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Credible Camera & Lens Review Sites   Pixel Density Ratings   Digital Photography Terms   
Camers with Articulating LCDs   Cameras with Manual Exposure Options   Assorted Links
New cameras considered   Micro 4/3rds Cameras
  Mirrorless Cameras

When this page got too big, much of it movied to the new page, Cameras & Lenses I Have Known or Lusted After, but that one got out-of-date quickly, and I no longer update it.

Cameras & Lenses: Past & Future
An Introduction to Digital Photography, How Sensor Sizes, Megapixel Ratings
and Other Factors Affect Image Quality. Plus History, Terms & Types

by J R Compton

Micro Four-Thirds vs. P+S 0 Olympus image

1/2.5 Point+Shoot sensor vs. m43 sensor — Olympus image

Beware! Megapixel ratings are a fool's game. More is not necessarily better. More important is how big the sensor is and how densely its pixels are packed into that space. The Canon s90 I still sometimes use [when I need a camera in my pocket] is adequate at 10 megapixels and was good enough to create decent images for newspaper ads and great images online (Note its 1/1.7 sensor size below), but the Micro Four-Thirds Panasonic Lumix G2 (Its sensor is the medium blue m43 size below) I usually use when I don't want to pack my much bigger and heavier Nikons (DX/APS-C sensor size) offers significantly better image quality than the tiny-sensored s90 Point & Shoot's 1/1.7 size sensor, because it packs about the same number of megapixels into a much larger sensor.

Putting more than 10 megapixels on pinky-fingernail-sized sensors small as P+Ss (Point and Shoots, also called Compact Cameras — f/1.7 and 1/2.5 sizes below) have in current technology actually reduces quality, which is why the latest models of Canon's top-of-the-line compacts, the G11/G12 and S90/S95, and other companies and cameras are reducing their megapizel ratings — and using slightly larger sensors. The G12, S90, S95 and S100 cameras use a 1/1.7 sensor, which is significantly smaller than all the other sensor sizes shown.

New Sensor Size Comparison

Comparing Compact Sensor Sizes 1/2.5 (most P+Ss), 1/1.7 (Canon S90/95, G11/12 and Panasonic LX3 and LX5),
MicroFourThirds (m43), DX/APS-C and FX (full frame 35mm) sensor sizes
 

Sensor Format  Size Comparison
Format Sensor
Dimensions
Sizes in
mm square
FX (Full Frame 35mm)
24 x 36mm
884
DX  See FX vs. DX.
16 x 24mm
372.88
APS-C
15 x 22mm
332
Micro Four Thirds
13 x 17.3mm
225
1/1.7 (Canon S90 & G11) 7.6 x 5.7 43.32
1/2.5 (most P+Ss) 5.76 x 4.29 24.71

Relative Size of Sensors
 

The Wikipedia chart comparing sensor sizes below on this page may have more sensor sizes compared, but the blue one above from Imaging-Resource.com makes the difference more obvious. P+S cameras have tiny sensors [far left above]. Other sensor formats, including Micro Four Thirds [middle above], APS, and especially, full frame (FX) dSLRs, have larger sensors [right].

All things being equal — and they never are, the larger the sensor, the better the Image Quality (IQ). Also, generally, the larger the sensor, the more expensive the camera.

A once-new but now abandoned rating primarily used by Digital Photography Review until they were bought by Amazon, compared how many pixels are crammed into a square centimeter of a camera's sensor. Usually expressed like this: 32 MP/cm² pixel density. These ratings [taken from 's (DPR) Camera Database are noted in bold gray in the listings on these pages. Link Fixed The math and formula for this rating is on my How to Photograph Art page.

Lower density ratings are better. When a lot of pixels are squeezed together so camera companies can hype high megapixel ratings to unknowing buyers, IQ (image quality) suffers, and image noise creeps into even the lower ISO settings. But many other factors also affect image quality.

The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) rates the relative sensitivity of sensors like the American Standards Association (ASA) used to rate the sensitivity of film. Essentially a camera's ISO measures the relative sensitivity of that camera's sensor.

Wikipedia explains digital ISO speeds, and Joshua Lehrer explains how to deal with them.
 

Showing the effect of ISO on image quality

This image of bottles in the window from How to Photograph Art page shows how low (left) and high (right) ISO affects image quality. Skeleton/Spider/Safety-pin art by my friend, Tre Roberts.
 

Raising ISO also reduces image quality, shown here with a tiny piece of art in my front window. It is almost always better to photograph art at your camera's standard ISO (80 on my Canon compacts; 200 on my Nikon dSLRs).

Using lower ISOs ("film speed") requires more light, probably meaning longer exposures, so we have to hold the camera more solidly.

Add a tripod and a light stand kit — or go out under the sun, and you're ready. Point+Shoots don't weigh much, so you don't have to buy an expensive tripod, although you need to pay attention to how tall any tripod gets (it should extend taller than you are) and whether it will actually support your camera. (Make the tripod as tall as possible, stand it up, then jiggle it. If it keeps jiggling, you need a more secure tripod.)

P+S cameras usually range from under a hundred dollars to about five hundred. Only rarely more, but if you want a camera badly enough to pay more than that, you might as well get a dSLR.

It makes a difference which camera you get, but let your budget be your guide, because that's the most important criterion. Even some of the least expensive cameras have good-enough IQ. \
 

Basic costs  
P+S camera
$150+
Most stores want to sell you a fancy kit with your camera, but resist the urge. A belt pouch ($10), replacement battery ($10), table-top tripod (almost useless) and memory card ($3~$25) are usually not worth the extra cost to you, and only add to their profit. Unless you really need all the contents of the kit, don't buy it. And don't believe their "regular retail price" malarky, either.  
Memory Card

$11 and up

Photoshop Elements
$75-85
Tripod
$20-150-thousands

Stands, reflectors and bulbs

Two stands with umbrellas - Smith-Victor KT5000U $110 retail at Wolfe's
Three stands - KT750 Photoflood Kit at Amazon $137
Two stands - PBL Pro Light Kit at Amazon $137
Camera stores sometimes do lighting demonstrations and offer the Smith Victor 3-stand, bulbs and umbrellas kit for a little over $100

$150-200
Most prices are from Amazon and will probably change.


You can do without the lights and stands — and tripod, too, if you take your art outside and photograph it under the a bright sun. My How to Photograph Art page tells you how. But if you're ever faced with days of no sun and a deadline coming, you may want a couple light stands around, just in case.

You will need a camera and probably a memory card, although a few cameras have a small internal memories. Card prices are so low now, it makes sense to get one as large as you can afford. I usually keep 16-gigabyte cards in whatever camera I'm My main camera has a 32-gig card.
 

Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (dSLRs) are at the other end of the spectrum from Point+Shoots. Their sensor sizes are much larger and usually less dense. dSLR cameras are bigger, heavier and cost more, though the size and weight difference is not necessarily proportional to any improvement in image quality (IQ). dSLRs are also much more versatile and controllable, and many aspects of their workings can be individually customized.

The most important difference between a P+S and a dSLR is that when you click a dSLR's shutter, it fires almost immediately, usually with less than a tenth of a second delay. A P+S has a shutter lag of a much as 3/4 of a second, maybe longer in some circumstances.

