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Guide to your Perfect Digital Camera 603

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the everybody-likes-gadgets dept.
Alan Dang writes "I've just posted a new digital camera buyer's guide at FiringSquad titled A Tale of Two Cameras. It explains why the digital SLR may not be the best camera for you, and helps you narrow down your holiday digital camera buying to a short list."
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Guide to your Perfect Digital Camera

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  • Yay (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 13, 2004 @01:50PM (#11073613)
    ...for pointless use of Flash. :-(
    • Re:Yay (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lisandro (799651)
      Seriously, now we need Flash to read an article? Sheeze...

      Anyway, the article itself was quite basic. "A portable digital camera it's what you need, unless you're a serious photographer; then get a SLR". Nice pictures though.
      • Article not useful (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ktulu1115 (567549) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:17PM (#11073883)
        This article was focused on a single point pretty much, SLR or non-SLR.

        The way I see it is - if you're looking to get a digital camera and you don't even know what SLR is, don't get one. It's designed for advanced and more knowledgable photographers.

        That being said, I own a Canon A80 which I am quite happy with. Also, a good book on digital photography which I also own is Complete Digital Photography 2nd Ed [amazon.com]

        • I can't even get the thing to run, I click the 'click here' and nothing.

          Canon's make good into cameras, I have a Powershot S330, then a year later I moved up to an Olympus C740 UZ as it had a 10x optical zoom in a still small body, it was one of the first.

          When it comes to cameras, just get something that looks good, eg a lower end canon, then figure out what you like don't like and want for the next one.
        • by n3k5 (606163) on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:09PM (#11074487) Journal
          This article was focused on a single point pretty much, SLR or non-SLR.
          That by itself isn't so bad, a lot of people like to learn wether choosing an expensive SLR would pay off for them. However, half of the article is about how a bigger sensor gives you a shallower depth of field and how bad that can be in many situations. And this is patent nonsense. An SLR gives you the possibility to make the depth of field shallow, but the much larger size of the sensor makes it possible to catch more light, thus you can tighten the aperture and get a really large depth of field as well.

          A large part of the rest of the article deals with all those manual settings an SLR offers you and how bad that is when you just want to take a couple of quick snap-shots. Again, this is nonsense, because in reality a good SLR will give you the possibility of setting everything according to your preferences, but doesn't force you to do that. They have autofocus and auto-exposure just like cheaper models, and usually they choose these parameters more cleverly as well. As a bonus, they don't only allow you to take a quick snap-shot as any other camera, but a good one will take a dozen uncompressed, high-quality pictures in a matter of one or two seconds. You can choose the one you like best and discard the others. Now that gives you a good snapshot.

          In summary, the more you pay for a camera, the more options and possibilities you will get. Surprise surprise, who would have thought that. Depth of field and ease of use are non-isues, the article gets this very wrong. But yes, if you couldn't care less what depth of field or aperture even is, you might never want to set these manually and thus not want to pay for such advanced optiones.
          • I have a Canon A70 which I like a lot.

            One area where a DSLR would be well worth it is in capturing action. The A70 makes very good photos, but it's slow to start up and there's a lot of delay between pressing the shutter release and actually taking a picture. You can mitigate this by half-pressing the shutter release to pre-focus/meter, but that's a problem with a moving subject (like a toddler!). You end up with a lot of eyes-closed-missed-the-cute-moment photos.

            Second issue: on camera flash is evil.
            • by EtherMonkey (705611) on Monday December 13, 2004 @08:30PM (#11077515)

              slow to start up and there's a lot of delay between pressing the shutter release and actually taking a picture. You can mitigate this by half-pressing the shutter release to pre-focus/meter, but that's a problem with a moving subject (like a toddler!).

              Try setting the camera to "action" mode, so it continuously re-focuses while the shutter release is half-pressed.

              Second issue: on camera flash is evil. Only a few compact cameras give you a hotshoe. DSLR's will give way better flash results with their bounce flash/diffuser capability. Almost every flash picture I have yields terrible red-eye. Photoshop Album can generally fix this, but not all the time. Even without red eye, you generally get a sterile, harshly lit result.

              1. At Digital Photography Review [dpreview.com] I identified 24 non-SLR digital cameras between 3 - 6 megapixels and under $600 as having the ability to add an external flash either via hot-shoe or pc-sync connector. That seems like more than a few to me.
              2. I've looked at a number of sample on-camera flash pictures at Steves Digicams [steves-digicams.com], including ones for the A70, and see that it is possible to take pictures using the built-in flash without red-eye. Of course several factors affect whether or not red-eye will appear, so this isn't definative, but there are certainly camera configurations that make it less likely to be a factor.
              3. That is assuming the user actually owns an external flash and a diffuser/bounce-unit, and is carrying it when the photo-op presents itself, and can manage to pull-out, mount, turn-on and charge the flash and associated diffuser/bounce-unit, and then frame and take the picture before said opportunity goes away (or, in the case of your toddler, decides to take a nap). But yes, if you have a DSLR and an external flash with a Lumiquest diffuser, particularly if its always mounted on a nice Stroboframe flip-flash bracket, the result will be much more pleasing than any direct-lighting flash setup, regardless of the camera its attached to.
              4. I submit that virtually anyone who needs an article to decide between an SLR and non-SLR camera should start with a non-SLR. Likewise, anyone who isn't ready to buy an SLR because of the unnecessary cost, complexity and size is not going to buy and drag around another 5 lbs. and $300 of external flash, diffuser and flip-frame.
              5. I find that most every photo editing program does an adequate job of red-eye removal, and this (or a black Sharpie [sharpie.com] brand marker) is a more convenient and appropriate option for most digital camera consumers.

              As a former pro photographer, (newspaper, studio, wedding), I appreciate the advantages of an SLR, and how a pro or avid hobbyist benefit from these more costly, larger and more complex pieces of equipment. But a pro or avid hobbyist does not need to read this type of article. As for myself, I've grown too lazy and cheap to drag $2,000 and 8 lbs of camera gear around with me and go through the ritual of setting-up flash brackets and bounce cards anymore. If I need that stuff, I still have the gadget bag with over $5K of Canon gear. Instead, I use a Panasonic Lumix [panasonic.com], which is still at the upper-end of size and weight for most consumers.

