There are three categories of digital cameras on the market today. They are commonly referred to as "Point and Shoot", "Semi-Pro" medium resolution and high resolution "Professional" cameras. The cost range is:
|Point & Shoot||1 - 8 mega pixels||$200 - $500|
|Semi-Pro||8 - 10 mega pixels||$500 - $1000|
|> 10 mega pixels||$1000 and up|
The decision as to which camera to buy should be based on whether you intend to produce images for print as well as Internet publishing. If you are publishing for the web only, a top of the category Point & Shoot or Semi-Pro will provide excellent results. Obviously a higher cost camera in the Semi-Pro category will do an excellent job, but you will be paying a higher price for resolution that you will not use.
The only reason to purchase a Semi-Pro camera for web only publishing is that these cameras provide improved control over white balance and metering functions.
The correct choice of camera for publishing images to print as well as Internet is dependent on the size of the printed image. If you will be printing small images no more than 3 inches x 3 inches, then a 3-5 mega pixel resolution will produce excellent results. If you will be printing large half to full page images, a 5-6 mega pixel camera may not have sufficient resolution. For large prints like 11 x 17 we recommend 8 mega pixel minimum. This is somewhat dependant on your subjects and the sharpness required.
When purchasing a camera for flash photography, the camera must have a hot shoe or 'PC' type connector, and the manual should indicate that the camera is suitable for external or studio flash lights.
Camera Resolution and the web: Resolution, measured in millions of pixels, is the primary factor in determining image sharpness and printed presentation size. The most important factor in web publishing is that a computer screen and a browser window has a limited resolution of under 1 mega pixel. For example a full screen web image of 800x500 pixels is only 0.4 mega pixels. It is not reasonable to publish images larger than this because it will force most viewers to scroll around the image to see it, and the viewer will not have a sense of the object. A 4-5 mega pixel image taken with a Semi-Pro camera will typically be reduced to 0.2 mega pixels so therefore the 4-5 mega pixels is overkill. We suggest that if you purchase a medium resolution camera for web publishing, that you set the image size to about 1280x960.
Camera resolution and print publishing: When publishing to print media resolution is king. the rule of thumb is purchase as much resolution as you can afford. A 5-8 Mega pixel camera can produce some remarkable printed images and may be all of the resolution that you need.
White Balance and Color Temperature: A primary objective in photography is to accurately replicate colors of the subject. White balance is a digital camera function to correct for color shifting resulting from different light sources. All light sources have a specific color temperature measured in degrees Kelvin. For example incandescent light bulbs have a temperature of about 2700K and daylight can vary depending on location and time of day from 3000K -10,000K with mid day temperature of about 5500K.
One of the advantages of digital cameras over film is the ability of the camera to compensate for different color temperatures thereby allowing for more accurate color replication. Digital cameras vary widely in the methods and features to control color temperature, with more expensive cameras having superior controls. Almost all digital cameras have an auto white balance function which is optimized for daylight imaging. We do not recommend using a cameras Auto White Balance with studio lighting.
Semi-Pro to Professional digital cameras have intricate options for controlling white balance and therefore, when set properly, they will more accurately replicate colors. We have found that these cameras are far superior in managing color replication and therefore we recommend them for most users.
All digital cameras are imperfect in color reproduction. Setting a Custom White Balance is very good, but never perfect. If you want perfect color, you need QP Colorsoft.