Digital Cameras

C OOL F AC TS

With a 3-megapixel camera, you can take a higher-resolution picture than most computer monitors can display. • You can use your Web browser to view digital pictures taken using the JPEG format. • The first consumer-oriented digital cameras were sold by Kodak and Apple in 1994. • In 1998, Sony inadvertently sold more than 700,000 camcorders with a limited ability to see through clothes.

W HEN

YOU NEED MORE MEGAPIXELS

You will need a camera with a lot of megapixels in the following cases: • You want to make large prints of your photos • You want to create high resolution greeting cards • You want to print images in a magazine Magazines and other print media have higher print requirements than a home printer used for snapshots of your latest vacation. This table shows the relationship between megapixels and print size: Notice something interesting here? A digital camera that creates images PRINT SIZE (INCHES) with 2.0 megapixels is going to be enough to produce decent quality prints 2.0 4 x 6 [standard] at 4 x 6, the most common print size for most photographs. 3.0 5x7 However, if you try to print a 2.0 megapixel image at 8 x 10, you will probably not be happy with the result. The image will look blurry and fuzzy, 4.0 8 x 10 and you will be able to see the actual pixels in the photo. 5.0 9 x 12 MEGAPIXELS 6.0 8.0 11 x 14 12 x 16

128MB Memory 256MB Memory 512MB Memory

3MP 116 232 464

4MP 87 174 348

5MP 70 140 280

6MP 58 116 232

Approximate number of shots per memory card for various digital camera pixel counts using high quality JPEGs for storage

P I XELS A pixel is a contraction if the term PIcture ELement. Digital images are made up of small squares, just like a tile mosaic on your kitchen or bathroom wall. Though a digital photograph looks smooth and continuous just like a regular photograph, it's actually composed of millions of tiny squares as shown below.

On the left the full image, on the right the area in the red square magnified to show individual pixels

Largest Image (typical) Print size at 320dpi Print size at 240dpi D I GIT AL Z OOM
AND

3MP 2048 x 1536 6.5" x 4.8" 8.5" x 6.4"

4MP 2272 x 1712 7.1" x 5.4" 9.5" x 7.1"

5MP 2592 x 1944 8.1" x 6.1" 10.8" x 8.1"

O PTI CAL Z OOM

Most cameras have both optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom works just like a zoom lens on a film camera. The lens changes focal length and magnification as it is zoomed. Image quality stays high throughout the zoom range. Digital zoom simply crops the image to a smaller size, then enlarges the cropped portion to fill the frame again. Digital zoom results in a significant loss of quality as is clear from the examples below. It's pretty much a last resort, and if you don't have it in camera, you can do a similar job using almost any image editing program.

M EMORY There are quite a few different (and incompatible) memory cards used in digital cameras. Compact Flash (CF) - The original memory card. 42mm x 36mm x 3mm. Somewhat larger than the others, but used on all high end DSLRs. Available in capacities up to 2GB. There are also miniature hard drives (Microdrives) with almost the same form factor as CF cards (CF type II, 5mm thick)) which are available in capacities from 340MB to 4GB. Microdrives used to be cheaper than solid state CF cards, though there is not a big difference today up to about 1GB. The 4GB Microdrives are actually cheaper than the 2GB CF cards though. Of course prices change pretty fast these days! Overall CF cards tend to be cheaper than any of the other forms of solid state memory - though this too

Comparison of optical zoom and digital zoom

• • • •

could change. CF cards and microdrives contain their own disk controller, so that makes the camera electronics simpler. Secure Digital (SD) - Very small - about 24mm x 32mm and 2mm thick. They have a built in write protect switch to prevent accidental erasure and certain encryption capabilities of little interest to digital camera owners. Multimedia - Same size as SD but with less features and no encryption capability. There are some that can be used in some SD cameras but they aren't 100% compatible with SD cards in all applications. Smart Media - Thinner than CF cards, but lacking an on-card memory controller. Despite the name, they're pretty dumb! Memory Stick - Introduced by Sony and used only by Sony(?) XD - Developed and used by Fuji, Olympus and Toshiba - even smaller than SD. 20mm x 25mm by 1.7mm thick