In that time, whatever you'd planned to take a picture of may well have moved or is still moving. A dSLR will focus on whatever you aim its focus square at, while a P+S will choose something according to its internal algorythms that may have nothing to do with what you want sharp.

The lenses of dSLRs are interchangeable. Lenses on nearly all P+Ss so far, are permanent. Often, one lens (called the "kit" lens) comes free (or at a relatively small additional amount — $100-200) with a dSLR. More specialized lenses — and we always want/need more — and better ones will cost.

Kit lenses are very often lenses with many compromises and slow (dark) maximum apertures. They're generally optically adequate but rarely wide or tele enough for serious photography, although luck is with us if we only want to photograph art, because kit lenses are often very good for that — usually best used in the middle of their zoom range.

Digital SLRs (dSLRs) are good for almost any kind of photography, and they excel in art reproduction, but you probably don't need one unless your budget is high or your art-photographing volume is.

Digital Photography Review's Buying a digital SLR by Simon Joinson explains most of the differences between P+S Compacts and dSLRs.

The best way to judge exposure on any digital camera is to shoot,
look at the image on the LCD, make adjustments then shoot again —

Be aware that some LCDs lie. Then you look at it later on your optimized computer monitor and make mental adjustments every time you shoot with it — or get a camera that doesn't lie. (Good luck.)
 

Perplexus - Photograph Copyright 2010 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

In bright light, the Canon SD780 is amazing. In low light, however. It is not. I can't show you
what it usually does in low-light, because those shots don't look anywhere near this good.

 

P+Ss usually have built-in zoom lenses. The trick is to get a camera with a usable zoom and focus range with a practical maximum aperture (f/stop), minimal distortion and decent close-up (called macro) ability. Lenses refract light outside to focus it on the sensor.

The adjustable opening where light comes in is called aperture. Wide aperture lenses usually cost more but let in more light, so you can use higher shutter speeds to not blur your photographs or to make one element in a photograph sharp and all the rest out of focus, but that comes later, after you've figured out almost everything else.

As lenses zoom, their maximum apertures usually get smaller. Smaller apertures let in less light, so you have to use slower shutter speeds to adjust for the smaller apertures. Unless you use a tripod to hold your camera very still, slower shutter speeds make blured images. More images are destroyed by camera movement than any other cause. More telephoto than wide-angle images are blurred, because they are magnified.

Read f/stops are fractions on How to Photograph Art and Shutter Speeds Are, Too.

1913 Ica Reflex

An Ica Single-lens Reflex from Ica Cameras in 1913:
No pentaprism, so the image seen by looking down into
the darkened "tube" at top, was right-side-up but backwards —
good enough for portraits but mostly useless for action.
 

The Reflex Saga

Single Lens Reflexes (SLRs) are archaic devices that have been around since the late 17th Century — though the earliest ones were room-sized, slow (dark) and did not involve film. Camera Lucidas, which Wikipedia says, is "an optical device used as a drawing aid by artists" were usually chambers (camera) with a small hole in one wall that let in light (lucida) that would focus an image on the opposite wall.

There wasn't a lens as we now think we understand it, just a hole. Mirrors and pentaprisms — the reflex part — came later.

The original Camera Obscuras were rooms without windows, where everything that would let light in was covered, except for one small hole in one wall that let the outdoor scene project upside down and backwards on the opposite wall. Gradually boxes replaced the rooms, but we kept the word "camera."

Using paper or canvas on a vertical easel, an artist could vary the distance to get the right size (like you'd move the screen closer and farther away to make projected slides or movies smaller or larger), to create a guide for drawings or paintings that would amaze those who saw them for their life-like proportions, shapes and tones. Most artists who used them didn't tell on themselves, and many viewers of their art were amazed at their rendering abilities.

Camera = room   Obscura = dark

How to Make a Camera Obscura by Tim Hunkin

Visit Tim Hunkin.com for much more information, including How to Cheat at Art.
See also Cabinet of Wonders - How Life Like: The Camera Obscura,
Snarkout, the Archives and Andres Burbano - Camera Obscura,
 

A Short History of Camera Formats

Wikipedia's History of the single-lens reflex (SLR) camera tells that the first 35mm SLR was made in Russia in 1934. The first interchangeable-lens SLR was made in Japan in 1940, and the then-new, small, 35mm film format was widely popularized during the Vietnam War (1945-75). The Miranda was the first Japanese-made 35mm SLR with a pentaprism (to correct the image — optics project an image that is inside out and upside down). My first SLR was a Miranda I bought at the Base Exchange in Tuy Hoa, Vietnam. I switched to Nikon when I was a staff photographer for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 1970s.
 

SLR workings

Single Lens Reflex Workings - from Wikipedia
 

A Single Lens Reflex camera projects image-forming light through the lens into a light-proof box, reflects it up from a mirror to a five (penta)-surfaced prism which reflects the image around until it is correct left and right and right-side up, so we can see what we are shooting and easily follow moving subjects. See image below.

I still use Nikons, because most of their cameras since then, including the digital ones, still use all my older lenses, although most of them were manual focus, which are more difficult to use on dSLRs without split-image or micro-prism viewfinders. (In split-image focusing, we twist the focus reing on a lens till the two images line up. Micro prisms used the same method to make the rough area around the center point of a lens appear sharp and sharper.
   

American White Pelican Landing - copyright 2009 J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

American White Pelican Landing - from the December 09 Amateur Birder's Journal
1/1250 @ f/8  ISO 320   Nikon D300 with Sigma 150~500mm zoom at 500mm
 

When we press the shutter button on an SLR, the mirror flips up out of the way, so the (hopefully) focused image shines on the sensor (or film) to make the exposure. Then the mirror flips back down into place, so we can see what what happens next.

For the tiny fraction of a second when the shutter opens, the mirror that usually reflects the image light to the viewfinder and our eyes, flips up so the image hits the sensor instead, and the viewfinder goes dark. It stays dark for a small enough fraction of time that many people do not realize what all has just happened, and unless the shutter speed is very slow we don't register the change.

But using a single lens reflex, I can never see what I am shooting exactly when I am shooting it — only what happened just before and after. If I use flash, I only see its light from around the camera, if at all — very disconcerting, but integral to the way an SLR works. I often ask whomever I am with, "Did the flash go off?" Because I was looking through the viewfinder that was blacked out when the flash went off and the sensor was exposed at their tiny fractions of a second.

At slower shutter speeds, you can sometimes hear up to four distinct sounds: the mirror flipping up, the shutter opening, then closing, and the mirror flipping back down. The mirror up and shutter opening sounds usually closely coincide, as do the shutter closing and mirror flipping down.

Ker-plunk!

Until they go all-electronic — and at long last, they finally are, SLRs are stuck with loud shutter mechanisms. It's a large mirror and a lot of mechanical things to bang around quickly, and all that stuff takes up a lot of room and usuallyweighs the camera down.

