Being familiar with the terminology used in any subject of interest in is always useful, and digital cameras are no exception.
Although most digital cameras available on the market allow you to simply point your camera and quickly snap a picture with the touch of a button, there is often a lot more going on behind the scenes than you may have realized.
All sorts of things happen in the camera once the shutter button is pressed. The image is captured, the pre-processing is done in camera, the shot is captured on the camera’ sensors and the shot is recorded onto the memory card.
Understanding the terms that describe what goes on in the camera is extremely crucial for a photographer (e.g. things like megapixels, focal length, ISO). Put simply, understanding the most important terms about digital cameras will allow you to make a better-informed purchase of a new digital camera.
It will also let you have more control over your digital camera’s features, and help you to take the best quality photos possible.
When we use the term megapixel, we are referring to the maximum resolution at which a digital camera can take photos in millions of pixels. This means that a camera with a range of 4 megapixels can take photos which each contain a maximum of 4 million pixels.
But what does this mean to the consumer? One word: quality. A higher megapixel count means better quality photos, and considering the price of digital camera getting lower all the time; you should try to stick with a digital camera that has a 3 megapixel range or above, especially if you intend of making prints of your photos.
2. Focal Length
Focal length is a term overlooked far too often in amateur photography, and refers to how much the lens of a camera can magnify a shot. Focal lengths are generally split into two categories, these being wide-angle and telephoto, which are better for spacious and narrow fields of view respectively.
Due to the ease of manufacturing telephoto lenses, digital camera manufacturers seem to provide wide-angle lenses in a lot less cameras, even though these lenses are better suited towards the type of photos that most people commonly take, including groups of friends and wide landscapes. To sum up, a wide-angle focal length is the better choice in most cases, with the 20mm and 35mm varieties catering to most people’s needs.
3. Digital Zoom
Unlike the focal length, digital zoom is a term that seems to be given a lot more attention than it deserves. Unlike optical zoom, which uses the physical lenses inside the camera to enlarge a scene, digital zoom electronically enlarges the pixels in the center area of a photo, meaning that any time you use the digital zoom function on your camera you are actually sacrificing the quality of your photos. It is a good idea to disable the digital zoom function all together to stop this from happening.
The term ISO stands for the International Standards Organization, but what does this have to do with your digital camera? The organization sets standards for photography, and the ISO range of a camera refers to how sensitive the camera is to light.
For instance, a low ISO number (100 or under) is not very sensitive to light, and is best for shots in good lighting conditions. A higher ISO range means that the camera will be suitable for photography in darker conditions, so it is best to look for a camera that has an adjustable range; ISO 100 to 400 should be adequate for most people’s needs.
5. Shutter Lag
Shutter lag refers to the time between pressing the button to take a photograph and the time when the picture actually gets taken. This may not seem a very important factor when buying a camera, but think of it this way: if you have to wait a second or longer for a photo to be taken, like with many older and inexpensive digital cameras, then chances are that you won’t end up with the photo you desired. Many camera manufacturers do not list the shutter lag time for their cameras, so the best way to find this out is by testing a camera before you buy.
Hopefully this article has helped you to better understand some of the most important terms used when referring to digital cameras, and in turn will help you to choose the digital camera that best suits your needs. I think that testing a digital camera before you make a purchase can help greatly when it comes to making a final decision, and it makes sense to do so; you may be using the camera you choose to capture your memories for years to come!