              On the other hand, when the typical consumer asks "what's the best camera" what they really want to know, when questioned, is what's going to give them good snapshots of the kids and easily print quality 4x6 and maybe the occasional 8x10. For them, something with a good zoom range, relatively quick focus and release time, decent low-light capability, built-in flash that sits-up high enought to avoid red-eye in most cases, and at least 3 megapixels, coupled with a pl

        • by temojen (678985) on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:37PM (#11074766) Journal
          So far, it looks like they're saying that dSLRs always have shallow depth of field, which is less than helpful.

          Iff you know how to use it, any Digital or Film SLR should have whatever depth of field you need, and should be really fast to dial in the right setting. On my Canon AE-1 Program (a 1980 film SLR) it takes me seconds to dial the shutter speed to one that will force the aperature to what I want. Shooting portraits, I use a fast shutter to force a shallow depth of field; shooting landscapes, I use a slow shutter to force a wide depth of field.

          For better results, sometimes I use the simplified zone system [normankoren.com] with the built-in lightmeter.

          My Minolta DiMAGE 7 (a digital cam midway between a compact and a dSLR) only has wide depth of field. This can be handy for some shots, but I find it annoying for others. Also the shutter and aperature are awkward to adjust manually, which makes the simplified zone system difficult to use. I greatly prefer the clarity (and NO LAG!) of my SLR viewfinder to the LCD and evf of my digital camera.
        • by squidfrog (765515)
          I'm also a fan of Canon's cameras (I own an A75). They rate highly for the nerd factor if only because Canon provides to interested developers a really slick and very thorough SDK [google.com]. (In the U.S. this SDK is easy to obtain, but in other countries the rules differ.) The SDK is available for Macs and PCs and lets you control just about every feature through the USB port that you can access by pushing the buttons on the back of the camera (zoom, focus, aperture, shutter speed, image quality, white balance, etc,
    • Re:Yay (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Walrus99 (543380) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:02PM (#11073737)

      ...for pointless use of Flash

      I agree, what ever happened to good old HTML? And why so much border? You have a whole browser, fill it up, I had to put my glasses on to read the text and all I wanted to know was where to get a good digital camera for around $150.

      Another case of designing for the PHB. What looks good on the latest PC on a high speed connection at work, might not even show up in the browser of the average user. And did you even check to see if it runs on Macs or Linux???

    • Re:Yay (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Random Chaos (831686)
      People who use flash like this should be shot.
      • Re:Yay (Score:5, Funny)

        by harrkev (623093) <kfmsd AT harrelsonfamily DOT org> on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:28PM (#11074002) Homepage
        Come on. Give me a break. People into photography HAVE to use flash. If you don't use flash at night, everything is dark! Even during daylight, you can use a fill flash to even out harsh shadows. Indoors, bouncing the flash off of the ceiling will result in more even lighting.
    • Re:Yay (Score:2, Insightful)

      I'm all for using Flash when it makes sense, but I can't even make myself read an article presented in such a way.
    • Re:Yay (Score:2, Funny)

      by adeydas (837049)
      i believe a review in simple words with a pictures would have been much much better... after all /. 'ers are busy geeks, you know... ;)
    • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:21PM (#11073917)

      A camera without flash would be pretty useless.

    • Re:Yay (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jc42 (318812) on Monday December 13, 2004 @04:23PM (#11075321) Homepage Journal
      ...for pointless use of Flash. :-(

      Maybe it wasn't pointless. For example, you generally can't use copy-and-paste to copy part of the text to another window. This is done for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is copyright protection, since it makes exact copying difficult. But a more important use is to interfere with criticism, which often requires copying significant chunks of text to explain what's being criticised.

      For example, consider the following paragraph (which I've laboriously retyped:

      Your eye has a lot of depth of field.
      Everything you see is sharp and in
      focus. The laws of physics make it
      impossible for a camera to do this.


      I'd originally intended to comment on this, and the comment could well go here. This paragraph is rather discrediting to any reader who knows any physics at all. Your eye and your camera are subject to exactly the same laws of physics, and photons don't change their behavior for either one. Fact is, your eye doesn't have an infinite depth of field; it just has a very fast "autofocus". And it's difficult for most humans to look at something without automatically focusing on the subject of interest. The only real difference with a camera is that the picture preserves the focus from when the picture was taken, so you can look at the out-of-focus portions easily. It takes training (that most people don't have) to do the same with your eyes.

      Anyway, I'd consider this paragraph a "howler" that instantly discredits the rest of the text. I'd suggest that it be rewritten in some way that's not blatantly incorrect (to someone with a bit of knowledge of optics).

      It even gets worse in the next paragraph, which starts "A digital SLR has a shallow depth of field, ...". Um, no; it's the lense, primarily the iris opening (f-stop) that gives the depth of field. The camera itself doesn't have a depth of field. With an SLR, this isn't trivial. One of the important features of such cameras is interchangable lenses. This article is comparing SLRs with "Standard" cameras, so it's important to distinguish camera properties from lens properties.

      OK, so this was aimed at the PHB, not anyone with even a minimum of knowledge of optics. So I'm pissed for having my time wasted like this by an abstract that promises more than it delivers. I suppose I should have known the second I saw the white space and the flash, and hit the Back button. I'll go away now.
  • by Jucius Maximus (229128) <zyrbmf5j4x&snkmail,com> on Monday December 13, 2004 @01:50PM (#11073617) Homepage Journal
    OOPS!
    "/pfucata_digicam_guide_04/lowres/upgrade.h tml"
    The document you are trying to view is not available or the URL is incorrect. Please double-check the URL you are trying to visit at the address bar above. If you know the URL is correct and you are still viewing this message, please contact FiringSquad Tech Support.
  • Website (Score:5, Informative)

    by 1000101 (584896) on Monday December 13, 2004 @01:53PM (#11073647)
    Just go to dpreview [dpreview.com] and get better information without all the annoying page transition "features".