Is there any real difference in performance? No, not really. The CF cards are the cheapest per megabyte and are available in higher capacity models than the other (of course that may change with time). Most high end DSLRs use them. The smaller cards tend to be used in the smaller consumer digicams. There's really no reason to pick a camera with one type over another unless you have multiple cameras or other devices (MP3 players for example) which also use memory cards - then it's convenient if they can share cards. It may also be difficult (and/or expensive) to find really high capacity cards (1GB and up) in formats other than CF, but that's probably not a concern for most digicam users. The following table gives the approximate number of shots you can expect to get using low JPEG compression using various pixel count cameras in conjunction with various sized memory cards at the lowest ISO speed settings of a typical camera. The exact numbers depend on how much compression the camera applies and the ISO speed used. Higher ISO settings result in more noise and noise is hard to compress and so leads to larger files and less images per card. If you're shooting in a RAW or NEF format you can divide these numbers by 3. If you're shooting TIFF files you'd have to divide these numbers by 8.

Common Camera Modes:
Icons Description

Movie/Video In movie mode, Digital cameras can capture
live streaming video.

Macro/Close-Up this mode used for taking close-up
pictures.

Party/Night longer exposures to capture darker scenes.
Usually used with flash, and some nice motion effects can be created.

Portrait To attempt to blur out the background, camera will
try to use the fastest available lens setting (aperture).

Landscape camera will attempt capture detail in foreground
and background by using high f-stop (aperture) settings.

Sports To freeze motion, camera will use the highest shutter
speed possible.

Stitch For creating multi-shot panoramas, this mode will help
to combine several shots into one wide scene. Good fun.

Aperture Priority Photographer sets the aperture (f-stop)
and the camera will attempt to deliver a good exposure. Some cameras use an "A" icon instead of "Av"

Shutter Priority Photographer sets the shutter, and the
camera will attempt to deliver a good exposure. Some cameras use an "S" icon instead of "Tv"

Manual Full manual mode, the photographer must set both
the shutter and the aperture. mode.

I NT RODUCI NG
• • •

T HE

H ALF -P RESS :

This is an easy yet essential skill for beginners to learn. The "half-pressed" button is helpful in many ways, including: faster camera response time more control over focus encourages better composition

Using the half-press is easy, aim your camera directly at the subject and gently press the shutter release button until the camera comes "alive". If you want to take the shot, press down until the camrea fires.

R EADY , A I M , F I RE ..
To use the half-press technique, think of it as a 3 step process.

Point the camera at the subject and half-press. Wait for focus lock. While focusing, the camera will show a blinking focus indicator (usually a green dot). When you hear a beep and the indicator stops blinking, the camera is telling you it's ready to go..

1. Ready (Half-Press)

WHILE HOLDING the button at half-press, take time to explore the composition of the scene. The camera will remain at the ready with focus locked.

2. Aim (Hold and Compose)

Take the shot by pressing down until the camera fires. Only a gentle pressure is needed, be careful not to shake the camera.

3. Fire (Full-Press)

W HAT ' S

I T GOOD FOR ?

If the subject is somewhat off-centre, the auto-focus may be fooled. You have probably seen this effect many times before. A half-press will tell the camera that you're almost ready to take a shot and to be prepared, triggering the following things to happen:

F OCUS L OCK
The camera will attempt to lock focus on the subject. The focus lock allows the photographer to freeze the point of focus

BEFORE taking the photograph. This technique is crucial for exploring the art of composition with a point and shoot camera.

F ASTER F ULL -P RESS R EPONSE
When taking a shot, the camera will respond quicker from a half-press. The delay between pressing the button and the digital camera firing is called "shutter lag"

C ONT ROLLI NG F LASH
Learn how to take control of the camera's built-in flash.

