How many pictures can a memory card hold? The size of a picture file depends on several factors, including what resolution and file format you use when you shoot the photo. Your camera manual should provide a table that lists the specific file sizes of pictures taken at each of the resolution and format settings the camera offers. But table below gives you a general idea of approximately how many pictures can fit in various amounts of memory. The table assumes that the picture is taken using the JPEG file format with a minor amount of compression — a setting that translates to good picture quality. If you shoot in the Camera Raw format, your files are substantially larger. On the other hand, if you use a lower-quality JPEG setting, file sizes are much smaller.
Approximate storage capacity based on high-quality JPEG images (minimum compression).
Here are a few other pointers on buying camera memory:
- Remember, most cameras can use only one type of memory, so check your manual for specifics. You don’t have to buy any particular brand, though; it’s the card type that matters — CompactFlash, Memory Stick, and so on.
- Also, check your camera manual to find out the maximum capacity card
it accepts. Some older cameras can’t use the new, high capacity cards.
- Memory cards come in a variety of “speeds.” No, this doesn’t mean how fast you can stick them into the camera and shoot (sorry, Quick Draw). Rather, it refers to how fast your images can be recorded on them and moved from them to the computer. This speed is specified on the card with a number and an “x” sign: 66x, 90x, 133x, and so on, with a higher number indicating a faster card. Card speed is especially important for cameras that can shoot lots of photos in quick succession; faster cards mean that you can keep shooting without any pauses. Of course, speed equates to cost: The faster the card, the more expensive it is.
Before you buy, check to make sure that your camera is engineered to take advantage of the higher-speed cards (most point-and-shoot models are not). Also, understand that you probably won’t notice a difference unless you’re shooting at high resolutions — say, 5 megapixels or more. Finally, note that when it comes to how fast you can download images, the speed of the card isn’t the only factor; the capabilities of the card reader and your computer come into play as well.
- As with other commodities, you pay less per megabyte when you buy “in bulk.” A 2GB card costs less per megabyte than a 512MB card, for example.
Before digging into specific camera features, it helps to review the two basic design types of digital cameras: compact, point-and-shoot models.
Digital SLR models are often called dSLRs. The acronym SLR, by the way, means single-lens reflex and refers to some internal mechanisms used by this type of camera. Delving deeper into that bit of business isn’t critical; the important thing to know is that SLR cameras enable you to swap lenses. You can use a wide-angle lens for your travel photography, for example, and switch to a close-up lens for pictures of flowers and other small subjects. Point-and-shoot models do not offer this flexibility. Both types of cameras have their pros and cons:
✓ dSLRs: These models offer the greatest degree of creative control, not only because you can swap out lenses but also because you get advanced options for manipulating exposure, focus, and color not found in most point-and-shoot models. And dSLRs do tend to be a cut above in the quality arena because they tend to have larger image sensors, although many point-and-shoot models also produce excellent images.
In addition, dSLRs offer the options that professionals and serious amateurs demand. They’re made to work well with external flashes, and they’re also able to connect to external lighting systems (such as studio flashes and modeling lights). Some dSLRs can shoot up to 10 frames per second for highspeed, no-lag photos of action and sports, and many are “ruggedized” for use in foul weather and other tough environmental conditions.
On the downside, dSLRs are expensive; expect to pay $400 and up just for the body, plus additional dollars for lenses. If you already own lenses, you may be able to use them with a digital body, however, and lenses for one dSLR often work with other models from the same manufacturer. So if you buy an entry-level Nikon dSLR, for example, and really catch the fever to go semi-pro or pro, you can use the same lenses on a higher-end Nikon body.
You should also know that with some dSLRs, you cannot use the monitor as a viewfinder as you can with point-and-shoot digitals. This isn’t a major concern for most dSLR photographers, who prefer framing shots using an old-fashioned viewfinder. But if you want to have the choice, the feature in question is called Live View (or something similar). It’s implemented in different ways, so experiment to see which design you like best.
Finally, dSLRs can be intimidating to novice photographers. If you’re new to SLR photography, your best bet is to check out entry-level models, which typically offer you the choice of shooting in automatic mode or manual mode and also offer other ease-of-use features you may not get with a semi-pro, high-end model. Then you can enjoy your camera right away but have the ability to move beyond auto mode when you’re ready.
✓ Point-and-shoot: These models offer convenience and ease of use, providing autofocus, autoexposure, and auto just-about-everything else. And they’re typically less expensive than dSLRs, although some high-end point-and-shoots aren’t all that different in price from an entry-level dSLR.
