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Digital camera

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A digital camera is a modern way to take photographs. They have many advantages including not having to use film, not causing any processing costs, giving instant results, creating e-mailable pictures and pictures that can be improved with the use of a computer. Many are compact shaped, but there are also bigger SLR types.

Related Terms

Name used by Kodak for its range of digital SLR cameras.
This is the eye of the camera and is used to capture the image it sees onto the camera's light sensitive film, or CCD in digital camera. The size of lens is measured and indicated as a focal length. Cameras come with either a fixed lens or zoom lens with a range of focal lengths (see lens range) and on some SLR and rangefinder cameras the lens detaches so others can be attached to increase versatility. With a detachable lens camera it's often possible to buy just the body with a lens of your choice.The amount of light passing through the lens is controlled by an aperture, which is often quoted with its maximum aperture setting.Buying adviceSLRs: If you intend buying a specific lens in the future make sure that it's available in the same mount as the camera you are considering or own. Also if you're upgrading cameras, buy one with the same lens fitting or one that can be adapted to save the cost of replacing all the lenses you own.Digital and compact cameras: A fixed lens camera can often be much smaller so could be selected if you need to travel light. It's also less expensive if your budget is tight. It's better, though, to choose a camera with a zoom if you can afford to, rather than using a digital zoom or cropping the picture later. Go for one with a wider angle zoom if most of your pictures will be landscapes, interiors or family group shots.Choose a version with a longer telephoto setting if you want to shoot long distance subjects, portraits and wildlife.
Extreme wide-angle lens that gives 180 degrees coverage and is uncorrected for curvilinear distortion so you produce a heavily distorted photograph. If the photo turns out to be rectangular or circular, and how distorted it looks, depends on the lens and the camera. There are basically two kinds of fish-eye lenses for photography: 1. Lenses that produce a circular image, typically 8 or 10mm lenses, used on 35mm cameras or full-frame digital cameras. They produce a circular image with dark corners (due to most photos being rectangular). A similar lens is available for digital cameras with a so-called "cropped sensor". To achieve the same circular effect, it's a 4.5mm lens. 2. Lenses that produce a rectangular image. These lenses enlarge the image to cover the whole rectangular frame of a photograph. They are typically 15 or 16mm lenses. On a 35mm or digital full-frame camera they produce rectangular but still heavily distorted images without dark corners. The same lenses on a digital camera with a cropped sensor will still have a distorting effect, but less so. Fish-eye lenses used to be prime lenses only, but one company has gone so far as to produce a 10-17mm fish-eye zoom lens. This lens still produces distorted, curvy images, but zooming in lessens the distortion.
This is the manufacturers’ quoted focal length of the lens supplied with the camera. APS film and digital camera CCDs are smaller than conventional 35mm film so the indicated focal lengths are also smaller and should not be compared directly. For a direct comparison of APS and digital lenses look at the 35mm equivalent figures that are quoted.
Indicates the magnification and angle-of-view of a lens. The human eye sees things roughly the same as a 43mm focal length of a lens for a 35mm camera. Anything shorter is classed as a wide-angle, while longer focal lengths are telephoto. Because of the comparatively small size of the CCD in a compact digital camera it has a standard focal length of between 6mm and 8mm while a medium-format camera is around 80mm.
A shortened name for binary digit 0 or 1. This is the smallest unit of digital information used by a computer or digital camera.
To bring a file from the Internet or other remote computer to your own using an internet or network connection. Or to load pictures from a digital camera using a cable connection. (Sending pictures to another computer, a camera or the Internet is "uploading".)
A camera made by the likes of Canon and Sony that recorded electronic pictures onto an internal floppy disk. It was, if you like, the first type of digital camera, but quality was poor.
A digital camera mode that has an interval timer built in to the image review mode so you can watch all the images recorded by the camera as they play back at pre-selected intervals. More advanced models may have fade between each shot.
The grid of sensors on a CCD that is used to capture an image in a digital camera.
Used to describe a digital camera that has a CCD that delivers more than one million pixels.
A term used to describe sending a file via your modem to a Web site, or from the computer back to your digital camera.
This is how the camera adjusts the shutter speed and aperture to ensure the right amount of light reaches the film or CCD. Early cameras only had a manual mode (M) where the user had to select the aperture and shutter speed manually to ensure the correct exposure. Over the years cameras have become more sophisticated and now offer several automated modes including Program (P) - a fully automatic exposure mode that sets the aperture and shutter speed; Aperture priority mode (AP) where the user selects the aperture and the camera sets the necessary shutter speed; and shutter priority (SP, or Tv on some cameras) where the user selects the shutter speed and the camera sets the necessary aperture. Auto bracketing (AB) takes a pre-selected number of photographs, one at the suggested exposure and one to either side, so you can be sure of one accurate result. There are also several subject-based program modes that we haven't listed here that tailor the camera for particular subjects such as sports (action), landscapes, portraits, or flowers (close-ups). Some digital cameras have black & white and sepia modes. Buying advice A full auto program mode is ideal for point-and-shoot photography, but it's also useful to have some control over the exposure. The beauty with digital is that you can see whether the camera has got the shot right by previewing the image on the LCD. If not, you try again. If there is no manual control you can often preset the exposure using an auto-exposure lock or exposure compensation. The subject based program modes are often a waste of time and don't really bring much to the package. Special effects modes on digital cameras are also throw-away because all these can be created using the computer later.
