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Old 19-10-2002, 08:02 AM   #1
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A FAQ for Starting/Buying a Digital Camera

A FAQ on starting/buying a digital camera

This guide is meant to only help starters, not to solve all questions and also does not cover everything you need to know about digital cam.
Once you get a cam. the best way to learn to take better photographs is to read up from the recommended sources and experiment the settings yourself.

Hope people can contribute to more info or correct any mistake here!

Things a newbie digicam buyer need to know:
1) Camera itself
2) Storage media
3) Battery
4) Tripod
5) Other accessories
6) Popular shops
7) Popular websites
8) Budget

1) Camera itself

Please do a search for the reviews of the cam ya interested in. It helps when you know at least the specs of the camera before asking questions. And do refer to the brand's original homepage for their specs. Common specs to know include:

a) MegaPixels (MP) usually effective pixels are slightly lesser ie a 2.11MP cam may be only 1.98MP effective.

b) Optical zoom in short, it is the actual zooming in to the subject.

c) Digital zoom in short, it is just enlarging the image without actual zoom. It is irrelevant to most users, not recommended as it will make a pic look blur and noisy.

d) Size & Resolution 640 x 480, 1600 x 1200 etc, at different levels of quality too. For example, Canon cam uses Normal, Fine, SuperFine. Higher size means able to print bigger pics, while better resolution means better quality pics of course.

e) LCD - the popular mini screen used as the viewfinder as opposed to the traditional optical viewfinder (the one that your eye look through to capture a shot). Also used to review images and change settings.

f) Storage media type common types include Compact Flash and Smartmedia.

g) Movie capabilities length of movie, size (resolution), with or without sound

h) Battery proprietary or normal AA/AAA battery.

i) Picture format and sizes certain formats take up more space than others.

j) Interface commonly via USB. Check compatibility.

For more info on cam parts and terms, please check the glossary @ to learn more.

A personal recommendation
Most people when starting out on a digital cam would have budgets between $300-500. Such cams are usually in the range of 2MP and with 3x optical zoom and some standard functions.

A popular choice currently is the Canon A40. It is a 2MP cam, 3x optical zoom, movie mode of 10-30sec, with manual controls even for shutter speed and aperture, allows add-on lens and filters and its picture quality is outstanding given its price. Its SRP is currently @ $499.00, though it is possible to get it for $390or less in the popular camera shops listed in here.

Of course, there are so many other brands and models around. Always go and feel the cam yourself to see if you like it.

2) Storage media

Common storage media types include Compact Flash and Smartmedia. Also getting popular is the SD card from Panasonic and the Sony proprietary Memory Stick.
Most camera can support at least 256MB flash memory.
For high end cameras, due to their image large resolution, even IBM Microdrive of 1GB can be used.

What about the size of storage you require? Most people would settle for 128MB or 256MB, as it allows them to take at least 100 pictures. The file size of each picture depends on the size (640x480) and resolution. File size can be as small as 100KB to even >2MB for a 4MP cam.

Clearly, if you have a high MP cam, you need more storage or even the use of IBM 1GB Microdrive, which is only for high end models such as Canon G2 and Nikon 5700, since their picture file sizes are very large.

So if you are deciding on the capacity of the extra storage, look at your cam specifications on the picture file size to determine what you need.

A Popular brand of CF is the Ridata (>16x), costing about $75 for 128MB, while a 256MB cost around $150-180.
A IBM 1GB Microdrive cost about $350.

3) Battery

Some people prefer proprietary batteries, usually lithium-ion, as their capacity is usually higher than normal AA batteries. However, proprietary batteries, along with their chargers, are usually very expensive and very costly to get an extra battery pack.

Using Rechargeable AA batteries, usually Nickel Metal Hydride, are a more cost effective way to people. Popular brands include GP and Sanyo. Usually, the higher the capacity (mAh), the longer lasting it shall be. Chargers are usually cheap too. Of course, another 2 important considerations for using AA batteries is that shall you run low on batt, AA batteries are readily available anywhere ie 7-Eleven stores, plus AA batteries can be used for your other electronics such as discman, mp3 players etc.

