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The Future of Personal Photography
The Times They Are A-Changin'
Just a decade ago, picture taking meant using cameras loaded with film to capture photographs. Once the shutter was snapped, the light entering the camera was reflected on to the film. The light caused a chemical change on the film's surface and resulted in an image that could be developed.
Nowadays, picture taking means using a digital camera. Digital cameras differ from their conventional counterparts because they utilize a computer chip to capture the image. The chip sees the image as a collection of millions of tiny dots, or pixels. It then assigns each pixel a series of numbers that translate into a color. When the colored pixels are grouped together, the image is formed.
According to recent numbers, digital cameras now outsell conventional cameras nearly 2
to 1. The tide has turned so dramatically that Kodak and Nikon™ no longer even sell conventional film cameras in most parts of the world. For anyone who's still holding on to a film camera, this is a clear sign of the apocalypse. The times they are a-changin', so you may need to change as well.
The Digital Upside
Film-philes and expert photographers will tell you that the best pictures are shot on film. This is mainly due to film's ability to gracefully handle light and highlights. Nuances on film are more subtle and mimic more closely the way our eyes naturally see objects. While the experts are correct, there's something very important to remember — they're experts! Film is a tricky medium and unless you are controlling the entire process, from shooting to developing and printing, any number of things can go wrong.
For the average photographer, digital cameras are absolutely the way to go. Not only do they yield far more consistent pictures, the results are instantaneous. Due to the camera's LCD screen, the picture shows up immediately after it's been shot. Don't like the results? Delete it and try again. No more waiting for film to be developed to figure out if you've successfully captured your memories.
Storage is also a big bonus. You can store your digital photos on your computer's hard-drive or in organized, specific groups on CDs. This enables you to print only those pictures you want, while still holding onto others for future use. This does, however, require that you own a computer.
When it comes to printing photos, there are many different options available. One option is to print them at home from your computer, using a color printer and special photo paper. Another option is to utilize any one of the numerous online services that will do it for you. Simply create an online account, upload your pictures, and the prints are sent to you in the mail.
You can also print your pictures at many stores like Wal-Mart and Costco. Simply bring along a CD containing your desired prints, or your camera's storage device, and put in your order at the counter. Many stores will also have a self-serve kiosk that allows you to print the pictures yourself. In the case of both Wal-Mart and Costco, you can even upload your pictures online and pick up your prints at the store one hour later!
For those who have a need for instant gratification, many companies now make portable picture printers that will allow you to print anywhere. These printers utilize specially sized photo paper and ink, usually sold together in packs. Most packs are good for printing 100 pictures and are priced to compete with the printing done at the stores.
The last upside to digital photography is the ability it gives the photographer to edit and manipulate the picture, as most cameras come with editing software for your computer. Now you can do anything you'd like, from removing red eyes to cropping out unwanted objects, prior to printing or emailing your photographs.
What to Look For
When it comes to buying a digital camera, there are a few things to keep in mind. Begin by asking yourself three questions:
Resolution and Its Relation to Megapixels
Picture resolution is measured by pixels. Since every digital camera has at least one million pixels, a camera's resolution is measured in megapixels. The more megapixels, the better the resolution — but there's a catch. The higher resolution will only be noticeable on larger prints.
Here is a list of potential picture uses and the megapixels required to obtain great picture quality:
As you can see, it's possible to take every-day pictures and achieve high quality results with a camera that has a maximum of 4 megapixels. Now, listen closely. If you don't plan on printing large pictures, buying a camera with more than 4 megapixels could be a waste of your money. You will be much better off focusing (pun intended) on a camera's other features.
One feature that deserves attention is the camera's zoom. Just like money, you can never have too much of it.
With most digital cameras, zoom is listed with two numbers. It may say something like, "3x optical/10x digital zoom." Optical (or telephoto) zoom refers to the camera's ability to change the focal length of the lens. While optical zoom creates a closer picture, it does not affect the picture's quality.
Digital zoom, on the other hand, is a feature within the camera that simply equates to enlarging the picture. Just like when you enlarge a photo, the bigger it gets the grainier it becomes.
In both cases, the bigger the number, the more ability you have to get closer to your subject. The majority of digital cameras come with either 3x or 4x optical zoom, but trust us when we say that you won't regret purchasing a camera that has more; especially when it comes with "image stabilization", a feature that ensures crisp pictures even when taken at full zoom.
Small is in, and it's for a very good reason. The smaller the camera, the more likely you are to bring it places and the more likely you are to access it quickly in those "come n' go" moments.
Memory Only Goes So Far
The memory storage device that comes with most cameras is minimal at best. You will most likely find yourself purchasing a much bigger memory card. Not to worry though, an upgrade in your storage device won't exactly break the bank. Concentrate first on getting a great camera and then turn your attention to memory.
There are countless brands and models of digital cameras on the market. Armed with the above information, you now have the ability to make a wise choice that will fit your photography needs. But, in terms of camera brands, there are two that seem to receive the same reviews everywhere you look.
For overall performance, Canon's line of digital cameras consistently manages to get high accolades. When it comes to being user friendly, Kodak digital cameras are equally praised. Good luck with your search.
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