By David Gewirtz
Here at Connected Photographer, one of the most common questions we're asked is what digital camera to buy. Before you buy your first digital camera, it's best if you really understand the elements of a digital camera and then the factors that go into your choosing one.
In this article, we discuss are the various components that make up a digital camera.
The camera body
The first component, of course, is the camera body. You'll want to consider the overall weight of the camera and how it feels to hold it in your hand. Each camera is different, looks a little different, and, perhaps most important, feels a little different in your hands.
"When you buy your camera, budget for a four-year ownership."
If you have smaller hands you may want a small camera. If you happen to have big hands like I do, you'll probably dislike smaller cameras because they'll be harder to hold, as you can see in Figure A.FIGURE A
Here I'm holding Denise's tiny camera. She loves it. I can't stand it because it's too small. (click for larger image)
For a big-handed person like me, little cameras make it hard to get to the buttons, manage the menus, and so forth. Speaking for myself (and my hands), although I have seen some pretty amazing teeny-weenie digital cameras that are just astounding in their capabilities, I wouldn't choose them for myself because my hands are just too big.
There's one other issue here, and that's weight. Small cameras weigh less and are easier to carry. Big SLRs like the one I use tend to be heavy to carry and difficult to stow. If you have a need for a bigger, heavier camera, certainly go for it. But if you're likely to be just as happy with a tiny one like that shown above, you'll probably be happier. My camera bag, when packed for a simple photo run, weighs something like 20 pounds!
The next camera component worthy of your understanding is the optical system, the lens. When choosing a camera, you're going to encounter terms like optical vs. digital zoon, auto-focus, macro modes, and more.
To a photographer, the lens is, in reality, the most important part of the camera. Key, then, to choosing a new camera is determining the picture quality of the camera's lens and how images coming into the camera and are recorded.
Looking at the outside of the camera, you can see the lens, as shown in Figure B.FIGURE B
The lens on Denise's camera expands out when used. (click for larger image)
It's the optical component (a piece of glass or clear acrylic material) that transfers an image into the camera. Often, more advanced cameras like SLRs (single-lens reflex) have removable lenses that have widely differing optical properties. You can see some removable lenses in Figure C.