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Digital Cameras and Photography

Paul Bradforth | Monday September 12, 2011

Categories: Photography, An Introduction to Digital Cameras, Production Zone, Print Production

Early history

Digital cameras have been around since about 1985. Then, they were bulky, with tiny resolutions and big prices, and were mainly for specialist applications only.

By 1997 we began to see the kind of camera we’re used to today: compact, pocket-sized, but with a resolution of only around a third of a Megapixel, not enough to print from successfully, although fine for Web use.

Things really started to take off around 1999, with many 1-3 Megapixel compacts on the market. DSLRs (Digital Single-lens reflex) began to appear then too, but at a staggering price—£15,000 was not unusual, and that was for just three megapixels. Since then, innovation has been rapid and constant. To make a 10x8 commercial-quality print in 1999, you’d have needed to spend £15,000 on the camera alone—the lens was extra; these days, you can buy a camera/lens combination that will do that with ease, and more, for £250. That’s progress!

The right camera for the right job: DSLR vs Compact

There are two main sorts of digital camera: Compact, which are small, sometimes pocketable point-and-shoot type cameras, and digital single-lens reflex cameras, known as DSLRs. The compact cameras are the digital equivalent of the kind of small camera families used to take on holiday for snaps; the digital reflex camera, or DSLR, is a digital version of the old SLR cameras used by professionals or keen amateurs.

I’d like to make it clear that I don’t believe in ‘camera snobbery’. If you can do good work, you can do it with a Compact, just as you could with the film versions in the old days—if you know what you’re doing, the camera matters a lot less than you might think. If a DSLR is out of your financial reach, don’t think you can’t do great things with whatever you can afford. You might need to compromise on some things, you might need to be a bit more ingenious and it might take you a bit longer, but you can still turn out results that...


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