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About Digital Photography

By the end of 2000, revenues from sales of digital cameras were expected to exceed those of their film cousins by almost ten percent– an historical turning point. As singer Stephen Stills once put it: "There's somethin' happening here."

It’s a very big "happening," too. A good digital camera, coupled with a quality ink-jet printer, can now produce photos that look as good or better than those shot with a traditional film camera. And with the right combination of paper and ink they’ll remain fade-proof longer– up to 200 years. Now that’s archival!

There’s no film or processing required (all digicams use minuscule removable memory cards to store their images) so digital photography is not only inexpensive, it’s clean and green. Many digicams also offer extra features like burst (fast sequence) modes, direct printing (no computer required), 360-degree panorama shooting, time lapse photography, movie and sound recording, and the ability to strut their stuff on a large TV screen– perfect for giving slide-show-style presentations.

But perhaps the most compelling reason to buy a digital camera is that it will make you a better photographer. It’s amazing how quickly your creativity will blossom when you can take shot after shot without worrying about the cost. And since your digicam’s electronics will automatically balance different color qualities of light, there’s never a problem about using the wrong type of film. Best of all, educational studies have shown that instant feedback accelerates learning; if you can recognize and correct a bad shot at the time you take it, chances are you won’t make the same mistake again.

How Digicams Work 

Unlike conventional cameras that require film to record pictures, a digicam’s imaging surface is made up of rows of tiny sensors that capture color and light information which is then electrically converted into digital data– pixels (from the words picture elements) that form a photograph. The total sensor array of most digicams is called a charge-coupled device (CCD).

The more sensors that can be packed onto the CCD’s surface, the higher the resolution will be– resulting in a final image with a high pixel count and finer detail. Think of low and high resolution as gravel compared to sand; one’s course, the other’s fine. A digicam that captures an image consisting of 640 horizontal by 480 vertical pixels, is said to have a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels or 307,200 pixels (arrived at by multiplying the two dimensions). Once you reach a million pixels, you’re in the MegaPixel (MP) range.

When choosing the right digicam for your needs, resolution is an important consideration because to get large images that equal conventional photo print quality, you must start with enough pixels so your image remains smooth without disintegrating and becoming jagged-edged. You don’t want to begin to see individual pixels. If you’re a film photographer, it’s like blowing an image up to a point where grain becomes noticeable– not something you usually want to do unless it’s for a special effect.


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