    • by brlewis (214632)

      One feature the dpreview buying guide [dpreview.com] doesn't ask you for is the orientation sensor. Not all new cameras have it; I know Canons generally do. The orientation sensor saves you the trouble of rotating from landscape to portrait because EXIF information is written that lets programs like jhead do it automatically. If you take photos in batches, I highly recommend buying a camera with this feature.

      I do agree that dpreview is a great source of information overall, and I didn't have patience to work through

    • DPReview.com is ok. Remember, it's an equipment forum, and people there have opinions.

      It's like walking into a Chevy, Ford, or Dodge dealership and asking them, "Hey, what's best?" You can predict what might happen.

      Lately, there are fewer and fewer "experts" and more and more newbies. More and more complaints about Canon, Nikon and the lack of progress on this or that. Lots of rumors. If you like rumors, give the place a try. Especially with PMA coming in February.
      If you want to hear people whin
  • Funny (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StevenHenderson (806391) <stevehenderson@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday December 13, 2004 @01:54PM (#11073654)
    It's funny how an entire feature can be so insightful about digital cameras, and totally leave out suggestions about photo printers. Quality in prints now is limited to printer quality, not image resolution, if I am not mistaken.

    I just think it would be helpful when making a "buyer's guide" like this to include some printer recommendations for the layman all the way up to the pro...

    • Re:Funny (Score:2, Informative)

      by mark_lybarger (199098)
      are in house printers cost effective at all? wallyworld, cvs, and everyone else sells digital prints at under .30$ for a 3x5 print (or is it 4x6?). at anyrate, my take is to let them have the high quality printer/paper/ink etc. and i can just print what i want. i'm hoping also that prices will slightly drop when more and more people switch from film to digital photos.
      • Re:Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270)
        Well, that's not the only problem with the article. The article suggests that "large capacities are available in all form factors" or some such. But what is large? Can you get a 4GB microdrive in an xD card? Can you find a memory stick that doesn't cost twice as much as a CF for the same size? Don't minimize the importance of choosing a standard. CF is a standard. A half dozen companies use it. Most of the -other- formats are single-vendor, which means they tend to cost more and have less capabiliti
    • I thought the point of a digicam was that you didn't need to get prints, and that you can share them with everyone over the Internet.
      • Many people think about digital the way you do--they want to go totally paperless. That's me for the most part. Still, though, even I recognize that in order to truly see a photo, you need to print it.

        I've often felt conflicted about this until I read in a photo rag that the human mind is able to see subtle differences (almost at the subconscious level) between different high rez shots. A very high res print will seem more 3D, the colors more saturated...more like you're there. The highest resolution a m

    • Re:Funny (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mtfbwy (131640)
      The best recommendation is to take your digital photos to a lab with a Fuji Frontier printer or similiar.
    • Given the prices of getting real prints made are dropping through the floor, its weird people even bother with photo printers, unless you're shooting pictures you don't want the processor to see.

      I have an Alps MD-5000 dye sublimation printer, and at a cost of a buck a print, I can make prints quite a bit better quality than a consumer optical process can do, or those dyesub Kodak kiosks. But for $.24 a print, I can get them printed as true photographs at Wal(greens|mart), and will end up with a quality tha
      • True, but what about for 8x10s? I have a Sony DSC-T1, and I like to print 8x10s and they look great along with a cheap but good HP 932C on glossy premium paper. I know it takes a lot of ink to print something like that and the paper is not free either, but is it still cheaper to go somewhere? I, personally, love the convenience of not having to leave my house to make prints.

        Also, you figure most people are going to buy an IJ printer anyways, so they might as well get one capable with photos too, right?

    • Re:Funny (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DocStoner (236199) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:06PM (#11073777)
      You've brought up a good point. People (amatuers) ask me all the time about what printer to buy because they want to print their digital photos.

      They always give me a dumbfounded look when I tell them not to print any photos on any of the entry level photo printers, instead have them printed at a reputable photo lab. "Isn't that expensive?" they ask. Nope, not when compared to the total cost of the paper, the ink cartridges you used and the quality of the prints.

      Unless you are a pro (or a VERY serious photo geek) and can afford a pro quality photo printer,do not print digital photos at home.
      • Re:Funny (Score:3, Informative)

        by foxtrot (14140)
        Unless you are a pro (or a VERY serious photo geek) and can afford a pro quality photo printer,do not print digital photos at home.

        I'm not sure how true that is anymore. Images from either my Canon Digital Rebel (3072x2048) or Powershot G1 (2048x1536) printed on my pretty low-end Epson C84 look very good. I don't have quite the same kind of gloss you'd get from a professional lab (Actually, they're much like a professional grade "matte finish"), but the image looks excellent. Plus, I get to control the de
    • by Kaa (21510)
      It's funny how an entire feature can be so insightful about digital cameras, and totally leave out suggestions about photo printers.

      Umm... and why should it discuss photo printers? A lot of people just bring their memory cards to Costco/some photo lab and get their 4x6s that way.

      Quality in prints now is limited to printer quality, not image resolution, if I am not mistaken.

      You are mistaken.

      Technically speaking it depends on the original image resolution, the size of the print, and the printing techno
  • Gah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Monday December 13, 2004 @01:55PM (#11073659) Homepage
    Meet today's nominee for the 2004 Worst Application of Flash Award.
  • DSLR Cameras: $1200 and up

    Point, shoot and wait cameras: $200-500

    • That's actually not a very good reason.

      I purchased a P&S camera for $500, and it didn't do what I needed it to do. So, did I save myself money by going with it? Nope. True value is carefully considering your needs and then purchasing the appropriate camera to meet those needs.

      Besides, you can *easily* get a Canon Digital Rebel for $700 these days (less if you get lenses with the stacking rebate). High-end P&S cameras are in that range, too. So, again, it's a matter of your wants and needs...

