Archive for October 5th, 2008

An Al Qaeda Mouse

Bits & Pieces.com)

A typical terrorist Al Qaeda mouse. (Credit: Bits & Pieces.com)

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Canon Inc.)

The Canon PowerShot A720 IS digital camera (Credit: Canon Inc.)

Buying the best digital camera is like asking which is the best car in the world? The answer of course depends on your needs. If you want to win the Grand Prix, you need a Ferrari or something like that. But if you want to give it to your mom to buy groceries from a supermarket a few blocks from your house, a Toyota Yaris will be just fine.

Digital cameras are a little more complicated. The market of digital cameras is full of great choices. If you are in the market to purchase a digital camera, you have surely seen several different types of cameras. It isn’t exactly clear what the differences between the types are, and it can be confusing trying to choose the digital camera that’s right for you. In this post, I will discuss the different types of cameras so you can better understand what to look for when purchasing a digital camera.

I. Family Snap Shooters or Consumer Cameras

They are also known as Point-and-Shoot digital cameras. Most consumer cameras on the market today fall into the category of Point and Shoot digital cameras. A point and shoot digital camera is designed to do just that—take snapshots. They provide limited flexibility with options, although many newer models have some limited options for special effects. The image quality from a point and shoot digital camera is generally good enough for common uses like taking pictures of your family, pets and vacation scenes.

They are very small, lightweight, easy to use and convenient to carry. They have fully automatic and scene modes; some have semi-automatic and manual controls. All but the cheapest provide very good image quality. Low to moderately priced, depending on features.

If you just want a standard, entry level digital camera for family snapshots and auction photos, then a point and shoot digital camera is a budget conscious choice. These cameras usually provide resolutions of between 2 and 4 Megapixels (million pixels) and the size of your photographs would be 4 x 6 inches prints.

II. The Prosumer Digital Camera

They are also referred to as Semi Professional digital cameras. These cameras fall between the Consumer and the Professional DSRL (Digital Single Reflex Lens) categories. The Prosumer digital cameras are geared to advanced amateurs with skill levels between a professional and consumer. They sport high quality lenses and advanced features for creative control. Some have long telephoto zooms lenses while others start at wide angle. A few have a zoom range from wide to super telephoto.

They also frequently offer the user additional settings and greater control over the camera. The increased flexibility does come with a price. Most semi professional models are priced much higher than point and shoot models. A ball park figure for this type of camera is around $1,000.

Typically, these cameras provide resolutions between 5 and 6 Megapixels (million pixels) and the image quality of these cameras is good enough to produce clear prints up to about 8 x 10 inches.

III. DSRL Digital Cameras

These type of cameras are used by serious enthusiasts, part time or full time professional photographers. They are the top-of-the line digital cameras. SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex. The secret of these cameras are their interchangeable zoom lenses and a zillion other photographic accessories.

Digital SLR cameras provide an amazing amount of creative control over the camera and the resulting images. Also, these cameras provide resolutions over 6 Megapixels and can produce prints of poster size without noticeable distortion. Professional photographer claim that they like these cameras because they provide the advantage of control and readiness of operation.

They have outstanding optics, produce high resolution images and accept interchangeable lenses and sophisticated accessories. They perform better in low light than most consumer cameras that have small sensors. SLRs function automatically, but also have a full range of manual controls. You can buy only a SLR body, and purchase lens separately. The price of professional level lenses can be jaw-dropping. Models include entry level, semi-pro and pro. High priced to extremely expensive.

A Digital SLR camera (without lenses) is a pricey investment indeed. Currently, you can expect to spend $1,500 or more on the camera alone. Accessories and lenses cost extra. Be prepared to pay between $800 and $10,000 or more for a good Digital SLR camera.

Before I go on, I would like to explain two fundamental photographic jargon (i.e., resolution or pixels and image noise). You are sure to find these words in every camera review you can put your hands on.

A resolution is the amount of pixels (picture elements or tiny dots) which make up a photograph. They are expressed in millions of pixels. For example, a 6 Megapixel camera of 2,000 x 3,000 pixels can produce an enlargement 10 x 15 inches without any problem. If you intend to print small photographs, don’t get fooled into buying a camera with many Megapixels. You would be wasting your money.

