Monday, 18 April 2011

Important things that you must know about Digital Cameras


        It's summertime and almost everything is looking forward to that annual vacation.Needless to say, some of you might be considering a new digital camera to carry on your holidays. But how do you decide one that's just right for you?
        In an industry high on hyperbole and jargon, little is done to simplify choices of customers.When it comes to cameras, more often that not, people end up buying a device that does not meet their expectations; or simply, is just not meant for them. Cameras-although products of cutting-edge technology are simple to understand; that is, if you know your basics...

Busting the myth
         Ever since camera's turned digital, manufacturers have touted megapixels as a magic ingredient. The fallacy that "more megapixels lead to better photos" has been repeated so often and  with such conviction that it has almost become heresy to tell an average consumer that the number of megapixels by itself does not mean zilch.
        To see through megapixels lies your need to know what the term means and how it affects the photograph.All digital images are made up of pixels or tiny coloured dots. When you place millions of these pixels together, you get one megapixel. Of course, earlier in the day where cameras were only available in one or two megapixels, the number mattered a lot. But once the figure crossed five-megapixels, it stopped being a factor. Want to know the real reason? Read on......
         Let us take a five megapixel camera.This device can take pictures upto five million pixels, which means resolution of roughly 2560pixels (horizontal) * 1920pixels (vertical). Therefore photos taken with this camera are perfect for a monitor that have a resolution of 2560 * 1920. Interestingly, this resolution is found only in 30-inch monitor; with most people stuck with screens that have resolution of 1920 * 1080 or lesser.
        But the argument goes that the image need to be printed. And for that a higher megapixel count is necessary. Another lie. If you ever have used a photo printer, you will know that this devices define their output in terms of DPI (dots per inch). Most printers now a days realistically print  at 300 to 600 DPI. If you are using to print your pictures, a five-megapixel camera will give you a sharp print of 8.5 * 6.4 inches. For more people this is more than enough considering standard photos and printed in 6 * 4 inch size.
        On the flip-side, it will not be right to say that megapixels don't matter at all. For example, More megapixels give a photographer flexibility to crop parts of the fame that he doesn't want. Pixels matter, but not as much as camera manufacturers would like us to believe.

Inside the camera
        If the megapixel don't matter and vivid images with a five megapixel iPhone camera? The answer to this question lies in the internal components. Each camera or a cellphone that captures images carries within its body an image sensor. This sensor is arguably the most important component in a camera. The quality of the sensor determines the quality of the image the device can capture. And the size of the sensor largely determine the quality of the sensor.
        When it comes to image sensor, better is better. But it is also more expensive to make bigger sensors, which is why most of the cameras manufactures do not want to talk about it. A sensor determines how much light a camera can process. While many cellphone now a days sport a 12-megapixel tag and capture decent photograph in bright sunlight, they fail miserably when used in low-light conditions because of their very small sensor size. The same is true for most compact cameras. While they are much better than cellphones, their sensor size - in most of the cases is less than 50mm dalls woefully short in low light or artificial lighting.

Here is how they compare

Compact Cameras(also called point-and shoot)

Pros: Cheap, light and small, can be carried in a pocket, easy to operate.

Cons: Small sensor size means poor performance in low light, limited by their fixed lens, slow auto focus.

EVIL( mirror less cameras)

Pros: Big sensor size and hence good and sharp pictures almost
all kinds of lightning, smaller in size when compared to DSLR, 
easy to operate.
Cons: Expensive, comparatively slow focus speed, lack of lenses, no optical viewfinder


Pros: Advanced features and fast focus, big sensor size, photographers can chose different lenses for different purposes, exceptional ergonomics.

Cons: Big and bulky, advanced features may confuse new photographers, lenses and accessories and very expensive.

        In comparison, most entry-level DSLRs have a sensor size of over 300mm. Full-frame cameras, priced over lakhs of rupees and used by professionals, have a sensor size of over 850mm.Lenses too are an important component. In compact cameras, the only thing to know is optical zoom. Digital zoom is a marketing gimmick and its always better to buy a camera that has more of the former. But for those buying DSLR, lenses are of utmost importance.
        Apart from sensor size three other important features in a camera are focus modes, image stabilization and ISO speed. point and shoot camera have limited scope while focusing, hence the name Point-and-Shoot. DSLR's, on the other hand, offer a number of auto focus modes that allow photographers to sharpen or blur selective portion of the image.ISO is a feature that can help a photographer capture better pictures in low light. High ISO is preferable but just like in the case of megapixels, the image quality is vastly dependent on the sensor size. Image stabilization, means while is an easy-to-understand feature. It negates the hand shake which is inevitable accours when a photographer shoots a picture-in effect, resulting in a sharper photos.

Which one is right for you

         Choosing a camera depends on what you want to do with it. Nowadays almost all cameras, if you used properly will give you more or less identical result in bright daylight. The difference becomes apparent when you want great pictures even in low-light. Point-and-shoot cameras are cheapest and make a lot of sense if you just want to click pictures of your family during a picnic on a Sunday afternoon. They are also easy to handle as most of them can be easily slipped into a jeans pocket. But the problem with point-and-shoot camera is their tiny sensor size. If you want a camera that is small (when compared to DSLR) and clicks good pictures in all kind of lightning, you might want to consider EVIL or mirror less cameras such as the Sony Nex  5 and the Samsung NX10. This is a new breed of cameras, which boast of an image sensor similar to the one found in DSLRs. However there is no optical viewfinder, hence the name EVIL(Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable  Lens) and, as a result , no need of mirror inside the camera body.
        In brief, mirror less or EVIL cameras offer best of both words. A small body borrowed from the point-and-shoot range and the sensor similar to one in DSLRs. Yet there is a market for a DSLR. Despite popularity of mirror less or EVIL cameras, DSLRs are not obsolete. They allow a photographer to change lens and offer flexibility through advanced and fast auto focus modes. DSLRs continue to be the choice for those who indulge in serious photography. Of Course, a DSLR is an expensive preposition. Even if you buy a cheap camera for over Rs 20,000, withing months you will be slurping on lenses and accessories. And good lenses don't come cheap. But if you want to click anything other than kids in a park and want to make a statement with your pictures, you will most likely need a DSLR.

Sharp shooting tips
  • Use modes available in cameras : If you are a new to photography, pre-set modes can be of immense help. Action or Sports can help you capture fast moving objects, Night help you get useable pictures in low light, Landscape adds vividness to nature shots and Macro or Close-up help you capture photograph from  close distance.
  • Use ISO: This is very handy feature. If you are shooting in low-light, bump up the ISO. you will get better pictures. But it pays to know the limit of your cameras image sensor. Most point-and-shoot camera's can't cope with ISO of more than 800.
  • Hold it steady: If your hand shake and the camera is not steady, photos will end up blurred. It's important to note that unless you have very steady hands, once you go below 1/15 shutter speed, it's difficult to get sharp pictures, Use a tripod whenever you can, especially in low light photography. most point-and-shoot camera come with an anti-shake feature which can be a boon during night-time shots.