    • I'm not sure I even get the point of a digital SLR. With film, the main advantage of an SLR is the split optical path behind the single lens that lets you see through the viewfinder exactly what's exposing the film, regardless of what lens you're using. Digitals have LCD screens that show you exactly what's falling on the sensor, thereby accomplishing the same thing. Or does "SLR" now just mean "interchangeable lenses"?
      • Or does "SLR" now just mean "interchangeable lenses"?

        as far as I can tell, SLR is an excuse to really pump up the cost of a digital camera with expensive mechanical parts, so that people have to pay a lot just to get interchangable lenses.

        Or is the jiggle from mirror slap a "feature" these days?

        I guess people who have used analog cameras for years find it hard to squint through the LCD to line up their shot just so. (To be fair, even though you'd think that the LCD and the image taken would match, some
    • by nick_davison (217681) on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:48PM (#11074893)
      DSLRs are available from the $800s ($899 being pretty typical for a basic model with a basic lens) but, even as an owner of one, that's not the main reason I'd recommend for most people not to get one...

      They're Huge
      Most normal consumers want a digital camera so they can take it to parties, take it on holiday, etc. Even the 3/4 size DSLRs have physically large bodies and get even bigger when you add lenses. They're not the kind of thing you want to carry on a night out unless you're really serious.

      They're Heavy
      See They're Huge. Even if you don't mind the bulk, you probably don't want to carry the weight of one everywhere you go.

      You Can't "Sneak Them In"
      That tiny little DSC-T1 will get passed all but the most determined concert security. There's no way you'll get a DSLR with lenses and flash past them.

      They're Complicated
      Command line is far more useful than a windowed file manager for geeks. For everyone else, it just adds far too much confusion. They want to point, press a button, get a picture. Maybe some other features would be nice but they don't want their grandmother to be intimidated when they ask her to quickly take a family picture.

      They Don't Have Previews On The LCD
      As the mirror's down to let you look through the view finder, the sensor isn't capturing anything until you press the release. As a result, you don't get live previews on the LCD. This makes holding it up in the air and getting a shot over a crowd way harder than when you can preview that screen. Sure, a serious photographer would never use an LCD for quality reasons - but a typical consumer cares far less about that than the convenience.

      No Movie Mode
      As the mirror can either send the image to the view finder OR the sensor, if it tried to shoot a movie it'd leave a black viewfinder. Sure, the quality sucks but people still like to be able to email a 30 second clip of wishing grandma a happy christmas.

      No Gimmick Features
      Why does technology advance? Because the common man can use it for porn. Sony's DSC-V1 is a little camera that lets you take shots in absolute darkness, without flash - perfect for your home porn movies. The movie features mentioned above are just the same. All of those gimmicks are essential to the common man.

      Porn Excuse Number 2
      Slipping out your little compact with your date might be a little cheeky and adventurous. Pulling out your DSLR, changing lenses, setting up the tripod and mounting your TTL flash is just plain creepy.

      DSLRs are amazing things. I can take images I could only dream of with my digital compact. But, for all that, they really aren't anywhere near as flexible for the average person who wants convenience [and the low price point] over spending hours obsessing over the perfect shot.

      Finally, as any photo journalism professor will tell you: The best camera you can ever own is the one you always have with you. Very few photojournalist had their DSLRs out when the planes went in to the twin towers. The tourist with his cheap and nasty video camera did. End result? The tourist got the shot. The best camera for you is the one you'll use the most. For most people, DSLRs are just too big, heavy and inconvenient to use that much while a tiny compact can go everywhere with them.
  • I've already bought a new camera just a few weeks ago for the Thanksgiving holiday. It's the Canon 75 - 3.2M - with a 512 CF card. I can take the highest resolution and have room for 300+ pics, and that's more than what I need. I would suggest going with 3.2M unless you need to print larger than 8x10, anything higher is just for bragging rights. This Canon is all auto, but has a ton of options (via the dial on the top) to turn on/off diff auto aspects, so you can do allot manually if you want to. I lov
    • As a complete newbie to digital cameras a year ago, I bought an A70, mainly because it was still a cheap consumer cam, but looked to be about the only one with manual controls on almost everything.

      For me, for now, I don't need a SLR. I might want one, and surely within a couple of years I'll have one, but until then it's great to learn the basics on. If anyone had an inkling of taking up photography as a serious hobby, I'd recommend going for a cheapie with as many manual settings as you can get - unless y
    • It's the Canon 75 - 3.2M - with a 512 CF card

      Consumer Reports rates the Canon A75 very highly on it's 3MP list. I think it rates it second or third out of all 3MP camera's they tested.

    • by imroy (755) <imroykun@gmail.com> on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:10PM (#11074496) Homepage Journal
      I've handed down my old Olympus 460Z to my daughter (4 1/2 years old) to play with, and she's having a blast.

      I can imagine. I got my first camera when I was closer to 7 or 8 (9?). My brother and I each got a Kodak disc camera [wikipedia.org] for christmas. I used up most of my first two discs (15 exposures each!) just photographing my presents. I calmed down a bit after that :) They went into the closet after a few years because of the inconvenience of only 15 exposures and the trouble of getting new film. If there was anything important to photograph then we used my mums' much better 35mm compact. Now with the extreme convenience of digital photography, I can't imagine going back to such a world. Well, except for semi-serious photography [kievaholic.com].

      So what sort of things does a 4.5 y/o with a digicam photograph? How does she handle transferring the photos to a PC? And/or does she use the composite video out?

  • It looks like an attempt to view any page past the "Choose your resolution" screen results in a page containing an iframed advert, some Flash, and some JavaScript to see if you hava Flash.

    Users without Flash then get redirected to what appears to be intended to be an instruction to upgrade (I can't, and wouldn't if I could) which is actually a 404 error page.

    Does anyone have a mirror which doesn't depend on Flash?
  • may be the one you already own.

