What Your Answers Say about the Best Digital Camera for

The previous questionnaire gives us a beginning point to help zero in on possible digital cameras to fit your needs, budget and personality. If you scored from:

8-14—You are definitely a point-and-shoot user. Point-and-shoot digital cameras are designed to let you capture good pictures without requiring you to learn any controls or fuss with any features.

15-23—You 're probably a candidate for an intermediate consumer camera. It may in fact be the same point-and-shoot camera that novices and technophobes use, but once taken off automatic, it will offer you some control over your photography, though with a limited feature set.

24-29—You may wish to consider a more advanced consumer digital camera, one that allows more extensive control over exposure, color, and tonality and comes bundled with more sophisticated image-editing software.

30-36—You will want a prosumer or semiprofessional digital camera. Prosumers offer more/faster/better—more features, more precise control, faster performance, faster throughput, better pictures. Semiprofessional models go one step further by offering interchangeable lenses, true through-the-lens single lens reflex viewing, and system accessories and peripherals.

37-40—You 're a professional photographer (or very avid hobbyist) who needs the best, most advanced pro equipment to do your job properly.

Maybe You Really Need a Scanner

If you are comfortable shooting film and don't want to switch entirely to digital, or you have stacks of negatives, transparencies, or black-and-white prints,you maybe better off buying a scannerthan a digital camera. A scanner is a quick and easy way to digitalize and download a photograph into the computer.

Desktop flatbed scanners are relatively inexpensive ($99—$399), easy to install, and do a reasonably good job in scanning prints, text, drawings, prints, and other paper-based originals. Flatbeds with an added transparency adapter (most flatbeds now come with TAs) are adequate for imputing occasional 35mm negatives and transparencies, as well as larger format film, such as 120 or 4"x5". But when you have hundreds or even thousands of slides and negatives, or when image quality is paramount, that's when you should move up to a shoebox-sized device called a film scanner. Film scanners, while more expensive ($400—$1,400), feature higher resolution and dynamic range than flatbeds and are optimized to produce higher-quality images.

The one difference between a scanner and a digital camera is that any photo you scan will be what is called second generation. On the other hand, any photo image you capture with a digital camera will always be first generation. With each generation, image data can degrade. Therefore, first generation images are always preferred by pros over any other.

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