Unlike traditional, film cameras, digital cameras employ a light sensitive sensor, known as a CCD (“Charge Coupled Device”), or CMOS (“Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor”), to convert incident light into an image in electronic, or digital, form. This sensor’s “resolution” and physical size are important factors in determining the quality of photographs taken with a digital camera.
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Resolution is often quoted as the total number of “pixels” (“picture elements”), or “mega pixels”, of which the sensor, and, therefore, the final photograph, is composed. The more pixels an image contains the higher the level of detail that you can expect in that image, so, all other things being equal, the higher the resolution of a digital camera, the better. As a rule of thumb, a basic, entry level digital camera, with a resolution of 1.0, or 2.0 mega pixels (MP), is likely to be adequate for standard, 6 inch x 4 inch prints, or the equivalent, but for larger, 10 inch x 8 inch prints, a resolution of at least 3.0 MP is likely to prove more satisfactory. Advanced digital cameras, amongst them SLR, or “Single Lens Reflex”, models are, of course, available with resolutions of, perhaps, 10 MP, or more. The Mustek DV5200 Digital Camera, for example, features a maximum resolution of 5.4 MP.
Almost all digital cameras have some form of zoom capability, and this is often quoted as the level of magnification provided, so you will come across figures such as “3x”, or “4x”, for both “digital”, and “optical” zoom. It is important, however, to differentiate between these two types of zoom. Optical zoom involves, the physical, or mechanical, movement of the camera lens to produce a close up image, and produces highly satisfactory results. Digital zoom, on the other hand, is controlled by software alone, effectively “cropping” a portion of an image, and enlarging that portion to the size of the viewfinder. This can result in grainy, unsatisfactory photographs at all but the lowest levels of magnification, and claims of huge digital zoom capability should be treated with caution.
Many digital cameras can operate on standard, disposable AA, or AAA, batteries, or rechargeable batteries. The Mustek DV510V Digital Camera, for example, operates on two, 1.5V AA batteries. Rechargeable batteries are more expensive, in the first instance, but may actually prove to be more economical in the long run; digital cameras do tend to be quite “battery hungry”, and the cost of constantly replacing disposable batteries may soon become prohibitive.
Before you start shopping for a digital camera, try to make an assessment of how you intend to use one, now, and in the future. You may, for example, be looking for a digital camera that is easy to use, without constant reference to its user manual, in the first instance; if you also require larger, better quality photographs, at some point in the future, investment in a higher specification digital camera, with a higher.