The exact moment of exposure is lost in all that flipping of mirrors and reflexing of light to places other than our eyes. When photographing fast-moving action, like birds flying, I can get a pretty good idea of the exposure, focus, etcetera by chimping the LCD immediately after shooting, but I never know exactly what I got till I check the images on my monitor at home.

Or at least I could not until I got a camera with an Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) like the one on my Panasonic G2. That EVF lets me see the image just like the sensor sees it, with the smae colors, focus, blur or action-stopping and depth of field, so I don't have to guess about all that stuff. I actually see it before I shoot, so I either get it right the first time. Or I can change it shortly after that first shot.

 

Rolleiflex

Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex Camera
 

Cameras are called Reflex because their mirror and pentaprism reflect the image around inside till it comes out left-right correct and right-side-up. It's called Single Lens, because during the middle of the 20th Century before single lens reflexes became popular, there were many twin-lens reflexes (TLRs) — with a permanent mirror behind the top lens that reflected the viewing image up to focus on a piece of ground glass (or fresnel plastic) that the photographer looked down into to see the right-side-up image that was still left-right wrong.

Meanwhile, the photo-making image projected from the bottom lens and shutter recorded the image on film.

The upper lens optically matches the lower one, except it usually did not stop down via an adjustable aperture (f/stop), and there was no shutter mechanism built into it. It just showed you what the other lens was seeing.

Wikipedia explains Single-lens reflex with most of its complications,
but Hyper-Physics illustrates it simpler and better.

The difference between what the photographer sees through the top lens and what was captured on film a couple inches below is called parallax. Like what happens when we put our hand in front of one eye then the other while looking at something close or far, seeing out of each of our eyes, one at a time.

The difference doesn't matter much for far-away objects, but up close it can be a problem. Switch eyes focused on your finger close to your face and notice how each eye "puts" the finger in a different place.

It was always a problem with twin-lens reflexes. I remember struggling with them back in the 1960s, when 35mm film cameras were still being popularized, and Twin Lens Reflexes offered much larger film (sensor) sizes. Now that all that reflexing and left-right and up-down correcting can be done electronically, we really haven't needed reflex cameras for at least a decade.

But camera companies keep making them, because they are used to making them and have got pretty good at the complex process of it. And many photographers got stuck thinking of them as the right way for professional cameras to be, because they have been that way for decades.

But now that all that mechanical silliness is no longer necessary, we could have smaller, lighter, faster, better, maybe even cheaper non-reflex cameras with smaller, lighter and better lenses, although the camera companies will always find a way to make the better cameras more expensive. A new Leica M9 — body only —started at $9,000 and is still very expensive.

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Comparitive Sensor Sizes - from Wikipedia

Comparative Sensor Sizes Chart from Wikipedia

Sensor Size Differences
FX vs. DX vs. m43

Since 1954, full-frame 35mm film size (called FX) has been 24 x 36mm (on the far right of the blue chart near the top of this page) or all of the image above. For Nikon's first dSLR in 1999, they used a smaller, less expensive to-make-and-sell, 15.8 x 23.6mm sensor (DX) size whose dimensions were 2/3 of the full-frame 35mm format.

According to WikiPedia:

"The 1/3 smaller diagonal size of the DX format amounts to a 1/3 narrower angle of view than would be achieved with the 135 (35mm) film format, using a lens of the same focal length. Strictly in angle-of-view terms, the effect is equivalent to increasing focal length by 50% on a 35mm film camera, and so is often described as a 1.5× focal length multiplier."

That focal length multiplier is called Crop Factor, so a 200mm lens used on a DX camera captures the same angle of view as a 300mm lens on an FX camera. This is called its 35mm equivalence.

That's how I can claim that the relatively cheap ($1,000) Sigma 150~500mm zoom I call my "Rocket Launcher" (because it looks and carries like one) "becomes" a 225~750mm equivalent lens. (The Nikon 200~400 costs $7,000.)

Angle of View of Standarkd 35mm Lens Lengths

Angle of View of Standard Lens Focal Lengths for 35mm Cameras
 

Actually, of course, the Sigma is still a 150~500mm lens by all scientific calculations, just that used on the smaller sensor, it shows the same angles of view at the same distance as a 225~750mm lens. The image magnifications are identical, but the size of the projected image is not. If my Rocket Launcher could project an image that covered the full size of the larger FX sensor, they'd be truly equivalent.

I speak of Nikons, because I know and use Nikons. Canon introduced their first APS-C (very nearly DX) dSLR in 2002 while Nikon was still dithering about what to do after their first full-frame dSLR. Canon's DX-like lenses come in two varieties and include lenses with both 1.3x and 1.6x Crop Factors.

The APS-C / DX sensor size, has become a standard in the dSLR industry, although different companies use slightly different sizes, resulting in slightly different Crop Factors. Lenses that fit one format or camera company's cameras probably do not fit another's.

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Mirrorless Cameras — Some with Interchangeable Lenses

4/3rds vs. m4/3rds structure

This graphic shows the difference in structure and volume (glass and metal) required for an image going through a bigger lens and its mechanical mirror/pentaprism and a same-size image going through the smaller space to a same size image sensor in a Micro Four-Thirds camera. 
 

Micro Four-Thirds Cameras

A newer format of digital camera sensors, called Micro Four-Thirds (m43) is smaller, lighter and offers similar image quality though a smaller sensor than FX or APS-sized dSLRs. Full-frame dSLRs have sensors that are 1 x 1.5 inches wide, at least 50% larger than the area of APS sensors, which are 50% larger than Four Thirds sensors.

The difference between Micro Four-Thirds and Four-Thirds cameras is that the newer, Micro version has no mirror or pentaprism, so they are smaller, lighter and mechanically less complicated.

According to Wikipedia (which also includes a complete run-down of m43 systems), The common inch-based sizing (4/3) system is derived from vacuum image-sensing video camera tubes, which were thought to be obsolete, but now Panasonic has a new 4/3 video camera, useful here because lenses for that video camera can be adapted to work on other m43 cameras, though not always easily, and sometimes adapted lenses work less well. The imaging area of a Four Thirds sensor is equal to that of a video camera tube of 4/3" diameter.Most m43 lenses will fit and work on any m43 camera, although they may not all auto focus or have image stabilization.

Micro Four-Thirds is also expressed as m43, MFT, m4/3, m43, FT, microFT, µ43 and mcroft. There may be others.

In Micro Four-Thirds cameras, the lens focuses light onto the sensor, changing the image to electrons we can see in the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) or (more commonly) the LCD. P+Ss have long had live view. In a silly twist of history, the supposedly more advanced dSLRs are only now catching up.

Traditional Single Lens Reflex photographers are prejudiced in favor of so-called bright optical viewfinders, even though Electronic View-Finders (EVFs) can be brighter while offering more direct information — showing exposure, motion or action-stopping, light color (daylight / tungsten / fluorescent / etc.) and depth-of-field in the image.

Traditional SLR photographers seem to believe that figuring all that stuff out in their heads is preferable to seeing it directly.

Using full-frame, DX and APS-C sized sensors, professional Canon and Nikon cameras will probably stick to their now traditional mirrored and pentaprismed formats as long as they can, then — eventually — produce mirror- and pentaprism-free cameras that use their standard sensor sizes that are already 50% larger than the m43's. They've been using those sensors for a long time, and they're getting good at it. m43 manufacturers have only been at it a few years, but they are rapidly catching up.