    I have the ubiquitous 1.3Mp, compact-flash, USB 1.0 model. I got it on sale a couple of years ago, and take pictures maybe two or three times a year, usually in a batch of 50 or so.

    Until someone can tell me why I should upgrade when my simple needs are already met, I'll stick with the devil I know.

    • Unless all your photos are landscape mode, you likely have to go through one by one and rotate appropriately. Many newer cameras have an orientation sensor that records EXIF info so that programs like jhead can automatically rotate them for you. This removed the biggest chore I used to do with my digital photos. Also, if you take group photos to enlarge more than 5x7" you'll notice that 1.3MP is not enough. I think 5MP is overkill, but 3 or 4 is good.
  • by erlkonig (15872) on Monday December 13, 2004 @01:58PM (#11073689) Homepage Journal
    The article asserts "Your eye has a lot of depth of field. Everything you see is sharp and in focus. the laws of physics make it impossible for a camera to do this".

    Well, actually most of what one sees is out of focus, since the eyes constantly adjust to favor a specific depth of field at any one time, leaving everything else fuzzy. If you compare this to an autofocussing camera, they are actually quite similar, and well within the "laws of physics". The future's flexible lenses will bring cameras even closer to the model used by the eyes.
    • yeah thats a silly assertion. The eye is a foveated optical device anyway, comparing it to a camera is difficult.
    • by jd142 (129673) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:22PM (#11073925) Homepage
      Brilliant. Because I was thinking the same thing. ;) The eye's depth of field is normally pretty small, at least for near object. A quick experiment will show you that for close object, the depth of field is about 3 inches.

      SLR's can also have a larger depth of field, it just depends on the aperature setting. And most SLR cameras have a Point and Shoot mode, at least at the hobbiest level.

      After seeing these mistakes, I also wondered about the statements that you don't see what you get when use the LCD viewer of an SLR. That doesn't make sense to me at all.
  • 3 words.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by filenabber (628550) on Monday December 13, 2004 @01:59PM (#11073703) Homepage Journal
    Worst flash ever. It's one thing to have useless flash on an artsy site, but to use flash like this on a site/page that should be informative is worse than annoying. I would have read the article if it were plain HTML, but after 15 seconds of the flash navigation, I left and won't be back.
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:00PM (#11073709) Homepage
    Okay, this was a fairly decent very basic primer about selecting a digital camera, and better than listening to a blueshirt at Best Buy...

    Basically, though, there are two types of camera users: Hobbyists and casual users.

    A hobbyist wants a DSLR and is willing to buy accessories and learn to use it. If you're not willing to do these things, you'll be disappointed. I'm one of these guys, and I'd suggest that people find a cheaper hobby. As a side note -- $900 for the dRebel? *After* rebate? Shop around a little, pal...

    Casual users are a little more involved, but it comes down to three things that are easy to answer once you get asked the questions:

    Megapixels: You almost certainly don't need more than 4.

    Zoom: Think carefully here. Most cameras are 3x zoom, but is that enough? Are you planning to take pictures at Disneyland or at, say, your kid's soccer game? At Disney for a posed shot, 3x zoom is enough. Otherwise, a 10x or 12x megazoom with IS might be worth spending money on.

    Size: Remember that the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it. What is easiest for you to carry around?

    Think that over, then go to www.dpreview.com and look at the test shots for the cameras that meet your specs. I usually end up recommending one of the Canon Sx00 series (S410, S500, etc) for a good balance of size and picture quality. I'd specifically stay away from the Minolta Z line myself (very disappointed with the Z3).

    And for the love of God, shop around! Don't buy at Best Buy unless you're ready to pay $100-$200 extra. Go on PriceGrabber.com and consider the retailers with good reviews -- I won't specifically mention those I've bought from in the past, but the retailer reviews are a good guide; don't go with someone poorly reviewed to save $20.

    • veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerry basic. funniest thing about it was though that their adserver was down. buahahahah.

      and besides.. the whole thing could have been "pocket vs. system cameras". no shit inexperienced photographers are in trouble with manual settings.
    • I'd specifically stay away from the Minolta Z line myself (very disappointed with the Z3)


      I just bought the Minolta Z2 and so far I'm quite happy with it... I saw review of the Z3 and they were not that good. However, the Z2 score fairly well in reviews. The Z2 has no image stabilization but so far it's not a problem (I've used the zoom at 10X only on well lit subjects).

    • by IronChef (164482) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:34PM (#11074060) Homepage
      A hobbyist wants a DSLR and is willing to buy accessories and learn to use it.

      By this definition a hobbyist also has much deeper pockets! Enthusiasts do pay a premium, but you don't need to go DSLR necessarily.

      I chose the Nikon CP 8800 (point-n-shoot) over the D70 or 20D because it's less than $800 (street) and has 10x zoom w/ IS. That is hundreds less than the D70.

      Sure, the D70 is, in most technical respects, a better camera, but to take complete advantage of its strengths you need to spend another grip of money on lenses. And then you need to carry the lenses around with you in a big heavy bag, or compromise and mount one lens for a trip.

      I know I am not the kind of guy who is interested in changing lenses all the time. I also know that I am not willing to spend a lot on new lenses, even if they are nice. Instead, I got a high-end point-n-shoot type camera, because it is cheaper and very flexible out of the box. I am willing to live with the lesser quality pictures. (though if you check the reviews and sample pics you will see it's still quite nice. good enough for this hobbyist, anyway.)

      With the money I saved on the camera I was able to get some high-quality support equipment, too: Bogen-Manfrotto 3021 Pro [adorama.com] tripod with a Kirk BH-3 [kirkphoto.com] ball head/quick release plate.

      other good links:

      KenRockwell.com [kenrockwell.com] -- lots of good info on Nikon DSLRs and lenses. Be warned though, this guy has a very heavy DSLR bias and thinks you are a chump for getting a "prosumer" camera. If you are a pro, you probably are. If you are a hobbyist, maybe not, depending on your needs and budget. (If you only have about $1000 to spend and you want 10x zoom, you ain't getting a DSLR.)

