We now live in an age where nearly everyone owns a digital camera. There are a few important things that all camera owners should understand about digital cameras, camera technology, and the market today.
1. Your Camera Life is about 4-5 years.
In 2000 I found myself for the first time ever in the colorful electronics district in Tokyo. The streets bustled with hundreds of people running into the red, blue, and yellow shops where vendors demonstrated the cutting edge of technology. The sparkle of a digital camera caught my eye: A fantastic looking Sony camera with English instructions! The camera featured a bank for 4 AA batteries (which was standard of cameras at that time), and a whopping 1 Megapixel sensor. I practically stole it for the amazing price of $550 dollars US buy lsd.
Just 7 years later, a 7 Megapixel sensor camera now sells for under $100 dollars. While the average cost of a camera will likely not drop way below $100, the amount of features you can expect from that camera will likely continuously increase as the technology is improved. In our previous generation a 35mm camera might have held value and taken great pictures for a couple of decades; a Digital camera becomes technologically obsolete in 4-5 years and consumers should weigh this as they buy newer camera models.
2. In 2008 consumers win in the memory price wars.
Digital camera memory prices have dropped and will continue to drop in time similarly to Camera prices, so it doesn’t make sense to buy camera memory as an investment. However, memory has in fact dropped faster than expected in the past decade due to the worldwide competitive manufacturing. While price wars are bad for flash memory semiconductor companies trying to turn a profit, it means money in the pockets of the consumer. Camera owners can buy enough memory to store hundreds or even thousands of pictures in memory before they need to be downloaded or printed. As a general rule consumers should buy the cheapest “cost per byte” when purchasing camera memory. If you see a 2 Gigabyte Memory Card for $75 and a 1 Gigabyte Memory Card for $40 dollars, buy the 2 Gigabyte card. Consumers should generally avoid smaller than 1 Gigabyte cards in 2008 and beyond.
3. Camera batteries can make all the difference in the world.
Inexpensive, bargain alkaline batteries may cause your camera to stop working entirely. Recently my Sister-in-law claimed that the camera I bought 3 months ago no longer worked. The camera would turn on and open the lens and immediately shut off again, even with brand new batteries. It turned out that the generic alkaline batteries she was using could not power the camera. Similarly Ni-Cd batteries should not be used in digital cameras because they don’t have the rapid amperage requirements of a digital camera.
As a matter of savings, consumers should only use Ni-Mh batteries in digital cameras. These batteries are perfectly suited to digital camera type usage because of the rapid charge and discharge requirements. The cost may be up to 3 times greater than Alkaline batteries up front, however a typical rechargeable battery can be recharged over a hundred times. Recently battery manufacturers have started making specialty Alkaline batteries that are designed to work in digital cameras. While they indeed do work, they are not cost effective. When buying rechargeable batteries, pay attention to the amount of charge a battery can hold (mAh) and its voltage. Its important to also note that a Ni-Mh battery has one key drawback, it losses several percent of its stored power per day. This means that storing charged batteries doesn’t really work. You need to pull them right off the charger before you go. Ni-Mh batteries rated as (LSD) or low self discharge are nice if you need to store charged batteries, but the drawback is they may have a lower storage capacity (mAh).
4. Your Camera Battery Charger can save you.
The most overlooked component might be the one that can save you the most headache. Digital camera users who use Ni-Mh rechargeable batteries require a charger. A good battery charger will not only help the batteries last longer by charging them in a precise measured cycle, but will also notify you if it detects a bad battery that is not correctly holding a charge. This is useful prior to being out and ready to take a picture to realize the batteries (or just one) don’t seem to be working even though you just pulled them off the charger.
A great battery charger will have several key features including Voltage monitoring, temperature monitoring, and it will offer discharge cycles to efficiently detect battery problems. It will also charge and monitor each battery individually (instead of pairs). Unfortunately a high number of battery chargers sold today lack some or most of these features. If the packaging fails to mention these features, most likely it does not have them.
5. Expect the worst to be safe.
In the 90s did you store all of your film negatives on a string hovering over your fish aquarium? Of course not, but storing your digital photos only on your home computer hard drive is risky. Digital pictures can easily be duplicated and stored as perfect copies. A wise investment around $100 for any digital photographer is a USB Hard drive which can be used to periodically back up pictures on the computer (and store separately from your computer should your computer break or get stolen). If you want a more automatic but pricey alternative of $200 to $400 dollars, you can buy a network storage device that allows you to automatically back up your computer without the manual process. There are also several services on the internet that will back up your files to internet servers should your home computer fail. Users who back up pictures on Burned CD or DVDs should note that a burned media device has a limited lifetime as well. Depending on the quality of the blanks, users should expect the burned media to last about 4 years.
As with all digital devices, cameras and camera memory fail occasionally as well. This may be due to user error, or component failure, or a wide spectrum of other causes. If a camera memory is suddenly unreadable in the digital camera or computer, users should be aware that the pictures or media may still be recovered. The user should NOT continue to use the media, or reformat it. There are several good yet inexpensive camera memory recovery software packages available, and there are also professional services available on the internet that can recover the pictures for a nominal fee.
Professional photographers often take hundreds or even thousands of photos to capture an event. They expect a large amount of the pictures taken to be not exactly perfect, and the more selection to choose from the better. Digital cameras allow consumers to take on a similar practice at little or no extra cost. You don’t have to print every picture you take, and you can always delete the duplicates later!