What you should know about Digital Cameras. Beginner guide
Digital cameras are stil confusing for a lot of new users, even though they are on the market for a long time now. So, before you go shopping for a new camera, it’s good to know some of the basic terms like white balance, pixel, ppi and dpi mean, or the difference between optical and digital zoom.
Here are the most important things you should know before you buy a digital camera:
When you use a digital camera to take pictures, you can pick your white balance to suit the light source, so that the white looks white, not yellow or blue. Normally, for the most cameras, there is an automatic setting and the camera decides what white setting to use. However, if you know what your light source is, you can usually set the photo camera to it and this may give better results. Most digital cameras have settings for shade, sunlight, electronic flash, fluorescent lighting and tungsten lighting.
A pixel is a contraction of the term Picture Element. Digital images are made up of small squares, just like a tile mosaic on your kitcken wall, for example.
One of the main ways that manufacturers categorize their digital camera is in terms of pixel count. Today, this number varies between 1 million (1 Megapixel) to around 14 million (14 Megapixels). A million pixels is abbreviated to MP, so a 1 MP camera has 1 million pixels and a 3 MP camera has 3 million pixels. Currently, most popular consumer digital cameras have between 2 MP and 5 MP.
A 3 MP photo camera can make excellent 4”x6” prints and very good 5”x7” prints, but if you intend to make a lot of 8”x10” prints, then you should buy a 4 or 5 MP camera.
DPI and PPI
When you display a digital image on a monitor, the only thing that determines the size of the image is the pixel count and aspect ratio.
PPI stands for “pixels per inch” and is used only for printing. So, if you take an image that is 800 pixels wide and 600 pixels high and you print it with a PPI setting of 100 pixels per inch, the print will be 8 inches wide by 6 inches high. Most people seem to agree that around 320 PPI is the highest number you really need.
DPI stands for “dots per inch” and is a property of a printer, not a digital image. It’s a measure of how finely spaced the droplets of ink can be in a print. Printer settings of 360dpi, 720dpi, 1440dpi and 2880dpi are often found. Changing DPI does not change the size of the print, pip controls that.
Digital zoom and optical zoom
Most photo cameras have both optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom works just like a zoom lens on a film camera. The lens changes focal length and magnification as it is zoomed and image quality stays high throughout the zoom range.
Digital zoom simply crops the image to a smaller size, then enlarges the cropped portion to fill the frame again. Digital zoom results in a significant loss of quality. If you don’t have digital zoom on your photo camera, you can do a similar job using almost any image editing program.