Photography is a hobby that many of us enjoy. It allows us to capture our special moments and to save our valued memories. A common camera with fairly good resolution would usually be satisfactory to most people but if photography is your profession or hobby then you may think of a more sophisticated camera.
The differences between cameras can be huge starting from the camera provided as part of almost all smartphones to professional cameras as Phase One XF 100MP which is available for around $50,000. This article will discuss the most important specifications that should be considered when buying a new camera.
The size of the sensor can be considered the most important thing to determine the quality of the photos a camera can capture. It is even more important than the megapixel count which is the most clearly mentioned specification for most digital cameras. The digital camera sensor is a screen that consists of millions of light sensitive spots that can record the light it receives in the form of electrical signals. It actually does the same function that was done by the old roll film that was used by older cameras before digital cameras were introduced.
Having a larger sensor means that the camera can collect more information from the image captured and thus provide a higher quality photo. The size of the sensor is actually the reason why Phase One XF 100MP is sold at this price as it is equipped with a full frame sensor. This means that its sensor has the size of 36 x 24 mm which is the same as the traditional 35 mm film.
This is currently the most clearly announced feature for all cameras that it is sometimes part of the camera name. It indicates how much details the camera stores from the image it receives. Higher megapixel count means that the colored dots that eventually form the whole image are more and smaller allowing more details to be stored. Higher megapixel count also means that you can zoom into the captured photos without making them blurry.
Panorama Camera 6×17 Seitz Digital captures 160 megapixels images which is the highest megapixel count in commercial cameras. This means the image the camera stores is actually divided into 160 million dots. The largest image ever published is way larger reaching 681 gigapixels. The image was published by NASA in 2014 showing the moon’s surface. It is not actually a single shot but it rather resulted from processing and combining thousands of photos taken over 4 years.
Experienced photographers know that timing can be everything. A perfectly timed photo does not only show a scene but it may also tell a story, show feelings or be evidence for history. If you have a camera that takes too long to initialize and capture the first photo, then you will probably miss many chances for good shots. It is also important to have short autofocus time to get the photo in the right time.
The shutter lag indicates the time needed for the lens shutter to open and close capturing a single photo. Slow shutter will result in a blurry photo if any part is moving. You can know how fast the camera shutter is by using the burst mode which keeps taking photos continuously as long as the button is pressed.
Good cameras should be able to capture at least 3 photos per second. Recent professional cameras have shutter speed of 1/8000 sec which means that they can open and close 8000 times per second. You may need this speed if you are capturing a photo from a speeding car, taking a photo of a drop falling on a surface or other events that take fraction of a second.
Most professional cameras have interchangeable lens providing the flexibility needed for photography. Some lenses can provide amazing optical zooming but they can also be very expensive. For example, Cannon offers the 1200 mm Mother of All Telephotos for more than $120,000. The lens is used to get clear photos for scenes that are several miles away.
Optical zoom is achieved by moving the lens parts to magnify the objects in the scene and thus maintain the full resolution of the camera. On the contrary, digital zooming depends merely on magnifying and cropping the image itself similar to what is done on a computer thus reducing the resolution.
Lenses also differ in the angle they can capture. Wide-angle lenses allow capturing a panorama view or wider view of the scene. Nikon Fisheye lens hit the extreme in this field with a design that allows capturing almost all the directions surrounding the camera similar to what the fish see.
Commonly used digital cameras store photos in the .JPEG format which is a compressed format that loses much of the photo details. Professional photographers usually use RAW mode to keep the quality of their photos without compression allowing more editing with the details. However, storing photos in the RAW mode requires much higher storage space.
ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera to the light. Higher ISO value means that the camera is more sensitive to low light conditions and makes the photo clearer even when it seems very dark to capture a photo. Commonly used cameras have ISO values that range from only ISO 100 to 6400 but there are still some extreme cameras that can basically see in the dark. In 2014, Canon introduced a camera with a stunning ISO value of more than 4,000,000.
There are other miscellaneous specifications that should be considered. These include data storage, battery life, size, design, weight and the ability to attach and use various accessories. You may also need to evaluate the ability of the camera to capture videos as well to see if the camera can record voice and allow zooming in videos.