Monday, September 25, 2006

The digital SLR war hots up

In recent months the digital SLR market has heated up with giants like Sony rushing in and incumbents like Canon producing ever better cameras.

Perhaps the most exciting news is the release of the Canon 400D also known as the Digital Rebel XTi. The Digital Rebel series kick-started the consumer DSLR market three years ago with the 300D and the latest version certainly delivers. You get an increase in resolution with a 10.1 megapixel sensor and a bigger, 2.5 inch LCD screen. Perhaps the biggest innovations are the dust-reduction features: an anti-static technology to repel dust particles as well as a nifty, vibrating feature which shakes off dust every time the camera starts.

The other big news is the entry of Sony with its A100 which also features a 10 megapixel sensor and dust removal technology. It also has a Super Steadyshot function which adjusts the sensor to balance hand and body movements creating sharper photos in low light and with slower shutter speeds. More broadly the entry of a giant like Sony to compete with Canon and Nikon is only good news for the consumer who can continue to look forward to lower prices and better technology.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Betwixt and between: Prosumer cameras

As the name suggests, prosumer cameras lie between consumer cameras (i.e. point-and-shoots) and professional cameras (like digital SLRs). This is true of most prosumers when it comes to size, features and price.

Prosumers put their extra size (compared to point-and-shoots) to good use. Typically they have more optical zoom: for instance a whopping 12X zoom in the Sony DSC H5. Prosumers usually have bigger CCDs with more megapixels as well as larger LCD screens for more convenient viewing. They also have excellent shooting options: in additional to full manual exposure controls you might get more detailed choices for adjusting, say, the autofocus as well as features like image stabilization which reduces blurriness.

While prosumers don’t have quite the same flexibility and image quality as DSLRs, there are a few areas where they are better. They are quieter and unlike DSLRs, the electronic viewfinder gives you a real-time look at the picture when you change the settings. They are generally smaller and cheaper as well and usually come with video capabilities. The bottom line is that for the serious amateur photographer who wishes to take better pictures, a prosumer may well be the more convenient option.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Removing Red-eye

Red eye happens when the light from the built-in flash on your digital camera is reflected from the eyes of your subject and takes the red colour of the blood vessels. It is an unnerving effect and certainly spoils the mood of many photos. Fortunately there are a number of ways of dealing with the problem.

One way is turn on as many lights as possible if you are shooting indoors. Most camera flashes will adjust to the extra light by reducing the intensity of the flash. Also the extra light will make your subject’s eyes constrict which reduces the red-eye effect.

Another simple method is to pose your subject so they don’t directly look into the camera. Profile shots are often more interesting than straight shots anyway. Many cameras have a red-eye reduction mode where there is an additional quick flash before the main one. Some cameras also come with special features for detecting and fixing red-eye; for example the Nikon Coolpix S6 with its In-camera Red-eye Fix.

Perhaps the best way of removing red-eye is with your PC photo editor. Free programmes like Picasa 2 have easy-to-use tools which can remove red-eye in a snap.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's a small world: Sony’s Ultracompact DSC-T series

In the world of digital cameras perhaps the most exciting models are the ultracompacts: sleek machines that can fit in your shirt pocket and still take great photos. And among ultracompacts Sony’s Cybershot DSC-T series is certainly one of the best and most popular.

There are several models in the series at different price ranges. The Sony Cybershot T5 has a 5 megapixel sensor and comes in four colours: black, gold, red and silver. It features a large 2.5 inch screen and 32 MB of internal memory so that you can take pictures without a separate memory card. The 6-megapixel Sony Cybershot T9 has optical image stabilization which reduces the blur from shaky hands. It’s also better at taking pictures in low light.

Just this month, Sony has released the latest model in the series: the 7 megapixel DSC-T10. The maximum ISO has been further increased to 1000 which means better pictures in low light or of fast moving subjects. It also has an improved processor which reduces the time required to take pictures and provides longer battery life. The cameras keep getting better but what stays the same is the sleek design and unmatched convenience of ultracompacts.

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Digicam | Sony Cybershot DSC-T | Digital Camera | Sony Cybershot T5 | Sony Cybershot T9 | Sony Cybershot T10

Monday, July 24, 2006

Great exposure: Manual settings on digital cameras

Some digital cameras like the Canon A620 give you the option to manually adjust exposure settings: a great feature that will help you become a better photographer.

Exposure refers to the amount of light let into the camera while shooting pictures. It depends on two variables: shutter-speed and aperture. Shutter-speed determines the length of time that the camera shutter is open; the faster the speed the less the light. Aperture refers to the size of the opening allowing light onto the camera sensor. It’s measured in f-stops where a higher f-stop indicates a smaller-sized aperture which lets in less light. Manual exposure means directly choosing these two variables according to the subject and lighting conditions.

For example, freezing a fast-moving object requires a high shutter-speed. Alternatively if you want that little of blur to indicate movement you might pick a slightly slower speed. Adjusting the aperture changes the depth of field: for instance if you want both a close object and a distant one in focus you should choose higher f-stops. The trick is to pick shutter-speed and aperture according to the subject while simultaneously making sure there is sufficient light for a correctly exposed photo.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Prints are forever: Printers for your digital camera

While digital photos can be enjoyed on your computer or TV, there is no substitute for prints which you can hold in your hands and hang on your walls. Fortunately there is a great selection of reasonably priced photo printers available today.

Canon printers are famous for their picture quality and the Canon PIXMA iP4200 delivers with its proprietary FINE technology which uses tiny droplets to produce finely detailed photos with little grain. The iP4200 has a number of convenient features like two-sided printing and a dual paper tray so that you don’t have to keep switching between photo and regular paper.

The Epson Stylus R250 has some useful features as well like in-built memory card slots and a colour preview screen. It is optimized to save ink; you only need to replace a single depleted cartridge instead of the entire set and there is also a special mode for saving black ink.

Finally the HP Photosmart 7838 has four memory card slots including Compact Flash, Secure Digital and Memory Stick. What this means is that you will able to directly access the printer without any annoying wires. The printer also comes with a colour display for pre-viewing photos.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Good things in small packages: Nikon Coolpix S6

The first thing you notice about the 6-megapixel Coolpix S6 is its sleek design; the camera is just an inch thick and weighs less than 500 grams. But look closer and you will notice a great set of features as well.

Despite its small size, the S6 comes with a 3 inch LCD screen as well as speakers. It also comes with a slide-show feature called Pictmotion which combines your pictures and music to create a slide-show which can be viewed on the camera itself.

The S6 has a rich set of features to improve your pictures and these are easily accessed through the one-touch portrait button. Face Priority AF detects human faces automatically to produce sharply focussed pictures. D-lighting corrects for pictures which are poorly lit and there is also an in-camera red-eye fixing feature. In addition, there are 15 scene modes to take great pictures in a wide range of situations. You can also shoot movies with sound at 30 fps as well as time-lapse movies (like a flower blooming or clouds passing by). Finally the S6 is Wifi-capable and you can transfer pictures wirelessly both to your PC and compatible printers.

The S6 retails in India at around Rs 20,000.

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Digicam | Digital SLR | Digital Camera | Nikon | Coolpix | Coolpix S6

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