HOME Technology Nov 2007
Camera shyness cured

Photography back in focus

The snide quip, ‘’why don’t you take a picture it’ll last longer’, acquires new meaning as more people can afford to take that advice and are in fact capturing more photographs than ever before.

According to IDC Research the number of images captured on consumer digital still cameras in 2006 exceeded 150 billion worldwide, while the number of images from cell phones hit almost 100 billion. IDC is forecasting more than 500 billion images will be captured by 2010.

It says consumer appetite for digital cameras in 2007 has grown twice as fast as expected with shipments growing by 15 percent, reversing declining sales over the previous four years.  

 Smaller multifunction devices that include cameras have made photography fashionable again as users go shopping for higher quality. The trend toward single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, more geared to professionals or serious hobbyists, is also moving faster than expected.

In New Zealand growth is also being fuelled by second time digital camera buyers looking for higher featured models. While there was clearly a big focus on the number of pixels, Sony marketing manger Sam Williams says other factors are even more important, including the technology behind the lens.

Sony for example has its Bionz image processing technology, a “guntier engine” enabling the camera to do more things quicker, for example focussing, metering light from different areas of the picture, face detection and even ‘noise’ reduction.

You can shoot at twilight without a flash and achieve natural results simply by using the new higher quality, lower noise ISO 3200 setting, or shoot indoors still making good use of all the megapixels at your disposal with minimal blur in the subject and background.A number of the Sony models have a ‘double anti-blur’ feature that counters shaky hands, and a high sensitivity to light so you can use a fast shutter speed without the image blurring. Some models also use 3.5 inch LCD touch panel screens which enable you to isolate any area of an image by merely touching the screen.

Curiously Sony’s T200 touch panel camera also has a new feature called Smile Shutter which takes face detection to a new level, in this mode it’ll only take a picture only when your subject smiles.

Major brands including Canon, Sony, Kodak, Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic have their own specialised processing and stabilising technology to help deliver the best result. Rather than digital zoom, buyers are urged to focus on optical zoom which takes you literally closer to your subject. A minimum 3 x optical zoom is recommended although higher end cameras can give you up to 15 x zoom.

Compact cameras might be small enough to pop in a purse or handbag but now deliver more than adequate results with 6-8 Mpxls and 3-5 x optical lens for $250-$400. In the midrange you might get more features, up to 8-10Mpxls, and pay $600-$800. For an SLR camera with all the smarts; 10-15Mpixels, up to 15 x zoom and a 2.5 inch screen, you can expect to pay around $1200- $2000.

SLRs give a greater degree of manual control, shoot more frames per second, and capture more pixels more accurately with larger charge coupled devices (CCDs) to separate out the colours. Many SLRs include two lenses, typically 18-70mm and 75-300mm, giving much more flexibility for close up and distant work.

When you’re ready to buy, try the touch and feel test. See how it feels in your hands, can you easily reach the controls and easily access the menu of options? Are the instructions easy to understand? See! You’re over your camera shyness already.


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