      DPReview.com [dpreview.com] -- Good reviews. Active forums, though they are mostly full of 1) whining and 2) pictures of cats.

      Butterfly Photo [butterflyphoto.com] -- Good prices and a real manufacturer's warranty. Be warned, they WILL call to upsell you accessories before they finalize your web order, but if you don't want any they do ship the camera: it's not a NYC bait & switch.
  • by loteck (533317) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:00PM (#11073712) Homepage
    Aw, damnit.
  • If you want to take pictures of your family at the holidays and keep memories of your vactation to Disney World, you get a standard digital camera. If you are a more serious photographer interested in artistry, you buy an SLR.
    • If you are a more serious photographer interested in artistry, you buy an SLR

      Not necessarily. Other artistic photography options include: Medium Format, Large Format, and Pinhole.

      For the uber-artist with hacker tendencies, Pinhole Photography is the technique of choice, since you can build your own camera to whatever specification your mind fancies, and process your negatives and prints in the discomfort of your own darkroomized closet.
  • Argh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Xentax (201517) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:02PM (#11073732)
    That's all great information...but what about some advice for the budget segment? I want to buy someone a digital camera for Xmas but I don't want to spend more than $200.

    To me, this segment is the MOST likely to have a wide range of quality for the price point. Does anyone have advice here as to makes or models in the $200 or less price range? "Don't bother for less than $X" is also valid advice if you can back it up, of course...

    Xentax
  • Hate to be an annoyance:

    I don't understand why cameras with big sensors need to be SLR. Are there professional grade cameras with interchangable lenses that don't depend on the optical viewfinder?

    Are there semi-compact digital cameras with high quality lenses and big sensors?

    Why does every digital camera have a crappy motor-driven zoom? Aren't there others out there that would prefer a normal (no-zoom) lens? Isn't a motor-driven zoom totally useless?

    Are there decent digital cameras with decent macro len
    • And by professional grade, I mean not professional grade. Pro-am, hobbiest, whatever. I guess the pros use medium format digital backs or whatever.
    • I don't understand why cameras with big sensors need to be SLR. Are there professional grade cameras with interchangable lenses that don't depend on the optical viewfinder?

      Short answer: They don't, technically. Epson just came out with a digital rangefinder with an APS sized sensor (like most DSLR's have).

      Long answer: The reason you don't want to use an LCD screen on a DSLR for most things is for creative control. Try manually focusing... with the current displays, this is very difficult because ev

  • I just got a D70... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr Reducto (665121) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:06PM (#11073780) Journal
    I just got a D70, and am extremely happy. I already had a nice lens (Nikkor 24-120G VR AF-S Lens) and flash, so it was a no brainer. After selling my old body, it was about $500 to upgrade, and considering how much I spend on film and developing, I saved money.

    Some Advantages of Digital for me (I shoot Concerts):
    -ISO 1600 is very usable, enabling VERY low light pics like this [umbc.edu] one.
    -Auto White Balance (or simply the ability to change it) alows me to go from outside to inside to inside w/flourescent lights
    -I can carry the equivalent of 4 rolls of film on a 1GB CF card, which is more than enough most of the time.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:15PM (#11073867) Homepage Journal
    Is the perfect one. At least that's what he tells me.
  • ...win for me every time. Flash cards are too costly by comparison. USB is too slow. Mini CD-R/RW is the perfect medium for digital photography. Check out my latest JE for my "Ask Slashdot JE" entry regarding digital photo management.
  • Doesn't anyone realize the humor in an article about cameras totally done in Flash? It's like an ethereal pun!
  • The guide to your perfect website design.

    Don't use flash for text.
  • The biggest problem I have with my Kodak digital camera (and even some of the nice Canon ones) is the large amount of redeye that is introduced into pictures.

    Are there any cameras that take 1 sec to take a picture with flash and have eliminated red eye?
  • The main thing to focus on when buying a digital SLR isn't the cost of the camera itself but the lenses.

    The camera itself will set you back around $1000, and if you're particularly lucky you'll get a lens in your package, as with the Canon digital rebel kit.

    However, unless you already own lenses from your traditional camera days (AND they have the right mount! Canon mounts usually require Canon lenses!), you better be prepared through the nose for a lens that's equivalent to the the 10x (35-350mm)optic

  • by MROD (101561) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:22PM (#11073933) Homepage
    I got a little way through this piece and came across a gross error which, for me, made the rest of the article of very dubious worth.

    One of the reasons extolled at length for choosing one type against abother is that a DSLR has a narrow depth of field and a "standard" digital camera has a greater depth. As anyone who knows about photography would know this is total tosh.

    The depth of field depends upon the aperture of the iris. A small aperture acts rather like a pinhole camera and hence will give a great depth of field. A large aperture relys upon the lens for focus and hence depends greatly on the focal length of the lens system giving critical focus and a very narrow depth of field.

    Cheap "standard" digital cameras will usually have a small lens and small (fixed?) aperture hence a large depth of field. More expensive "standard" digital cameras are more sophisticated and allow the user to change the aperture and have a larger lens, so they can have a narrow depth of field.

    Digital SLRs are totally dependant upon the lens system. However, because they have a variable iris within the lens systems they can have either a very wide depth of field (if they're stopped right down) or a very narrow depth of field (iris wide open). Both the end points of these will depend entirely on the characteristics of the lens systems.

    How many people would accept an article which said that you shouldn't buy a 35mm SLR because you only get a narrow depth of field?
    • The depth of field depends upon the aperture of the iris

      This is true but depth of field depends also on the focal length and magnification (which is related to the sensor size). The large magnification means that the lens "circle of confusion" should be smaller.

      Try any "depth of field calculator", e.g. here [dofmaster.com] and you will see that on Canon A75 at 16.2 mm telephoto (which has the same filed of view as 105mm 35mm lens) the total depth of field for an object 3m apart at f/5.6 is 2.15m

      In contrast for Can

    • One of the reasons extolled at length for choosing one type against abother is that a DSLR has a narrow depth of field and a "standard" digital camera has a greater depth. As anyone who knows about photography would know this is total tosh.

