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The Camera Spotter’s guide – What to look for when choosing a digital camera

Looking for a new digital camera or camcorder? This little guide is specially designed to help you pick the perfect product.

Megapixels

More pixels means better picture quality, although ten megapixels is usually enough for beautifully bright standard sized prints. If you’re going to print your pics at larger sizes (say A4 and above) then more megapixels could be the way to go.

Zoom

In the past, digital zoom technology helped you get closer to the action, although it could sometimes distort the image at higher magnifications. Today most digital cameras use crisp, powerful optical zoom systems that don’t have these problems.

Wide Angle Lens

Wide-angle lenses are popular because you can get much more into your shot and create a massive sense of space. Top names to look out for are Canon, Leica and Carl Zeiss.

LCD screen

When it comes to digital camera screens, size definitely matters. That’s because larger screens mean you can see your pictures more clearly. Some digital cameras have touchscreen LCDs (so you can control camera functions from the screen rather than fiddling with buttons), and Auto Rotate (a clever system which automatically turns the screen picture from vertical to horizontal depending on the way you’re holding the camera).

Image stabilisation

Shaky hands stopping you from getting the perfect pic? Don’t panic. Image stabilisation technology helps compensate for vibrations and camera shake. There are three versions of this tech you need to know about. Optical image stabilisation uses a built-in motion senor to compensate for camera movement, while digital image stabilisation increases the cameras sensitivity to light so it shoots at a faster shutter speed to cut camera shake. Or you could choose a dual image stabilisation camera that uses the best bits of both systems.

Intelligent scene recognition

Intelligent scene recognition means you’re free to concentrate on getting a great image rather than fiddling with features. It works by ‘recognising’ the sort of picture you’re getting ready to take (for example a portrait, close-up or night shot) and automatically changing the camera settings to give you the best possible picture.

Face detection technology

Face detection helps you get great people pictures. It automatically recognises faces and picks the right focus, flash and exposure settings. Face detection systems often come with smile or blink detection – as you’d expect, smile detection means the camera waits until your subjects are smiling before taking a shot, while blink detection means the camera pauses for a moment if it sees one of your subjects blinking.

Face recognition

This system recognises and ‘saves’ faces it’s seen in your other shots. It then automatically focuses on those faces if it sees them again and tags your pictures when you upload them to your computer. Clever, eh?

ISO

ISO measures a camera’s sensitivity to light – the higher the ISO setting, the better the picture in low light. Most digital cameras automatically change their ISO setting to suit whatever you’re shooting. D-SLR cameras and some high end compact cameras let you change the ISO manually so you can get creative with your camera settings.

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