Photography

Photography Buying Guide

Digital imaging is changing the way we use cameras and camcorders. This guide is here to help you through this technical revolution and find everything you need to take the very best photos and movies. Just click on a link below, to jump down to further information about the Photography area you're interested in:

Photography

It's easy to see why digital cameras and camcorders have grown in popularity as digital photography has opened up a world of exciting possibilities. Digital cameras give us the flexibility and portability to produce great looking shots of people, places and scenes. And thanks to the digital format, we can edit, print, share and send much more easily than ever before.

Digital camcorders allow filming those precious moments even easier.

The latest digital camcorders give you sharp images, smooth colours and crisp sound. With a choice of recording onto DV cassette, DVD disk, or HDD disk drive, creating and playing back your movies couldn't be simpler.

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Digital Cameras

Digital photography has opened up a world of possibilities. A digital camera lets you zoom in close, take sharp images and master family portraits quickly and easily. Simple controls make them easy to use, and what's more, many are small enough to fit in your pocket. And thanks to the digital format, we can edit, print, share and send much more easily than ever before.

Digital Cameras Explained

With a digital camera, there's no need to change or develop films: it records pictures onto a memory chip instead. And if you don't like a picture, just delete it and try again! You can then transfer your pictures onto your PC, or even send them straight to your printer.

How Do I Choose?

The main choices to make are camera size, resolution, screen size, and zoom. Extra features include ISO, image stabilisation, face detection, memory cards and lithium ion batteries.

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Digital Camera Features

Look out for the following useful features:

Camera Size

One great advantage of digital cameras is that they're small and light enough to carry anywhere. Modern digital cameras can be slotted into a small bag or pocket and offer high quality images, suitable for printing.

Resolution

Resolution is one of the most important ratings of a digital camera - the higher the resolution, the better your photos will look at large print sizes. A digital photo is made up of millions of tiny dots, called pixels (picture elements) which are measured in millions or megapixels. Our digital cameras start at 6 megapixels, which will give you sharp images at up to A4 size and our cameras with 8 megapixels and above will give you professional quality images.

Camera (Megapixels) Print Up To
6-7 Million A4 Size
8 Million 10 x 15in
9 Million A4 Size
10 Million 12 x 16in
12 Million 20 x 30in

Screen Size

All our compact digital cameras feature an LCD screen which offers a number of advantages such as framing your shot, reviewing pictures and viewing menu information. The bigger the screen, the easier it is to see what you're shooting, and to view and share your pictures once they're taken. The largest screens are 5cm (2.5'') and above. It's worth looking out for helpful extra features like a power boost for sunny days and high-sensitivity settings for taking photos in low light.

Zoom

Many compact digital cameras come with a standard lens useful only for point-and-shoot photography.

All digital cameras come with a zoom, so you can get closer to the action and capture people's expressions. There are two different types of zoom to choose from - optical and digital.

Digital zoom enlarges the centre of the image, although you might lose some detail. Optical zoom uses lenses to magnify the image until it looks close enough to touch. Most common optical zooms give 3x magnification - meaning the image will seem three times closer - but larger zooms are available.

ISO

ISO is a measure of sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO setting the more sensitive to light the camera sensor is. A high ISO rating lets you take clear pictures of fast-moving subjects or in low-light environments.

Image Stabilisation

Advanced technology that automatically compensates for unwanted camera movement and low light to reduce the appearance of blur in photos. This comes in two forms - Optical image stabilisation uses built in sensors to detect and compensate for camera shake as it occurs. Digital image stabilisation boosts camera sensitivity (ISO) to obtain a faster shutter speed helping to prevent blur.

Face Detection

Built-in camera software that detects the shape of a human face or multiple faces and automatically sets the focus and exposure for perfect portraits.

Memory Cards

A digital camera's internal memory can usually only store a few pictures at any one time. Memory cards are available in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB. SD, XD photo card and Sony memory stick formats.

See below for a guide to how many pictures a 1GB memory card can hold. This is based on average compression levels used and can vary from camera to camera:

Camera (Megapixels) Approx Pictures Stored on a 1GB Card
6 Million 680
7 Million 585
8 Million 500
9 Million 455
10 Million 400
12 Million 260

AA Batteries

Using rechargeable AA batteries will save you money in the long term, you could be surprised at how quickly standard AA batteries can run out - often when you're taking that once-in-a-lifetime shot!

Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) Batteries

Higher capacity, rechargeable batteries which are better for the environment. Recharge your camera battery by using an external charger or mains adaptor.

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Digital SLR Cameras

If you'd like to make photography your hobby or just want better photos without the effort, try a digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera. Interchangeable zoom lenses, manual controls and a range of extra equipment give you professional quality pictures with richer colours and finer detail.

Creative Control

With a digital SLR you can control just about every function manually, from shutter speed and aperture to white balance, contrast, flash synchronisation, and more. This allows greater creativity in the pictures you take. Though, of course you can use the automatic settings if you want point and shoot ease of use.

Higher Resolution

Because digital SLR cameras have bigger sensor chips than other cameras, you get sharper, more natural pictures (10 megapixels and above is common in SLRs). Many also come with image stabilisation (known as anti-shake) - a useful feature that gives you blur-free shots. Their flexible zooms are really easy to adjust, just twist the lens to bring subjects closer.

Instant Capture

No time delay just press the shutter and instantly capture the moment you want. Take multiple shots per second - perfect for pictures of high speed sports or fleeting moments like candle's being blown out on a birthday cake.

Lenses

Digital SLR cameras can use various lenses to take wide-angle, telephoto, or close-up shots, to shoot a wide variety of subjects. The shorter the focal length (measured in mm), the wider the view will be - the longer the focal length, the more telescopic the picture.

Viewfinder

Through the viewfinder, you can see the scene as it will be photographed (there isn't the cropping effect you experience with digital compact cameras) so you can clearly see what the camera sees. You can see the subject's detail, colours, facial expressions, etc with more clarity.

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Digital Camcorders

Enjoy making home movies? A digital video camera (digital camcorder) makes the shooting easy and fun.

So How Do Digital Camcorders Work?

The main difference between models is how they store your video - on low-cost cassettes called Mini-DV, 8cm DVDs that work in most DVD players, or internal hard disk drives. Resolution (megapixels) is less important in digital camcorders, since they're designed to match existing TV and video.

MiniDV

A MiniDV model is a great-value camcorder that uses small tapes. Each tape holds up to one hour of superb-quality digital footage, which can either be played back instantly on your TV or put onto your computer for editing.

  • Recording time at highest-quality setting: about 60 minutes (long play, 90 minutes)

  • Outstanding picture and sound quality

  • Compact and lightweight tapes and camcorders

  • Ideal for connecting to a PC for editing

  • Can be connected to a TV or VCR using analogue connections

  • Memory cards (extendable) for digital still pictures

DVD

A DVD camcorder records straight on to small discs that you can play back straight away on your DVD player or PC.

DVDs come in a few different formats (DVD-RW, +RW and -RAM). Make sure you check which ones your camcorder takes before you buy the discs.

  • Recording time at highest-quality setting: about 20 minutes

  • Record directly to 8cm DVDs with minimal fuss

  • Easy playback

  • DV quality recordings

  • Records onto both DVD-R and DVD-RW 8cm DVDs

  • View recordings on compatible DVD devices

  • Share with friends and family

HDD

These camcorders store video on hard disk drives like the one in your home PC. Hard drive camcorders give you longer recording times of up to 30 hours - enough for even the longest home video. They either have an internal permanent hard disc drive or a small, removable hard disc (Microdrive).

Internal hard discs are usually up to 30GB in size. To view your video, you can either connect your camcorder to your TV or transfer the digital files to your PC.

  • Recording time at highest-quality setting: about 7 hours for 30GB

  • DVD-quality MPEG-4 digital movies

  • Higher quality stills (VGA image resolution) up to 4 megapixel

  • Smaller and lighter

Flash memory camcorders are compact, lightweight and easy to use. You can record straight onto the high capacity internal Flash memory or share movies and photos instantly by using removable memory cards. Flash memory involves no moving parts for greater reliability so your footage is protected against bumps and knocks.

Image Stabiliser

All digital camcorders have some kind of image stabiliser. This removes or reduces blur caused by slight movements in your hand when recording.

Optical and Digital Zoom

Optical zoom lets you take a closer shot of your subject without you having to move yourself, with no loss of image quality.

Digital zoom enlarges the centre portion of the screen. As you go closer the number of pixels filling your video picture becomes less and picture quality reduces. These zooms go as high as 2000x but anything over 40x and you will begin to notice a loss in image quality.

Camcorder Batteries

All digital camcorders use lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. They can be topped up at any time without loss of battery life over the years.

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