Properties - general

Part / Property

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My recommendations

Camera format

compact, swivel, SLR-like, SLR

If you have enough of money is best to buy SLR digital camera, but you still won't get what you paid. For amateur work, the 5 megapixel consumer camera will  successfully replace your old amateur SLR with your old dusty zoom lens and average color film developed in non-profy lab. And don't forget, your film will still stay away from your screen; no one film scanner (except cylindrical which is too expensive for amateur work) can't scan the image in same quality as is recorded with digital camera at equal resolution!

Sensor

CCD, CMOS

Best choice is a camera with good lens and 'Full frame' CCD. The manufacturers commonly don't offer a lot of sensor's data, so you have no choice. Don't spare too much money on CCD type and it's resolution! CMOS is faster as CCD but still not enough technically developed for each day's use (at dec. 2001).

Viewfinder

LCD, optical, electronic

Most of compact digital cameras have only LCD built in screen. By SLR-like cameras an optical viewfinder is used, but in most cases doesn't cover full subject area with CCD surface. New good intermediate solution between LCD and optical viewfinder is electronic viewfinder. It covers almost 100% field of view. The image in it looks almost as same as you will record. This is a first tool that shows the image with same appearance as that one which is have to be taken! It takes you some time before you'll get accustomed on it, but you'll be satisfied. Only if it has few pixels more...  could be annoying for someone because the picture is not enough clear. Built-in diopter adjustment and automatic monitor amplification in case of extremely low-light conditions are available for easier work.

LCD monitor

Y/N

Binding for image previews and using a menus

Lens

non-interchangeable,  zoom

Think about buying best lens you can get! Specially when not buying SLR. The quality of lens (at acceptable price for my pocket) is the first reason to make my purchase decision.

Focal length equivalent

typical for each camera

The focal length of digital camera's lenses is as shorter as by classic 35 mm SLR cameras. It depends on CCD type. For Minolta Dimage 7, the 7,2 mm actual focal length is equal to 28 mm at 35mm photography. The shorter distance between lens and CCD causes better depth-of-field performances.

Manual focus

Y/N

Some digicams don't bid manual focusing, but for pretentious photographers is inevitable. 

Zooming

manual, servo

Although you have maybe already accustomed to a button, is faster as servo.

Macro mode

Y/N

By SLR-like cameras, the macro mode is almost obligatory. As better the lens the better macro solution it has. Macro mode sets the lens elements in position that the subject can be brought closer to camera.

Digital zoom

Y/N

Manufacturer's trick to fictive enlarging of pixel's amount, but... I found it very useful to spare some memory when recording smaller clips by close-up photos when the subject is still smaller as full-frame area.

Focusing system

spot focus point, wide focus area

Available in better cameras. The wide focus area is an array of points where the focusing system works. On user request, the focus point could be used manually to set the focus on desired point. Very useful, but sometimes is faster to use manual focus. 

AF assist lamp

Y/N

AF assist lamp makes available auto-focus metering at low light circumstances with infrared assist lamp. This function can be replaced with automatic monitor amplification which starts to work immediately when environment light strength falls under value needed for AF measuring. 

Focus confirmation icon

Y/N

Very useful tool when working in auto-focus module. It warns you by blinking if the system couldn't find a focus point. It could be also used to note you if the shutter time is to long to take unshaken picture.

At full macro and tele-range, the focus system doesn't work suitable. For close-ups I use manually focusing.

Electronic magnification

Y/N

If your camera has no optical viewfinder, the electronic magnification is very useful tool for manually confirmation of good focusing.  

Aperture range

3,5-9,5

 Very important to have some other possibilities as  only 'auto', 'short' and 'wide'. If you snap a close-ups, close aperture is main condition to reach good depth of field value. 

Shutter time range

bulb, 1/1000 to 30 sec 

Shutter time is adjustable in defined range in all of cameras. You will need to set shutter priority for action photography. As at Interline transfer CCD the shutter is electronic, the time could reach incredible short values. I suppose, you wont need 1/30000 sec. But you can't live without 2 or 10 seconds shutter speed, if you make a close-ups, don't forget that! So, when you buying new digicam, take a look after longer shutter time values.

Image size (pixels)

2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960,    640 x 480

Available, but in most cases not in use. I doubt if someone wants to shot in low quality even for documentary work.

Color mode

color, black&white

When camera records an image as RAW, this function is not required. Finally, even if you work as art-photographer, you wont use so bad camera, or even, you wont take a JPEG images. 

Sensitivity (ISO)

100, 200, 400, 800...

Even promises a lot, wont give you a lot. ISO 200 is still usable, but at 400 and 800 the noise increases too much.

Image quality

RAW, TIFF, JPEG

Take the camera which offers RAW! Even I suggest daily to work with fine JPEG, the RAW will be an option when you want to record at best quality in good shot's opportunities.

Metering system

multi segment, spot, central

It makes possible to define the area of exposure metering. Instead of this setting, you can use also the exposure lock and exposure adjustment option. 

Camera-shake warning

Y/N

Advisable to note, particularly for free-hand photographers.

Built-in flash

 

Good for point-and-shot photographers, for close-ups is fit for use when combined with a close-up diffuser.

Flash warning icon

Y/N

In backlit situation the signal appears on screen.

Flash charging icon

Y/N

Good, but often the photographer overlooks it.

Flash-ready icon

Y/N

Should exist as default.

Flash-properly-exposed icon

Y/N

Indicates if the subject was properly exposed by flash; useful for point-and-shot photographers.

Flash red-eye reduction

Y/N

Prevents from red reflection of eye's retina at built-in flash use. What can I say? To refuse it?

