Steve Thompson wrote:
>> Can anyone suggest a GOOD first digital camera for a novice like me(in
>>computers, not radio )
>A few years ago I bought an Olympus SLR with 1.4Mpix. I was recommended
>to the model by a camera enthusiast friend who pointed out that it had
>excellent optics. If that part is no good, all the digital stuff is
>wasted. It's big and bulky as they go, but everyone who has borrowed it
>reckons it's worth it for the SLR.
Digital cameras are like computers - obsolete before you even buy them.
You just have to learn not to worry about it.
When we were buying a camera, about a year ago, there were several
excellent in-depth review sites on the web - a Google.com search for
"digital camera reviews" will find them. Models change very quickly, so
there are always plenty of closeout bargains.
For example, we chose a 'Best Buy' model recommended by 'Which?'
magazine (the UK version of 'Consumer Reports') but by the time the
review was printed, that model was already obsolete! The web reviews of
the replacement model showed that it didn't have any extra features that
we needed, so we chased down a closeout offer on the older model at a
very good price.
Expect to pay a little more for a higher capacity flash-card than is
sold with the camera - but shop separately for this. A 32MB card will
store over 100 full-color images at 1024x768 pixels.
1024x768 is good for most purposes, and that is only 1.2 megapixels -
almost below entry-level in today's cameras. But a dedicated
photographer will want to use greater resolution routinely, and even a
snapper like me wants higher resolution from time to time. Even for
images that will end up on the web at 72dpi (dots per inch), it's good
to have much higher resolution in the original photograph, because that
allows you to crop and enlarge parts of images without the pixels
starting to appear.
You will be using image-editing software a lot. All the effects that a
'darkroom wizard' could achieve with traditional developing and
printing, you can now do on your PC - and much more. PaintShop Pro is
very good - not as powerful as PhotoShop, but much easier to use for the
basics: adjusting brightness and contrast, cropping unwanted edges,
enlarging, shrinking, and saving the edited image file in the format of
Having all these post-editing facilities takes a lot of strain off the
Optics are still important, but check the reviews: often a medium-price
camera made by a consumer-electronics firm will have its optics made by
a specialist 'name' firm like Canon.
SLR would be nice, but you'll pay a lot for it. The LCD display on a
digital camera is almost as good as SLR, except that it doesn't work in
sunlight... so then you're back to the cheap offset viewfinder. But that
isn't the problem it used to be - remember that digital photography is a
two-stage process. So long as everything you want is somewhere in the
picture when you press the button, you have a second chance to frame it
at the editing stage.
However, the better you can fill the frame with the image you want, the
less you'll lose in the editing. Therefore a mechanical zoom facility is
still very useful.
If you are interested in technical photography of circuit boards etc,
then look for a good 'macro' (ultra-closeup) capability. For example,
with a camera that will focus down to about 6 inches in macro mode, plus
some cropping and zooming, plus that wonderful 'sharpen image' facility,
you can read the printing on 1206 SMD resistors!
(Sorry, this turned out longer than I expected. Amplifiers... are we
supposed to mention amplifiers? Well, they're kind of like photographing
SMD resistors, only bigger.)
73 from Ian G3SEK 'In Practice' columnist for RadCom (RSGB)
Editor, 'The VHF/UHF DX Book'