Until 2010 camera writers had not stressed high ISO image quality, but now they do, so now, slowly and gradually, camera companies are making their high-ISO images less noisy. Big-company camera sensors are already better than the new 4/3 cameras, and because they are larger and they have been working with them nearly a decade longer, their cameras will produce higher quality images, even at high ISOs.

Newer hybrids will have to offer top-quality inexpensive amateur (PowerShot/CoolPix/Lumix/etc.) and more expensive, semi-Professional (usually D-something) cameras. But bigger companies are stodgily slow to try new formats — especially new ones they think might compete with their current products. So they may get left behind in the early months of the mirrorless "revolution."

New lenses, designed specifically for cameras without mirrors and prisms, will be smaller and less expensive, although the big companies' old lenses may still work directly or with an adapter. The first new models will likely suffer, but by the second or third attempts, they'll start getting it right, and they may even end up on top of the marketplace again.

Panasonic, with its fast focusing; Olympus, with its in-camera stabilization and both companies with superb electronic viewfinders (EVFs) were ahead of the pack — for awhile. Then came Sony's APS-C/DX sensor sizes with remarkable low and high ISO image quality. Then some other company will spring a new camera and get a lot of attention, then sites will test them, and we'll find out if they're as good as everybody hopes.

They'll contunue to leapfrog for awhile, and now there are several mirrorless cameras that are worth buying. I bought a Panasonic Lumix G2 in early 2011 and though it is hardly perfect, it is a viable camera, and there's already a G3 and rumors of more professional versions coming.

To learn some of the positive and negative aspects of this particular camera, read my ongoing, My G2 Journal, although serious deficiencies are noted in the Small Cameras with Manual Exposure Modes box below, as in all those reviews I keep reading.

When a SLD (Single-Lens Direct-view) or EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder / Interchangeable Lense) camera fits in my pocket; has built-in image stabilization; high and low ISO IQ; a built-in high-res, eye-level electronic viewfinder, as well as a high-res giga-pixels or more LCD, while offering RAW, full manual exposure modes and short lag shutters, and interchangeable lenses, and those cameras test well, I'll buy in.

If its hi-res LCD articulates, I'll be in love. Until then, I'm probably stuck with my Nikons and my pocket cameras duo (a Canon s90 P+S and the smaller, lighter and less controllable Canon SD780. And, when best quality is called for, my Nikons — elderly D200 and D300 behemouths.

Essentially, the m43 "revolution" was a solid step toward smaller cameras that free us from flapping mirrors, heavy pentaprisms and having to guess at all those variables with optical viewfinders that just show focus. APS-C/DX sensors are 47% larger than m43 sensors, and they've been around more than a decade, so manufacturers have learned to pull significantly improved image quality from them, especially at higher ISOs.

I'm not saying that m43 is doomed — there's always been a variety of film and sensor sizes in the grand competition — or that the new Sonys are fabulous cameras (the NEX-3 and NEX-5 are made for amateurs, not professionals), but it's an interesting step in the ongoing revolution.

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Beyond m43: Cameras with Other Sensors

I only rarely update this section - last updated March 30 2012

Cutaway of Sony NEX-5

Sony NEX-5 non-m43 mirrorless camera
Sony image from the Sony site

Some cameras keep getting smaller and lighter. Others get bigger and heavier, so they can include more features.

The main camera formats on the market are in the order of descending sizes:

Large Format, which we won't go into much, because they are specialized and primarily of importance to professional photographers. Some standard sizes are 4 x 5 inches, 1.25 x 3.25 inches and others.
Full Frame, called FX by Nikon, uses sensors that are very close to the size of a full 35mm film frame (24mm x 36mm)
DX (Nikon), and APS-C (Canon and others) uses sensors that are between 22.2 and 23.6 by 14.8 and 15.7 mm. Another, similar format is
APS-H Canons whose sensors are 28.7 x 19mm
Mirorless cameras come with a variety of sensor sizes, but most are either M43 or DX.
Micro Four-thirds (Four-thirds cameras have mirrors. Micro Four-thirds do not. They usually termed MFT, m43 and other names) and the standard m43 sensor is 17.3 x 13mm
Point & Shoot cameras have much smaller sensors. See diagrame below.

Comparative Sensor Sizes

Comparative Sensor Sizes
 

It takes years to establish new formats, but Micro Four-thirds and other mirrorless cameras are becoming very popular for their smaller size and quickly improving image quality. Like any camera format, it's a mixed bag, but the format shows real promise in this first all-electronic instance without mirrors or pentaprisms.
 

Comparing actual sensor sizes and how many megapixels are crammed into them — listed below as density — gives the best measure of IQ (image quality).

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New and Old Cameras Compared

camera
sensor type
mega-
pixels
sensor size in sq. cm.
MP/cm²
pixel
density
Camera
Size in inches
Weight
in Ounces
w/battery
A, M or I
Cost
Nikon D7000
DX
16.2
373

4.6

5.2x4.1x3
27.2
M I
1,200 bod y
Nikon D40  
DX

6.1

370
1.6
5x3.7x2.5
19.2
M I
524 kit
Nikon D300
DX
12.3
373
3.3
5.8x4.5x2.9
29.1
M I
1,460 body
Canon EOS 60D
APS-C
18
332
5.4
5.7x4.2x3.1
25.6
AMI
1,100 body
Canon S90/S95
compact
10
43.3
23
3.9x2.3x1.2
6.9
M
399
Canon G-12
compact
10
43.3
23
4.4x3x1.9
14.1
A,M
499
Canon SX 30
compact
14.1
24.7
50
4.8x3.6x4.3
21.2
A,M
429
Canon SD780
compact
12.1
24.7
43
3.4x2.2x.7
5.5
A,M
226 (black)
Panasonic LX5
compact
10.1
?
24
4.3x2.6x1
9.6
M
458
Panasonic G2
m43
12.1
225
5
4.9x3.3x2.9
20.9
AMI
643 kit
Olympus E-P2
m43
12.3
225
5.1
4.8x2.8x1.4
11.2
MI
$510 with 17mm 2.8
Olympus E5
43
12.3
225
5.1
5.6x4.6x3
28.8
AMI
1,700 body
Sony SLT-A33
APS-C

14.2

328.5
3.9
4.9x3.6x3.3
17.6
MI
750
Sony NEX-5
APS-C
14.6
328.5
3.9
4.4x2.3x1.5
10.5
AMI
650
Fuji x100
APS-C
12.3
328.5
?
5x3x2.1

9.6

M
1,000
Samsung NX100
APS-C
14.6
332
4
4.7x2.8x1.4
9.9oz
AMI
500

Links in this chart go to detailed descriptions on this page. Newest cameras in bold.
A, M or I: Articulating LCD, Manual exposure and/or Interchangeable lenses    body - body only; kit - with kit lens
Red Bold is the worst or the heaviest or whatever. Green Bold is the Best.


 

I used to have a rumors secion here, but it was impossible to keep up with all that, so I've deleted it.

