It's a pretty safe bet that everybody who travels has a camera. But I think a lot of people don't realize that digital cameras have come a long way in the last couple of years and that you don't need to spend $1,000 to take decent pictures. Having just bought a new camera, I thought I'd give a little primer on the electronics and what 99% of you don't need.
We get a lot of positive comments regarding the pictures that we post from our travels. For the last four years or so, those pictures had been taken with an Olympus C730 that we bought new almost 10 years ago for $900.
It was a 3.2 megapixel (MP) camera that had a 10x optical zoom lens.
Let's talk about megapixels first. In simple terms, a pixel is just a dot. Put enough dots together side by side and you have a picture. Megapixels really only matter when you are printing something large, or cropping a picture. 99% of camera buyers will do neither of these things. My old camera, at 3.2 MP could easily print 8x10 photos if we wanted to.
Most new cameras today are at least 10 megapixels.
Our new Olympus SZ-12 is 14 megapixels, which is ridiculous for our needs. Fortunately, you can reduce the settings in steps down to 8 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, and 1 MP. The higher the settings, the more of your memory you will use up. Setting your camera at either 3 or 5 MP is just fine. Also, the lower the number you use, the easier and faster it is to move those pictures around, both on your laptop, and on the internet.
Which brings us to memory cards. I bought a relatively small 4 GB memory card, on sale for $7.99. I think the smallest memory card you can now buy is 2 GB, which would be more than sufficient for most people, but it's only a couple of dollars cheaper than the 4 GB one. You can buy memory cards that are 10 times that size (and 10 times the price), but again, for 99% of the population, 4 GB is more than you need. To give you an idea of why this is more than you need, I can take over 2,500 pictures at the 5 MP setting and have them all on the 4 GB card.
I should talk a little about optical zoom as well.
Our old camera had a 10x optical zoom lens, but even that was a bit misleading. In lens specifications, the term "50 millimeter" is widely accepted as being the lens setting that will give you perspective the same way that your eye sees it. As you make you camera see a more wide angle, the number in millimeters goes down. As you zoom in on something, the number goes up. In other words, a 35 mm lens will give you a wider angle than a 50 mm lens. A 225 mm lens will give you a zoomed in view.
So although our old camera was listed as 10x zoom, it really wasn't. A 10x zoom should give you a 500mm view if 50mm is what your eye sees. But optical zoom on cameras is from what the widest angle of the lens is. Our old camera had 38mm to 380mm versatility, a factor of 10x. But really it was only 7.6 x zoom.
Our new camera, although it is listed as 24x optical zoom, it is based on the fact that the lens goes from 25mm to 600mm. So, while it is certainly more versatile than our old camera, it is really only 12x optical zoom if you figure that 50mm is normal view.
So while you can easily spend $600 or more on a camera, most people don't have the photography skills or knowledge or need to put that $600 worth of camera to good use. There are a lot of suitable choices for under $200.
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