      No it's not.

      DOF is not only dependent of the aperture, but also on actual focal length and how large your circle of confusion is.

      While the smaller circle of confusion on compact digcams reduce the net DOF, the biggest difference is due to the very short focal lenghts
    • The depth of field depends upon the F stop (absolute aperture divided by focal length) and the magnification of the image on the sensor/film, to be more precise. The aperture (F-stop) is also a measure of how bright the lens is -- a factor of 2 larger F-stop (F/4 vs. F/2) means 1/4 as much as light.

      Cheap digital cameras frequently have remarkably bright lenses -- f/2.8 is very common. The depth of field is quite large because the magnification of the image on the sensor is very low, because the sensor is
  • by gelfling (6534) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:22PM (#11073937) Homepage Journal
    That seems steep. Maybe this article is designed for the semiprofessional photographer who carries more than one camera around? That way the discussion about weight and bulk sounds more relevant. I mean if you're going to spend $1000 on a digital camera you may already be familiar with Digital Hasselblads.
  • by jstave (734089) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:23PM (#11073941)
    Another really good resource for selecting and learning about digital cameras can be found at imaging-resource.com [imaging-resource.com].

    It has quite detailed reviews of pretty much every digital camera out there as well as sample images (there are even pages that allow you to compare images of the same thing taken by different cameras) and discussion forums.

    I found it particularly useful when I was picking out my camera.
  • by bs_02_06_02 (670476) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:26PM (#11073978)

    People will spend $900 to $1500 on a digital SLR, then spend $130 on a "consumer" zoom lens, and find that the images produced are not very good.

    There are 2 reasons for this:
    The "average" lens is really good at "average" conditions.
    Few people realize how much "post-processing" is done "in-camera" with a point & shoot. With a DSLR, most of it is taken care of afterwards in software, Photoshop, Capture1, or some other software. Sure, you can set a DSLR to do sharpening, saturation, contrast, and a few others in-camera... but letting the camera decide defeats part of the purpose of having almost infinite control that a DSLR offers.

    There are a lot of things to learn with a DSLR. Consumer-grade lenses are not going to be much help in adverse conditions. Yet, many people bought a DSLR for just that reason. They don't understand that a great lens is 50% of the deal.
    Trying to take wedding pictures in a dimly lit church with a $130 zoom lens ins't going to cut it. Wait til the bride finds out that Uncle Ted and his new toy didn't get any "dreamy" shots of the wedding. He got a bunch of dark, gloomy junk! Suddenly, the $3000 she saved on a pro wedding photographer doesn't seem like such a bargain.

    Low light means you need better lenses. Fast action indoors (basketball, volleyball, etc) means you need something better than that $130 75-300 f4-5.6. You can do ok, probably better than the average point and shoot, but it takes some skill, and it takes time to learn how to handle the equipment, and most people don't have the patience. They just want a point and shoot that will do it for them. For those willing to learn, it's worth it.
  • Compromise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cowbutt (21077) on Monday December 13, 2004 @02:53PM (#11074316) Journal
    The digicams on my shortlist back in april were:

    Fuji S602Z

    Fuji S7000

    Fuji S5000

    Olympus C-750UZ

    Kodak 6490

    I went for the C-750. The S602 was good, but bulky and, I felt, rather conspicuous for inner-city photography. The S7000 was also good, but was similarly bulky and cost more. The S5000 was also bulky, but cheaper, and with a zoom that matched the C-750, but had rather over-aggressive JPEG compression, forcing one to use RAW mode and post-process more extensively than might otherwise be the case. I'll confess to not examining the 6490 as closely as perhaps I should have, but I gather it is rather more limited in terms of manual controls and also uses a proprietary Li-Ion battery.

    The C-750 was the right choice for me, for now. I might well be shopping around for a D- or film SLR in a couple of years, once I've improved my technique with the C-750. But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:03PM (#11074412) Journal
    Gotta have an SLR with the ability to put on different lenses, like a macro/micro lens so I can take creepy close-up pictures of bugs and other visions of the microcosmos [amazon.com]. I also want to attach one to a telescope.

    And that X-Ray Spec lens that removes the clothing from every person of whom you take a picture. It's polarized so it will only remove women's clothing, but if you are so inclined, rotate it 90 degrees and it will remove men's clothing, but the women will all look like busty Dark Elves, so not a complete loss.

    I might have dreamt that second lens.

  • My experience (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joshv (13017) on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:23PM (#11074617)
    I recently bought a Canon 20D. Although I am very happy with the purchase, I have to admit that in most situations my old Canon G3 produces photos that look just as good. Granted the 20D's shots will always have twice as many pixel, but 95% of the time they are not needed.

    The one place where the 20D and other DSLRs excel is that their much larger sensor allow for very low noise, even at very high ISO settings. But again, 95% of the time you are never going to notice the difference, and programs like Neat Image and Grain Surgery do an amazing job in situations where there noise is noticable.

    Another problem with DSLRs is that good lenses are very very expensive. Even in DSLR bundles, the lens that comes with the camera is not likely to be as versatile as the built-in lens of a good 'pro-sumer' camera like the G3. Granted, DSLR lenses are probably much higher quality than the built-ins, but again, it's quality that you don't notice most of the time. So you will end up spending extra money for a wide-angle and a zoom lens, and these things are not cheap.

    I guess the moral to the story is, that unless you really know what you are doing, and know you want to explore that 5% of photography where the DSLR excels, you are better off with a good pro-sumer model.
  • Dust in the Wind (Score:3, Interesting)

    by buckeyeguy (525140) on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:27PM (#11074653) Homepage Journal
    DSLR users, raise your hands if you've had problems with keeping dust off of the CCD. This seems to be a significant bugaboo among online reviews of these cameras, and before I buy one, I'd like to know how big a problem it really is.

