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Digital Camera Differences

Original article:  Digital Camera Differences

Updated: Feb 4, 2009

I know an article on the differences between a digital camera and a film based camera is somewhat dated in 2009; however, when I was reviewing this topic I noticed that the differences are important to understand when purchasing a new digital camera regardless if you are coming from film or otherwise. So I’ve adapted the original article into things you should consider when purchasing a digital camera.

Shutter Lag
For a novice photographer, one of the most overlooked features is the response time a digital camera has when pressing the shutter button. This has been termed shutter lag. Many are bewildered by ever increasing mega pixels and overlook this performance aspect - shutter lag - when choosing a digital camera. I've heard many complain about missing the shot because there digital camera just doesn't take the picture when they press the shutter button; I've rarely heard someone complain I don't have enough mega pixels - even on 3MP cameras. It is a complex subject with many things attributing to the shutter lag of any particular camera. It doesn't help that manufacturers do not advertise the sluggishness of their cameras shutter response. The bottom line is that price does matter – less expensive camera tend to be slower and expensive camera tend to be more lively. When you are at the store, demo the camera; thinking about little Johnnie coming down the playground slide. Press the shutter. Does the camera focus fast? Does the camera click fast? Or will little Johnnie be at the bottom of the slide before the camera clicks?

Sensor Size
Digital cameras all have an electronic sensor. Sensors come in various sizes and types. The larger the sensor the more expensive the camera will be. In the 35mm format, a sensor that is the size of a 35mm negative is called full frame. This is a whole topic in itself - especially for those in the market for a digital SLR - that I'll address in another article. For now keep in mind that sensors come in different sizes.

Digital cameras are computers. Unlike film cameras, digital cameras are not mechanical, but rather, electronic - which requires electricity. So battery life with a digital camera is a consideration. When researching a new digital camera, find out about its expected battery life. Price the cost of spare batteries. Factor these things into your purchase.

Film has been replaced with digital media to store the photographs. Find out what your prospective digital camera uses as its storage media. If you already have invested in digital media cards (for PDA's, or cell phones, or computer backup) it maybe nice to use your existing stock of cards in your new camera. If you don't have existing cards, consider the price of digital media into your purchase.

Physical Size
New digital cameras are getting smaller and smaller. While this is good for the convenience of tucking into a pocket, it may not be so good for steady holding. A large complaint that I hear from users of very small point and shoot cameras is that their pictures are blurry. A smaller camera is simply harder to hold still. Again while you demo the camera in the store, try to hold the camera steady while taking a picture. If the camera just doesn't feel right, it may mean that you will have difficulty holding it steady and adjusting its small buttons and dials. On the other hand, if the camera is large and heavy, you need to ask yourself: will you be willing to carry the camera around?

There are many, many manufacturers and models of digital cameras. Take your time. Ask around. Play with as many cameras as you can, and with the right tool, a whole wonderful world of digital photography will be opened up to you.

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