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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 @ http://www.dpreview.com/learn/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 http://www.w3cube.com/

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
Website: http://www.phsphoto.com.sg/
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
Website: http://www.cathayphoto.com.sg/
E-Quote: http://www.cathayphoto.com.sg/equote.html
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
URL : http://www.mscolor.com.sg/

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) megapixel.net - good articles for photograhpy

e) PBASE.com - your own online photo gallery

f) OpenLens.com - 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.
A-No-Ne, Augi78 and true form like this.

Last edited by Kenshin79; 17-12-2002 at 01:42 AM..
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Old 19-10-2002, 08:04 AM   #2
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Old 19-10-2002, 08:46 AM   #3
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Good effort!
[SIZE=1][QUOTE][i]Originally posted by Solano[/i]
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Old 19-10-2002, 09:07 AM   #4
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Guide to Filters - Part I
Skylight and UV(0)

When you first buy your lens, u should consider buying a Skylight or UV(0) filter. The main function of the two filters is to protect the lens against debris, dust, water droplets and other foreign matters. Skylight is a (very) little pinkish, and UV(0) is colourless and will reduce a little haze. Always try to buy the best quality filter you can afford, from established brands such as or B+W.

Polarizers (circular and linear)

The Polarizing filter is one of the most useful filters for many photographers. A polarizing filter will eliminate reflections from a non-metallic surface. Let's say you're taking a picture of a lake with Japanese Koi swimming in it. However, you can't really see the fishes because the water is reflecting the sky. So you fit a polarizing filter on your lens and rotate it until the reflections are eliminated, so that you can see the bottom of the lake ! The same principle can be used if you're shooting through glass. As long as the reflection is not by a metallic surface, it can be removed through a polarizer.

Another use for polarizers would be to darken the skies. Polarizers can be used to deepen the blue in the sky. It can be used to bring out dramatic cloud formations, and to give the picture more punch. The elimination of reflection in the picture means colours are more saturated and has more impact. However, the blue skies trick will only work if the sky is already blue. It will not turn an overcast grey sky blue! You need to have blue skies, and the sun should be around 45 degrees to the area of the sky you intend to deepen the blue. You lose around 2 stops of light when you use a polarizer. So either use a faster film, or bring along a tripod.

Because of the electronics used in AF cameras, you are recommended by the camera manufacturers to use a circular polarizer, instead of a linear polarizer. Linear polarizers will not damage your camera, but your meter readings might not be correct. So when you buy a polarizer, always tell the sales-person you have a AF camera if you have one, so that he will not give you a linear polarizer by mistake.

Sunset and graduated filters

When the sky is much brighter than the ground, the contrast in the scene may be too high for your film to register. You'd end up with a picture with correctly exposed ground, but overexposed sky. Or a correctly exposed sky but underexposed ground. This is especially true if you use slide films.

So what should you do ? The answer is to lower the contrast of the scene so that both areas can fit into the latitude of the film. Graduated filters are filters with which are half-coloured, and half-clear. The coloured portion serves to darken the bright areas of the scene, to bring it in line with the darker areas. Graduated comes in a wide variety of colours, from orange to blue, to mauve and even tobacco colour. Lee filters and Cokin produce an entire range of graduated filters in every conceiveable colour. Do check out the whole collection!

Close-up filters

Want to do some close-up shots without paying for a macro-lens? Close-up filters act like magnifying glass, magnifying the size of the image so that it appears bigger on the negative. They come in many degrees/strengths, indicated by the diopters. The higher the magnification, the higher the number. Typically, it comes in a series, from +1 to +5. High quality close-up filters consist of 2 or more elements, offering superior optics over the single element type. Close-up filters are a cheap way of getting into close-up photography, and they are worth looking at if you do not need such high-power magnification or do close-ups often. Both Nikon and Canon offer highly-corrected versions of close-up filters as well.

Taken from http://www.cathayphoto.com.sg
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Old 19-10-2002, 09:07 AM   #5
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How to Clean Your Lens
Cleaning the lens is a simple operation if you do it the right way. First, make sure you are working in a well-lit environment. You should start with the exterior of the lens. Make sure both the front and rear caps are in place. Use a soft brush to brush away any sand particles which might have settled on the lens.

Next you can clean the front element of the lens, of the filter if your lens is protected by a UV or skylight filter. Use a blower brush, such as those from UN, and blow away any visible dust and sand particles with the blower. Then use a soft brush to brush away any particles that might be stuck at the edges.

Next, prepare 2 pieces of Kodak lens cleaning tissue. Fold them 4 times until they are a small rectangle. Wet one of the pieces with about 4 drops of Kodak Lens Cleaning Fluid and wipe the lens or filter LIGHTLY. Use a circular motion to clean the lens and allow the fluid to evaporate quickly. When you have done that, use a microfibre cleaning cloth to wipe off any remaining stains. Finish off by using the blower brush to blow off any lint. Your lens and filter should be as good as new.