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Some Cameras with articulating LCDs

This list is woefully out of date, and I can no longer spend the time keeping it up. Prices change much more often.

Canon
PowerShot SX20   $360
G11   $440
EOS 60D  $1,410
EOS 550D
A650 IS  $543
A640  $685
A630  $500
A710
A720
S5-IS  limited availability  $400 new (but it's ancient technology)

A95
Canon Powershot SX20-IS [above]

Panasonic
FZ100  $500
FZ50   $1,000
FZ100

LC2 (not yet announced)
Lumix DMC-GH1  m43  dpreview  $1,250
DMC-GH2
DMC-G1 m43
DMC-G2 m43

Fujifilm
HS10  $429

Olympus
E-620  live-view LCD  $550 
E-30  live-view LCD  $880 
Evolt E3  $1300
E-330 - discontinued - tilt only
EP-3 rumored

Fuji
S100fs
S9100

Konica-Minolta
A200  $375   elderly

Samsung
EX1  f/1.8 lens, RAW
TL350 - 10.2 mp, 5x zoom from 24mm,

Sony
Alpha NEX-5   limited tilt - up 80, down 45 degrees, no swing
Alpha NEX-3   "

A500
A550
SLT-A55
A300   tilt up and down only
A350  "
H9  limited articulation to 90 degrees up or down  $520  introduced in 2007

Nikon
D5000 -  tilts fully and twists, but no swing - $520 factory refurbished with 28~55mm f/3.5~5.6 kit lens or $640 new - decent amateur camera
P100 - tilts and twist, 460k resolution

Coolpix 5700  $1,000
Coolpix 8700  $900
Coolpix P90 - 24x zoom - the only review I've seen by a visual artist seriously disses the IQ of this camera, although an artist I know loves its long battery life.
Coolpix P100 - tilt, not swing -
4500
Coolpix 990

This list will probably always be incomplete.

 

In late 2011 I bought a Panasonic Lumix G2 for a lot of reasons, amonght them that it has an articulating LCD viewfinder. I love the camera, and I blog about it from time to time on my G2 Journal.  

No camera or lens is perfect for all jobs.

But even one of the really imperfect ones can photograph well, if you're careful. I believe that the camera you use does matter, but it probably doesn't matter as much as you might think.

If you want to learn photography — and not just take ordinary pictures, buy a camera with manual exposure modes and take as many photographs as you can that way, even if you don't know what you're doing. You'll learn directly and quickly.

The first camera I used professionally was a Crown Speed Graphic [shown below.] with a Polaroid back. That meant within sixty seconds of photographing something with it, I could see my results in glorious black & white. I wasn't paying for the film, so I learned very quickly what to do right by doing it wrong first.

That's very nearly the same advantage we now have with manual exposure modes on digital cameras.

Read Ken Rockwell's impassioned Your Camera Doesn't Matter.

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Small Cameras with Manual Exposure Options

Again, this list is woefully out of date, and I've learned I have more interesting and important things to do than constantly update it.

Listed by price, cheaper first - Unless otherwise noted, all have Image Stabilization (I think). This list grows and changes. These prices were re-arranged to be in precise ascending order on September 17, but I doubt it will stay in order long. Prices that are out of order indicate that camera's prices has risen or fallen dramatically. Newest cameras and best prices in bold. Bold Gray are discussed on this page.

Point + Shoot/Compacts

camera notes Reviews (link code below); p = preview
Cost
Samsung L210 not the bargain the next one is DPR
86
Canon PowerShot A590 IS   DPR DCR IR S
125
Canon A590 IS 35~140mm,

IR DPR DCR S

125
Panasonic LZ8 5x optical zoom, 8 mp, oldish, I said it wouldn't last at $109. Now it's $150 and still a bargain. Its replacement, the $180 LZ10 [below] is still $180.

DPR - read the whole review including comparison pages and conclusion/ratings page. S IR

Pentax Optio SV slow with long shutter lag, short battery life A
150
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX580  

IR CL

165

Pentax LZ10 30-150mm, 10mp, IR DCRP DMC
180
Samsung TL320 24~120mm, 3"LCD A

195

Canon SX120 IS 36~360mm, 10mp S IR CL
200
Sony H55 25~300mm, 14mp, 720 HD video, full manual but no aperture of shutter priority modes, fast shutter, slow shot-to-shot IR
200
Panasonic ZS7 25~300 zoom *wide and long, IS, GPS, 460k 3" LCD, 1280 x 720 60fps video AVCHD lite or QuitckTime, stereo sound, 7 o.z., pocketable, price falling below its predecessor the ZS3, CL  DCR  PC  A 
250
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS Don't use Auto or Easy modes CL
275
Canon SX210 IS 28~392mm equiv 14x zoom, 14mp, Dave's Pick, slow, macro shots soft, 720p HD video, 3-inch screen, full PASM modes, IR 
296
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 470-shot battery, 18x zoom — 27~486, 15 oz, full manual, aperture & shutter priority modes, focuses very close, HD movies, short shutter lag, weak flash, high CA at tele, slow burst mode at full res, CL DCR IR
302
Canon PowerShot A570   S KR DPR IR
317
Canon s90 [above] small sensor LL IR KR S DPR DCH

328

Sony DSC-HX5V full manual but no aperture or shutter priority modes, AVCHD 1080i full quality video, GPS tagging, 25~250mm zoom, good low-light performance, 7.1 oz, jerky zoom, Handheld Twilight, HDR, 10fps burst up to 10 shots, fast AF, heavy-handed NR, no RAW, good 13x19 prints, IR
330
Sony SX210 IS 28-392mm (35mm equivalent) zoom, flash rises at power up, PL DCr
330
Panasonic Lumix FZ35 18x zoom, IR CL DPR
340
Nikon P100 26~678mm equiv, 460k resolution, articulating 3-inch LCD, EVF, subject tracking, 10fps at full res, slow menu, 1080p HD vid w stereo sound and full optical zoom and auto focus, slow 2.8-second shot-to-shot time, not best in class. ISO, color balance only in menus. must manually switch between LCD and vf, not great IQ, especially at higher ISOs DPR Super Zoom group, pB DCR ML PCW
345
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H10  

DPR conclusion S

345
Canon S95

discussed in detail on C95TA

 

reviews listed on C95TA
350
Panasonic ZS7 3-inch LCD with 25~300, 720p HD movies, GPS, 25megs more internal storage and AVHCD Lite video IR

365

Canon SX20-IS discussed on CLK S DCR CL
370
Nikon P5100 largish DX Sensor, slow focus, noisy IR DPR
400
Fujifulm FinePix HS10 tilting screen, 10mp, CMOS sensor, 30x zoom (24~720mm), 36 MP/cm² pixel density, lousy high ISO, not great IQ

DPR Super Zoom group Steve's  IR

429
Canon SX10-IS  

DPR S CL SZC

419
Panasonic Lumix LX3 tiny sensor DRR and their group test
430
Ricoh GX200   S NL pB
430
Panasonic Lumix LX5 10mp, 3-inch LCD, AVCHD HD video, 9.8 oz.,  
447
Canon G-11 discussed on CLK DPR S LL
480
Panasonic Lumix FZ100 24X zoom (25~600) Leica-brand lens, swing & Tilt, TFT 460k LCD, 1080p HD AVCHD w stereo, full manual control, 19 oz, popup flash/hot shoe, barrel distortion at max wide angle, 40meg built-in memory, MOS sensor, burst mode of 11 full res 14mp shots per second, 5 fps normal, IS great up to 18x, too much noise at iso higher than 400 PL pB
500
Olympus SP-570 20x zoom, optical distortion, slow focus IR S

500

Canon IXUS 300HS 10megs, f/2~4.9 28~105, HD1280 240 fps slow-mo movies, 6 oz, 15 seconds to 1/2,500 shutter speeds, 3" LCD, tiny 1/2.3" CMOS sensor DPRp Sp PLp

560

Canon PowerShot S5-IS [above] great for its time, not worth $800, though $250 might be okay. old camera with old tech.