H ARNESS L I GHTING
In some situations you may want to turn OFF the flash, or at least change its behavior. You are probably familiar with the crisp but somewhat uniform look of these pictures. So what if you want to try something different? Pressing the "lightning" button will cycle through available flash modes.

Common Flash Modes:
Auto-Flash In most camera modes, Auto-flash is enabled by default and will automatically fire if the camera thinks it needs more light.

Disabled Flash no flash. There are many cases where you may not want flash at all. The mood of the photograph can sometimes be more dramatic when the natural light is used.

Forced Flash When forced, the camera will always fire the flash regardless of necessity.

Slow Flash In this flash mode, the shutter is kept open longer to expose the background. (Essentially the same as the Party/Indoor shooting mode)

T HREE

T HI NGS YOU SHOULD BEAR I N MI ND WHEN C ONSI DERI NG A NEW CAMERA :

Megapixels Have you ever wondered how a $1000 single lens reflex and a $200 point and shoot digital camera can have the

same number of megapixels? The answer is simple... not all megapixels are created equal. You may be dealing with the same quantity of pixels, but the quality and characteristics of those pixels are substantially different. The pixels on an SLR are much larger and spread much further apart on an image sensor that is nearly 10x the size of those found in point and shoot cameras. Within the standard point and shoot camera you will get an image sensor with the same number of pixels crammed into the smallest area possible. That's how manufacturers produce such tiny point and shoots. Let's compare: your average SLR has an image sensor roughly the size of a postage stamp whereas, if you are lucky, a point and shoot will have a sensor half the size of a penny. This size discrepancy can affect image quality substantially. Most noticeably, larger image sensors allow for better shots in low light situations, and reduce the occurrence of optical artifacts (mosaic patterns and moir? effects, for example). That sensor is the only way to gather all the essential data needed to produce your photograph. Wouldn't you rather give it all the information it needs, so that it doesn't have to "guess"? Optical Image Stabilization There is no disappointment like the disappointment of thinking you've captured the perfect shot only to find that it is slightly out of focus or the tiniest bit blurry. We've all had that heart-sinking sensation. But don't despair -- there is a glimmer of hope for those of us with less than rock-steady hands... A technology called optical image stabilization can help keep your photos in focus and remove the blur from your precious memories. Optical image stabilization helps to steady the image projected back into the camera by the use of a "floating" optical element-often connected to a fast spinning gyroscope-which helps to compensate for high frequency vibration (jittery hands, for example). Typically, image stabilization can help you take handheld shots almost two stops slower than without image stabilization. So, say you require a minimum shutter speed of 1/500s to shoot a particular scene. With optical image stabilization, you should be able to shoot it at only 1/125s (4 times slower). This is very useful when shooting moving subjects or in low light conditions. You'll get the shot you want, without the blur and blotchiness that you don't. Delay Oh, the dreaded delay! The most frustrating thing about using any point and shoot digital camera is the delay between when you push the button to when the camera actually takes the picture. Nothing has caused more cameras to be thrown to the ground than delay. Who wants the pic of the spot where the bear was standing (honest!), or the glare you get from your honey after missing the surprised spontaneous face shot you wanted? Digital point and shoot cameras are getting much better at decreasing that delay (down to mere fractions of seconds, still longer than you think), however, the delay will never completely go away. Here's why: The delay occurs when the camera switches from the low quality "live image" being sent to the LCD on the back of the camera (which makes framing simpler) to the high quality static image being sent to the actual image sensor (think electronic film). As long as digital point and shoot cameras have a live image on the LCD, there will always be a delay. Can't stand delay? Go with an SLR. You may miss having an LCD, but you'll never miss another shot. O THER T HINGS
TO

C ONSI DER

Start up speed Batteries Size of camera

Still and/or movies Camera Shake – Enemy #1