Cleaning the back element is essentially the same. Just be careful not to use excessive cleaning alcohol as it may seep into the lens. Because the back element is seldom exposed, it should be much cleaner and will not require much cleaning. Clean only when necessary. If you are using a AF lens, check the lens contacts to make sure they are clean. If they are not, use the ROR cleaning solution to wipe off any residue on the contacts.

Finally, after your lens is squeaky clean, lift it up to a bright source of light and carefully check for fungus and dirt. If you spot fungus growth, send it off for cleaning immediately. To keep your lenses safe and free from fungus, store them in a cool and dry environment. You can either use silica gel in a air-tight container, or use the Toyo View electric dehumidifying cabinets.

Taken from www.cathayphoto.com.sg
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Old 19-10-2002, 09:08 AM   #6
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How to Choose a Camera Bag?
Camera bags protect your investment in photographic equipment. By spending more on a good quality camera bag, you have a peace of mind knowing that your equipment is well protected against knocks and falls. But with so many types and brands of camera bags, how do you know which is the one for you?


Although there are numerous brands on the market, sticking to the more established brands means that you are backed by years of experience in camera bag manufacture.

LowePro bags are very popular amongst amateurs and professionals alike, offering good value for money. Made of polyester fibres, LowePro bags are durable and somewhat water-resistant.

Popular amongst photojournalist's and wedding photographers, Domke bags are made of canvas or ballistic canvas (specially treated canvas). Domke bags hug the body contours, because they are very soft and collapsible, making them suitable for tight situations.

Need the strongest protection for your gear? Zero Halliburton, or Zeros as affectionately called by the professionals, are stainless steel attachι cases with foam inserts inside. They offer the best protection for equipment on the move.


Depending on your equipment, you'll probably buy different-sized bags. Try buying a medium-sized bag to fit a camera body and 3 lenses at least, if you are buying your first bag. Small bags are very useful if you just want to bring a camera plus lens, with a flash unit, for a outing with friends. They will not get in the way, and you can add in a CD-player too. Save the biggest bag for a full-fledge assignment when you need to lug along all your equipment!


The average camera bag is the shoulder bag design. It is the boxy shape with a strap running through two loops at each end to hold it with your shoulders. Designed as a general purpose bag, it is suitable for most situations. Such designs offer easy access to your equipment, and they are the most popular designs around.

If you are into trekking, backpack designs are for you. Trekking camera bags are actually bags designed for long distance hiking, offering more comfortable designs than the normal boxy shaped bags. The contours of the bags is more ergonomically designed to hug the waist, and there's a built-in strap to held it against your body. Although access to your equipment is not so easy, it makes carrying heavy equipment over long distance much more comfortable.

When one bag is never enough

Camera bags come in many designs and sizes, and sometimes one bag is not enough for your various needs. You might need different bags for different occasions, and for different amount of equipment. The main point to remember when buying a bag is to consider the features and design of each bag to see if it is suitable for you.

At Cathay Photo, we have a wide variety of camera bags for your selection. Pop by our stores to see which bags suit you most!

Taken from www.cathayphoto.com.sg
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Old 19-10-2002, 09:11 AM   #7
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Some additional digital camera websites:


For a complete guide to using your digital camera, you can try http://www.shortcourses.com/

For night photography tip, http://www.photographytips.com/page.cfm/2
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Old 19-10-2002, 10:50 AM   #8
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Very resoureful indeed.

Hope the mods add it as a sticky thread in time to come!

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Old 25-10-2002, 08:31 PM   #9
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Very informative. Especially the sections on accessories. Now i can go around asking for prices......:bounce:
And the Blue/White team just keeps getting the upper hand than the Green/Black Team
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Old 26-10-2002, 01:37 PM   #10
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Ah... Thanks to Kenshin79 for this thread!

I've been planning to get a digital cam (A40 probably) after my exams next month. Now all my doubts and questions are answered.
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Old 27-10-2002, 12:11 PM   #11
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well most of us are sick of the same o' questions, thats why he made this thread.
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Old 30-10-2002, 07:43 PM   #12
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Thumbs up

Wah, very useful .

Luckily i found this info now, currently scouting for a new digicam

Very nice and excellent effort
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Old 01-11-2002, 12:49 AM   #13
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This FAQ is very useful, but people ain't noticing it i think . Guys lets make sure everyone knows about this.
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Old 02-11-2002, 12:40 PM   #14
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List of Digital Minilabs in Singapore

For your printing needs:

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Old 04-11-2002, 09:49 PM   #15
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Hi All
Thanks for the guide, Kenshin. been most useful...

Just a question, at what resolution should i take the pics if i want to print 4R photos?
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