Camera Basics

Choosing a Camera

Taking Good Pictures

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Choosing a Camera

What is the Best Camera?

  • Landscape with large prints: view camera
  • Wildflowers: SLR w/macro lens
  • Wildlife: SLR w/long telephoto
  • Portraits, fashion: Film or digital SLR
  • Sports, news: Digital SLR
  • Children: point & shoot film or digital
  • Hiking, biking: compact digital
  • E-mail, Internet: digital

Types of Film Cameras

Film vs. Digital: Film Advantages

  • Lowest cost for entry level
  • Simplest to use at entry level
  • Film has highest resolution
    • Point & shoot 35 mm film = ~8 megapixels
    • Color slide 35 mm = 11-20 megapixels
    • 4”X5” sheet film =~500 megapixels
  • Film has widest dynamic range (shadows to highlights)
  • Film has widest color range
  • Film cameras can use little or no power
  • Short startup, low shutter lag, fast cycle
  • Processed film media never goes obsolete (can always be "read")
  • No computer required
  • Can use scanner to digitize
  • Slide projector much cheaper, better image than digital projectors

Types of Digital Cameras

  • Fixed focus, fixed lens: cellphone, keychain, inexpensive, toy cameras.
  • Auto-focus, fixed lens compact
  • Auto-focus, zoom lens compact, most popular type
  • Bridge camera: larger than compact, super-zoom, non-interchangeable lens
  • Digital SLR = Single Lens Reflex. You see image through the main lens, usually through a flip-up mirror
  • Optical Viewfinder Camera: You see image through a separate lens from the main lens
  • LCD: large liquid-crystal image display on the back of the camera
  • Electronic viewfinder: look through a viewfinder at a miniature LCD display

Compact vs. SLR

  • SLR’s have interchangeable lenses, compacts usually don't
  • SLR’s can use filters, compacts usually can't, bridge cameras may
  • SLR’s have better focus, depth of field control
  • SLR’s have greater exposure control
  • SLR's have no parallax compared to optical viewfinders
  • SLR’s tend to have higher resolution
  • SLR's have larger sensors, for better low-light sensitivity with less noise
  • SLR’s are the first choice of pros and serious amateurs
  • Compact cameras are smaller, lighter, cheaper, quieter, easier to use, good enough for most amateurs

Film vs. Digital: Digital Advantages

  • Fastest to get pictures (except for Polaroids)
  • Cost per shot is much cheaper (almost free), media re-usable
  • Minimal processing costs (unless order prints)
  • Easiest to process at home
  • No chemicals required
  • Media much smaller and lighter, camera can be smaller
  • Quieter operation, can be totally silent
  • Can easily adjust color balance, sensitivity
  • Cannot accidentally ruin pictures by exposing media to light or airport X-rays
  • Instant shot review
  • Can delete shots
  • Easiest to E-mail or publish on Internet
  • Can copy with no degradation
  • No fading of original source over time
  • Easiest to manipulate pictures
  • Many cameras can record videos, audio
  • Can be built into other devices, e.g. cellphones, PDAs

Digital Camera Considerations

  • Cost
  • Sensor size, type, pixel resolution
  • SLR vs. viewfinder vs. LCD only
  • Size, weight, ruggedness
  • Lens
    • Fixed, interchangeable
    • Zoom/fixed focal length, range
    • Aperture range
    • Quality (sharpness, aberration, distortion, vignetting)
    • Filter mount capability
  • Memory type, capacity, cost
  • Battery life, type, weight, cost
  • Startup, lag, cycle times
  • Focusing method, speed
  • Image stabilization type
  • Scene settings
  • Feature recognition (e.g. faces)
  • Display size, resolution
  • Flash range
  • Flash, accessory shoe
  • Red-eye prevention, correction
  • Tripod mount
  • Video, sound recording
  • Flexibility (control over exposure)
  • Printer support
  • Wi-fi support
  • Geotagging capability: determining picture location from wi-fi or GPS location information.
  • Direct TV/HDTV display capability

Professional SLR Camera Characteristics

  • Rugged, reliable
  • Fast turn-on, short shutter lag & shot-to-shot time
  • Fast auto-focus
  • High resolution
  • High shot capacity (large memory, high battery capacity)
  • Very high lens quality
  • Versatile, total control over exposure options
  • Expandable, many accessories
  • Tradeoffs: very expensive, big, heavy, complicated

How Many Megapixels?

  • Internet, E-mail: < 1MP
  • 1024 X 768 video display: 0.8 MP
  • 4”X6” prints: 1 MP
  • 1400 X 1050 video display: 1.5 MP
  • 1600 X 1200 video display: 1.9 MP
  • 5”X7” prints @ 300 DPI: 3 MP
  • 8”X10” prints @ 300 DPI: 8 MP
  • 9"X13" prints @ 300 DPI: 10 MP
  • 11”X16” prints @ 300 DPI: 16 MP
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Created by Ronald Horii 9/14/05, revised 4/14/10