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Digital Camera Mondays: March 16

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Don’t be Fooled by Just High Megapixels 

Ever since early 2008, I have been seeing all sorts of higher megapixel cameras come out in the markeplace. Point and shoot cameras with 8 – 10 megapixels with some even in the 12 megapixel range. Not all cameras are created equal and the actual image sensing chip used can make a huge difference in the actual image output. When you are in the market for a new camera, always try them out carefully before deciding on your final choice.

I made a mistake last year with one Fujifilm camera which was the Fujifilm Finepix S1000fd. In a nutshell, it was a  totally bad camera. The camera could not take pictures in bright sunlight and only provided OK images indoors. The cameras internal software was updated which improved the outdoor capabilities but nothing that really made this 10 megapixel camera stand out. When I originally tried the camera in the store, I was happy with the ability to take good indoor images but did not consider taking some shots just a few steps out the front door of the shop. If I had, I would have immeediately realized that the outdoor images would turn out very dark regardless of how the camera was set. Until the internal software was updated over a month later, I was not able to take any image outdoors that was worth keeping. Even now the images taken are just poor in overall color reproduction and image shading. My Fujifilm Finepix S6000fd which is an older 6 megapixel camera takes far better images.

The point of this posting is to convey that much of the information that the manufacturers list in there advertising and commercials are only the icing on the cake and you should truly look at the cake inside to be certain of the overall camera quality and performance. Manufacturers produce product within a given price range to compete with other manufacturers. If you see one camera with a very high megapixel size compared to others in the same price range, be aware that other features will certainly be lacking to compensate.

Here is a short list of features I would look for in a good camera and add additional features if your budget allows.

1: Typically DSLR cameras are more expensive over point and shoot cameras. Unless you can afford a DSLR with added lenses and accessories plus you are familiar with SLR photography, stay away from them for now. A good point and shoot camera will allow you to take excellent pictures in all sorts of situations.

2: I would recommend at this day and age a camera with at least 6 megapixels since the prices are reasonable now for them. $300 – $400 USD will get you a great point and shot with a wide range of useful features.

3: At least 3 X optical zoom minimum. Optical zoom is real zoom using lenses and provides a higher level of image clarity over anything possible via digital zoom which is simulated.

4: A good sharp LCD display on the back of the camera that allows you to see the image outdoors in bright sunlight. This is very important since most photography using a good camera tends to be used for outdoor photography.

5: A viewfinder. This is important since taking pictures outdoors can be difficult in bright sunlight when viewing the image on the LCD. The LCD maybe find for viewing the shot later but may not be suitable during the picture taking process. The image to be taken displayed on the LCD disply is always changing and this changing image may not display as well as a still image already stored in the camera. A separate viewfinder is a must have in my opinion.

6: Easy access to the settings and on screen menu options like ISO, white balance, and the date and time settings.

7: A flash located in a position that does not interfere with your camera holding position. An action shot or a group shot can be easily ruined if the flash is blocked by your fingers when it goes off. The image will turn out too dark and you may not be able to recover that shot using photo editing software afterwards.

8: Built in memory. I hate it when I leave the house in a hurry and forget to check that the camera has the memory card inside. At least the cameras I have right now have the ability to take about 10 pictures using the internal memory. If the camera you purchase relies totally on an external memory card, you will not be able to take any pictures at all without a memory card.

9: Get a camera that uses a SD memory card. This will allow you to take advanatge of low cost SD memory cards plus have access to a Wi-Fi memory card from www.eye.fi that allows you to wirelessly transfer the images from your camera to your PC.

10: Camera that uses AA rechargeable batteries. These are inexpensive and easy to replace specially when on vacation with regular batteries in an emergency.

11: Camera should have a flat surface on the left or right side which will allow you to stand the camera on its side if necessary when taking an automated picture. Sometimes you will be in a situation where you would like everyone in the photo and standing the camera on its side might be the best orientation for the shot.

12:  This is not a common feature but if you can find one with a lens adapter for filters, I would highly recommend it. Immediately invest in a polarized filter. This will help cut the glare off of taking pictures outdoors in bright sunlight.

The Rule of Thirds

If you have not heard of the “rule of thirds”, this is the time to pay close attention. The rule of thirds is a very old photo taking rule that really helps to create interesting compositions. In simple terms, the total imaging area is divided into sections using 2 evenly spaced virtual horizontal and vertical lines. By placing the main subject of the image where the lines intersect (one of four positions), the subject will be off centre and in a more dynamic and interesting location. HERE is one online tutorial on the “rule of thirds”. A simple search using “camera rule of thirds” as your Google search term will bring up many others. This is something to use always when taking pictures. You will truly appreciate how much better your pictures will turn out by applying this simple rule.

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