Choosing a digital camera for your holiday

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Choosing a digital camera for your holiday
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What’s a mega-pixel? Do I need a 64MB or a 1GB memory card? Why is optical zoom more important than digital zoom?

Well-known photographer Charles Corbett helps you survive the digital deluge and shows you a few top sellers.
If we mention the names of Joseph Niepce, Louis Daguerra, Henry Fox Talbot or George Eastman, what would you think? A new French boy band? 

No, these gentlemen were pioneers of photography and as film had not yet been invented, they had to work through all sorts of messy processes to fix images on glass plates. Since then even film has all but come and gone, because we have now entered the exciting era of digital photography. 

Let’s look at a few pointers when deciding to invest in a digital camera. Of course you’ve found that the digital camera in your cell phone, well, remains a camera in a cell phone. You need a modicum of quality when capturing memories of the good times. 

Determine what you ultimately want to do with the camera. Is it for family snapshots or do you want to experiment? If it’s the former, a basic compact digital will suffice, but more about that later. 

The first thing to look for in a digital is how many mega-pixels it captures. Pixels is the abbreviation for the picture elements, the small dots that make up a digital image, and one ‘mega’ is one million of them in a batch. Knowing your attention to detail and quality, you wouldn’t want a camera that takes fewer than 4 megapixels.

Next, make sure it has a good lens, for example, one that allows lots of light into the camera. It’s no good having huge megapixel capability and a poor quality lens. Which brings us to optical and digital zooms. Buy a camera with a good optical zoom, lets say at least 3x (three times magnification). This means the camera uses its lens to bring the subject closer. A digital zoom does the same, but uses electronics rather than optics, resulting in a loss of image quality. So even if your camera has optical and digital zooms, avoid using the latter, unless you want your pictures to have that blurry paparazzo look. 

Also remember that digital cameras increase a lens’s optical length, thus a 135mm lens on a film camera will give you about 200mm on a digital. So make sure you know exactly what you’re getting and keep this in mind, especially when buying SLR/removable lenses. 

Another important criterium is the camera’s power supply. Rechargeable batteries are a money saver. Some rechargeable cameras can also use disposable batteries. This is handy when you’re stuck in the wild, far from a power point. If you take a lot of pictures, don’t buy a model that takes AAA or other small capacity or expensive batteries. 

Be sure to handle the camera to feel how it fits in your hands. It’s no good buying a matchbox camera is you have sausage fingers. 

Also consider your level of experience and rather buy something simple if you’re a novice. 

Budget for a memory card, as the included 16 or 32MB card won’t hold many pictures. You want at least 6 or 32gb. If you can stretch your camera fund, get a memory card reader for your computer. Slot the card into it and your pics are transferred to your pc or Mac in an instant, without using the camera’s power. And backup your precious memories on CD – you don’t want to lose them all if your hard drive dies or your laptop gets stolen, Remember most photo labs print digital pictures. 

Read lots of reviews in camera magazines and on websites such as Review center, Epinions and Digital Photography Reviews.

So you don’t want to be a photographer for Vogue or National Geographic? Then enter the realm of the point-and-shoot digital camera.

Konica Minolta have launched the Konica Minolta Dimage Z3, and almost like that other well-known Z3 model, it has a striking design. Its 4-megapixel ability will give you excellent print quality up to a whopping 35cm x 25cm. That’s close to an A3 size print. But it also features predictive auto-focus control, improved auto-focus accuracy, superb close-up ability, a 12x optical zoom and a special anti-shake function. The latter is especially handy on those mornings when you’re not as bright as you were the night before…

Don’t laugh at the close-up feature either. Think of the points you’ll score with the lady in your life when she can photograph, up close, her engagement ring, to e-mail to the known universe.

So where to now, you ask. As they say, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping! Always remember that making lasting images will only enhance your own image.
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