Monday, March 26, 2007
Choosing The Right Digital Camera For You
How to narrow the multitude of options? Consider your photography habits and the features you really need
All else being equal, more pixels means you can make bigger blowups or crop into an image while retaining enough pixels to produce good image quality. But all else isn't equal, and assuming the image is sharp and properly exposed, you can make a dynamite 12x17-inch inkjet print from a 3-megapixel image. Unless you're a pro selling your images for publication or commercial use, 4 to 6 megapixels is plenty. And the higher the pixel count, the more space the image takes up on your memory cards; shooting RAW images with a 10-megapixel camera will fill a 1 GB card very quickly.
RAW And JPEG. All current D-SLRs will save images in both RAW and JPEG formats, as will some compact digital cameras. However, many compact cameras will shoot only JPEGs.
RAW images can potentially deliver better quality because they're compressed losslessly and to a lesser degree than JPEGs. RAW images also can deliver a wider dynamic range and allow you to change things like white balance and sharpening as though you'd done it in-camera. However, RAW images must be converted using RAW image-conversion software before they can be opened in popular image-editing software (recent versions of Photoshop contain a RAW converter). JPEG images give you a lot more shots on a given-capacity memory card and can be opened by any imaging software, but due to lossy compression, image quality is reduced. Some cameras allow you to shoot RAW + JPEG images simultaneously—a favored method of a number of photographers, including me.
Operating Speed. My first D-SLR took 2.2 seconds to start up and to wake up from sleep mode. On one outing photographing birds, this became so frustrating that I wound up getting lectured about my vocabulary by a mom passing by with her kids.
That camera's successor starts up in 0.2 seconds, and today's D-SLRs are very quick. Compacts are quicker than they once were, too, but still slow compared to D-SLRs. If your shooting requires speed, you want a D-SLR, not a compact.
Even with compacts, speed is nice. You might want to check on the start-up and wake-up times for various models you're considering and factor those into your decision.
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