Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Getting The Most From D-SLR Camera Systems
You bought more than just a camera body
Built-in flash is handy—it means you'll always have enough light to photograph nearby subjects, it's easy to carry, and you can't forget to bring it. But built-in flash units don't produce the most attractive lighting for many subjects, and they're limited in range.
All SLR manufacturers offer accessory electronic flash units to fit their D-SLRs, often a whole line of units. The accessory units provide more power than built-in units and offer features not available in built-in units, such as tilting and swiveling capability for bounce flash, a number of power settings, "strobe" effects, and most importantly, off-camera capability. You can move an accessory flash unit off-camera for a more attractive lighting angle and fire it (and additional off-camera flash units) via extension sync cords or even wirelessly with some systems, all the while retaining automatic TTL control of exposure. With the latest D-SLRs and flash units, you can even adjust settings and activate/deactivate off-camera units from a controller on the camera.
While highest-quality JPEG images produced by today's D-SLRs are excellent, and it's great to have the option of shooting smaller file sizes when memory-card space is a factor, to get the best image quality, consider shooting RAW images. Why? For one thing, RAW images are either uncompressed or losslessly compressed, while JPEGs are lossy compressed; thus, RAW images have no compression artifacts. RAW images are 16-bit while JPEGs are 8-bit; thus, RAW images contain a greater range of tones. With JPEG images, settings applied in-camera (sharpening, saturation, white balance, exposure compensation, etc.) are part of the image; trying to change any of them later during image editing can adversely affect image quality. With RAW images, the camera settings/parameters are stored separately from the image data; you can change them using the RAW conversion software and then apply them to the image with no adverse effect on image quality.
The drawbacks of RAW images are that they take up more space on memory cards than compressed JPEGs, and you must convert them using special software before you can use them in your image-editing program. All digital cameras that can shoot RAW images (and this includes all D-SLRs) come with the manufacturer's RAW conversion software, at least offering basic RAW conversion capability. Some manufacturers also offer higher-end RAW conversion software that provides more editing options. The higher-end software comes with some cameras, while it's an extra-cost option for others.
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