DPR LL IR S

250-800

Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens

Micro 4/3rds

Olympus EPL1 Limited manual — only one setting at a time CN
600
Panasonic G1 not so good for low light, articulating LCD

CL DPR LL

690
Olympus Pen E-P1 no eye-level EVF, slow focus, DPR CL
708
Panasonic G2 due June 2010, articulating LCD, touch-screen interface, we'll see about the rest in June. IR
724
Panasonic GF1 either 20/1.7 or 14-45/3.5~5.6 kit lenses, fast AF,

CL DPR IR S DCR MW

890

Olympus Pen E-P2 great EVF attachment, in-body image stabilization, confusing menus, slower focus, no built-in flash,

LL CL S IR DCR DPR PP

900
Panasonic GH1 articulating LCD, not for action or low light stills, pro quality video,

CL DPR GH1 What's Missing story

1,190

APS-C/DX

Sony Alpha NEX-3 & 5

APS sensor; 14.2 mp, slow-focus in low light; small body, big lenses; no EVF; tilting 920k 3-inch LCD; slow turn-on; amazing low noise in high ISO to 3,200.

IR DPRp LL
550, 700
the much-rumored NEX7 built-in EVF, only slightly larger than NEX5  
?
Samsung NX100 APS sensor; 14.6 mp, chart on Cnet compares it to Panasonic G10 and Olympus E-PL1, Samsung wants to dominate a market, but they're not   that good at cameras. Their products often do not live up to the hype. PL DCR
around $600

Nikon D5000 with 18~55mm f/3.5~5.6 kit lens

more info above

not a bright kit lens but a good one and VR too, LCD tilts fully but does not swing, amateur controls slow operations, excellent IQ, good high ISO, RAW, fast autofocus, 720p HD video, LCD difficult in sunlight, the only NIkon dSLR with articulating LCD, slow focus in low light, no autofocus during movies, have to do a lot of menu spellunking to change controls, rolling shutter artifacts in movies, Live view autofocus is very slow, quietest Nikon shutter since rangefinders. There's a lot of refurbished D5000s because some of them have been recalled twice. DPR DCR IR CL KR MW PP

640 new w kit lens

 

520 Nikon-refurb

There's probably more cameras than I have discovered, but I add the better ones soon as I find them.

CLK - my Cameras & Lenses I Have Known page
C95TA - my Canon S90/95 Tips & Accessories page

A - Amazon, CL - CameraLabs, CN - Digicamhelp, DCH, CNet USA, DCR - Digital Camera Resource, DCr - Digital Camera Review, DPR - Digital Photography Review, IR - Imaging Resource, KR - Ken Rockwell, LL - Luminous Landscape, MW - Macworld, ML - Mac Life, PCW - PC World, PL - Pocket Lint, pL - Photo Blog, PP - Popular Photography, S - Steve's, W - Wired,

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Digital & Photography Terms

More seems inevitable.

Angle of View - the maximum angle a lens can see, usually measured horizontally — See DPR's glossary page for Picture Angle.

Barrel distortion - distortion in optical or electronic images in which vertical or horizontal straight lines appear as convex curvess
Pincushion distortion - distortion in optical or electronic images in which straight lines along the edge of an image appear to buldge toward the center, so those vertical or horizontal straight lines appear as concave curves.

Generally wide-angle (concave) to less wide-angle or telephoto (convex) zoom lensse go from one to the other. An extreme example of this phenomenon can be seen early in the video here.

Illustrations of Barrel, Pincushion and Mustache distortions are on the Wikipedia Optical Distortions page.

CA - chromatic aberations — usually tinyt yellow/blue or red/cyan fringes along the edges of high color contrast juxtapositions.

Chimp - look down at the camera's LCD after each shot. Dave Knadler of the Olympus SLR Talk forum on Digital Photography Review descripes it as "the act of looking at your LCD after each shot. To some, it suggests the behavior of a lower primate," he says, and Phill D adds that "Chimping isn't complete unless you make "ooh oh oh oh" sounds ... after a shot."
 

Depth of Field

You'd think somebody could explain depth of field quickly and succinctly in video, but the best explanation I found is on Wikipedia, where I got this image with shallow depth of field. The words "depth of field" were focused, and the lines of words closer and farther that are still in acceptable focus comprise the image's depth of field. The Wiki page contains scads more information on this sometimes complicated topic.

Depth of Field - Wikipedia has my favorite definition: "In optics, particularly as it relates to film and photography, the depth of field (DOF) is the portion of a scene that appears acceptably sharp in the image. Although a lens can precisely focus at only one distance, the decrease in sharpness is gradual on each side of the focused distance, so that within the DOF, the unsharpness is imperceptible under normal viewing conditions."

After that succinct definition, Wikipedia goes on and on and on with more information. DOFMaster features an online Depth of Field Calculator and other devices; and a good visual explanation called Understanding the Hyperfocal Distance on CambridgeColor.com. 

EV - Exposure Value. EV –.67 = 2/3 stop underexposure
EVF - Electronic Viewfinder (most dSLRs have optical viewfinders)
EVIL - Electronic Viewfinder and Interchangeable Lenses
ILC - Interchangeable Lens Compacts
SLD - Single-Lens Direct-view cameras

Exposure Compensation - allows exposure to be brighter or darker by a fraction or EV number. Usually accomplished digitally without changing the aperture or shutter speed. I've always thought of it as magic.

It's better to slightly underexpose than to overexpose. Especially outdoors in bright light, where many pro photographers use a standard exposure compensation of –2/3 stop = EV–.7 to give images richer colors and more density.
 

Focal Length - the distance, usually expressed in millimeters, between the Nodal Point of a multi-element lens or the center of a single-element lens and the sharp image it projects on a flat object, when the lens is focused on infinity. (Wow. I keep being amazed at all the stuff I remember from the middle of the last century.) A 500mm lens is considered to have a focal length of 500 millimeters. This is not necessarily a direct physical distance, because many lenses fold or bend their focal lengths. It is almost never the physical length of a lens. 
 

