Digital Camera Basics

Photographic technology didn't change much for the first hundred years or so. Sure, cameras got smaller and easier to use, lenses grew more powerful, and film quality improved, but folks were still basically taking pictures with a box that focused an image on a light-sensitive piece of film. The world, apparently, was ready for a change.

Barely a decade after they first entered the average consumer's consciousness (and price range), digital cameras started outselling film camerasa shift of culture-jarring proportions. By early 2006, a staggering 92 percent of cameras sold were digital cameras.

Film photography giants like Kodak, Canon, and Olympus are now major players on the digital market, and they've been joined by manufacturers coming from the electronics side, like Sony, HP, Casio, and Samsung. The makers compete for your dollars by offering dozens of digital camera models with a dizzying array of features. Fortunately, if you understand just a few important digital camera basics, you can evaluateand take great photos withalmost any camera you pick up. If you're reading this book because you're one of the millions getting ready to take the digital plunge for the very first time, this chapter will familiarize you with digital photography terms like megapixel, flash memory, and burst mode. No camera salesman or newspaper circular will ever again seem quite so daunting.

On the other hand, if you're already the proud owner of a digicam, you've probably spent more time snapping pictures and eagerly showing them off than learning what all your camera's buttons do and what those tiny symbols on its screen mean. Of course, you could wade your way through the manual that came with your camera...and still wind up pretty confused. Or you could just read this chapter for the plain-English version of the features that appear on most digital cameras, and learn how they can enhance your picture-taking experience.

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