24 Mar 2004
(updated 24 Mar 2004 at 22:28 UTC) »
Recommend a Digital Camera?
My wife wants a digital camera for various reasons. I've put off buying one for quite some time because cameras as fancy as I would like, to prefer them over film cameras, are still very expensive. But my wife has proposed we get an inexpensive one for her use, and I get my fancy one later.
But still I will be using it sometimes. There is one feature I absolutely require in a digital camera, that is surprisingly hard to find - the option to take uncompressed images.
Most cameras offer JPEG file formats, which is a lossy compression. Now suppose you resize a picture in the Gimp or Photoshop, and save as a JPEG again so you can put it on the web - then you've done lossy compression twice and introduced artifacts.
A friend has a camera (an old model now) that offers both JPEG and TIFF formats, and close examination showed that we could find artifacts in the highest quality JPEG setting that were not in the TIFF files.
It can be difficult to shop for cameras when this is a factor, at least when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. We went to wal-mart yesterday, and they had a handy booklet of data sheets, so one could check the file formats, but only one camera offered RAW format, and they didn't actually have that camera in stock.
We went to Staples today and the file format wasn't listed on the product display. I asked a salesclerk and he said "just a couple of the high-end cameras have it". He seemed a little vague as to which cameras exactly, and recommend that we "could always convert JPEG to TIFF". When someone makes such a statement, I know not to listen to anything else he says.
Is there a website somewhere that lists which cameras offer RAW or TIFF format?
It really seems to me that a camera should not have to be expensive to offer RAW format. Very little extra work would be required in developing the firmware to support RAW. After all, the image starts out uncompressed. I could see how an embedded TIFF encoder could be hard to write, but certainly it won't be as difficult as encoding JPEGs.
Other features we would like are optical zoom, a threaded hole for tripod mounting, and somewhere around three megapixels.
Cameras that have all of the above except for the uncompressed format cost about CAD$300, which my wife seems comfortable spending.
A camera for me that I'm waiting to buy would have lenses you can change, adjustable exposures, including the ability to take long exposures at night, uncompressed format of course, and higher resolution. The Sigma SD9 is my current favorite. It costs around a thousand dollars - I'm not sure if that includes a lens or not. Maybe if work goes real well this year.
Oh yeah - one more thing. My wife hates it when I get involved with the purchase of any sort of consumer electronics. I just about drove her around the bend while shopping for her recent laptop purchase. She is threatening that, if I give her too much trouble over her choice of camera, she'll run out and buy some random one when I'm not looking.
She actually did that when she wanted a new boom box, because I wanted to select one that had quality audio fidelity. She bought one for $69 that sounds like absolute crap but she is very happy with. She finds it hard to understand why I care about shooting uncompressed digital photos, in much the same way that I think she really can't tell the different between good and poor audio quality.