Digital Cameras FAQ

Do all digital cameras suffer from shutter lag?

It is true that digital cameras do suffer from shutter lag. Shutter lag is the time in between clicking the shutter button and the picture actually being taken. Once the button is pressed digital cameras get to work setting the focus, white balance and exposure time. They also need to charge up the CCD. The end result, a brief pause before the picture is taken can be very annoying and can prove to be the difference between a great picture and a missed opportunity. As with most things in the world of digital cameras shutter lag times are decreasing as the technology evolves. In fact in higher spec digital cameras shutter lag has almost been eliminated. It won't be a problem with the majority of pictures that you take, but it is something to be aware of.

What is the best image manipulation software?

The market leader is Adobe Photoshop. This remarkable piece of software will let you do almost anything with an image. Before you rush off and buy Adobe Photoshop there are two things that you need to consider. First it is aimed at digital photographers who are looking for serious image manipulation. This gives Adobe Photoshop a fairly big learning curve and there are plenty of books and courses dedicated to helping you get the most from the package. Secondly it doesn't come cheap. A guide price is £500-550.

There are a couple of very good alternatives to Adobe Photoshop for those of you who are looking for more general image manipulation. One is Adobe Photoshop's little brother Adobe Photoshop Elements, priced at around £65-70. The other is Paint Shop Pro which you can pick up for under £40. I have used this package myself and it does everything that I've ever wanted to do with an image.

Cheaper still are products like Kai's Photo Factory. You shouldn't have to pay more than £15 and it gives you some useful image manipulation tools.

Are digital cameras difficult to use.

It's true that digital cameras, particularly at the higher end of the market do have some pretty amazing features. It is also true that these will really only be of use to serious photographers who want to experiment with their digital cameras and want to learn and use all that their camera has to offer. Even then digital cameras come with a fully automatic mode that will allow you to use it in a similar way to a traditional point and shoot camera. The important point to remember here is that feature rich digital cameras also cost a lot of money. If you are not planning to make use of all the available features then I would suggest that you buy a model with a smaller feature set and save yourself a lot of money. You will find that digital cameras that are more basic in the functionality that they offer are also more easy to use.

How much is a good printer to print photographs?

The most common type of printer for home use is the Inkjet. You can buy an inkjet that gives an acceptable level of print quality for under £100. In my view though, you have to pay around £300 if you are serious about printing at home.

Even then to get the best results you need to use coated photographic paper. This can prove to me quite expensive. Ink cartridges do not last long, especially if you are printing up to 8x11". You need to factor additional cartridges and paper into your budget, because together they can increase the costs substantially. If you are not planning to print that many pictures then I would advise you to consider having your photographs printed by a professional printing services company. Otherwise it begins to get hard to justify paying out for the printer and consumables.

If you are more dedicated to your photography and are looking for a higher standard print than is available from the inkjet range, then you can buy a dye sublimation printer. These are a clear step up in terms of print quality, but there is also a clear step up to pay as well. A good quality dye sublimation printers could cost you around £300.

Printing has become a major growth area in digital photography and there are now plenty of professional services that you can select from at a very reasonable price. You can either drop into shops such as Boots or take advantage of online printing services. The one I use is PhotoBox. I have been very impressed by how easy it is to use the service and how little it costs.

There are so many memory cards. What's the difference?

It is a fact that there are many different types of memory card around. Normally a digital camera is compatible with just one type of card. Sometimes a digital camera can use a variety of different types of cards. The important point is to make sure that the card you buy is the right type for your camera. If you are not sure make sure it is probably best to buy from your local camera shop where the staff should be able to help you.

The most common type of card is the SD (Secure Digital) card. Fuji and Olympus tend to use xD cards, while Sony use their own Memory Sticks. More advanced cameras still tend to use CompactFlash because of the high storage capacities available on a single card.

To learn more about memory cards take a look at: All About Memory Cards

What size memory card should I buy?

There are no hard and fast rules. A good idea is to think through how many photos your take on a regular basis and how often you wish to upload to a computer.

What are compression modes?

Digital cameras use different compression modes to store images. If you use high or fine or super fine etc. compression modes then the image produced will be much sharper. Pictures taken at a high resolution will also take up more room on the storage card. Therefore if you are using digital cameras with relatively small storage cards then they will soon become full if you are shooting at a high resolution.

Why are some memory cards cheaper than others?

