and reliability will suffer in the long run.

Macro Mode: You can take stunning close-ups with minute detailing on small subjects-flowers, jewellery, insects, and such.

Rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries: Regular batteries mean recurring expenses. Moreover, changing batteries can be a pain. A camera using Li-ion batteries is highly recommended because of the sheer convenience offered. Most cameras with rechargeable Li-ion batteries will allow the batteries to charge from the USB connection itself.

Indoors and outdoors: For outdoor and scenery shooting, you need lots of optical zoom (12x is a good place to start), and perhaps an SLR-type camera. A good flash for indoor shooting is an absolute must-for outdoors too, except when shooting in sunlight.

Connectivity options: All cameras come with USB 2.0; some may come with FireWire. This gives you flexibility as well as greater transfer speeds. Look out for Wi-Fi connectivity, an emerging feature on a few select models.

Other things: Look for multiple exposure settings on the camera. Shutter speeds have a number of settings; the more the camera supports the better. Look for lots of white balance options as well, which will allow you to adjust image tone according to lighting.

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