You don’t necessarily have to stick with automatic mode just because you go the point-and-shoot route, either. Many point-and-shoot cameras offer just about the same advanced photographic controls as a dSLR, except for the option to use different lenses. Using those advanced controls can be somewhat more complicated on a point-and-shoot, though; on a dSLR, you may be able to access a feature through an external button, but on a point-and-shoot, external controls may be more limited because of the smaller size of the camera body.
Speaking of size, the other obvious decision you need to make is just how much camera bulk you’re willing to carry around. Although dSLRs are getting more compact every year, you’re not likely to be able to tuck one in your shirt pocket, as you can with many point-and-shoot models. But you can always do what some pros do: Carry both! Keep a point-and-shoot handy for quick snapshots and pull out your dSLR when you have the time (and inclination) to get more serious.
All digital SLRs have six killer features that make your job as a photographer much easier, more pleasant, and more creative.
- A bigger, brighter view
The perspective through a dSLR’s viewfinder is larger and easier to view than what you get with any non-SLR’s optical window, back-panel LCD, or internal electronic viewfinder (EVF). With a dSLR, what you see is almost exactly what you get (or at least 95 percent of it), although you might need to press a button called a depth-of-field preview if you want to know more precisely what parts of your image are in focus. The dSLR’s viewfinder shows you a large image of what the lens sees, not a TV-screen-like LCD view. (See Figure 1-1.) If you have your heart set on using an LCD, many of the latest digital SLRs from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, and Pentax offer a feature called Live View, which displays the actual sensor view on the LCD prior to taking the picture. And as with any digital camera, you can still review the picture you’ve taken on your dSLR’s LCD after it has been captured.
A dSLR viewfinder gives you a big, bright view of your scene for easy composition and focus.
You can review your image on your dSLR’s screen after it has been captured.
- Faster operation
Any non-SLR digital camera suffers from something called shutter lag, which is a delay of 0.5 to 1.5 seconds (or more) after you press the shutter release all the way but before the picture is actually taken. Lag is a drag when you’re shooting sports action or trying to capture a fleeting expression on the faces of your kids. A dSLR responds to your command to shoot virtually instantly and can continue to take pictures at a 3 to 5 frames-per-second clip (or even faster). Try that with a non-SLR camera! All functions of a dSLR camera, from near-instant power-up to autofocus to storing an image on your memorycard, are likely to operate faster and more smoothly with a dSLR than with other types of digital cameras.
- Lenses, lenses, and more lenses
Certainly, many non-SLR cameras are outfitted with humongous zoom lenses with 12X to 18X zoom ratios. A typical superzoom range is the equivalent of 35mm to 420mm on a full-frame digital or film camera. Yet, these lenses don’t do everything. Only a digital SLR, which lets you pop off the lens currently mounted on your camera and mount another one with different features, has that capability. Non-SLR digital cameras rarely offer wide angle views as broad as the equivalent of 24mm to 28mm. Digital SLR lenses commonly offer views as wide as 10mm. You’ll also want a dSLR if you need to focus extra-close or want a really long telephoto. The lenses offered for dSLR cameras are often sharper, too. For many photographers, the ability to change lenses is the number-one advantage of the digital SLR.
- Better image quality
You’ll find non-SLR digital cameras today with 8 to 14 megapixels of resolution. (There are even camera phones with resolution in that range.) But a good-quality dSLR will almost always provide better image quality than a traditional digital camera of the same or better resolution. Why? Because the dSLR’s sensor has larger pixels (at least 4 to 5 times larger than the typical point-and-shoot camera’s), which makes them more sensitive to light and less prone to those grainy artifacts we call noise. A 10-megapixel dSLR usually provides better images with less noise at a sensitivity setting of ISO 800 than a 10-megapixel non-SLR camera at ISO 400.
- Camera-like operation
The workings of a non-SLR digital camera have more in common with a cell phone than with a traditional film camera. If you don’t like zooming by pressing a button, visiting a menu every time you want to change a setting, or finetuning focus with a pair of keys, you should be using a digital SLR.
- More control over depth of field
Depth of field (DOF) is the distance range in which things in your photos are in sharp focus. DOF can be shallow, which is a good thing when you want to make everything in your image other than your subject blurry, so that your subject is isolated or highlighted. Depth-of-field can also be generous, which is great when you want everything in the picture to look sharp.
Digital SLR cameras allow you to choose between shallow DOF, extensive DOF, and everything in between. Non-SLR cameras usually give you two choices when you’re not shooting close-up pictures: having everything in sharp focus, and having virtually everything in sharp focus. You can find out more about the technical reason for this (the extra depth of field provided by the shorter focal length lenses used in non-SLR cameras). If you want to use focus creatively, a dSLR is your best choice.