Popular chargers and battery:

a) MW4798 Intelligent Charger from Mustafa Centre @ $18

b) Rayovac PS4 1-Hour NiMH Charger with 2 batteries @ $49 from

c) 4 x Sanyo 1850mAh batteries @ ~ $11 from Mustafa Centre, Alan Photo or Cathay Photo.

d) 2 x GP 1800mAh Batteries @ ~ $7 available @ most shops.

e) GP Smart PowerBank 1-hour charger @ $???? (price has varied everywhere)

A personal recommendation
The MW4798 Intelligent Charger is a highly recommended charger, as for $18 only, it has the following functions:
- charge up to 4 AAA or AA batteries in a go
- charge 4 AA Sanyo 1850mAh batteries at only 4 hours., 4 AAA Sanyo 700mAh batteries under 2 hours.
- discharging capabilities
- deep conditioning capabilities, with automatic charge-&-discharge for 3 cycles.
- able to act as adapter with changeable plugs for many electronics such as cam, discman.

4) Tripod

A tripod is very much recommended for most people because not many people can hold a camera with great stability, especially with settings such as slow shutter speed. For most users, getting a tripod at any equipment shop shall suffice. Tripods can cost as low as $20, found in Carrefour. Do note that while good tripods may cost more, it is a good investment if you are serious about photography.

Common points to note:
a) Support for your own camera bring your cam down to the shop to try!
b) Support for the weight of your cam
c) Weight of tripod obviously you need to be comfortable carrying it around.
d) Tripod Bag available?
Other things that users may need to know:
e) Quick release catch?
f) Maximum height?
g) Sturdy feel by your own standards?
h) Rotation of camera at various angle?
i) (Horizontal) level gauging capabilities?
j) Support for holding accessories such as external flash?

A personal recommendation
SLIK U series tripods available @ Cathay Photo shops.
U6600 ~ $40
U8000 ~ $50
U9000 ~ $65
Light weight under 1.5kg, highly portable and easy to setup. Carrying bag available for ~$5-10. More info at:

5) Other accessories

a) Lens, filters, adapters
Low-end cameras do not allow extra lens and adapters. There are many possibilities for mid-range to high-end cameras though. Most cameras allow the attachment of an adapter for lens or filters. The lens or filters provide more capabilities to your camera.

Some lens can extend your such as tele-converters provide more zoom while wide-converters, as the name implies, provide a bigger view. Filters can apply special effects such as starburst effect, close-up for better macro or simply just as UV-protection. Filters can cost as low as $10 or less, whereas lens that provide wider view or more zoom can cost $hundreds.

b) Camera bags
There are a lot of brands, shapes, sizes and materials. Go to a shop to find one that you like. Keep in mind whether you need to have space for extra batteries, lens, filters, wires etc. Of course, keep in mind there must be some padding so it will protect your cam from little knocks and shocks. Plus the material too it must be sturdy and also decide if you need water-proof bags.

c) Extra batteries and adapters always necessary for the photography hobbyist.

d) Equipment cleaning, maintenance and storage
It is always good to invest in a set of cleaning kit for your camera. Dirt, dust and dirty fingers are unavoidable. Anti-static cloth, dust blower with brush and lens tissue are common kits sufficient to most users. Avoid using too much alcoholic solution or it may spoil your lens.

Also advisable to store equipment in cool dry places having a dry cabinet, you not only can keep prevent moisture from spoiling your camera, but you can also keep documents and other precious stuffs away from decay.

If a dry cabinet is too expensive, consider getting a dry box or air-tight box costing only a fraction. Furthermore, getting a bottle of silica gel cost only a few dollars.

Never overlook the importance of cleaning, storage and maintenance issues you would not want your cam to be sent for repairs unnecessarily, right?!

A personal recommendation
For dry cabinet, check out the ones at Carrefour, quite cheap and good enough for most DC. Otherwise, most cam shops have standard good ones.

For dry box, the cost depends on the size. A recommendation is the brand "Unique" Dry Pack Case, available in most cam shops, even photo-developing shops. The smallest cost about $15 only, and the good thing is that it comes with a camera holding function such that your camera is not tossed about it the box when you have to shift the box about. For silica gel, you can get a big bottle of it for only $4 at Carrefour, enough to last for a few years.

e) Software and printing
Though not a big concern, but do make sure that your camera is supported by the operating systems. Also, having software that enable you to edit your pictures are nice to have, i.e. brightening a dark image, cropping away unwanted edges, stitching panorama shots, adding borders, resizing or simply creating cut-and-paste images. Most cam comes bundled with useful, basic photo-editing softwares good enough for the common users.

