What do you want from your photographs?
This is the first question we always ask our customers!
The answer to this question is ‘top of the tree’ and will often lead to many of the answers you’re looking for.
- Less than 2 Megapixels is ideal for emailing photographs, or for using them on websites, including eBay item pictures.
- 2 to 3 Megapixels as above, but also great for standard 6” x 4” prints.
- 3 to 4 Megapixels, as above, plus enlargements up to 10” x 8”.
- 4 to 6 Megapixels, as above, plus enlargements up to around 24” x 18” ....... that’s a pretty big print!
- Over 6 Megapixels, as above, plus big big enlargements up to poster size. Also great for stretch canvasses.
Notice how the camera you need is determined by what you want it for?
Not all digital cameras can produce prints of the same quality. If you plan to enlarge photos or print them, be sure to buy a camera that can provide the image quality you will need.
Image quality depends on the resolution of the digital camera.
Resolution is a measure of image sharpness based on the number of pixels that make up the image. More pixels produce sharper, more detailed images.
Digital camera resolution is measured in pixels. One million pixels equals one megapixel. Deciding how many megapixels you need is the first important step in finding the right digital camera for you.
I know what I’m using it for, now what?
TFT SCREEN Let’s start with the screen on the back, your window to a quality photograph! As you’ve probably noticed, there’s all different sizes out there, anything from 0.8” to 3”. This measurement relates to the size of the screen from corner to corner, much in the same way you’d measure a TV. Big screens are great, but ask yourself if you REALLY need the latest 3” touchscreen, or if a more standard size 1.5” non-touchscreen will suffice? If you do need the 3” then fair enough, but if you don’t and you’re not really going to maximise it, you’re better off putting the extra money you’re about to spend towards an accessory or a different feature.
ZOOM The next key factor in many people’s minds is the zoom. This is also one of the more confusing areas… Optical Zoom? Digital Zoom? What’s the difference?!
Let me explain. Let’s presume the camera you’re considering has a quoted Optical Zoom of ‘3x’ and a quoted Digital Zoom of ‘5x’.
Most people who have used a 35mm camera or an APS camera are aware of only optical zoom. Optical zoom uses the optics (lens) of the camera to bring your subject closer. It’s a ‘true’ zoom, so if it’s quoted at 3x and you’re stood 30m away from your subject, employ the zoom to get the effect of standing 10m away.
A Digital Zoom is not really a true zoom. It uses the technology within the camera to enlarge the image, hence giving the effect of an Optical Zoom. A Digitally Zoomed image will not produce the same quality as Optical Zoom, so if you’ve been wondering why your pictures have been lacking that crystal clear sharpness, now you know why!
So should you avoid cameras that have only a Digital Zoom? No, not at all, especially if you’re not interested in or have no idea how to use photo editing software (example Photoshop)… instead of retrospectively zooming in on a shot on your PC, your simply doing it beforehand on your camera.
To use an analogy, Optical Zoom vs Digital Zoom is much like having air conditioning in your car vs not having it …..it’s nice to have but not essential, you’ll still get from A to B!
MEMORY CARDS xD, SD, MMC, CF, MS and so the list goes on! But what are they? What do they do and do you need one? The above are all different types of 'digital memory'. The easiest way to think of them is that these are the camera films of today! The bigger the capacity, the more photographs you can store on your camera until you download them to your PC, and then you just erase them off your card and start over!
Again, don’t over spend here. Bear in mind that a card with a 512mb capacity is able to hold approximately 300 photographs in the highest resolution on a 7 megapixel camera! So if you’re thinking of buying a 4 megapixel camera, that’s around 500 images.
BATTERIES There’s 3 different types of batteries the manufacturers bundle with their cameras.
- Standard batteries. The benefits to these are that if you’re spending a lot of time out and about with your camera, and your batteries run down, you can always carry a spare set with you. The disadvantages are that they don’t always last as long as rechargeable lithium ions, and are an ongoing expense.
- Rechargeable batteries. The same as the above, only rechargeable. The benefit here is that you don’t have the expense (or inconvenience) of having to purchase batteries on an ongoing basis. The disadvantage is of course that you have to be able to charge them before you can use them.
- Lithium ion. The same as the battery in your mobile phone. The benefits being long life and a smaller, lighter battery. The disadvantage being the same as the rechargeable batteries above.
Bear in mind that almost all cameras that accept standard batteries will also accept rechargeable (non lithium ion) batteries.
MOVIES The first thing we always point out when we’re asked about whether or not a camera does movies or not is to remember you’re buying a camera, not a camcorder!
The quality of a movie taken with a Digital Camera is pretty good, but not as good as a camcorder, so please don’t think you’re buying an ‘all in one’ device. You’re not. The movie function is nothing more than a useful add on. You wouldn’t want to use it for that once in a lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon you’ve been saving up for years for, but you might want to use it to capture spontaneous everyday moments.
Be aware that some cameras have a silent movie mode only, whilst others will capture movies with sound.
Again, don’t pay extra for something you might never use!
CAMERA TO PC One of the biggest fears our first time buyers have is how hard is it to transfer photos from your camera to the PC. In short, it’s really easy. If your camera hasn’t been supplied with photo management software, don’t worry. Although this software can make things easier, it’s still very easy! You know how when you click on ‘My Computer’ and you can see your PC’s hard drive, almost always known as the ‘C’ drive? Well, when your camera’s plugged in, you’ll see this appear as a drive too, often the ‘E’ or the ‘F’ drive. You can just copy and paste your pictures from the camera to the C drive!
Of course, not everyone wants their pictures on their PC, they just want to get them printed in the old fashioned way. This is really easy, with most supermarkets and photo shops now able to print directly from your memory card. Infact, if you’re lucky enough to have a main post office near you, you’ll almost certainly find they’ve got a vending style machine that lets you insert your card and print on the spot while you wait!
SCENE MODES Nice to have, but not essential. Some cameras have 20+, some have none. So what are they? Basically, it’s an automatic setting designed to bring out the best in your photograph, depending on the setting. So, if you’re taking a photo in the snow and your camera has a ‘Snow scene mode’ this will automatically adjust the settings to make sure there isn’t too much glare on the white.
In our opinion, you would only know a photograph had a scene mode applied to it if you put it next to the same photo without the scene mode. It’s a bit like the Pepsi challenge, you only know it’s Pepsi when there’s a Coke next to it. (Or vice versa if you’re a Coke fan).
So that’s the fundamentals covered in what we think you’re most likely to look for in a camera, and what we most think you should be considering.
Of course, you’ve still got some other choices to make. Should you ‘save’ a few quid and purchase from Hong Kong or America?
We won’t tell you what to do or what not to do here, but what we will do is point out a few facts:
- Duty charges. Beware that the price you pay on screen may be subject to duty, anything up to 12% for the import duty, 17.5% VAT and a Courier charge of around £10 flat fee. So your £100 camera could end up costing you in excess of £140, plus an inflated delivery charge.
- Warranty. A 1 year warranty is great, if you don’t have to send your item back halfway across the world if something goes wrong with it. Check that it’s serviceable within the UK.
- Documentation. Check that the manual included is in a language you understand.
- Mains Cable. If you’re buying a camera that has a lithium ion battery and a charger included, make sure the charger is UK compatible and that you’re not going to be left with a camera you can’t use because you can’t charge it.
We hope we’ve helped to make things a little clearer for you in your decision as to what you’re going to purchase. If there is anything else you’d like to ask us, please do not hesitate, we’re here to help!