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Main / Articles: Snap-ons for your camera

YOU'VE opened the box with your new digital camera and you're ready to get down to some serious point-and-shoot action.

With the average digital camera package, generally you are.
Cables, battery chargers, manuals, software and, usually, memory cards, are included in most digital camera purchases nowadays.

Truth be told, that's all most people will ever need or want: a camera they can easily slip in a pocket ready to capture memories when the opportunities arise.

But if that's all you want to do with it, the average mobile phone these days would suffice.

If, however, you've gone to the expense of buying a dedicated digital camera, that investment could be made more worthwhile with the addition of a few key accessories.

What sort of accessories depends on the camera and the type of snapper you are.

A digital compact camera, for example, might only need a spare battery or two and a high-capacity memory card to add to its usefulness.

A digital SLR camera, however, by its very nature cries out for a range of accessories, ranging from extra lenses and lens hoods to flashes and filters.

For anyone who considers their photography skills better than amateur, items such as automatic screen calibrators, portable image viewers and the like can go a long way towards achieving superior images.

Among digital imaging accessories the most basic and most valuable is the memory card.

Unfortunately, memory cards, especially high-capacity cards, are one accessory not guaranteed to come in the box.

Most popular compact or mid-range digital camera packages have a memory card supplied.

That's not the case, however, with some high-end cameras, and especially digital SLRs, although you can usually negotiate to get one thrown in when you're dealing with your retailer.

Even if you get a card in your original package, it's unlikely to be anything more than fairly low-capacity, usually 8MB or 16MB if you're lucky.

That might be fine when you first start fooling about, but running out of memory after less than a dozen shots is not what you want when you are recording memories.

Anyway, one of the great benefits of digital photography is the ability to experiment with a series of shots and later discard those you don't want, a feature that was prohibitive for most people using film rolls or cartridges.

The type of memory card you need will be determined by the camera you buy.

You may be lucky enough to have a camera that supports multiple cards, but usually the camera will lock you into one, and one only.

A few cards, however, have become common enough that you'll find them in most retailers.

Among the most popular are Compact Flash (CF), Sony's Memory Sticks, Secure Digital (SD) cards and MultiMedia Cards (MMC).

Some of these are compatible with other devices.

Sony, for example, makes much of the fact that its Memory Sticks will fit most Sony devices.

Similarly, miniature versions of these cards are starting to become available to fit smaller gadgets.

What is common among all of them, though, is that old rule of most electronic storage devices: capacity increases as prices fall.

That means most users can afford a high-capacity memory card that should serve most of their storage needs for a modest outlay.

With 2GB cards and above becoming less of a novelty now, even obsessive users can store thousands of images without the need to delete some of them, download them to a computer or go to a back-up card.

A good rule of thumb when deciding how much capacity you need in a card is to think of your camera's resolution.

It's no good having a 5 megapixel camera if your card can only store a dozen or so images at that 5 megapixel maximum resolution.

If you are going on an overseas trip or recording a party or a wedding, for example, you want plenty of space to save images.

A 128MB card, for example, stores about 50 5 megapixel images. A 256MB or 512Mb will double or quadruple that.

If that's not enough, you could do worse than have a spare card. After all, on a trip to Paris you probably wouldn't limit yourself to a single 24-exposure roll of film.

After memory cards, the next most basic and important accessory is the humble power supply.

A lot of digital cameras, especially compact units, run on standard AA or AAA batteries, but even then rechargeable batteries and a charger are a good idea when on the road.

Once again, the more advanced your camera is, the greater the chance that it uses its own rechargeable battery, typically lithium-ion.

As with mobiles, in these cases it's handy to have a spare recharged battery for those times you don't have easy access (or the time) to recharge the battery.

Travelling overseas poses another problem with charging: different plug types and voltages.

Many battery rechargers will let you adjust to the voltage of the country concerned, but it's a good idea before boarding a flight or ship overseas to make sure you have a socket converter for the mains supply in the country you are going to.

That should cover the essential bases for the amateur digital photographer, but there are many gadgets that make taking and sharing your photos easier.

Photo viewers are a handy and easy way to review and store photos while on the road.

LCD screens on digital cameras are getting bigger and clearer, but reviewing your photos on the go, either to delete some to make space or to show off your latest snaps is still no easy task.

Devices such as Kodak's EasyShare Picture Viewer or Epson's P-2000 can take a memory card from the camera (depending on the card type and the unit's compatibility) and display the images crisply and cleanly on the screen.

As well as letting you organise your shots on the go, both units double as a handy take-anywhere digital photo album to share images with friends.

Such devices can serve as portable storage, allowing you to download images to them to free up space on your card for new images.

Similar devices, such as the Imagetank G2 or the Sony HDPS-M1 hard-drive-based photo storer, will achieve the same storage aims, often with higher capacity but without the facility to view the stored images onscreen. That must wait until later, when you can hook up to a computer and download them. It's when you start getting into the high end of digital photography, and particularly digital SLR cameras, that accessory choices start to increase and photographic aids such as lenses and filters come into play.

The great advantage of digital SLRs, for example, is that you can detach and change lenses, often with lense that you had for your old film-based SLR nearly all digital SLR cameras can use standard SLR lenses.

Some fixed-lens cameras, at the high end, can be fitted with add-on lenses, chang-ing the camera's focal length, although not the optical resolution.

Filters for digital cameras, on the other hand, have their detractors and opponents.

Naysayers would have it that anything extra between the image and the camera sensor degrades the captured image, and that photo editing soft-ware replicates the effects of various filters anyway.

