I purchased my first digital camera, an Olympus Camedia C-3000 Zoom, almost two years ago. Since then, I've picked up some good nuggets of information that I would like to share.
Picking a Digital Camera
I chose my Olympus based on the following elements:
- Memory Storage
- 3+ Megapixel
- Battery Size
Brand was very important in my consideration for a camera. I also wanted to buy from a respected camera company that is known for making good cameras. Canon, Nikon and Olympus are good examples.
I hate the fact that Sony pushes their own proprietary memory stick. I think Sony makes great products, but I ruled them out on this purchased. I wanted a camera that stored photos on something like compact flash or smart media.
I had to have a 3+ megapixel camera. Why? Because I read somewhere that I could print out up to 8x10s with a 3+ megapixel camera. I'm not an expert in explaining megapixels vs paper size, but my 8x10's looked great.
My Olympus takes 4 standard AA batteries, but it came with 2 CR-V3 batteries which look like 2 AA batteries glued together. I liked the fact that AA is pretty standard and I could pick up replacement batteries just about anywhere.
After throwing away a few packs of used AA, I decided that there had to be a better way. I went and picked up eight NMH Rechargeable batteries and a compact battery charger. Having 8 rechargeable batteries works great. I can shoot for an entire weekend and just swap out batteries between the charger and camera.
Buy a card reader. I hated dealing with all the cables and special software just to get my photos off the camera and into my computer. I picked up a CF/SM combo card reader for under $30. I can pull the smart media out of the camera and slide it into the card reader. The memory card shows up as drive G: and I can copy and paste the photos right onto my pc.
Long Term Storage
Backup, backup, backup! You have been warned. Don't be the guy who loses his photos because of a hard drive crash or virus infection. It is not a question of if but when.
One of my friends lost some digital photos of his first child, when his computer's hard drive failed. He still regrets not backing up his photos and his wife stills gives him a hard time about it. So come up with a plan and stick to it.
I first started backing up to zip disks, but quickly out grew the 250 MB size limitation. My current method is CD-R based. On my main desktop computer, I create a directory labeled "BUILD_CDROM." I stuff all my digital picts into this directory under descriptive sub-directories like "Trip to Florida" or "Inks Lake Trip". Each time I add new photos, I back up the entire directory to my CD-RW. Once that directory hits 600 MB, I burn a CD-R (write-once) and labeled it with the dates the pictures were taken (i.e. 4 Feb 2003 - 21 Jun 2003). This method has worked quite nicely for me. I'm currently up to seven CD-Rs.
I still remember emailing my first photos to friends and family. I thought it was so cool until some friends complained that they could not see the entire picture, just the upper left-hand corner. I quickly realized that some of my friends are still running 800 X 600 screen size and my photos where just to big to view on screen.
I decided to shrink my photos to 640 x 480 pixels, which worked for everyone. I usually use Paint Shop Pro for image manipulation, but found Windows XP has a really cool trick to shrink your photos on the fly. Just right click the photos you want to send and select "send to --> mail recipient." XP will bring up a dialog box to confirm the re-size process.
Lets be frank. Printing digital photos was a huge pain in the ass for me. I hated the way my pictures looked when printed on inkjets or laser color printers. None of my digital photos look as good as ones taken and developed with a standard 35mm camera.
I tried the Kodak Picture Maker kiosk at Walgreens for my first digital prints. It was slow and very expensive at $7.00 per 8x10 sheet. Since you are stuck with their 8x10 paper, the kiosk only allows 3 each 4x6, 2 each 5x7, or 1 each 8x10. This quickly becomes too expensive when you need a hundred 4x6 prints.
My wife's friend suggested we use a different Walgreens that had a new digital photo kiosk. This new kiosk accepts CDs, floppies, and all kinds of memory cards. Using the touch screen, I can quickly upload my photos and get 4x6 prints at $0.27 each. The prints look great because they are printed on the same printer used for the one-hour photo development.
To prepare for printing, my wife and I go through our digital photos and choose the ones we would like printed. I copy these photo jpegs on to a CD-RW and take them to get printed at Walgreens. Keep in mind that the kiosk will only read the first 100 images. If you need to print more than a 100 at once, burn multiple CD-RWs.
Photo.net seems to be the best place to learn about digital photography.
Nice thread on Slashdot for the camera novice.
Book review "Shooting Digital"