Images can be sent to traditional film shops to be printed. However, do note that quality wise is subjective. Nowadays, many people are more into using the usual home consumer printers to print photographs. The latest models from Canon, Epson and HP etc, when fed with good quality paper or photo cards can produce brilliant photographs.

6) Popular shops
Stated here are popular shops that most forumers have visited and find their prices and services to be of good reasonable standards at the very least. The most common questions people ask are prices and stock availability. Instead of popping into the forum to ask, why not call up the shop or ask for an e-quote? Sometimes, an e-quote may even bring a surprisingly low price! A thing to note is, no matter where you do your purchase, make sure you do your homework well, if not you may be charged way hhigher than usual. You may complain that the retailer is not honest, but in reality, all who do business will want to earn more profits, right?!

a) Alan Photo
1, Rochor Canal Road, Sim Lim Square #01-38 Singapore 188504
Tel: +65 336 0922
Fax: +65 338 0269
Working hours: 10.30 to 8.00pm daily

b) Cathay Photo, Marina Square
#02-219, Marina Square, 6, Raffles Boulevard Singapore 039594
Tel: 6339 6188
Monday to Saturday: 10.30 am to 8 pm
Sunday & Public Holidays: 10.30 am to 7 pm

c) Cathay Photo, Peninsula
#01-07/08, Peninsula Plaza, 111 North Bridge Road, Singapore 179098
Tel: 6337 4274
Monday to Saturday: 10 am to 7 pm
Closed on Sunday & Public Holidays.

d) M.S. Colour Service
Blk 711 #01-3501C, Ang Mo Kio Central Ave 8, Singapore 560711
Tel: +65 457 6380
Fax: +65 455 2695

e) John 3:16
109 North Bridge Rd #03-37 Funan The IT Mall Singapore 179097
Tel: 337 1897, 337 2877

A personal recommendation
Learn to ask for the "best" price. While prices are widely known to most people, it is often known that a certain retailer may quote you up to $20 more than what others may have paid ie Ridata 128MB CF is on the average selling for $85 @ Alan Photo now, but some people can be quoted $80, while some $95.
While making bulk purchases don't guarantee a discount, do try for it. Or perhaps ask for "good will" discount eg $684, ask for $680. However, do not become a jerk or nuisance if you don't get your way. Remember that one price could be the best. If you don't like the offer, look for other shops instead of grumbling that the retailer is a monster.

Do also note that places like Harvey Norman actually may have good bundles sometimes, eg more storage media, rechargeable batteries etc. However, good bundles are quite rare, but do watch out for their sales and promotions.

Roadshows and fairs are also a good bargaining ground.

7) Popular Photography websites

a) ClubSNAP - Local photography forums site!

b) Digital Photography Reviews & News - good info webby. Also check out the links page for other great sites.

c) Steve Digicams - good reviews webby

d) - good articles for photograhpy

e) - your own online photo gallery

f) - another online gallery!

g) Kodak Express Online - gallery + printing services!

8) Budget

This is often an overlooked issue. Most of the time, you may claim to have $X to spend on a new digital cam, but is it just for the cam only, or does the budget include the accessories?

Case study, eg, your budget is $500.
Using Canon A40 as example:

1) Canon A40 cam - $390 (as @ 15 Dec 02)
Fits your budget, but it comes with only 8MB CF, hence additional CF is a MUST (unless you take only 10-20pic only everytime!). Plus the batteries....

2) 128MB 16x Ridata CF - $75
3) MW4798 charger - $18
4) 4 x Sanyo 1850mAh rechargeable batteries - $11
5) 4 x Sanyo 1850mAh rechargeable batteries (back-up) - $11

Now it is clear that you need an additional $110 - $121. This sum is something like a MUST, unless your cam is just a white elephant.

If you wanna get other things...
6) Slik U6600 Tripod w/ bag - $45
7) Lens/Filter adapter - $25
8) UV filter - $9
9) +4 close-up filter - $14
10) Camera bag ~ $20
11) Dry-box + Silica Gel - $25

Well. the list goes on, but it is easy to see that some extra standard equipment and accessories will bring up your overall budget at least by a couple of hundred dollars! So be prepared, and if ya really tight on budget, get the minimum stuffs first. Other things can come with saving up and if you really need them.

Last edited by Kenshin79; 17-12-2002 at 01:42 AM..
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