Four 5-Megapixel Cameras In Review

Making The Switch From Analog To Digital

Whatever people may think, switching from one to the other requires some time for adjustment. First of all, users are often disconcerted by the number of buttons on the body and are more or less forced to look it all up in the manual. It often takes several hours to get used to a system which, once understood, comes quite naturally.

One of the main differences between conventional cameras and their digital counterparts is that some of the usual manual adjustments (like the red-eye reduction and exposure regulation) are relegated to dropdown menus on the TFT monitor at the back. But the greatest difference is shooting speed. This factor is often overlooked upon purchasing a digital camera, with the assumption that it will function like a conventional camera in this respect. Yet, this is a very significant difference. Conventional cameras respond immediately, but digital ones often take ages to shoot, to the utter disappointment of many a user! People are often inclined to abandon their digital camera, bought on a whim, because they can't actually use it due to the long delay time. It's common for a camera to take more than five seconds to boot and as much time between photos, as well. This is because of the time it takes to record the first image in memory. And this is where the top-of-the-range digicams come into their own - first, they are about as easy to use as a conventional camera, and second, they give you an idea of what speed we can expect with tomorrow's cameras, which will be cheaper than those tested here. What can only be found on expensive cameras at the moment is bound to become more widespread with time. However, these luxury models are far from offering what even compact analog models do, though the gap is closing. The fastest cameras, like the ones tested here, are able to take photos in less than two seconds.

To truly get the most out of a camera, you should take a few hours to learn how to use image editing software. The most popular is Adobe Photoshop. Note that, these days, manufacturers tend to include their own tools with the cameras, supposedly because they are easier to use than Photoshop. You may not require professional quality editing, but it's a good idea to know how to adjust contrast and brightness in a photo, edit the histogram and saturate the colors. Likewise, knowing how to redefine white balance or mid-gray can often help to save a poor photo.

On the other hand, Photoshop and similar programs are resource-greedy. 128 MB of RAM is the minimum these days. The size of edited photos explodes with the number of photosites on the sensors. A TIFF photo taken with a 5-megapixel camera often takes up about 15 MB. A piece of advice: invest in a sizeable swap disk.