Noise or image noise are grains or deterioration in a digital image. They are also called image distortion or imperfections. Visibility of noise is often affected by ISO setting or temperature. Higher ISO speeds or temperatures amplify noise while long exposures can also introduce noise in an image. Some cameras are famous for their noise production at high ISO speeds, so please read carefully about this issue when purchasing a camera. You don’t want to take distorted pictures of your loved ones.

I’ve been reading extensively about digital cameras because I want to join the digital photography trend. After much hesitation, I decided to buy the Canon PowerShot A720 IS. It was a very difficult choice. In the final selection process, I had the following cameras in my favorite list:

  • Canon PowerShot A720 IS
  • Fuji S700
  • Canon PowerShot A570 IS
  • Canon PowerShot A650 IS

All of the above had the features I was looking for within my limited budget. I couldn’t afford to pay more than $300 for a digital camera. Below are comments from authorities in digital cameras that made me decide for the Canon PowerShot A720 IS:

The Canon PowerShot A720 IS is clearly aimed at photographers who expect a bit more from their camera than a simple point-and-shoot snapshot can provide, and this naturally includes superior image quality. 8MP is about the optimum resolution for compact camera image quality at the moment, and the A720 performs better than most. The 6x zoom lens is particularly good, providing a huge amount of fine detail with good edge sharpness and very little barrel distortion at wide angle, although there is a little pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. Dynamic range is very good considering the small 1/2.5-inch sensor, with excellent shadow and highlight detail even in very high contrast shots, and color reproduction is typically superb. Noise control is also well above average, with very good image quality at 800 ISO, and usable results even at the maximum setting of 1600 ISO. All in all, an excellent performance from a very accomplished camera.

The Canon PowerShot A720 IS is a delightful point-and-shoot camera with a little extra muscle. In addition to the substantial 8-Megapixel sensor, the A720 IS also comes with an excellent 6x optical zoom, allowing for crisp, long-range shots without the need for a bulky extended zoom model. Also the A720 IS makes great use of the new “Face Detection” technology, focusing in your subject’s face with starting precision.

Verdict: The Canon PowerShot A720 IS is an ideal camera for anyone who wants a bit more creative control than most pocket compacts can provide, and would be an excellent choice for anyone who wants to learn more about photography. Build quality, design and performance are all first rate, image quality is superb and the range of features is hard to match at the price. Battery duration could be a problem, but the ready availability of AA batteries offsets this somewhat.

I purchased my camera at PanaFoto in Panama City, Panama. The price of the camera was $239.55 excluding VAT taxes. The dealer had a promotion of a free Canon camera bag and 2 free 1GB memory SD cards. Since I knew the camera demanded a lot of battery power, I also bought 4 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger. In total I paid $298.22—exactly what I had in my budget.

I plan to take a photography course at Ganexa University and should be taking my first photos by mid December. Just in time for the holiday season.

If you like to read technical stuff, these are the specifications for the A720, if not, please skip this part.

  • Price: $239.55
  • 6X optical zoom lens.
  • 8 Mega pixels resolution for excellent for large prints with significant details.
  • Face Detection processor – will expose up to 35 faces.
  • Great looking images.
  • Extremely accurate color reproduction.
  • Accurate white balance.
  • Adaption to a range of indoor and outdoor lighting conditions.
  • Bad images at ISO 1600, better left unused.
  • Optical image stabilization to counteract camera shake.
  • Basic automatic scenes like portrait or landscape.
  • 2.5 LCD screen.
  • Point-and-shoot camera for beginners and more engaged photographers.
  • Kingston Ultimate 120x 2GB memory card (SD, SDHC, MMC, MMC PLUS, HC, MMC Plus Media)
  • Dimensions: 3.83″ x 2.64″ x 1.65″
  • Weight: 7.05 ounces
  • Two AA alkaline batteries will yield 150 pictures.
  • Two AA NiMH batteries will yield 400 pictures.
  • 1GB memory card holds 286 pictures at maximum size and quality.
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Warranty: 12 months
  • Recommended: A couple of sets of NiMH rechargeables and a charger as well.
  • Optical lens converters:
    • Conversion lens adapter (LA-DC 58G)
    • Wide converter (WC-DC 58N)
    • Tele-converter (TC-D58H)

I hope you didn’t spend more than ten minutes of your valuable time reading this post. If you exceeded your time allotment, I apologize. However, I’m sure you know a lot more about digital cameras than before. It was time well invested. Au revoir!

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(Credit:  Pixdaus, God Gave Us Pics!/by kiša)

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