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However, Iím guessing that some of you havenít taken the plunge yet. Youíre ready to stop being a hold-out and want to join the digital camera revolution. So you bought this book to find out more about digital photography before spending your hard-earned money on the equipment you need. Good plan!
After all, there are so many choices available that itís easy to buy a camera thatís not quite right for the kind of pictures you want to take. All digital cameras do a good job with general picture-taking for family activities, travel, informal portraits, and other kinds of shots. But some are better than others for taking close-up photos, sports action pictures, or photos indoors where a wide view is needed.
So, youíd like some of your questions answered before you buy: Can a camera I can afford do the things I need to do? Can a computer fumble-fingers like me
Knowing What Equipment You Need 11
really do digital photography? Whatís the best camera to buy? Will I be able to expand my cameraís capabilities if I find I need more advanced features?
Or, perhaps you are a digital camera veteran who is already thinking of upgrading. You, too, need some advice about equipment, which you can find in this book.
Choosing a digital camera thatís right for you can be tricky because a lot more goes into your selection than simply the specifications. Two cameras with identical specs can perform quite differently. One may exceed your expectations, while the other one frustrates the heck out of you. I explore some of the subtleties of camera selection in Book I, Chapter 2.
The digital camera world has changed dramatically since I wrote the first edition of this book. I warned readers against trying to do serious photography with cheap Web cams or low-end 1-megapixel cameras. Today, some camera phones have a lot more resolution than that, and even the lowest priced digital cameras (in the $100-$200 range), have 4 megapixels (millions of pixels of information). They are more likely to have at least 5 to 6 megapixels of resolution. They feature automatic exposure, a color LCD viewing screen for previewing or reviewing your photos, and removable storage, so you can take out your digital film card when itís full and replace it with a new one to keep shooting. Most have a 3X zoom lens, so you can magnify an image without moving forward, which is invaluable when you want to take pictures of different subjects from one spot.
Those minimum specs give you everything you need to take great photos. After all, the photographer, not the camera, produces the best images. I once wrote an article for a photo magazine in which I presented photos of the same subjects, side-by-side, taken with an inexpensive point-and-shoot film camera and a full-blown professional system that cost 100 times as much. After both sets of photos had been subjected to the vagaries of halftone reproduction, it was difficult to tell them apart.
Spending a lot on a digital camera buys you a few new capabilities, like better zooms, enhanced resolution, or a more sophisticated built-in flash. If you have a full-featured model, you can find lots of information in this book on how to get the most from your cameraís capabilities. But this book also contains workarounds for those who own more modest equipment.
You can find digital cameras suitable for the most exotic of photographic pursuits, such as the underwater set-up shown in Figure 1-1. Itís a waterproof case for a Canon PowerShot digital camera. It provides full access to all your cameraís controls while letting you photograph those colorful coral reefs in Tahiti at depths of up to 100 feet!
Book I Chapter 1
The Essentials of Good Digital Photography
Minimum and Maximum Specs
Figure 1-1: This waterproof case can take your digital photography to new depths!
Minimum and Maximum Specs
For most of this book, I assume you have a digital camera with at least 4 megapixels of resolution. (If you donít understand resolution right now, see Book I, Chapter 2, for an explanation.) Such cameras are becoming harder to find; itís likely that 5 and 6 megapixels will become the minimum resolution for new cameras introduced during the lifespan of this book.
A camera with a 4-megapixel sensor corresponds to about 2300 x 1700 pixels, which is enough detail to give you decent 6-x-8-inch prints or larger at 200 dpi printer resolution. A 4-megapixel camera also can capture enough information to allow some cropping, especially if you plan to use the image on a Web page, where high resolution isnít necessary.
However, if you happen to have an older camera with less resolution, you can still do plenty of things. You can prepare images for dynamite Web pages and make sparkling 4-x-5-inch prints. One of my favorite cameras is an ancient 3.3 megapixel Nikon CoolPix 995 that is excellent for close-up photos, and I use it from time to time to take pictures for eBay auctions.
Cameras with up to 6 megapixels or more of resolution have dipped down into the inexpensive camera range (under $200), and if you have a little more to spend, you can find point-and-shoot cameras with 10 megapixels of resolution for only a few hundred dollars more. Digital single lens reflex (dSLR) cameras, which boast faster operation and interchangeable lenses, offer around 6 to 8 megapixels of detail in the sub-$1,000 price range, and 10 to 12 megapixels (and more) if youíre willing to pay at least $1,500 for your camera. (You can read more about dSLRs in Book III.)