Introduction: Digital cameras have come along way over the yea...
Digital cameras have come along way over the years, from something that was very expensive and considered a luxury to the point today that they are so affordable that pretty much everyone has one. They can be found in numerous shapes and sizes, and even integrated into our portable devices. It has come to the point where almost everyone has some sort of digital camera on their person at all times. With the popularity of online image sites and video sites, everyone is taking pictures and videos constantly hoping to get their 15 minutes of fame, or to just share with friends and family.
It's not commonly known but the first digital camera was developed in 1975 by an engineer at Kodak, but it took until 1990 to perfect the technology to bring a digital camera to the consumer market. It's hard to believe that the digital camera is only 18 years old really, it seems to have exploded in popularity since it's first introduction to consumers. Of course though it wasn't until a few years later that digital cameras came down in price enough that they could be affordable to the average consumer to get to the level of popularity that they enjoy today.
Types of Digital Cameras:
Digital cameras come in many shapes and sizes, you can find one type or another in any electronic device that captures images, you can find them in styles from professional styles that cost tens of thousands of dollars down to key chain cameras that only cost a few dollars, there are truly sometimes a confusing amount of cameras on the market today.
There are a few main types of digital cameras on the market today actually:
SLR or DSLR: Single Lens Reflex or Digital Single Lens Reflex are cameras considered a high end camera and the type that is preferred by professional photographers. These types of cameras offer larger zoom ranges, more lens choices, better optics and overall just produce a clearer, higher quality picture suitable for professional uses.
SLR-Like Cameras are similar to (D)SLR cameras in that they do offer some of the abilities of their higher end counterparts, but the main difference is the viewing on the LCD screen of the camera, a DSLR camera shows the actual image while the SLR-Like camera shows one that is created via the cameras processor so your actual picture may not look like it does in the LCD viewfinder. These might be considered pro-sumer types of cameras, they can be inexpensive and some offer the ability to use optional add-on lenses to increase picture taking options. These cameras though seem to be waning in popularity with the decrease in prices of standard SLR style cameras.
Compact and Ultra Compact or Point-and-Shoot digital cameras are by far the most popular digital camera on the market today. By their name they can be divided into two categories obviously where compact are small and portable and ultra-compact are very small, small enough to fit in a shirt pocket if need be. These types of cameras can be inexpensive to moderately expensive depending on the features included on the camera such as a higher range optical zoom.
There are other types of digital cameras out there today, some as inexpensive as $10 which are very basic cameras for taking very basic pictures, these can be ultra portable such as a size that fits on your key chain. These cameras are more for fun or novelty in my opinion and have no real use as they don't take good quality pictures, they're fine for sharing online via email or picture sharing sites but usually not good enough to print and save.
All digital cameras use some sort of flash memory to store their pictures, either built into the camera internally or using a flash card that can be removed, some offer both internal and external memory so you can expand on the internal memory if need be.
The Megapixel Myth:
In our society there is a trend and always has been that bigger is better, in digital cameras that's not necessarily true. The megapixel (MP) rating of a camera is to tell you the maximum resolution of the pictures that can be taken with the camera, and depending on your purposes or needs for a digital camera will help you decide on what level of megapixels you'll need.
I can recommend four to six megapixels for the average consumer, any more than that is frankly overkill and just a waste really.
If you're looking to print out small pictures like wallets, or 4x6 size then even a lower megapixel rating is fine, but if you're wanting to print larger pictures like 8x10 and above then I can recommend the four to six MP range.
Of course though that's just my opinion, some suggest that a minimum of seven MP is needed for high quality 8x10 and above printing, but four to six MP is fine for the average quality photo.
You can of course use software that will interpolate your photos for you, meaning that it will take a lower quality photo and fill in where needed to make the resolution of the photo higher, it's just basically resizing the photos. The software will attempt to enlarge the photo, but of course the results are not always worth the effort, most times the images appear grainy and the end result is not satisfactory.
Making the Purchase:
If you're in the market for a digital camera one of the first things you need to do is figure out what it is that you want your camera to do, secondly you need to know what you're going to be using the camera for.
One of the mistakes people make when buying a digital camera is buying one that is too much for them or their intended uses, if you're going to be taking general family photos you don't need professional level camera for that, but in today's society most people think that more is better. I've seen people buy cameras that are much more than they need and then end up confused by all of the options that are available to them. Why buy something with features you don't need and most likely will never use?
The average digital camera user is one that takes basic photos, it's something that replaces their old film style cameras, these people only need a point-and-shoot camera with basic options to satisfy their needs. There's no need to spend more than you have to on features that you won't use or even know how to use.
Digital camera technology has advanced to the point where even some of the most inexpensive models can take excellent pictures that can be printed or enlarged and retain their image quality. Most users won't even print out their pictures, they'll just be emailing them to friends and family or sharing them with others online. There's no need to take ten megapixel resolution pictures when you're emailing them to other people.
There's also the opposite end of the spectrum is where the consumer might wish to take higher quality pictures, here of course you'll want to look at pro-sumer levels of cameras, these are higher-end consumer level cameras with much of the features and options of professional level cameras, some of these types offer the ability to use different lenses as well to further improve your photography. These types of cameras are more for those who are more educated in this type of technology, hobbyist photographers or even business people who need professional quality photos but not at the cost of professional equipment. The pro-sumer line of cameras is for those who desire and have a need for high quality photos, the ability to manually change settings, use different lenses, and overall control their picture taking.
Probably the best advice on purchasing a digital camera is research, after you figure out what your needs are, take the time to research digital cameras before making a purchase. There are several well respected websites and magazines that review digital cameras, they can offer professional and most times unbiased reviews of popular cameras on the market today. Through these resources you can learn about the types of cameras available, their pros and cons, their features and make an informed purchasing decision. Often times these publications will also compare similar styles of cameras as well, these comparison can be very helpful in deciding on what camera is right for your needs.
Author: Kristofer Brozio