How Cameras Work

Kinds of Photography

Great Photographers

Digital Camera Advantages

Features to Look For

More Features to Look For

Professional Cameras

Accessories and Summary

Camera Care

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Accessories and Summary

 

Questionable Features

Over the past couple of decades there's been a lot of competition between digital camera makers, and since many digital camera features are hidden and often hard to explain, in the consumer lineup there's been a rush to increase the easily understood megapixel count. (By the way, it's spelled "megapixels," not "mega pixels," just as metric distance is spelled "kilometers," rather than "kilo meters.") Having more megapixels is supposed to be better than having less megapixels, and within reason that's true. But if you never expect to make prints larger than 8 x 10 inches, a camera with 6 or more megapixels will do just fine. That's only true, of course, if you frame your shots in the full sensor. If you do a lot of cropping you'll need more megapixels. 10 megapixels will make a fine 11 x 14 print, again assuming you frame your shots the way you want the final print to appear.

The bottom line is that if you need more megapixels, start looking at professional or near-professional DSLRs. Most of those have larger sensor arrays and can handle more pixels without producing unacceptable noise. In general though, the noise situation keeps improving all through the strata of digital cameras.

Unimportant Features

A number of digital cameras now have a fairly capable movie-making function. Considering the fabulous capabilities of current movie cameras it's hard for me to understand why anyone would want a still camera to shoot movies. But since this capability is being advertised successfully as a new "feature," I have to conclude there's a market for it. If you really want movies, buy a movie camera.

Some digital cameras let you connect the camera to a television set so that you can show the pictures on the TV screen. A TV screen is far too coarse and badly color-corrected to give you a decent picture. With the advent of high definition TV this situation is changing.

Accessories

You need a good camera case for your camera and you can get one at any good photo supply house. If you're using NiMH batteries you also need a good charger. You can buy one at Radio Shack, but I'd suggest you go to http://www.thomas-distributing.com and check out Maha Powerex chargers. They seem to be the best on the market. Thomas distributing also carries external power packs for professional cameras. Thomas Distributing carries some little plastic four-battery carriers, but the best ones I've found are cloth ones you can get at http://www.greenbatteries.com. These little packs also have room for a flash memory card or two. GreenBatteries also carries a complete line of rechargeable batteries.

In the end, the amount of stuff I have to carry around with a digital camera is a lot less than I had to carry around with a film camera. Outside of the fact that I don't have to carry film, I'm not sure why. It's just the way the world works.

Which Digital Camera Should I Buy?

The situation changes so fast that I can't keep this lecture up to date with the current choices. Best thing is to go to http://www.dpreview.com where there are very thorough reviews of most digital cameras. http://www.imaging-resource.com also has good camera reviews and excellent reviews of photo printers, scanners, and software.

If you're a professional or a serious amateur and know about cameras, or if you just want a camera to take pictures of the kids, you can buy your camera from the web or from Best Buy or Office Depot. On the other hand there are some reasons you might want to buy your camera from a camera shop. It'll cost a little more, but a good camera shop has people who know more about cameras than how to fill out a sales slip. That expertise sometimes can come in handy.

Printers and Scanners

There's not much to say about printers and scanners. Epson, Hewlett Packard, and Canon make good photo printers. In my opinion, shared by many others, Epson makes the best photo printers and scanners. In 2000 they came out with the Epson Stylus Photo 870, which, for the time being, blew away the competition. The printer represented a huge jump in resolution and color handling, and Epson's been staying out in front ever since, though HP and Canon are beginning to make a serious effort to catch up. Imaging resource (http://www.imaging-resource.com) has the rundown on almost all current printers and scanners.

Image Manipulation Software

Just about everybody is making image manipulation software these days but there are only three software packages that can do almost everything you might want to do with photographs on your computer, though others are trying hard to catch up.

Top of the line is Adobe Photoshop CC, cloud-based, which rents, at the moment, for about $10 a month. For most photographers it's overkill, but it can do amazing things.

Adobe Lightroom is a product designed specifically for photographers. It has the best photo cataloging features I've seen in any product, and contains a majority of the most important photographic post-processing tools found in Photoshop. Lightroom sells normally for around $150. For what you can do with it, it's a bargain. If you've already signed on for Photoshop CC, you also get Lightroom CC as part of the package. The two together are a real bargain.

Adobe recently came out with Photoshop Elements 14, which has almost everything from Photoshop an amateur photographer might want to use and goes for a bit more than $80 if you look around.

I can't demonstrate these packages in this lecture, so I'll leave it to you to learn how to use your photo manipulation software. The learning curve is fairly steep at first but it's well worth the effort. There are dozens of third-party books out on Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photoshop Elements.

Is All the Hassle Worth It?

To me, photography is the finest of all the visual fine arts. Why I feel that way is another lecture, probably longer than this one. But even if you don't agree with that, photography is fun. Digital photography is even more fun than film photography because you don't have to mix the chemicals, set up the darkroom, wash all the prints, dump all the chemicals, and clean up the trays and tanks and surfaces. So, if you're interested in photography get a digital camera and join in the fun.