Adjustable Diaphram of a  Graphex Lens

Adjustable Diaphram of a 135mm f/4.7 Graphex Lens

This lens is engraved, "Made by Wollensak Rochester, U.S.A, for Graphlex, Inc." It was the standard lens on a 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 film bellows camera. Smaller, but similar to the 4 X 5 Crown Speed Graphic below.


 

F/stop - aperture (opening, hole, gap, slit, slot, vent, crevice, chink, crack, interstice; technical orifice, foramen)

F/stops are fractions we usually only use the bottom number (denominator), so bigger f/ numbers mean smaller f/stops (holes) and let in less light. (1/4 is smaller than 1/2).

The fraction is 1/the focal length of the lens, but don't worry about that, just realize that it's a fraction we usually only use the bottom number of.
 

F stops

Diagram of decreasing apertures, that is, increasing f-numbers, in one-stop increments; each aperture allows half the light gathering (area or ability) of the previous whole stop. The actual size of the aperture will depend on the focal length of the lens. Adapted from the Wikipedia F-number illustration.  

Camera apertures are sometimes still called stops, because at one time early in the history of modern cameras (after they quit being rooms and started being boxes), one could purchase separate rotating disks or a long rectangle (not unlike the image above) with alligned holes made specifically for that lens. Those apertures were not adjustable.

Now, they are.

The major f-stops, from large to small, are f/ 1, 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22, 32, 45, 64, 90 and 128.

I've never heard of higher numbers than that, but there's no reason they could not be, except diffraction. Diffraction is the process by which a beam of light is spread out as a result of passing through a anarrow aperture or across an edge. In contemporary digital cameras, apertures rarely are smaller than f/22, because that diffraction makes sharp focus difficult or impossible.

Each succeeding smaller aperture allows half the light of the previous one.
Each succeeding faster shutter speed
lets in half the light of the previous one.

The way exposure works is that by setting one (aperture or shutter speed) and adjusting the other so the exposure is correct — usually by twiddling a dial now, although we used to turn rings on the lens or camera, we could achieve equivalent exposures. The reason to do that is that smaller apertures render more depth of field, and faster shutters stop action and slower shutters blur.

If f/11 @ 1/250th of a second is correct exposure, you could open the aperture by one stop and close the shutter speed down one click to get f/8 (plus one stop) @ 1/500th (–1 stop), which would let in the exact same amount of light, so it would be an equivalent exposure. The same would be true for f/16 @ 1/125 and other pairings up and down the two scales.

Some (few, now) cameras will show these equivalent exposure pairings, but since most digital cameras offer a much more limited adjustability, few do.

In Aperture Priority Mode, you set the f/stop and the camera adjusts for the correct shutter speed for correct exposure. You can then change the aperture, and the shutter speed will adjust to that change.

In Shutter Priority Mode, you set the shutter speed and the camera adjusts the aperture for correct exposure. You change the shutter, and the camera sets the aperture.

In Manual Mode, you set both aperture and shutter speed.

A lens' "speed" is its maximum aperture. Thus my Nikkor 50mm f/1.8's speed is f/1.8, because its aperture does not adjust to any size larger than that. Some lenses has as much as f/.95 or larger.

For way too much more information, read Wikipedia's F-number page, P:H:O:T:O:G:R:A:P:H:Y's Reource Page, or Mr.Martinweb's Photography and Math,
 

Hyperfocal distance - The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp — the focus distance with the maximum depth of field — at any particular f/stop. When the lens is focused at this distance, all objects at distances from half of the hyperfocal distance out to infinity will be acceptably sharp. According to Wikipedia. See also Zone Focusing.

Hyperfocal Distance - Photograph Copyright 2010 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Hyperfocal Distance: In the old days when we hand-turned zooms and focus, lenses were marked on the outside with hyperfocal distances for each aperture. For example, Setting the silver ring to f/8 (in red here), then setting the farthest distance to infinity (∞) will show the photographer how close will also be in focus at that aperture.

On this 20mm FX lens set at f/8, everything from three feet (yellow at top) to infinity would be in focus. I often just chose an aperture and was careful not to move the ring or focus (it's not an auto-focus lens), so nearly everything would always be in focus.
 

IBIS - In Body Image Stabilization

Image Stabilization (also called OS, VR, OSI and probably some other things) - More photographs are ruined by camera movement than any other cause. Image Stabilization holds the image on the sensor still while you shake the camera around — to a point.

Image Distortion — See DPR's Image Distortion page for visual aids and much discussion.

ISO — See Steve's Digicams article, ISO Explained.

Live View - It may be relatively new to dSLRs, but live view is what P+S have nearly all had for quite a while now. It means you see what the camera sees, electronically, so if your light balance is off, you know before you shoot. If your shutter speed is too slow, you see blurs.

Manual Mode - Cameras with manual modes allow photographers to change the shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation or color balance independent of other settings. I don't include manual focus in this set.

OVF - Optical Viewfinder. Most P+S cameras have EVFs. Most dSLRs have optical, with an LCD on the back — and newer dSLRs have Live View, which is what almost all P+Ss have.

Pincushion Distorion [See above.]

Pixel Density Rating is one of the more recent additions to the cameras on this page. Essentially, the fewer pixels per square centimeter, the better the low-light / high ISO capability and overall image quality that sensor renders. The smaller the sensor and higher the density, the worse the IQ.

Digital Photography Review has a cogent explanation of Pixel Density Rating, and there's further discussion on one of their forums that provides additional information, although as usual on forums, not everyone agrees.

If you like graphs, DPR has a page about Pixel Density.
 

Zeiss Icon

image taken from Harry's Pro Shop

Rangefinder type camera - Rangefinder cameras were smallish, didn't have any of that reflex or pentaprism junk. Focusing distance was set by mechanically twisting the lens to superimpose a partial image in the center of the real one. Some rangefinder cameras even had interchangeable lenses. Zeiss Ikon made some good ones. As did Leica.

Red-eye - when a flash unit — especially a built in flash unit — is too close to the lens axis (imagine a line coming out of the center of the lens perpendicular to the sensor plane) human and animal eyes tend to show annoying red spots in them. Red-eye is easy enough to get rid of. Some cameras even do it at the touch of a button, but it's better to avoid it by raising the flash unit a couple inches, which is why many professional photographers have flash units mounted on a bracket attached to their camera.

Shutter Lag - time between pushing the button and the camera actually making the image — P+S cameras are notorious for having long shutter lags, so photographers miss decisive moments and fast-moving action. It's something else to pay attention to in camera reviews. dSLR cameras have much shorter shutter lags, so they are much more useful for kids, dogs and sports.

VR - Vibration Reductions — Nikon's name for Image Stabilization

Zone Focusing - Camera lenses used to be inscribed with marks showing the nearest and farthest in-focus point for a lens set at differing apertures. Thus, using what was called "zone focusing," a photographer shooting, say, a basketball game, could set her lens at to keep the players under the basket in sharp focus without changing the focus on his lens. So she could concentrate on the action and not keep refocusing. See also Hyperfocal Distance.

