Just about every Australian household owns a digital still camera; some even have two or three. Sadly, because imaging technology changes rapidly, yesterday’s pride-and-joy is likely to be superseded by a new model with higher resolution and more features before the old camera is past its ø¢â‚¬Ëœuse-by’ date. Consequently, many readers will likely be looking for advice to help them choose their next digital camera.


Just about every Australian household owns a digital still camera; some even have two or three. Sadly, because imaging technology changes rapidly, yesterday’s pride-and-joy is likely to be superseded by a new model with higher resolution and more features before the old camera is past its ‘use-by’ date. Consequently, many readers will likely be looking for advice to help them choose their next digital camera.
Shopping for a digital camera is complicated by two factors: there are many different camera types and new models are released with alarming frequency. Fortunately, once you’ve chosen a camera that meets your needs, you can largely ignore the market for a couple of years because the new models will often differ very little from the cameras they replace. There may be a slight increase in the megapixel count (which can be more of a disadvantage than an advantage) or some minor cosmetic restyling. But there’s seldom much more.
If you are looking to upgrade your camera’s capabilities you will face two main challenges: how far to upgrade and how much to spend. These questions can only be answered when you can pinpoint precisely what type of camera you want. Check out “What Kind of Photographer Are You?” below to see where your photographic interests lie.

What Kind of Photographer Are You?
The best way to find out which cameras will suit you is to match the abilities and interests of the camera user to the camera type.

Point-and-shoot photographers are mainly interested in the end result and don’t want to fiddle around with lots of complex controls. They will feel most comfortable with Compact and Slimline digicams but can also consider an entry-level DSLR camera and shoot with the fully-automatic mode.

Intermediate level photographers require the reassurance of point-and-shoot simplicity but would like to be able to use some more complex controls. Photographers in this group could benefit from additional manual controls that will allow them to learn as they shoot. All types of cameras will suit this group of photographers but Advanced digicams and entry-level DSLRs will provide the best starting point for learning more about photography.

Photo enthusiasts usually have a good understanding of how cameras work and prefer to take full control over all camera functions. This group is more likely to be attracted to DSLR models if they want the best image quality. They will also be attracted to Advanced digicams when looking for a compact ‘walk-around’ camera for everyday photography.
Camera Types
Photo Review classifies digital still cameras into four types: Advanced, Compact, Slimline and DSLR. Each type has distinct characteristics that will suit particular types of photographers.
Advanced digicams provide a full range of shooting modes, starting with the standard Program auto exposure (P), Aperture-priority auto exposure (A), Shutter-priority auto exposure (S) and Manual (M) shooting modes that are found on professional cameras and adding a fully-automatic (Auto) shooting mode plus a range of pre-set Scene modes and other controls for point-and-shoot picture-taking.


Advanced digicams can appeal to travellers because they offer a full range of adjustable controls – and, often, long zoom lenses in a compact, lightweight camera body.
The P, A, S and M modes allow photographers to adjust the camera’s lens aperture and shutter speed settings. This enables them to control which areas of the captured image appear sharp and whether to shoot a moving subject with controlled blurring (to suggest motion) or to ‘freeze’ the subject at the peak of the movement.

Cameras of this type will suit photo enthusiasts and anyone who would like to explore – and learn about – different camera settings. They can also be used by point-and press snapshooters who require some of the features they provide, such as ultra-long zoom lenses.
Compact digicams may have one or two of the P, A, S and M modes – but not all of them. However, they usually provide a good range of pre-set Scene modes and may also have relatively long-range zoom lenses. The main difference between Compact and Slimline cameras is that the latter are pocketable while the former aren’t.


Compact digicams are too large for a shirt pocket but usually smaller than Advanced digicams, because they don’t offer as many manual controls.
Slimline digicams are designed to be slim enough to slip into a shirt pocket. Most only offer two shooting modes for still shots: fully automatic (which drastically restricts the range of adjustable camera settings) and ‘camera manual’ (which allows users to control sensitivity, white balance and focusing and exposure metering patterns). The so-called ‘tough’ waterproof models are mostly in this category.


