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Digital Camera Guide

So, it's time for a digital camera huh? Well, buying one can be more than a little difficult. What types of features should you look for? Well, this guide will tell you that plus get you a little more familiar with what these cameras are capable of.

Megapixels

When it comes to megapixels, the more the better. I recommend a minimum of 2, but 3 or 4 is great. We did a test to see if a camera with 2.3 megapixels (actually 1.92 - 1600 x 1200) could produce a good quality 8x10.

Turns out it can, if you have the right paper and printer. We used HP Premium Plus photo paper with an HP 970 series printer and made a fantastic 8 x 10. Remember, I was a professional photographer before I got into computing, so I know a good print when I see it :-)

The resolution at 8x10 (we had to crop in to make the picture proportional to 8x10) was only 150 DPI. Most printers would not make a real good 8x10 at that resolution, but this one did. So, if you want to be sure you can get good 8 x 10s, you may want to go with a 3 megapixel camera or better (that gives you around 200 DPI at 8x10 size, still not quite the optimum 300 DPI, but it looks good with the right printer).

Optical vs Digital Zoom

You've probably noticed that most digital cameras have both a specification for digital and optical zoom. Pay the most attention to the optical zoom.

The optical zoom magnifies (zooms in) using glass. The digital zoom basically crops out the edge of the picture to make the subject appear closer, causing you to lose resolution or to get an interpolated resolution (i.e. the camera adds pixels). Neither of which help image quality.

Finally, make sure you get enough (optical) zoom. A 2x zoom isn't going to do much for you. A 3x is the average you'll find in most digital cameras will probably be good for most uses. More on lenses later.

Connection

How does the camera connect to your computer? If you have a USB port in your computer, you'll want a camera that can connect via USB as opposed to a slow serial connection.

On the other hand, if your computer doesn't have a USB port, is there a serial connector available for the camera you're looking at? If so, is it a special order and how long does it take to get it?

Storage

What does the camera use to store images with? If it uses a memory stick, make sure you consider buying additional sticks when you get your camera. A typical 8 meg memory stick that comes with a 2 megapixel camera only holds 5 or 6 images at the camera's best quality.

Some cameras use a 3.5 inch disk for storage. Be careful of these!
Although it may sound like a good idea, a 3 megapixel camera at high resolution produces a 1 meg file (compressed!). That's only 1 picture per disk.


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