But keen snappers still swear by the benefits of polarising filters.

Not only, they say, can they still be used to reduce the effects of glare and shiny surfaces, but they also let the snapper more easily control contrast and colour/hue saturation in images.

Similarly, neutral density filters help to suppress bright ambient light for finer control of the camera's shutter and aperture settings in bright light.

GOOD RESOLUTIONS

ONE of the biggest decisions facing digital snappers is what resolution to choose for the pictures they take.

Each new generation of digital cameras seems inexorably to push the limits of megapixel resolution, creating a need for memory cards with larger capacity.

Although the latest digital cameras, of 5 megapixels and more, can take sharper pictures, the trade-off is the amount of storage space they use.

So, although it's understandable that digital camera owners with multi-featured models want to make the most of their gadget, it's possible that only in rare cases will they need the camera's maximum resolution if, for example, they want to make enlargements of the image.

On the other hand, those who have no intention of making a print of their images (and trends indicate that most digital images never make it on to paper from the computer, or even the memory card) there is no need to shoot in high resolution.

All digital cameras will give you a choice of shooting modes, usually labelled along the line of fine, for high-resolution images, standard and low, or economy for pictures destined only for small prints or publishing on the web or email.

In general, any image below 1 megapixel is suitable only for small prints.

A 1-megapixel image could, at a stretch, make a 10.5cm by 7cm print at 1024 by 726 pixels.

Such images are probably better suited for sending with emails (large file sizes can be a problem) or for publishing on the internet.

In the middle of the scale, the popular 3.1 megapixel images will produce an image of 2048 by 1536 pixels, suitable for printing to a respectable 17.5cm by 13cm, slightly bigger than a 6in by 4in postcard.

Further up, 5 megapixel images are probably the cutting edge of the amateur photographer's range. These will print a reasonable 21.25cm by 15.95cm image, at a resolution of 2560 by 920 pixels.

A towering 13.5 megapixel resolu-tion, pretty well restricted to the professional level at the moment, will allow the biggest print option.

An ideal size at this level would be a whopping 50.8cm by 20.6cm, enough for a decent-sized poster.

Such high-end images, however, will eat up a lot of storage, although there is no hard-and-fast rule for the exact capacity each image would require.

Storage space depends on a lot of variables, including the compression ratio of your camera, and just how detailed the image is.

Typically, a 5 megapixel image would take up about 2.5MB of storage.

So if you're using an out-of-the-box card with 8MB or 16MB capacity, you'd only be able to save about four to eight images.

A 3 megapixel image probably offers the best economy of scale.

It is suitable for all postcard-sized prints but not for big enlargements.

One shot will eat up about 1.2MB of storage.

A 64MB card would generally hold about 53 to 55 such images, offering plenty of capacity for all but the most snap-happy photographers, not that there?s ever such a thing as too much storage.

IMAGES IN THE FAST LANE

WHEN Dirk Klynsmith isn't filling his lungs with fumes photographing motor sport he's getting some fresh air doing nature photography.

Either way he's carrying about 20kg of camera equipment. Brisbane-based Klynsmith has been a full-time self-employed photographer for 12 years and has been using digital cameras since 2000.

His career started when a friend who was involved in a V8 Supercars team invited him to take pictures.

"People liked them. I sold a few and it started from there," he says.

His first digital camera was a Canon D2000 whose pictures created a 5.7MB image, usable for newspapers but not magazines. The Australian is printed at 150 dots per inch, but some magazines run pictures at 300dpi or higher. He stuck with that brand because he could use his old lenses. In his kit he has three zooms: a 16-25, a 28-70 and a 70-200.

His one fixed lens is a 6kg 400 f/2.8 that must be used with a monopod to keep it steady.

The 400 zoom lenses look like small rocket launchers and are bulky, but they are the choice of most sport and nature photographers because of their ability to get close-up shots of distant subjects.

Tripods are not needed on the field, he says. He carries two camera bodies, a Canon EOS-1D and EOS-1D Mark II. He says his favourite accessories are the EOS 1D mark II and his Canon 400mm lens, despite its bulk.

His latest Canons deliver jpeg images of about 2.2MB compressed and 23MB uncompressed, which are more acceptable to magazines than the 5.7MB image of five years ago.

He saves his images to SanDisk Ultra II CompactFlash memory cards that write images at a minimum of 9 MBps, says the manufacturer.

He prefers not to have all eggs in one basket and has four 514MB CF cards and five 256MB CF cards. None of the kit is much use if you don't know what to do with it.

Klynsmith says using flash, helps him capture the best images for his clients.

He has two Canon Speedlite 550EX with their own battery packs. That's more weight, but worth it for him, he says.

"I use flash for arty stuff. I use it in the pits to get rid of shadows, I use it to take shots of drivers in their cars and at press conferences," he says.

"The flash is on at least one camera all the time. Flash helps to freeze the car, it helps to define the car."

While arty stuff may be a loose way to describe a lifetime's experience of taking pictures, he has plenty of customers to keep him busy.

He shoots for several magazines: Australasian Motorsport News, and Motor Racing Australia; and for teams, Holden Motorsport and Britek.

He is the Australian shooter for New Zealand Speedsport, and his work is sought by Sutton Motorsport Images, a British library.

Klynsmith has his own website, www.graphicdakphotos.com

He takes a laptop computer to events so he can send his pictures to clients as soon as possible. He can usually get a dial-up connection, but if he can't, he sends his images using the computer and his CDMA mobile phone, which easily handles his 600KB to 700KB files.

Article source: australianit.news.com.au

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