Flash compensation

Y/N

The same function as exposure compensation, but by usage of flash. Very useful if you work with flash a lot.

Rear flash sync

Y/N

It makes a flash to fire at the end of longer exposure times to make a pictures with special moving effects. Okay, let it exist.

Shutter-release button

 

Half pressed should set and view all of preferences of picture on LCD or EVF

Control buttons

on-off, menu, controller, delete, AF/MF...

Very advisable to have as more as possible settings available with buttons, not in menus. You will have a headache when learning to use buttons in first weeks, but you'll find them indispensable. The buttons will render possible to quick view the images, quick delete, AF/MF switch, exposure lock, preset pro-auto settings and others...

Pro-auto settings

portrait, sport, sunset, night, text...

Very useful for point-and shot users, It set the camera parameters to best settings to take a shot in a temporary circumstances. Suppose it wont be used for close-ups.

Exposure priority

program, aperture, shutter, manual

Binding, replaces mechanical settings in classic SLR cameras. For macro shots, the aperture priority is  nearly a default. 

White balance

auto, set, daylight, cloudy...

Very usable, but not satisfying; the best is manual setting or calibrating. 

Timer

10 seconds

Unavoidable for macros; it has a big imperfection - you have to set it for each shot again and again. The better (and more expensive) solution is remote cord.

Recording continuous mode

 

The series of images can be captured with continuous advanced mode. This mode permits 1 shot per second at full-size image quality. The number of images could be preset but is limited by amount of memory.

Bracketing

Y/N

There is a lot of talk about bracketing, which is by incoming of WYSIWYG electrical viewfinders become one of less used tools. The bracketing use  professionals by taking of few shots of same subject by different exposure settings to avoid bad exposures. If you set right exposure before taking a shot to a value that satisfy your requests thru EVF, the mistake is almost impossible. 

Interval mode

Y/N

You can set  the camera to make a series of images in predefined intervals over a longer period of time. It is useful, on example, to make a flower opening sequence, sun rising sequence or caterpillar's sloughing picture series without manual snapping.

Display switch

display, EVF, auto

Very good possibility for sparing batteries; at auto, the display turns on when you move your eye from EVF.

Card-slot door

 

Best if is in good position, or maybe hidden by swivel part of camera body if possible.

Storage card

Compact flash, Smart media, Microdrive....

Forget about cards. With camera, you'll get a card to save one good picture. Start to think about 1 GB Microdrive. If you had a money to buy a camera that gives 5 or 10 MB picture, you can scratch together some more to avoid a headache of 'No memory' messages. 

IBM microdrive compatible

Y/N

Main reason I bought this camera! 

Data transfer

USB, serial, IRDA

I suggest the faster method. Even the USB is available on each newer computer and is faster as serial, the transfer of 1GB from Microdrive lasts few hours!

AD converter

8 bit, 12 bit

AD converter transforms electric signal of CCD into binary information which is used to recalculate the RGRB pattern into Red, Green and Blue channel. 8 bits present 256 color casts, and the 12 bits means 4096 color casts. Sure, 12 bit is much better as 8 bit, but for final image quality still more important is the total resolution of CCD.

Exposure compensation

-2 to + 2  exposure values  adjustable on 0,3 steps

You simple can't live without that. Is the faster method to set exposure by personal requests or correct it in case of  metering deficiency. Set it before taking a snap. You cant create pixels later you didn't record them if you blown out a white or black areas.

Contrast compensation

-3 to +3 adjustable by 1 step

Available, but seldom used. I suggest to snap at -3 or 0 contrast setting and make a correction with computer program rather as set it to +3 in camera. You cant get lower contrast value without loosing some data later if you took a picture in +3 contrast value.

Color saturation compensation

-3 to +3 adjustable by 1 step

Same as contrast - use it only if you don't want to spend your time at computer. The camera default seems to be -3, but the images taken by this saturation level looks too dull. It's up to you if you want to get good detailed, or even, good-looking over-saturated folk-impressive pics.

Sharpness setting

soft, normal, hard

Could be useful if you don't want to spend your time at your computer to set the sharpness later. The CCD's original image default sharpness seems to be 'soft' so lot of experts use this setting. I also use 'soft' and sharpen each picture when is finished for present application.

Beep on/of

Y/N

Good tool. 

Data imprint

Y/N

Enables to write some data like date, time and predefined text on the image.

Batteries

NiMH, producers

Is good if camera uses NiMH batteries because NiMHs you can buy almost in butchery. Some manufacturers offer good, but expensive original batteries. In each case you will need a few packs of them.   

Battery-chamber

 

It is nice if the camera has good positioned and simple chamber door, specially important how it affects on in-hand weight position when full.

Lens hood

Included

Advisable, particularly for opposite light; could gets in your way when not in use.

Lens cap

Included

Binding

Camera strap eyelets

 

Could be clumsy if sticks card door.

Camera strap

Included

Advisable, for studio work is impediment.

Battery-power indicator

Y/N

Binding, will warn before batteries get totally empty

Auto power save

Y/N

Commonly adjustable to 1 or 3 minutes

Exposure and focus lock

Y/N

Very applicable when you want to lock focus and exposure parameters in auto mode. Sometimes faster as to set all of properties full-manually.

External power supplies

Sold separately

Available, will be necessary when work in nature

Remote cord

Sold separately

Binding for close-ups. Instead of it, you can use a timer.

Video-out

Y/N

Available in most cameras. Compatible with NTSC and PAL. The only problem is that you can view original images only because image viewer doesn't know to preview renamed images. Also, the camera can view only original files, but not those which are changed by Photopaint or other picture editores.