Compact camera tips

Compact camera tips

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Enjoy your compact camera! Training, events and tips.

What to look for when buying a digital camera?

What to look for when buying a digital camera?
  1. The most critical element in a digital camera is the lens because all light must go through the lens. So choose from traditional film camera makers, especially those renowned for their optical lens.
  2. Consider what type of storage media the digital camera uses. SmartMedia is flimsy because its connecting wires are outside the cards. Memory stick is proprietary to Sony devices only, so it's not considered industry standards. Compact Flash card is by far the best bet because it is thick and hardy. Many output devices eg. printers and projectors use the card as storage device, so images stored can be output straight away in these devices.
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Is pixel count all that important?

Traditional camera uses film to record images. But for digital camera, the film is replaced by a small sensor chip - either CCD (charged Coupled Device) or CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) - which stores the image into a digital format.

The CCD or CMOS sensor's surface is divided into tiny squares called pixels and each pixel records one segment of an image. The more pixels a sensor has, the more details it can record. While it's true that the number of pixels a CCD contains is an excellent measure of the details the digital camera can contain, this is not enough.

Picture quality doesn't necessarily improve with another million pixels. Other features such as lens, colour filter used on the sensor and digital image processor also play an important role in determining picture quality. (See picture below to understand the intricacies of a digital camera in the analogy of a human eye)

Basic Concept of High Quality Image

To capture an image, lights first have to go through the lens (equivalent to human's eye) which are later gathered as electrical charges by the sensor (equivalent to human's retina). The sensor, by itself, is incapable of perceiving colours, so it obtains colour data via a colour filter arranged above individual pixels. Image data gathered by the sensor is converted into digital signals to be analysed and processed by the image processor (equivalent to human's brain) before recording the image onto a memory card. Each process is crucial in determining image quality.

So don't just be deceived by pixel count. Check for manufacturer's lens and CCD.
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How to take quality pictures from the digital camera?

  1. Compose your picture using the LCD first.

    Firstly, identify the subject that you are interested to emphasize. Next compose your picture using the LCD. Ensure that only the things you want viewer to see appear in the LCD screen. If you are taking a moving object, always leave enough space in front of the subject so that it appears to be moving into the picture. Now take the shot and you'll end up with your full image size "framed" the way you like it. If you are not happy with the composition, reshoot it.

  2. Ensure that there is sufficient light in the background.

    Make sure that the automatic flash function is working when using a snap happy camera. If you are using a camera with creative controls, there are several ways to overcome the lighting conditions during your filming.
    • You could slot in different types of flashes according to the lighting conditions.
    • Adjust the aperture setting /speed to allow more/less light to enter the camera.
    • For night filming, you can adjust the ISO setting ranging from 100 to 400.
    • Use exposure compensation mode if there is a strong light coming from the back of the subject.
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How to ensure that your batteries will not run out on you at the crucial moment?

  • Use special longer-life lithium batteries, which cost twice as much, but last three times longer.
  • Use rechargeable Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) or, even better, Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. NiMH batteries charge up to 500 times and take just three hours for a full charge.
  • Buy multiple backup batteries, so you'll always have spares.
  • Consider a rechargeable, plug-in camera battery pack with longer power time. Before buying your camera, make sure that it has the right connections for such a pack.
  • Use the camera's optical viewfinder whenever possible, unless your camera doesn't have one. Those sexy little LCD screens are handy for reviewing shots, but they make you pay by draining fresh batteries in 20 minutes or less. If you're shopping for a camera, make sure it has a traditional optical viewfinder as well as an LCD viewfinder.
  • If you have the choice, switch off the LCD except when you must view the scene digitally or review an already recorded shot to check your success.
  • Get used to turning off the camera between shots. Don't leave the camera on unless you're ready to shoot again immediately.
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What can you do with the images you have taken?

  • Store it in your PC
    The new range of digital cameras comes with a USB cable for fast connection to PC. Just download the software and get the digital camera to 'talk' to the PC. Once your photos are loaded into your PC, convert the image from its original format (usually a .tiff or .gif) into a .jpeg file. This is the most common way to send images because they are "compressed" and load faster. After the connection, organise the digital images using bundled album software like ZoomBrowser to help you organise your picture. Remember to delete those pictures you do not want or it will take up too much memory space.

  • Send it to your friends via email
    Make sure your recipient uses an e-mail program (like Microsoft Outlook) that allows him or her to view attachments. Then scan your "best" photos. Limit your attachments to 1 or 2-they will load faster.

  • Store pictures in online PC-based albums
    There are many online photo albums, some offer free storage, while others charge for rental space. Check out these sites:
  • Print the images I
    Images stored on the compact flash card can be sent to photolabs for print. However, they will not touch up the image for you. The best is to print it out into a photo quality printer. Just use ZoomBrowser to download the images into the PC and fit them onto an A4 size. You can print two 5R or four 3R prints on an A4 sized paper.

  • Print the images II
    You can also buy direct photo printer. Link the Canon digital camera to CP-10 (MRT card size) or CP-100 (post card size). Or insert the compact flash card directly into S820D to print 4R or A4 size.

  • Set up an album on your PDA
    Dream of carrying your album on your PDA. These sites offer you some possibilities:
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How to select the right resolution and compression?

Resolution is the measurement of an image in pixels. Since the maximum available resolution of an image is only getting higher, digital cameras use a process known as "Compression" to reduce the size of the image to a manageable size before it is stored. While this dramatically increases the amount of pictures you can store on each memory card, there is a trade off in quality.

Pending your usage of the images, the table below is a suggested guide.

Usage of images Suggested Resolution Suggested Compression Mode
Email Low - Medium Normal
Printing people/portraits Large Fine/Superfine
Printing building/scenery Large Normal
Note:
  • Low Resolution (800 x 600 pixels), Medium Resolution (800 x 600 - 1280 x 1024 pixels), High Resolution (Above 1280 x 1024 pixels)
  • Compression mode yields progressively higher image quality as one switches from "Normal" and "Fine" to the Superfine Mode
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