Higher priced memory cards have a higher speed rating. This means that the picture is written to the card faster and the digital camera becomes ready to take the next shot quicker. This is really only an issue for anyone using digital cameras and wanting to shoot a number of pictures very quickly. It is also felt that the faster memory cards are of a little higher quality.

What are effective pixels?

Not all the pixels that are on a digital camera's CCD can be used when the photograph is taken. Some fall outside the range of the lens and some are painted black to help with colour balance. Therefore it is the number of effective pixels that people need to look out for when buying digital cameras.

What is Digital Zoom?

Digital zoom causes digital cameras to zoom in on the centre section of an image. The centre area will then look bigger, but the same number of pixels are used. This means that the quality of the image is reduced. If a zoom lens is important to you then make sure that you look out for digital cameras that come with an optical zoom. Digital cameras with optical zooms will produce images of a far higher quality.

Do all digital cameras offer a movie mode?

The vast majority of digital cameras come with a movie mode. It is normally only those at the very low end or very high end that may not. The reason why those at the high end do not have a movie mode is that they are aimed at professional or very serious amateur photographers and the view is that they will not be spending time shooting movies. Almost all cameras shoot colour movies with sound now.

As it stands more and more cameras are offering a movie mode with a resolution of 640x480 and a speed of 30 frames per second. These figures may not mean much to you, but this resolution and speed provide TV quality movies. An increasing number of cameras can also shoot movies that are only limited in duration by the capacity of the memory card and batteries. One more feature worth mentioning is cameras that let you zoom in on the action while you are shooting the movie.

For more information on movies take a look at: Shooting Movies

Do you need a card reader to upload images from digital cameras?

You don't necessarily need a card ready to upload images taken by digital cameras. Digital cameras come with a lead that will connect them to the PC and you can upload your pictures through that cable. Some people do experience difficulties from time to time uploading their images using this method. A card reader simplifies the process by creating another drive on your computer and from there it is relatively straight forward to transfer your images from the card to the PC.

Do all digital cameras use batteries very quickly?

This is an area where I have seen considerable improvement over the years. Battery usage is far less of an issue than it used to be, although cheaper cameras can still eat batteries.

There are also one or two things that you can do to conserve the life of your batteries and get more out of them. The simplest way is to turn off the camera when it is not in use. I know that this sound obvious, but it can be tempting to leave digital cameras running so that you are always ready to take your next shot. Another tip is to turn the LCD screen off when it's not in use. The LCD screen is a big power user and therefore can run your batteries down very quickly. From my own personal experience I am also well aware that overuse of movie mode on digital cameras can drain the life out of a battery quicker than anything.

More and more digital cameras will also take rechargeable batteries. Some come with rechargeable lithium ion batters and a charger. For those that take AA batteries you can pick up a set of rechargeable batteries and a charger to help keep down running costs.

To learn more about batteries see: Make Your Batteries Last Longer

Where is the best place to buy digital cameras?

You are certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to buying digital cameras. Just about every shop on the High Street or the Internet, plus just about every mail order company sells digital cameras. If you know very little about digital cameras then I would strongly advise you to research thoroughly. The Internet is obviously a great place to cover the research, but it may also be worth your while to buy a magazine or two. Shopping around on the Internet usually leads to the best deals on digital cameras and I would certainly advise anyone to take advantage of our digital cameras price comparison service to make sure that you save that bit more money when you buy. In my experience the cheapest place is not always the best place to buy.

I have heard that digital cameras use a CCD. What is it?

The CCD is the Charge Coupled Device. It is a light sensor that sits behind the lens in digital cameras. It records the image when you take a photograph. It is a grid made up of millions of tiny light sensors. The capacity of the CCD is measured in megapixels. The higher the number of megapixels the higher the resolution of the picture.

There are so many digital cameras. Which one is right for me?

This is the number one question that I receive about digital cameras and I am afraid that it is one that I cannot answer for you. I can try and help all I can. All the knowledge that I have about digital cameras is already on the site. The reason that I cannot answer the question for you is that whichever one of the wide range of digital cameras that you choose it ultimately has to be your decision. You will find a section of recommended digital cameras on the site and you will also find specifications, consumer reviews and price comparisons. Please use all of these facilities to help you sort through the wide range of digital cameras and find the one that is right for you.

What is burst mode?

Digital cameras with burst mode have the ability to take a number of pictures in quick succession. The number of frames that can be shot is denoted by frames per second and the number of seconds that the camera is able to operate for in this manner.

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