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The best digital photography site is Digital Photography Review,
with the Digital Camera Resource Page deserving honorable

Basically, film is still better than digital in low-light
situations.  And if you can lug medium format gear around, you'll
still be able to capture much more detail than with any digital

It's a great time to get into medium format photography at the
moment -- pros are going digital for convenience and selling
their medium format gear for pennies on the dollar (check ebay).
But convenience is not to be blown off.  Film and developing are
expensive and time consuming, whether you do it yourself or go to
a lab.  The flexibility of digital buys you creative options in
the field and in post-processing.

The first question you need to answer is how portable you want
your camera to be.  Fit in a pocket?  Or can you carry an SLR?
SLRs are best, but bigger.  I recommend the Nikon D50 as an
entry-level SLR.

For me, if I'm not going to carry an SLR, the thing might as well
fit in my shirt pocket.  I currently use a Sony DSC-T7, which is
basically the smallest cam in existence (it's smaller than my
wallet).  You can see samples on my Flickr page, such as...


I miss using an SLR, but I always feel like a tourist when I
carry one -- it's like I can't simply enjoy what I'm doing
because I'm there to document it.  That's why I went for the

Megapixels are important but are generally oversold.  They mainly
come into play when printing.  Few monitors can even display 2
megapixels (for example, 1024x768 = 786,432 pixels, < 1 MP).  The
current generation of cameras are all in the 5-8 MP range, which
is fine for 4x6" prints.  More MP will give you better results at
larger sizes (or more room to crop before printing), but even the
best digicams aren't so great at 8x10" if you're as picky about
sharpness as I am.

Focal length, as in, '3X zoom lens' -- this tells you the amount
of magnification available but not the angles of view.  When
shooting architecture, landscapes, groups of people indoors... a
wide angle of view is very helpful.  Digital cameras tend skimp
on wide-angle capabilities.   Few go wider than 30mm (smaller is
wider).  Kodak just announced a camera that goes down to 23mm,
which is a record.  PC Magazine has the only review I could find.

The Ricoh GR digital has a fixed (no zoom) 28mm lens.
They're a bit pricey and not officially sold in the US, but they
supposedly take fantastic photos.  On my camera, I basically
never use the zoom.  I just keep it on the widest setting, so a
fixed lens would be fine for me.

Uh, digital zoom is crap.  It just crops the image (throws away
the borders) and blows up the middle.  Causes pixelation
(blockiness).  You should never use digital zoom on a camera (if
you want, you can always crop a photo later in Photoshop).  They
only put it on cameras for marketing purposes.  As for optical
zoom, just about all compact cams have the same 3X range (from
about 35-105mm, in 35mm-equivalent numbers).


All else being equal, more megapixels is better.  But all else is
never equal.  Megapixels sell, so manufacturers tend to push the
limit, and the side effect is noise.  That is, images with
reddish speckles.  But thanks to heavy competition, there isn't
much choice in megapixels anyway.  So the rule of thumb is to
make sure you don't have too few for your needs and ignore them
otherwise.  How many is too few?  The average monitor has about
1024x768 < 1M pixels on it, and the most expensive monitors have
1900x1200 < 3M pixels.  So for photos that are going to be viewed
on a computer, any camera will do.  Prints are another story, and
for 8x10" you'll need as many pixels as you can get.  For 4x6",
5 MP is usually sufficient.

So what differentiates digital cameras if not pixels?

Perhaps the biggest thing is wide-angle capability.  Because
digital image sensors are smaller than a 35mm film negative
(except those used in so-called "full frame" digital SLRs), most
digicams shoot no wider than a 35mm lens would on a 35mm camera.
But any self-respecting film SLR user has a 28mm lens in their
bag.  Well, there are two digicams with good wide-angle

The Canon S80 has a view finder, and a zoom range of 28-100mm
(35mm equivalent).  Retails for about $500.

The Ricoh GR digital has a fixed 28mm lens.  No zoom, and the
payoff is a fast lens.  The bad news is that it's not slated for
the US market, and it costs around $760.

Another thing that differentiates digicams is "raw" support.
This means that in addition to jpeg, the camera can save images
in an uncompressed format.  This is important if you plan to do
any post processing, as processing a jpeg and then re-saving as a
jpeg causes compression artifacts to accumulate (like making a
cassette from a cassette vs. from a CD).  The Canon S80 doesn't
have raw support, while the Ricoh GR digital does.

Another thing is sensor size.  Bigger sensors generally produce
less noisy images, since the pixels aren't as close together on
the chip.  Both of the above cameras have 1/1.8" sensors.  Sensor
sizes are given in this confusing notation.  The smaller the
number under the fraction is, the bigger the sensor.

The Nikon S4, for example, has a 1/2.5" sensor (that's bad).
But it's cheaper (~ $400) and physically smaller than the 1/1.8"
cams above.  It also has a split-body design, which I think is
nice for composing images.

If you're used to an SLR, your best bet may be the Nikon D50.
It's a price breakthrough for digital SLRs.  It's only 6mp, but
they're quality megapixels, from a 23.7 x 15.6 mm sensor that's
larger than what's in any of the above cams.  You can get it with
a 27-88mm lens (35mm equiv.) for about $800.

One more thing that differentiates digicams is video recording
capability.  The Canon S80 can record TV-quality video (640x480
at 30 fps).  The Nikon S4 can only do 15 fps, which is choppy,
and the Ricoh only does 320x240 at an unspecified framerate.
The Nikon SLR doesn't do video at all.