Wednesday, August 31 presents
Rick Sammon, Professional Photographer

What to look for in a Digital Camera
November 22, 2000

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Deb: What is the difference between digital zoom and optical zoom? I'm looking for a good close-up camera for pics of my great Danes and want good quality.

Rick Sammon: An optical zoom is a true zoom. In other words, if your camera has a 28-84mm zoom, which is a 3x zoom, that's the lens zooms in that range. What a digital zoom does is it magnifies the telephoto zoom lens setting. Therefore, because it is not the true focal length of the zoom, you may lose some image quality. But as I tell everyone, a picture that is not the best quality is much better than no picture at all. So, for the best image quality, use the actual zoom lens setting.

Subway Sndwch: I am trying to upgrade my computer to use strictly as a digital darkroom. I am using Photoshop as my image editor. What kind of graphics card would best fulfill my needs?

Rick Sammon: I am not a PC person. I have two Macintosh computers. On my Macintosh laptop, I plug my digital camera directly into the USB port and play with my pictures in Photoshop that way. At home, on my Macintosh G4, I have a Kodak USB picture card reader that's plugged into the USB port (so I don't have to unplug and plug in wires) and I just put my picture card in that.

Trinity: Most digital cameras use very expensive memory devices to record images, but Sony has cameras which use floppy discs. As these are so cheap by comparison, there must be disadvantages to using floppy discs. What are they? And if they work just as well as other methods, why aren't more cameras designed to use them?

Rick Sammon: Generally speaking, the more memory that can be stored on any device means more information, which means better image quality. Especially when you want to take a very high quality picture for an enlargement.

CarissaTC: What are the key features to look for in a digital camera? I'm so confused with all the choices out there!

Rick Sammon: Number one, look at the number of pixels. If you want to make great prints, get a 3-megapixel camera. The second thing you want to look for is the zoom range. The wider the range, the more flexibility you will have. Number three - whether or not the camera accepts accessory lenses which expand the camera's capabilities. Number four - you want to look at the camera setup controls. In other words, whether or not you can make manual and flash or automatic adjustments. The key is to a) look at all of the features I just mentioned; b) think about your budget; c) think about memory cards. This is very important! You can get an 8-megabyte memory card for about $35, or a 192-megabyte card for about $500. The more memory, the more pictures; and d) Think about output. If you are going to make prints at home, you are going to want some funds for inkjet paper and ink. So consider all of these things, and good luck making your decision.

Card Dealer: Rick, are there any brands of memory cards you recommend (besides Kodak, of course)?

Rick Sammon: There are a lot of memory cards out there. I've found Kodak cards to be very dependable. But speaking of memory cards, I have two tips. Number one, don't take the memory card out of the camera while the camera is on. And number two, travel with several memory cards, just in case a card gets full of pictures or in case it gets misplaced.

Nubian Deity: I'm traveling to South Africa again next month and wanted to know what is the best disposable camera?

Rick Sammon: I've been to South Africa twice. You are going to have a fantastic time. Disposable camera? They used to be called disposables, but now they are called "one-time use" because camera manufacturers recycle them. With that type of camera you will get some nice snapshots, but the animals will be very small in the picture. You might want to consider getting a basic digital camera. They begin at about $300.

Sydney Gal: Rick, can you tell me would be the best underwater camera for me to use? I love diving and want to take shots of the underwater corals and sea life.

Rick Sammon: Thanks for writing! I have dived on the Great Barrier Reef and it's fantastic. Ikelite makes underwater housings for several digital cameras; so does Sea & Sea. Contact these manufacturers to see if they make a housing for your digital camera. A word of advice - practice with your new underwater system in a swimming pool at home before you dive in the ocean. Please email me an underwater picture at

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