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My Dream Camera would have or be:

Some REALITIES

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Credible LINKs

Beware of camera writers who recommend cameras. Some have a financial stake in the sales of that camera. Ken Rockwell, whom I usually believe, recommended the Canon SD780 as the Best Small Camera available, then it was replaced within six months of introduction because of several serious drawbacks Rockwell either didn't notice or did not want to notice. I still really really like the camera, but I'm more careful about believing Mr. Rockwell, who makes money selling Canons and other cameras touted on his site.

Recommended Camera pages

Steve's Cameras 2009 Holiday Gift Guide
Dave's Picks under the best sellers list
Digital Photography Review's Group Tests: Prosumer, Super Zooms, Waterproof Cameras, Premium Compact,
Ultra Compact (some of these are from Christmas '08 — ancient), Compact, Budget Compact
Ken Rockwell's Recommended Cameras page
Camera Labs' Buyer Guides

Camera review sites include:

Digital Photography Review - select Camera Database from nav bar in upper left
Imaging Resource's reviews are more easily found
Steve's Digicams
. More are linked on his Today's Updates page.
Camera Labs has video tours of cameras and lenses they test
Photo Review, seems intelligent.

There are many others. New ones start all the time. Some are good; some just want to sell you something and others waste our time. Here, bold ones are the best that I know of. Many sites claim to be photography review sites, but they don't review anything. Reader reviews, like the first-timers who review stuff on Amazon, are useless.

Camera review sites come and go at an alarming rate. Keeping up is absurd, but there's a list at the bottom of this page of Steve's Digicams that looks promising.

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My Cameras

I used to read too many magazines, now I read many more sites than I ever read magazines — it only seems fair since I publish online, but I don't have direct lines to the camera companies like some sites do. That's probably a good thing. I've been using cameras professionally since 1963.

I like talking photography, and I love teaching it. I've taught it in the Air Force and at El Centro College in downtown Dallas. In 1991 I got my first digital camera, a Logitech Fotoman Plus with a 65mm-equivalent f/4.5 lens. It had a third of a megapixel before megapixel was even a word, and it shot grayscale only images that were 640 x 480 pixels.

Now I have four working cameras. I bought my Canon S90 to replace another small, pocketable camera that died when I fell on it. The s90 was my usual art-photographing camera, until I bought my m43 Panasonic Lumix G2.

I used my Nikon D300 every day, for art and especially for birds, until too many things went wrong with it, then I stored it for about a year till I could decide what to do with it. I finally decided to let Nikon fix it (new almost everything from shutter and various other mechanisms inside to the rubber skin on the outside that was way loose like a cat's. My Nikon D200 is for around the house and those rare occasions when I need two cameras, although I rarely carry two cameras.

The lenses I use most — the giant Nikon 300mm f2.8 for birds; the 50mm f/1.8 that is wonderful for photographing art on my big Nikon; and the 17~55 (that holds a constant, bright f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout its zoom range) that I bought to shoot a wedding but is great for art, events and people — are new since this century.

Others lenses I sometime use are left over from my film and newspaper days in the 60s, 70 and 80s. I still have a couple old Nikon film cameras, but I only use the one that still works, when I need to produce slides quickly.

I don't buy and sell cameras like many people online seem to. I keep them forever, often taking them apart when they don't work anymore. Here's a story about my my history of digital cameras before the Canon S5. Then came the Nikon D200, the D300, the SD780 and the S90, the Panasonic Lumix G2, then when that wasn't quick enough for photographing fast-moving birds, I got a Nikon D7000. I'm not sure what's next, but I'm beginning to think I should try a full-frame dSLR before I die.

I fully expect there to be a small, fast-everything (maximum aperture, shutter lag, images per second) EVIL camera added to the list sometime soon, and if it's an enthusiast's camera, not yet another one for amateurs, I just might get one.
 

4x5

Crown Speed Graphic shown in a size that is not yet
nearly proportional to the other cameras on this page.

Probably the best thing about hauling one of these monsters around in the 1960s, was that no one ever cheked if I had a press pass. They'd look at this behemoth, then let me in — to a concert, public event, airplane wreck or anything else. It marked me as a serious photographer. Which, of course, I am.
 

For historic perspective, my late-1940s Crown Speed Graphic 4x5-inch camera rendered images so superbly at its adapted 2 1/4 x 3 1/4-inch roll-film size, that a painter friend once borrowed that heavy, ungainly, wholly mechanical, bellows camera for three years, because it rendered gorgeous, long tonal ranges that were nearly as good as original scenes — especially of human skin tones — to paint from. That format had about five times the area of a 35mm full-frame sensor.

It's full, unadapted image size was 4 x 5 inches or 12,903 sq. cm = 15 times the size of a full 35mm frame (24mm x 36mm) or 522.38 times the size of most compact cameras' sensors. There probably are 4 x 5-inch digital sensors, and if they have the same density of megapixels per cm as most Nikon FX cameras, they might have as many as 210 megapixels.

On those few times when I actually used 4 x 5 film on my Crown Speed Graphic, each four by five-inch piece of cut film had to be loaded into film holders (one piece of film on each side of the holder) in a darkroom.

Prior to being exposed, a slide protecting the film below it was pulled out. Shutters were usually in the lenses, although some Crowns had focal-plane (just in front of the plane of the film) shutters that supposedly got up to 1/1,000th of a second, although with that adjustable-sized slit traveling across the film plane, flash synch was much slower. After exposure, the slide was pushed back in and often replaced with another two-sided film holder.

You can see the silver-colored slide handles at the far left of the photo of the camera above.

Full-sized 4x5 film was 13 times the area of a full-frame 35mm exposure . Only a very large digital sensor would come close to the amazing tonal range of a 4x5.

Though a tripod was generally more secure, it was possible to hand-hold this brute. I used it that way many times, but the roll-film adapter was much more practical.

In general, the bigger the sensor — as was true with the bigger the film size, the better the detail, dynamic range and overall photographic quality for any set of lighting, color and depth circumstances. But not always.


 

Lens review sites

photozone,
Bjørn Rørslett's Lens Survey and Subjective Evaluations (links at the bottom of that busy page) for mostly Nikon lenses
PopPhoto
Lens Reviews
photodo
Camera Labs
SLR Gear
Shutterbug: Lenses - good magazine, but their site really wants to sell you a subscription;
 

Camera Test Sites

Rob Galbraith's Memory Card Speed tests is the web standard — choose camera from upper right drop-down
Thom's Tests
- photo writer with opinions
Steve's DigiCams' Image & Film Scanners
Digital Arts Photography's Color Balancing Digital Images with a Grey Card
Gordy's Camera Straps
Gizmodo

Enticing the Light;
ClearView;
4/3rumors;
photo-i web links;
The Luminous Landscape is an oddly ugly site full of beautiful ideas;
National Geographic - Photograph contest winners - Your Best Shot and others
and there's always my How to Photograph Art.
 

The Author's Photographs

DallasArtsRevue — most of them are mine
Amateur Birders Journal
JoelCooner.com. — most of them are mine
The Austin Sun in 1976
some recent photos
my personal site
somebody's house
ThEdblog for the pictures (Note cameras used for individual shots are marked in light gray.)
My S-90 Journal of me learning my newest camera, a slow and methodical Canon S-90, pocketable manual and auto camera.

 

My latest email address is always on the Contact us page.

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