Slimline digicams are popular because they are small enough to fit in a pocket or purse and offer point-and-press shooting simplicity.

Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are the only ones with interchangeable lenses. Designed for photo enthusiasts and professional photographers, they offer a full range of adjustable controls (including P, A, S and M modes) and faster autofocusing systems than digicams. Larger sensors ensure higher image quality from DSLRs than the other camera types, regardless of how many megapixels they have.


DSLR cameras appeal to serious photo enthusiasts – and anybody who cares about the quality of their digital photos and wants a full range of adjustable controls plus interchangeable lenses.

Three sensor sizes are found in DSLR cameras. Professional cameras have sensors the same size as a 35mm film frame: 36 x 24 mm. Most DSLRs have what is known as ‘ASP-C sized’ sensors, which typically measure approximately 23.7 x 15.7 mm. The remaining DSLRs have ‘Four Thirds System’ sensors that measure 18 x 13.5 mm.
Camera-phones are being used increasingly for casual picture-taking. However, their sensors are generally smaller than those in even the smallest digicam and they provide very few adjustments to enable photographers to match camera settings to shooting conditions.


Camera-phones are great for casual snapshots but seldom produce the highest-quality digital photos.

Quick Tip: Don’t buy a camera that doesn’t feel comfortable in your hands. If it’s not comfortable you won’t want to use it.
How Many Megapixels?
How many megapixels do you need in a digital camera? It depends on how you plan to use your digital photos. Two megapixels is more than enough for images that will be viewed online and 2.5-megapixel cameras will provide images with enough resolution to make good snapshotsized (6 x 4 inch) prints. The table below relates the output size required for high-quality photo prints to sensor megapixel counts. For smaller print sizes an output resolution of 300 dots/inch is required. Note: Photo-quality prints of A4 size and larger can be made with lower output resolutions because viewing distances are greater, which means they’re not subjected to close inspection.

Sensor Resolution (megapixels)

Typical Image Resolution (pixels)

Maximum Print Size


Practical Output Size


1800 x 1200

6 x 4 inch

300 dpi

Snapshot prints


2272 x 1704

7.6 x 5.7 inch

300 dpi

‘Jumbo’ snapshot prints


2592 x 1944

8.6 x 6.5 inch

300 dpi

8 x 6 inch enlargements


3072 x 2304

10.2 x 7.7 inch

300 dpi

A4 sized prints


3264 x 2448

13.6 x 10.2 inch

240 dpi

A4 sized prints


3648 x 2736

18.2 x 13.7 inch

200 dpi

A3 sized prints


4000 x 3000

20 x 15 inch

200 dpi

A3+ sized prints


4416 x 3312

22.1 x 16.6 inch

200 dpi

A2 sized prints


5616 x 3744

31.2 x 20.8 inch

180 dpi

A1 sized prints

Despite camera manufacturers’ focus on increasing the megapixel counts of digicams, there’s little point in paying extra for resolution you will never use. Although having more megapixels will provide scope for cropping your photos and making larger prints, on the small image sensors used in digicams, they can have some disadvantages because they mean smaller light capturing elements.
The most significant is increased image noise (which shows up as speckling and graininess in photos) as you increase the camera’s sensitivity (ISO). Smaller photosites often fail to collect enough information from the brightest and darkest parts of subjects. This reduces the sensor’s dynamic range and leads to washed out highlights and black shadows with no detail in either.
Larger images occupy more storage space on memory cards, hard drives and Web servers. Cameras also need more powerful image processors to handle them.

Quick Tip: When choosing a camera it’s better to concentrate on features, lens quality, autofocusing and continuous shooting performance than how many megapixels it offers.

The better the match between your requirements and what the camera provides, the more you will be satisfied by your digital camera – and the more (and better) pictures you will take.

