What counts and what doesn’t in the local digital camera market
CAIRO: Being analogue, film records everything. It records all the gray shades between the 256 computer grayscales and all the colors between your computer’s 32 million-strong palette.
People still use film cameras and there might always be a place for them. In order to approach the definition and quality of 35 mm. film, you need to consider a digital camera with no less than six megapixels.
Even without this advanced feature, digital cameras in general give better results. You don’t need to buy sepia or black-and-white specific film; these and many other effects can be accomplished with any digital camera, as long as you have the right software on your computer.
Skilled professionals may be able to get better results on film, but I need all the anti-shake, contrast control, and light management that are on offer.
When shopping for a digital camera, always remember that digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom – some manufacturers don t clearly specify the difference on the label. Optical zoom uses only the optics of the camera lens to bring your subject closer. Digital zoom works to enlarge it by magnifying a portion of the image.
Always go for the optical zoom. Choose a camera that allows you to disable digital zoom, or at the very least warns you when it’s engaged. Imagine cropping a portion of the picture and then blowing it up to the size of the original picture: you lose image quality.
The resolution of your digital camera is an indication of the size of the resulting image, which is important if you want large prints to frame for your wall. Resolution can be expressed in millions of pixels or megapixels. A camera that captures 2,240 by 1,680 pixels produces a resolution of 3.76 million pixels, or might be referred to as a 4 megapixel camera; this would produce a photo quality print the size of 20.3 by 25.4 cm.
Currently on the Egyptian market priced at around LE 1,750 are the Sony CyberShot S600 and HP Photosmart R817. The former comes with 6 megapixels of resolution and 3x optical zoom. The latter only has a 5 megapixel resolution, but a 5x zoom. Choosing between the two depends on what kind of photographer you are; if you’re dead set on framing each picture artistically, you would likely find yourself too limited with a 3x zoom.
If you want to pay a little bit more, the Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS boasts a 6.4 cm. display screen (the others a mere 5 cm.) and a 4x optical zoom with a 7 megapixel picture, meaning you still can’t zoom in to frame your picture as you would with higher zoom features, but you’ll be able to get significantly larger prints.
You will also find in stores the Panasonic DMC F25 with only 4 megapixel resolution but a whopping 12x optical zoom; to accommodate this functionality though, the camera has more of a 35 mm. shape and heft with its protruding lens.
Paying around the LE 1,000 price point, or less, is not wise. There are dozens of cameras available in Cairo at these prices but they are often old, and if they have been poorly stored, will not serve you for many months. If you must purchase such an item, ask your vendor when the camera became available in Egypt, or better still contact the manufacturer directly. This end of the market has already lost much ground to the popularity of mobile camera phones, which are proving just as desirable as digital cameras themselves.
Perhaps considered a fad, the camera phone goes from strength to strength. They are already wireless, being inherently designed as such, often with Bluetooth, infrared, and sometimes even Wi-Fi capabilities (something that digital cameras only just figured out).
Five megapixel mobile camera phones will soon be common. This October saw Samsung announce an impressive10 megapixel camera phone (the romantically titled SCH-B600) with which to astound your friends and loved ones.
While more and more camera phones handle not only images but also video and sound recording, this is standard fare for standalone digital cameras, even at the LE 600 Benq-budget end.
Sony and Canon currently stand ahead of the others. Their level of familiarity amongst shoppers is surely a factor, but it’s also because of their technology. Courtesy of their lineage as analogue camera and reliable lens makers, Canon’s strength in the digital camera realm is expected. While not historically rooted in photography, Sony doesn’t mess around either; their cameras come equipped with Carl Zeiss lenses, long touted for their excellence and precision.
None of this mentions the user interface. Both Canon and Sony offer uncomplicated menus and as much or as little on-screen information as you want, and help you keep track of your battery life, flash, and remaining storage space as necessary. Nokia’s interface is the best among mobile phone cameras and Samsung is catching on. As for Motorola, well, let’s just say they have some really pretty phones.
You must strike a balance between mobility and photography. The better your camera is, the bigger it is. The better your mobile phone is, the smaller it is.
Somewhere in our future is a mobile camera phone that meets both needs elegantly. And who doesn’t like a bit of elegance in their electronics?