with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Buying a Digital Camera

Low resolution digital pictures show off their pixels when enlarged past their resolution size, photo by Brent VanFossen and graphic by Lorelle VanfossenDigital photography techniques are no different than traditional photography techniques. Just because your camera is a technological whizbang, it is still a camera. Learn the basic fundamentals and then you can play with the gadgetry and technology.

When you have a grasp of the qualities and techniques that go into creating a masterful photograph, a digital camera presents a lot of opportunities for stretching your brain by learning all the new jargon and technology that goes into these cameras. Going digital doesn’t just mean learning how a new camera and lens works. It means learning how to adjust the image within the camera; transport the image from the camera to the computer; manipulate, adjust, change, switch, compress, decompress, zip, zig, and dink with your image inside the computer; and then send, print, or display your image to the rest of the world.

If you have some basic photography expertise, remember how hard it was for you to learn “the bigger the number, the smaller the hole”? How about understanding reciprocity? Entering the digital age means learning about pixels, resolution, interpolation, upsizing, jpegs, mpegs, MEGs, GIGs, RAM, RGB, CD-ROM, CD, CCDs, CMOS, CYMK, and even more abbreviations and jargon. You have to learn how the camera works, how the software that transfers the image to the computer works, how the software inside the computer allows you to mess with the image to make it become what you want, and then how to either send the image via email to someone, show it in a slide show of some kind, or print it out for display. And then you have to save it somewhere, which can involve saving it in a compressed or zipped state (making it smaller) or “burning a CD”.

Within the image-editing software, you will have to learn how to do some familiar things from Darkroom 101, like dodging and burning, as well as new things like how to tweak, sharpen, shift colors, gamma shifts, clone, smudge, darken red-eye, cut and paste, and crop. To get the image out of your image software for transporting, you will have to learn about file types and converting from one file type to another.

If you’re already using a personal computer, you have a good head start. Entering the digital world is exciting, but it has a high learning curve and it is time consuming. And it can be a lot of fun.

Buying Digital

Many people are frightened by the idea of buying a digital camera. In general, it is not much different from buying a normal camera, there are just a few new bits of jargon to learn about. You still need to consider the technical requirements you need and the constraints you are willing to put up with. If you need a very fast shutter speed, you need a camera which will have speed settings of 1000 or higher. If you do long exposures, you need a camera that will measure exposures longer than 30 seconds. If you are working with fast-moving subjects, you may need high shutter speeds, but you mostly need high speed frames-per-second shooting. If you want full creativity, you need a camera that has interchangeable lenses and manual exposure controls. And above all, the camera body must “feel” good in your hands with all the buttons and dials easily accessible and easy to work with. All these are the normal wants and needs of a shopping photographer.

The difference in shopping for a digital camera is that the “film” comes into play. This used to be purchased and evaluated separately, but with digital cameras, you are, in a way, buying the film along with the camera. Now you have to consider how the camera’s computer and sensors record light and color to capture the end quality you demand. You have to consider the lag time between the shutter press and the image writing on the storage media. You have to consider the various image sizes and resolutions the camera can record and output. And you have to consider the issue of obsolescence. With digital technology changing so fast, is the camera and the storage media it uses at risk of being out of date too soon?

There is a lot to think about regarding these issues, but just like every camera purchase, you have to weigh the pros and cons of the technology as well as the artistic capabilities of the camera.

One Trackback

  • […] Not a week goes by that we don’t get such an inquiry. “What kind of camera should I buy?” “I have Blank brand camera and need some lenses; what should I get?” “Should I go with a digital camera or traditional camera?” We crave discussing the hows and whys of an image, the intricate concentration and artistry to create the photograph, the use of light and shadow, the emotional connection between the subject, its environment and the viewer. But people firmly believe that the camera MAKES the picture. […]

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