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Digital Cameras - the Digital Pocket Camera

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Digital Cameras
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What are Digital Pocket Cameras? They are simple single-lens cameras. They are fun and easy to use with simple controls and with automatic focus and exposure - just point and shoot. However the lens is not interchangeable and many do not have a motorised or manual zoom lens1, but there is normally a good digital zoom of some sort enabling the camera to cope with a huge variety of photographic situations, ranging from a wide angle to a good medium telephoto. Many do not even provide you with a viewfinder. If they do it's a supplementary viewing lens that gives you an idea of your composition. However the image is usually displayed on the screen on the back of the camera. The features generally give the user a good scope at a very reasonable price.

The operation is very simple: the lens simply projects the image on to the camera's sensor. The digital zoom or any effect set by the user is applied by the camera's electronics, and the picture is created by a click of the shutter.

The problem with this type of system is that the photographer who is unable to see a true image in the viewfinder has to take care when composing the image. A proper lens-eye view is only possible by viewing the rear screen, which does provide a very good view of the subject. There are two problems though. The first is in bright sunlight you will find it very difficult to see the image on the screen at all. The second is the reverse - at night the very bright screen will often dazzle you and you cannot see the subject.

Useful tip - if you have experienced problems at night and can see with both eyes, try this simple remedy: focus and compose the shot on the screen with one eye closed. Then you can open both eyes and the other one will be night adjusted and able to see the subject.

There is no array of lenses and accessories or attachments that are available to the user of more complex and expensive cameras. However, a good case is essential as a Digital Pocket Camera will receive rougher treatment than its larger and more expensive cousins, as it can be carried in pockets and purses, or pushed in glove boxes of cars and endure all sorts of other inappropriate treatment. The case will prolong its life and keep the dust off. Use the strap that comes with the camera, as they are very easy to drop. A mini tripod may also be useful.

The Digital Pocket Camera is capable of producing superb results, as it normally has a very good imaging sensor similar to the more expensive and complex cameras - it is the lens quality that is most important. Most are good, and the more you spend the better they get, but consider their limitations before you buy2.

The sheer variety of Digital Pocket Cameras is bewildering but quality comes at a price and the best can approach the price of a good used SLR camera, so that is something you should consider before you buy. Don't despair - there are used bargains are out there. If you go for a pre-owned camera, remember that cameras are usually pampered possessions so a used one is normally in excellent condition. It is advisable to buy from an established used camera dealer so that you will get a warranty.

Good Points

Wherever you go Digital Pocket Cameras can always be with you.

They are a fantastic device to create a pictorial diary. Discreet and robust, they are an ideal first camera for older children to carry safely. Brilliant for hikers, cyclists and motorcyclists due to their ease of use and compact nature.

Many of the better Digital Pocket Cameras are commonly programmed with some basic photographic filter modes and techniques such as the capability to create black-and-white images.

As they are so easy to use they could easily encourage lazy photography: taking photos of everything you see with little thought of the results. That is not a problem as with a little care a novice can achieve good results from the start. A talented photographer can get some excellent results. But as with all cameras remember to try and 'see' the photograph in your mind's eye before you pick up the camera. All this means you will get good results and not find yourself rapidly outgrowing this type of camera.

Quirks

Some have video capability. This a mixed blessing as the results are often poor. Things like using a tripod help filming and preventing blurred and unstable images.

Even small memory cards now can hold over 500+ images - this freedom can encourage creative experimentation, and that will inevitably improve you as a photographer. Regular downloading and editing is advised to keep track of your work.

Getting prints produced can be expensive, but at least you don't have to print every image to see your results. If you take a lot of photographs it is an idea to invest in a decent home printer.

Before you purchase a Digital Pocket Camera make sure it will do all you need it to. A point to consider is that despite the extra cost the benefits a basic bridge camera offers may make it worth considering.

So you have a decision to make - a Digital Pocket Camera or a Bridge Camera. The general image quality of both is very similar, unless you buy a cheap Digital Pocket Camera. However, a Bridge Camera will allow you extra creative control over your photographs. This is achieved by the ability to set both the shutter speed and the aperture to create the image you want. In addition to the extra zoom capability these cameras offer, those features can be very useful. Finally the ability to use extras such as photographic filters will open up a whole new world of creative options. On the other hand, a Digital Pocket Camera is easy to carry and ideal for travelling light, especially for active users such as walkers, hikers, cyclists or riders of motorcycles and horses. Basically any activity where a lightweight camera is more suitable.

Common Features

  • Autofocus
  • Auto exposure
  • Auto power off
  • Built-in flash
  • Tripod mount
  • Rechargeable battery supplied with charger
  • The camera will normally note the time and date on all image details
  • Geotag on some cameras.

Geotag can be very useful if you travel a lot and do not download your photos very often so do ask when considering a purchase.

A few makers of Digital Pocket Cameras, representative of the range available from non specialist stores, include:

  • Canon
  • FujiFilm
  • Kodak
  • Leica
  • Nikon
  • Olympus
  • Panasonic
  • Pentax
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Yashica

The Sensor

Instead of traditional film, digital cameras have an image sensor - the larger the sensor the sharper the results. That was also why professional movie cameras and studio still film cameras were so huge - to improve the quality of the image the physical size of the film (the sensor) had to be increased. Note that megapixels do not represent the size of the sensor, just the size of the image that is produced. Therefore if two cameras both have 16 megapixels, check the size of the sensors - the one with the bigger sensor will produce a better image.

Important Hints and Tips

  • Just in case you need reminding, take care when pointing the camera at the Sun as it may damage your eyes and the camera.
  • If the camera does not come with a case, buy a good one - you will never regret it. Besides giving protection, it keeps the dust off.
  • Buy large memory cards, but not too large as you have to find your images later. Several smaller ones are more useful - buy different cards from good makers so you can more easily distinguish between them and identify the contents.
  • It is unwise to only store photos on your PC as it might malfunction. You can store them on an external hard drive (HDD) but file them with care so you can find them later.
  • If you take a lot of photographs, edit them ruthlessly - delete duplicates and any that are out of focus. File them by subject, year and month. File events such as holidays, weddings, etc, separately.
  • The last thing to remember is to keep your batteries charged - finding you have no power halfway through the day is, to say the least, frustrating. Better to buy a second battery or set of batteries and carry a spare set of fully charged batteries with you.

Above all enjoy your photography and go at your own pace - you will improve as you go. A good sign of your improvement is when you desire a better camera, but always remember your Digital Pocket Camera - it taught you a lot.

1Some higher end pocket cameras, such as Pentax and Samsung brands, do have motorised zoom lenses.2Please note that as technology moves so fast, this may only be current for a few years.

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