Many cameras now have a built-in flash that is used to take pictures inside when the light levels are low. Most cameras will have an Auto mode and there are usually several other modes including, Red eye reduction, Off, On, Slow sync.Most SLRs and some compacts have the option of attaching an external flash on an accessory shoe. Some have a sync socket so you can attach a studio flash off the camera for more controllable results. Buying advice: The flash range is often quoted and ones with more power will allow well-exposed pictures to be taken at greater distances. Having several modes increases the camera's versatility. If you would like to use studio flash you can fire heads remotely using your camera's built in flash and a slave unit, but watch out on digital cameras - the flash may not be synchronised correctly. It's better to use a camera with a sync socket. The most useful feature of an auto camera is Flash Off so you can avoid flash when you want to shoot in low light and Flash On to force the flash to fire to get good fill-in light in contrasty conditions.
Advanced Photo System type-C should not be confused with the Advanced Photographic System (APS) camera/film system, since the former is digital and the latter is analogue. APS-C is a type of image sensor found in certain digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. These sensors are smaller than the ones used for the conventional 36 mm x 24 mm (35 mm) sensor SLR cameras (also called full frame DSLR cameras). Being smaller causes a 1.x multiplier for the effect of the focal distance of the lenses, in comparison with the effect of those lenses on conventional 35 mm film SLR cameras or full frame digital SLR cameras. Several manufacturers produce cameras with an APS-C sensor and some even make lenses especially for them. These lenses are found in the Canon EF-S, Nikon DX, Pentax DA and Sigma DC ranges, to name the most popular ones. The most common multiplier ratios are 1.6 (Canon), 1.5 (Nikon, Fuji, Sony, etc.), 1.3 (Canon). (1.3 crop sensors are also sometimes called APS-H.) Most manufacturers not only produce cameras with these cropped sensors, but also offer DSLR cameras with full frame sensors.
An SLR or single-lens reflex camera is really designed for the enthusiast or professional photographer, or for the person who can put up with a larger camera in return for increased accuracy and greater versatility. This type of camera has through the lens viewing with a mirror behind the lens and a pentaprism to direct the light passing through the lens to the optical finder. The mirror lifts up out of the way as a photograph is taken. As you look through the lens that takes the picture, the composition can be more accurate. And in most cases you can exchange the lenses, giving you a wider scope of options. The metering and focusing systems are usually more accurate too. Despite all this creativity it's still possible to put most SLRs in a full auto point & shoot mode so anyone could use one with ease, but don't expect to fit one in a pocket! They are much bigger than that. A modern, digital version of the SLR is called a DSLR.
Format (noun) is used to describe the area of a film used by a camera to record a photo or the way a digital file is saved (see film format). Or it is the way that a file is saved so that it can be seen and is compatible with other applications and/or certain computers (see file format). 'To format' (verb) is to lay-out or organize text on a computer, or to prepare a digital disk for use with a certain type of computer.
Artificial light appears in a variety of forms - tungsten and fluorescent being two of the most widely used. Each type of lighting produces a different colour temperature that our brain compensates for to make everything appear as though it's neutral light. Digital cameras and film are not so forgiving and record the colour as it really is, so in tungsten light the picture comes out orange/yellow and fluorescent goes green. These colour casts can be corrected using filters on a film based camera, and digital cameras have a white balance setting to make the pictures look like the view our eyes see. Some models have manual white balance control where you select the type of lighting from a list, but most take care of the colour automatically.
A cable that screws into the camera (on film camera bodies usually into the shutter release, on digital bodies elsewhere) so the shutter can be fired remotely with minimal shake. Some have a lock so that the shutter can be held open on the B setting.
The camera's light sensitive CCD converts the scene into a grid of pixels that make up a digital photograph. The resolution is the total number of pixels in the photo, for example, one million or 350,000. This is one factor that affects image quality, providing the image that's being formed on the CCD is sharp. CCDs with greater numbers of pixels should have higher resolution. Buying adviceUnless you have a specific need for a low resolution model choose a camera with the highest resolution you can afford. This will enable you to make bigger enlargements.
Most SLR cameras, some digital and a few compacts have a threaded ring at the front end of the lens. This is used to attach coloured and special effect filters as well as other accessories to alter the light that reaches the film. The diameter of the lens' filter thread is measured in millimetres. Stepping rings can be bought to allow one size filter to fit on a different size thread. It's better to step up (use a filter with a larger thread than the lens) to avoid corners being cut off resulting in dark edges to your pictures. Buying advice: If you're considering buying a camera for use with a particular lens accessory, make sure you can either fit the accessory direct to the camera lens or at least adapt it to fit.
Used to balance the light of a scene with overly bright highlights. There are physical filters to use in front of a camera lens, and digital filters for use in imaging software. A physical graduated neutral density filter, for instance, has one clear edge and then gradually increases in density towards the other edge. A so-called "hard grad" has a graduated section that reaches the middle of the filter, whereas a "soft grad" has a graduation all from one side to the opposite side. Neutral density graduated filters are the most common types, but there are also coloured versions available - gradient sunset filters, for instance, or tobacco-coloured ones. Physical filters are usually square or rectangular, are used in a filter holder that attaches to an adapter ring, which screws into the front of the camera lens. Sizes depend on the diameter of the front of the lens. Gradient filters can also be applied digitally in photo editing programs. Even when this is not a standard option in the program, often a so-called "plug-in" can be used for use in the program.
Dial or buttons on a camera that allow the user to override the automatic exposure mode. Most cameras have +/-2 stops control that is enough to compensate in situations where the camera's system would normally be fooled. On digital compacts it's invaluable in adjusting exposure. It can also be used to modify contrast when a film is to be pushed or pulled.
Name given to things such as a computer, film scanner, digital back or camera.
A digital picture can be enlarged in size by adding new pixels to the existing grid. Some camera and scanner software do this as the picture is processed to give higher resolution results. The fact is, interpolation increases the picture by guessing what pixels are required and uses information from the surrounding pixels to achieve this. Although the overall picture count will rise image quality can actually suffer and definition is often reduced.