March 29th 2011

Choosing a digital camera

So you’ve decided to buy yourself a digital camera, perhaps upgrading an older one, or buying your first. It can be pretty overwhelming, but you know you want to make the right choice.

Where to begin?


Most digital cameras use CCDs as the sensing element. This is the same as what we would think of as “film”. The resolution itself is the number of pixels in the captured image. All images are divided into little dots, which are called pixels.

When there are more pixels, the image can be more detailed.

When it comes to choosing resolution, these pixel sizes are what generally coincide with print size:

Here is a guide to choosing resolution, estimating the size print you can make from each:

  • 1.3 Megapixel = 1280×960: very good 4×6 photos, moderate 5×7 photos
  • 2 Megapixel = 1600×1200: good 8×10 photos
  • 3 Megapixel = 2048×1536: very good 8×10 photos, good 11×14 photos
  • 4 Megapixel = 2272 x 1704: very good 11×14 photos, and moderate 16×20 photos
  • 5 Megapixel = 2560×1920: good 16×20 photos
  • >5 Megapixel = generally the same; the lens will limit what you can do.

Lens Aperture

The lens aperture is the lens’ maximum opening. The large it is, the more light it let in… And less light is needed for a good photo. This is key for indoor photos and photos without flash.

The lens aperture is measured in f/numbers. For example, an aperture of f/2.0 means that the lens opening is half the focal length of the lens. Therefore, smaller numbers = larger lens opening… So smaller is better, in this case.

To to purchase a lens faster than f/2.8, aiming between f/2.8 – f/3.5.

Lens Zoom Range

A zoom lens has various focal lengths which determine the magnification of the lens. A zoom lens lets you combine both a short focal and long focal length, along with everything in between adjustable lens. For example, if a camera has a 3X zoom, the longest focal length is 3 times the shortest.

Do not worry about digital zoom, which is of no value. Look for optical zoom! For ideal zooms in different cameras, look for ultracompact cameras that have a zoom of roughly 3x, superzooms with a zoom ratio of roughly 10X – 12X, and digital SLRs with lens options.

    Lens Quality

    Poor lens quality is not as sharp, in spite of looking for all the other bells and whistles. Lens quality isn’t given on the box, so be sure to stick with good, reputable camera companies and check out reviews before you buy.

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    Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.