Essential Accessories
1. Batteries: All digital cameras require batteries and come with one or more batteries – either rechargeable or non-rechargeable – to get you started. Rechargeable batteries are cost-effective but require a couple of hours to charge up so when you’re travelling, it’s a good idea to have a spare battery you can charge up for use when the one in the camera is depleted.

Cameras that use AA or AAA batteries can also operate with rechargeable batteries but have the convenience of using readily-available alkaline or lithium (for longer life) cells. Buying a charger and two sets of rechargeable NiMH batteries will save you money in the long term if you have a camera that accepts AA or AA batteries.

2: Memory Cards: Although many digicams have internal memory storage, all models have expansion slots for higher-capacity memory cards and will accept one of three types: SD/SDHC, Memory Stick (MS) or xD-Picture Card. Some DSLRs (mostly entry-level models) use SD/SDHC cards, while others use CompactFlash (CF). A few have dual card slots that accept either CF and SD/SDHC, CF and MS or CF and xD-Picture Card. Almost all memory Stick cameras use the smaller Memory Stick Duo cards.


Quick Tip: It’s wise to purchase at least one high-capacity (1GB, 2GB or 4GB) memory card when you buy a digital camera because it gives you the freedom to take lots of pictures without running out of storage space.
Look for at least 2GB capacity if you enjoy shooting video clips with your digital camera. Video consumes memory very quickly, particularly at high resolution. Travellers should purchase additional cards – or consider a portable storage device – to enable then to keep all the pictures taken on each trip.
3: Lenses: DSLR buyers should think about which lenses they require when considering a camera purchase. Most entry-level models are offered with one or two lenses covering popular zoom ranges (typically moderate wide-angle to short zoom for general photography and a long zoom for sports and wildlife photography). Additional lenses are available to meet specific requirements.


A selection of interchangeable lenses for digital SLR cameras.
Add-on lenses are available for some Advanced and Compact digicams to extend the range of the camera’s fitted lens. As they add both bulk and weight and tend to compromise optical performance, it’s better to start with a camera that covers the range of shots you want to take.

4. Filters: The lenses on some Advanced digicams and all DSLR cameras are threaded to allow screw-on filters to be fitted. Polarisers are the most popular choices because they give photographers control over reflective surfaces and can make clouds stand out against blue skies. Effects filters like star bursts, colour graduations and soft focus filters are also available.

5: Flash units: Although most cameras have built-in flash units, Advanced digicams and most DSLR cameras have hot shoes that accept add-on flash units. These can be useful when more powerful flash light is required and when the photographer wishes to shoot studio portraits with multiple lights.

6: Waterproof housings are available for many digital cameras and offer varying levels of underwater protection, ranging from one metre to 40 metres or more. Some camera manufacturers offer special housing for particular models and there are specialist manufacturers like Fantasea and Ikelite who cater for several brands.


Waterproof housings let you use your digital camera for underwater photography.
7: Other Accessories: Some cameras can be operated with remote controllers, either wireless or connected to the camera by a cable. With a digicam, these can be convenient for triggering the shutter when you want to be included in a group shot; for a DSLR they enable very long exposures to be made at night to shoot star trails. GPS receivers can also be connected to some cameras for ‘geotagging’ images by recording location data in the image file. This makes it easy to track journeys and locate where each shot was taken. Bluetooth connections are also available for wireless printing from some cameras and all cameras support direct printing via supplied USB cables.
The following websites provide additional information on the topics covered in this chapter.
www.photoreview.com.au/tips/buying/where-to-buy-adigital-camera.aspx for advice on buying a digital camera.
www.photoreview.com.au/tips/buying/busting-themegapixel-myth.aspx for information on the relevance of a camera’s megapixel count.
www.normankoren.com/digital_cameras.html has useful explanations of digital camera technologies.
This is an exert from Mastering Digital Photography Pocket Guide 2nd Edition.
Click here for more details on this and other titles in the Pocket Guide series.


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