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Have digital cameras improved immeasurably over the past 6/7 years?

(8 Posts)
ScummyMummy Mon 09-Nov-09 22:08:49

We've got a new baby and are taking lots and lots of photos at the moment. We are using a canon ixus 50, which we got about 6 years ago and is now discontinued, and though some of the photos are really fab, there are quite a lot of duds too. The light is often a bit odd and red eye is fairly endemic to the inside shots. When I go to photobox to get prints they rarely identify the quality of the pictures as better than medium. This could well be because I'm not very good at taking photos but could I do better with a newer camera, do you think? Have they come on a lot recently? Clearly the mega-pixel numbers are far higher these days- does this really make a big difference? Have there been other developments and would these help a very average photographer who'd like her photos to be as good as they possibly can be despite her limitations as a camerawoman?

BertieBotts Mon 09-Nov-09 22:20:36

Megapixel number means how many pixels there are per inch of photo if you print it out - you only need about 3 or 4 megapixels for printing out at normal photo size but if you want to print the photos out bigger or crop them before printing then something like 8 megapixels+ is better. However cameras with a high megapixel rating will take huge (ie file size not physical size) pictures which take up loads of space on memory cards/computer etc and will be impossible to send by email etc.

Really the most important thing in any camera is the quality of the lens - so buy a decent make, even if you get a more basic model with fewer features. Modern camera features though do help with taking good photos - like automatic focus which you can choose what part of the photo to focus on, face detection technology, anti-blur technology. Also most cameras have a few different modes, it's worth trying them out and not just sticking to "auto". I have a "beach mode" on my camera which takes really sharp clear photos with bright colours and looks amazing for photos of people taken outside, but isn't so good inside with a flash. I have a "sport mode" which I sometimes use to take pictures of DS as it is much less likely to come out blurry.

HTH I would recommend my camera by the way - not sure what your budget it but this is the one I have.

BertieBotts Mon 09-Nov-09 22:22:43

That one is not that new by the way - DP bought it for me for Christmas two years ago. So it might have come down in price by now and/or there might be a new model.

Leeka Mon 09-Nov-09 22:39:25

Photobox won't be assessing your picture-taking abilities smile just whether the resolution is adequate for the size you want to print at - if you choose a smaller print size it will probably improve from medium. But a camera giving you more pixels per inch will allow you to print bigger sizes without a loss of quality.

Whether you need a new camera depends if you're happy with the quality of the prints at the size you want to print at.

ScummyMummy Tue 10-Nov-09 09:42:17

Thank you, both. See how crap I am- the mp advice is a revelation!

BadgersPaws Tue 10-Nov-09 10:04:32

"Megapixel number means how many pixels there are per inch of photo"

Megapixels have nothing to do with the "per inch" of a printed photo.

Megapixels is an absolute measure of how many dots make up the image that the camera will produce. A "1 megapixel" image is about 640 by 480 dots while an "8 megapixel image" is about 3000 by 2400 dots.

The higher a "megapixel" you shoot at the more detail your photos will have. If you plan on cropping or manipulating them a lot in a computer then the higher the number the better.

When you print the image you'll run into the "dots per inch" thing.

You can print any size "megapixel" photo at any physical paper size you want. Typically there will be more dots in the computer photo than there are in the printed image and the computer will do a good job of "smoothing" things out and the photo will look good.

If you take a small photo, say a 1 mega pixel, and print a huge copy of it then you'll notice the image will look "grainy" or "jaggy". That's because in there's simply not enough dots in the computer image to provide the information to the printer.

So basically some good rules of thumbs are:
+ You can print any megapixel image at any size
+ The more megapixels you shoot at the more detail you'll see in the photo on your computer and the better it will be if you plan on cropping or editing it.
+ Shooting at about 3 to 4 megapixels provides a decent amount of information to print out 3" by 4" photos if you're not planning on doing a lot of editing.

Leeka Tue 10-Nov-09 11:01:35

BadgersPaws - you can print a photo an awful ot bigger than 3" x 4" with a 3 megapixel camera at a perfectly good quality.

I think the OP might have wanted a simple answer!

BadgersPaws Tue 10-Nov-09 11:29:17

Perhaps I did overcomplicate things somewhat but there is a real difference in "per inch" and "megapixel" ratings, they're just not the same thing.

I used to shoot at about 3 to 4 megapixels but being a rubbish photographer and often having to crop and zoom my photos meant that I could see a real difference in quality.

So my current basic rule is to take photographs at the highest megapixel rating I can to give me as much details as possible for when I come to correct my many many mistakes.

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