Digital Imaging Today

The art of imagery has come a long way since the first photograph was taken in 1814. Back then, cameras were considered a rare item and most people resorted to painting family portraits or cutting out black and white silhouettes of themselves as memorabilia.

Fast forward to today, and it's easy to see how times have changed. Image capturing devices of all shapes and sizes are now a ubiquitous as any other gadget, especially considering that they can now come as a built-in feature in other easily pocketable devices such as mobile phones. It also helps that through the digital format, a more carefree culture of photo-taking is encouraged - that is, photographers, experienced or otherwise, can now take hundreds of pictures at any given time compared to what a 36-shot roll of film can allow. 

The camera industry has grown into a versatile market, now offering a diverse range of models to cater to the needs of users of varying levels of experience - from beginner, to mid-range, to professionals. Let's kick things off with a crash course in the types of tools of the trade for the modern digital photographer.

DSLR Cameras.

The DSLR ( digital single-lens reflex ) camera is often equated with professional photography due to its signature look - a predominantly black color scheme and the bulk reminiscent of classic 35mm format film cameras of old. By definition, DLSR cameras use mirrors and pentaprisms within the device, working in tandem with an image sensor and shutter mechanism to capture images.

Aside from the disparities in size and bulk,interchangeable lens systems, whereas compact digital cameras mostly come with fixed lenses. Inside, the image sensors fixed into  DSLR systems also have larger surface areas compared to their generic compact counterparts. Broadly speaking, larger sensors equate to better images, although picture quality depends on other criteria such as focal length, crop factor, and pixel density. The versatility offered by a diverse range of lens options addressing varying shooting styles, along with the generally larger sensor sizes that comes with DSLR cameras,  make DSLRs the de facto camera-of-choice for professional still photographers.

These days, however, DSLR camera models are not exclusively a professional photographer's device. More and more models are being developed to cater to entry-level market, featuring lots of compact camera styled presets modes, and even video recording, enabling any consumer with a keen interest in the digital image, as well as the financial capacity to invest, to harness such advanced imaging equipment.

Compact Cameras.

Compact digital cameras, also commonly referred to as point-and-shoot cameras, are generally those that offer the user-friendly functionality in a form that is compact enough to fit into a pocket. Despite these glaring and almost polarized differences from DSLR cameras, compact cameras have long boasted capacities for high resolution image capture, although arguably not as refined as that of DSLRs.

Most compact cameras are equipped with retractable lenses which provide some degree of zoom focus, as well as safekeeping for when the camera is not in use. Standard compact cameras also forgo the optical viewfinder with an electronic one, allowing users to compose and preview their shoots on the same integrated LCD monitor. In addition, these types of cameras also have pre-programmed shooting modes for several common photographic opportunities, as well as for creative photography, allowing users to just set a dial and shoot away to their heart's content. Video recording is also a standard feature.

There are several sub-categories for compact cameras, covering the likes of super-zoom, all weather, utra-slim form factor models. and more. In fact, whereas some DSLR cameras are being "watered-down" for a less-experienced user base, there are compact cameras built for more advanced users ("prosumers") who are looking for a more portable shooting tool, or perhaps a back up camera. Compacts such as these feature manual controls as well as internal hardware comparable to those found in DSLRs.

Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

Taking the space ones blurred by prosumer compact cameras and entry level DSLR models, the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera ( MILC ) first debuted in 2008 in the form of Micro Four Thirds ( MFT ) system, which is essentially an extension of Four Thirds system, an emerging new standard that allows for the interchangeable of lenses across different digital system camera manufacturers.

The MILC specializes in reducing the size and weight of the cameras and lenses, while maintaining the integrity of the photo with MILCs generally fitted with a DSLR-size sensor housed in a more compact and lighter body, this type of camera effectively offers the best of both compact and  DSLR worlds. The key difference between a DSLR camera and an MILC is that the latter has no internal mirror mechanism to speak of.

MILC technology was first developed due to certain integrity issues from DSLR cameras, such as resolution loss and chromatic aberration. The DSLR also has a tendency of developing less-than-sharp images, ghosts, and flares when the light reflected onto the image sensor is then reflected again on the lens surface.

On the flip side, DSLR cameras still maintain the upper hand over MILCs in terms of the range of compatible accesories, as well as more mature selection of lenses. Also, from a price point perspective, many MILC offerings range around the entry-level DSLR range
( sometimes even higher ), so they may not be as appealing to the budget conscious photography newbies compared to more recognizable DSLR cameras.

These cutaway views of a DSLR ( left ) and an MILC ( right )
camera illustrate the structural differences between the two types of cameras.


I hope you enjoy reading the first part of photography basics.
Later then. :) 


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