Digital Camera Features You Need to Know
- Digital Camera Features = Capabilities
- MPs and MBs as Digital Camera Features
- Digital Camera Features for Ease of Use
- All the Automation
- Digital Camera Features for Video, Too
- Where To Start
- Sensor size and resolution
- Interchangeable lenses
- Exposure Modes
- File formats
- Canon EOS Rebel T6i with a Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
- Nikon D3500 with a Nikon AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
- Fujifilm X-E1 with a Fujifilm XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS PZ
- Sony Alpha A6000 with a Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
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Photographers considering moving on from smartphone photography into a more complete digital camera system have a lot of initial decisions to make. There are some key digital camera features that make formats such as Full Frame, APS-C, and MFT an excellent entry into serious photography.
There is more to it than the format differences, too. Mirrorless vs DSLR camera styles is another point of comparison, as is what level of camera and lenses to consider. Asking, “what are the key features of a digital camera?” is a good starting point.
Another good starting point is to simply peruse the selection of available cameras. Doing so allows you to check out specs and features and compare potential camera models for your needs. Platforms like MPB make this a simple process, and since they offer pre-owned gear for sale, you can find a great deal on a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
What are the top five digital camera features that you need to know? Actually, the list of what features of a digital camera are important to understand and consider is more than five, but that’s what we’ll discuss as a starting point.
Table of Contents:
Digital Camera Features = Capabilities
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Whenever I get asked by newly-converted photographic enthusiasts what camera to buy, I usually start out by asking a few questions myself, so I know what they’re really asking. Knowing what kind of photography you find interesting is an early key to deciding what type of camera to get.
With that vital information, we can start looking at what digital camera features equal what benefits or capabilities. Some types of photography lend themselves to a specific set of digital camera features.
Which is why I say that the list of important digital camera features is bigger than one article about five features can cover. Still, there are five digital camera features an entry-level photographer should understand:
All of these are points where we can discuss benefits and capabilities as they relate to features. Also, these are pretty much intertwined with each other, so I’ll go back and forth a little bit with this introductory discussion.
MPs and MBs as Digital Camera Features
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Megapixels (MP) and megabytes (MB) are listed everywhere in camera ads and in photography instruction. They are related in important ways but are also quite different.
Pixels are the individual light-gathering spots on an imagining sensor. A megapixel is one million of these spots. The pixels convert the light striking them into electronic information that can be stored, accessed, and manipulated. The higher the number of MPs, the greater resolution capacity there is.
The more information there is to convert, the larger the files are, which is what the megabytes define. A single byte is one unit of data, so a megabyte is one million units of data. It sounds like a lot of overkill to have multiple MB file sizes, but each aspect of a scene being recorded takes up room digitally.
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An image is made up of exposure values, color information, and what is in or out of focus, each of which can vary by quite a lot from photo to photo and even within the same captured image. And all of these changing factors take up room on the sensor and in the file created by the sensor.
This is where file formats come into play. Some file formats record everything the sensor received during the exposure in an uncompressed file. This is generally referred to as a RAW format. RAW isn’t an acronym; it actually means a raw format, like an egg before being cooked, with some form of file processing as the cooking.
The other popular format is JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) which is such a widely used format that almost any device that can use or display a picture can handle a JPEG (AKA: JPG) image. Your smartphone records and shows JPEGs, and even the smart refrigerator in the office breakroom uses jpegs.
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It is a compressed format that is processed in or by the device using or recording the image. An advantage of JPEGs is that you can send them straight out of the camera (SOOC) via email or texting, and virtually anyone can see them. JPGs are also smaller files than RAW - they have fewer MBs - so you can store many of them without using up too much memory. And you don’t have to process them first; they’re already processed into the JPEG file format.
RAW vs JPEG is a huge subject, one that I’m sure you will enjoy as you grow as a photographer, but for now, we’ll move on to the next digital camera features and their benefits or capabilities.
Digital Camera Features for Ease of Use
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I’ll cover exposure and focus automation next. What I mean by digital camera features for ease of use is concerned with how a camera is used, how it handles, how it feels, and what it takes to hold it and take photos.
When I think of this category of digital camera features, I’m usually discussing how we see what we're about to photograph. On a smartphone or on a point-and-shoot (P&S) style camera, we’re used to a viewscreen of some type. With regard to digital camera features, they also usually have a rear view screen but also an eye-level viewfinder.
Many photographers, myself included, prefer the eye-level viewfinder for many picture-taking situations. Part of the reason for me is that it makes it easier to comfortably hold my camera with different lenses. Since many digital cameras also have a handgrip of some sort designed into the body, the eye-level stance is very comfortable, becoming a benefit for these digital camera features.
I’ll include interchangeable lenses in this subheading since having the ability to change lenses really makes it easy to get exactly the photo we want. Add in the feature of zoom, or changing the focal length in a single lens, and we have a superb feature for giving us the benefit of ease of use.
All the Automation
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Exposure, focus, and composition, as well as when to take the picture, are decisions that go into every photograph. Focus seems simple enough, but exposure involves the sensitivity of the sensor, the lens aperture, and the shutter speed in a balanced arrangement. We move on to the next picture and recock the shutter automatically, too, with the motors built into the cameras.
Having these functions take place automatically as digital camera features frees us up from doing them, but it’s also a great feature to be able to turn off these various automatic modes as needed. The more you learn about photography, the more often you will either turn off some automation or add your own input and control to the auto or motorized functions.
As for the idea that you only become a serious photographer by switching to manual mode, I like to say that a lot of photographers benefit from the various automatic modes and functions of modern digital cameras.
More important than going full manual is understanding what everything does and why you would want to override automation at times. Overriding doesn’t always mean turning off auto modes, either. There are many ways to adjust settings between full auto and full auto.
Digital Camera Features for Video, Too
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One of the best things about digital camera features is that I can capture still images and make video recordings with all or most of the same equipment. If video is important to you, be sure to investigate the video features of the camera you’re considering.
Where To Start
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One of the best places to start shopping for a great entry-level camera is the online platform MPB. This online platform specializes in high-quality used cameras and lenses, which helps us save money on filling out our photography kits.
MPB is one of the first places I check when considering purchasing photography equipment. They have a rigorous inspection process for acquiring their used gear, and you get a clear, honest, and accurate description of everything they offer for sale.
Most items also have a generous return and exchange policy plus a six-month warranty. You can even find virtually new versions of currently produced cameras and lenses, in addition to deeply discounted slightly older items.
Here is a short list of some of the entry- level cameras and their recommended kit lenses that are available as of this writing at MPB: