Buying A Digital Camera

Steam Engine In A Sports Car: Using a film camera to illustrate my blog

I own two cameras: a Ricoh KR-5 and a Yashica T4. Both are 35mm film cameras. The Ricoh is a manual SLR and the Yashica is a point-and-shoot. They’re great cameras, and when I started, I intended to use them to illustrate my blog. The delay in shooting a roll of film, developing it, and scanning the negatives made it difficult to write about what I was currently doing. Some of my blog entries are about what I did, or how something looked, a week ago. I’ve been borrowing Marsha’s digital camera, and I just never imagined how much I would love having a finished digital image the same day (or hour!) I took the photo. So I’ve been thinking about getting my own compact digital camera. I’ve done a lot of research, and I have a good idea of what I want and why.

Megapixels: Too much of a good thing

Manufacturers have been competing on resolution, with each new generation of digital camera featuring more megapixels than the last. Since the physical size of the camera’s sensor has not been growing at the same rate, or at all, each pixel must be captured with less light. What’s happening is that the camera lets in a certain amount of light while it’s shutter is open. This light is divided up by a grid in order to produce a picture, each square on the grid is a pixel. As you increase the resolution (megapixels) and keep the sensor size the same, you divide that same amount of light into more, and smaller, pixels.

There is actually a photocollector for each pixel on the camera’s sensor, and as it tries to determine what that particular pixel should look like it still encounters a certain amount of noise. This noise is inherent in any electrical sensor and doesn’t decrease for the convenience of camera manufacturers. Have you ever heard of the “signal to noise ratio?” Well in digital cameras, it’s been going down (less signal in each pixel, same noise). Most manufacturers have reacted by trying to clean up the noise after the fact.

Bucking The Trend: Bigger sensor, fewer megapixels

They’re getting very clever about doing this, but it’ll never be as good as producing a good clean picture to begin with. That’s what Fujifilm has done with it’s Fuji Film F31fd Finepix 6.3 MP Digital Camera. It’s six megapixels provide plenty of resolution for most purposes, and it’s sensor is larger than most (maybe all) compact digital cameras. The result is good clean pictures even in low light. Fuji has recently released a newer model in this line of cameras, the Fujifilm Finepix F40fd 8.3MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom (Silver). It features more megapixels and a bigger sensor to accommodate them. This new camera is probably an improvement, but I just don’t know enough yet to say for sure. I’d feel very comfortable buying the F31fd, and if I had to buy a camera today that would be the one. I’d like to see some independent reviews of the F40fd before I decide which of the two to buy.

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