    I have two P&S digitals, neither of which work. One is on a slow boat back to its maker for warranty repairs. Thus, I'm looking at alternatives.

  • by tdrury (49462) on Monday December 13, 2004 @03:40PM (#11074794) Homepage
    Two parameters on digital cameras that are never mentioned:

    burst - the time from when you press the button to when the picture is actually taken, and
    speed - the time it takes to store the picture to the memory device

    I have not used many digital cameras, but the (low budget) ones I have used are terrible at both of these. I never seem to capture the fleeting smile of my kids because of the 250-500 ms burst delay and I have to wait 2 seconds or so (longer when the batteries are low) for the picture to save before I can try again.

    I'd rather use my 35mm SLR, but I love the instant-review and capacity of a digital.
  • by $criptah (467422) on Monday December 13, 2004 @04:16PM (#11075231) Homepage

    I have been doing photography since I was 12 years old. By "photography" I mean that I actually go take pictures, develop film and do my own prints. Recently it has been hard to do so due to do so because I haven't seen one bedroom apartments with dark rooms. Therefore, I decided to get a digital SLR instead. After months of investigation, I decided to go with Nikon D70.

    Digital SLRs are not created equal. If you are into new things, take a look at cameras with 4:3 ration (Olympus E1 and Evolot). They have an ability to dust off the sensor before taking every shot, thus pics stay dust free. If you want to get a pro-sumer DSLR, take a look at Nikon D70 and Canon (although I recommend Nikon better due to its low noise). Why spend all $$$ on these cameras if you can find a point-and-shoot for cheaper? Here are my pointers:

    Lenses.You are not creaing pictures with a camera. You create pictures with a lens. If you can exchange lenses, you give yourself more flexibility. This is a must if you want to take pictures of animals, close up shots, wide-angle shots, etc.

    Color. Digital SLRs tend to have larger sensors with larger photosites. When you take pictures, you work with light and it is essential that you get enough light in order to process it correctly. Larger photosites do a better job, hence they have less noise. If you take a look at pictures produced by standard digital SLRS (based on 35mm cameras) vs. pictrures made by Olympus cameras that implement 4:3 technology (the latter have smaller sensors) you will see the difference.

    No LCD monitor. Despite whatever you may think, this is a plus. First of all, your camera does not suck batteries for what you can actually see through a lens, secondly, your view is unaltered. You see colors and objects as they appear.

    Depth of field. This one gets me everytime somebody says that DSLRs lack depth of field. In fact, if you have more than two brain cells, you will be able to vary the depth of field by adjusting your shutter speed and aperture. Most of cameras come with a "depth of field preview" button that will let you judge the picture that is going to be recorded.

    There are several things that you must remember about digital SLRs (and digital cameras in general):

    Run away from any person who tries to sell you a more expensive camera by saying "Well, it has more megapixels." Megapixel is a number that is related to the area of the sensor in terms of the number of pixels. Thus, a small linear enlargement (like adding a few megapixels to the horizontal side of the sensor) will affect the number. If a sales person tells you that a 6MP camera will give you much larger prints than a 5MP camera at the same sharpness, slap them in the face: the difference in size will be rather small. In order to increase the size of the print by 2, you'll have to increase the megapixel count by 4 in order to maintain the same image quality.

    There are two different types of censors. CMOS and CCD. CMOS sensors are smaller than CCD. It appears (from my tests) that cameras with CCDs produce less noise; however, CMOS will soon improve. CCD technology is rather old. You can learn more about it by googling :)

    Flash-sync speeds are really important for fill-in flashes. Typically, you want somethin above 1/250 in a pro-sumer camera. If you have no idea what a fill-in technique is, you'll learn it once you start taking pics during nice sunny weather.

    Dust on sensors is pain in the rear. I have a lense that I use primary with my D70; thus, I haven't experienced it yet. You can clean it off yourself or take it to a shop. If you are concerned, take a look at Olympus cameras. E1 and Evolt use ultra-sound to take dust off the sensor before taking a shot.

    Night photography sucks.... Yes. You heard me right. With a film camera, this is a pretty easy due to the lack of noise and purple frinding. With digital SLRs it requires more training, but can be done. I do not like high

  • by podperson (592944) on Monday December 13, 2004 @05:40PM (#11076041) Homepage
    The article's discussion of current benefits and limitations of digital SLRs vs. non-SLRs is accurate in the situation it depicts but hopelessly inaccurate in explaining the reasons.

    The reason you can't reduce depth of field with most non-SLR cameras is that they have cheaply designed lenses that won't open up to large apertures. It would actually be both technically easy and (compared to SLRs) cheap to provide fast lenses which offered low depth of field creative options on non-SLR digital cameras, but the market doesn't seem to want them. Indeed, the 35mm SLR market was already moving to zoom lenses incapable of large apertures (and with commensurately poor low light performance) before digital cameras became competitive.

    Two features of digital SLRs are simply legacy.

    1) Interchangeable lenses. There remains a significant demand for cameras that can use the lenses originally developed for 35mm photography. There's no reason why cheaper lenses can be developed for smaller format digital cameras. Sony has started offering this option with its DSC-V and DSC-W cameras. You get Carl Zeiss lenses for far less than comparable 35mm lenses, but the camera CCDs so far cannot compete with the larger CCDs in the Canon and Nikon SLRs.

    2) No digital preview. This seems to me a horrible and unnecessary flaw in digital SLRs. With a good non-SLR camera I can preview motion blur in my photographs and manually adjust exposure settings for time exposures while seeing the results in real time.

    At the moment, we seem to be able to produce nicer CCDs at slightly larger sizes. Thus you can get better pictures from a 6.3MP Digital Rebel than from an 8MP Sony DSC-V3. By the same token if Hasselblad were to produce an even larger format digitial camera it would quite possibly be better still (and cost $100,000). In the end, I suspect the market will create smaller format digital cameras that offer all the benefits anyone much cares about at prices substantially lower than the Digital Rebel et al.

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