5.6. Troubleshooting Digital Cameras
When your digital camera's not working properly, make sure the batteries are charged and a digital card's in the camera's memory slot. Once you've ruled out those two main culprits, move on to these:
Small or lower quality photos . Most cameras offer three or four quality settings, giving owners a choice between fewer, better-quality photos or packing more, lower-quality photos onto the storage card. Lower settings create smaller pictures, lower quality, or both. To increase a photo's size and/or quality, poke through your camera's menus and bump the quality to Fine or Best. Then buy a larger memory card, pronto.
Battery life . When your camera battery's fading fast, and you want to take some more snaps before heading back to the recharger in the hotel room, turn off the camera's LCD display while taking your photos. In fact, some people double their battery life by never using the LCD display. After all, the lowly viewfinder worked fine for previous generations of photographers. Plus, you can always crop your photos (Section 5.5) for that perfect frame when it's on your computer.
Tip: When buying a new digital camera, always buy a second battery, too. That battery stays in your camera while the other one's recharging, letting you shoot photos for twice as long.
| BUYERS' GUIDE |
Choosing a Digital Camera
Today, advertisers, retailers, and your neighbor Fred all tout cameras by their megapixel ratingthe number of dots (pixels) the camera creates when taking a picture. The ads rarely tout statistics on lenses, durability, or clarity of focus. The term megapixels, it seems, means everything. Or does it? More pixels means larger files translating to larger, more expensive memory cards to hold those whopping imagesand a chunky hard drive to hold them all, as well.
Although they can drain an owner's pocketbook, cameras with more megapixels hold three advantages over their cousins with fewer megapixels. First, all those dots let you create some mighty large printsif you ever need a poster of Cynthia holding the garden snail , you're safe.
But perhaps more important than print size, large megapixel images increase your chances of better photos. Hauling in that huge canvas of dots lets you crop (Section 5.5) out the snail, should you wish, and still end up with a fantastic picture of Cynthia. Low-megapixel cameras rob you of that chance.
Finally, mega-megapixel cameras let you document that special moment in the best technological method currently possible. A 2-megapixel image will look pretty grainy on tomorrow's TV sets. But a 6-megapixel photo stands a better chance of looking better for a few more years .
While megapixels definitely matter when choosing a camera, they're not the only thing that determines picture quality or the camera's ease of use. Before buying that sexy new camera on impulse, compare reviews of camerasand view the images they've takenat Steve's Digital Camera Site (www.steves-digicams.com), Digital Camera Resource Page (www.dcresource.com), and Digital Photography Review (www.dpreview.com.)
Flash problems . The flash wastes battery power and robs your photo of the subtlety found in natural lighting. Use a tripod, if you carry one, or make one: press one side of the camera against a wall or table and tilt until you've framed the photo. If your camera has a strap, hold it in between your teeth, extend the camera to straighten the cord, and take your snapthe cord's tension keeps the camera steadier than your hand.
Complicated menus . Digital cameras contain more menu options than a Chinese restaurant. If you think you've changed a setting for the worse , but don't know which one, look for the menu's magic fix-all: Return to Default Settings. Some older cameras lack this setting, so remove their batteries and let the camera sit for 48 hours. That should reset everything to the way it was when it came out of the box.
Date and time . As soon as you take your new digital camera out of the box, head for the camera's menu and set the camera's date and time. That information's embedded into every photo, making it easy for digital photo programs to sort them by shooting date. Without it, your folder of digital photos becomes a pile of numbered files, with no easy way for you to sort them. Keep an eye on the date when you recharge the batteries; some older cameras forget it and need resetting.