November 2004 HelpLine
* A Quick Guide To Some Common Terms
Associated With Gear That You Might Buy
Probably the most common letter I get from readers goes something like this: "Dear HelpLine, Your column is the best in the magazine." (Okay, so I threw that in. They don't always start that way; sometimes they mention Rick Sammon's column. But I digress.) "I'm looking to buy a new digital camera. I've narrowed it down to the RG6-AZ by Nifty Optical and the KMG365 by pixGrab. Which would you recommend?"
The only answer I have for this letter is "Whatever works best for you." Everyone has different needs and different priorities when it comes to equipment, otherwise there would be only one kind of camera, one type of image-editing application and one model of printer.
I can make a recommendation based on only what I think is important. You might be more concerned with zoom capabilities or shutter lag, while I might put more emphasis on macro capability. That's why we create a Buyer's Guide every year—so you can get the information you need to help make your own personal buying decision. (Besides, if I tried to answer all of the product recommendation letters, I'd never have time to write this column. Although I've heard that pixGrab makes some wonderful equipment.)
Another frequent HelpLine letter centers around all the lingo that pops up in digital photography. In this Buyer's Guide, I thought I'd cover, in alphabetical order, some of the terms that people ask about most often.
Bit-depth: Sometimes referred to as color depth, this term represents the number of bits or binary digits used to indicate the color value of each pixel. One-bit color can represent two values—zero or one—or in color terms, black or white. Eight-bit color can represent 256 different colors. Twenty-four-bit color uses eight bits for each value of red, green and blue. Think of it in terms of 256 different possible values for the amount of red in each pixel, as well as 256 for blue and 256 for green. Twenty-four-bit color can represent millions of colors.