Whether you’re shopping for your first digital camera or trying to decipher what all the abbreviations on the digital camera you just bought means, the terms can be confusing. Some of the jargon used for digital cameras come straight from traditional film cameras – aperture, focus, etc. However, with all the advances in technology, there are dozens of new terms, acronyms, and definitions.
So … tired of struggling to find out what the words selling your digital camera mean? Here’s a brief dictionary of the most commonly used and misunderstood (or completely outta there) terms in use. It’ll make you feel a lot better when you’re speaking to that sales person who tries to overwhelm you with lingo … and probably save you time, money, and frustration in the bargain.
Brief Digital Camera Dictionary
AC Power – Digital cameras that have optional AC Power allow you to run the camera powered by a wall outlet instead of your batteries. Usually, you will have to purchase an AC Power Adapter separately.
Aperture – This term comes from traditional photography, so it applies to film cameras as well as digital cameras. The aperture is the size of the lens opening. It controls how much light passes through the lens. Measured in f-stops, the higher the number, the smaller the amount of light is passed through. Most digital cameras will allow you to adjust the aperture manually.
Aspect Ratio – Most digital cameras work on an aspect ratio (horizontal to vertical dimensions) of 4:3 so that they fit on computer screens – which, incidentally, use an aspect ratio of 4:3. Some digital cameras will offer a 3:2 aspect ratio mode, which creates images that print perfectly as 4×6 photos.
Auto-Focus (AF) – A really useful feature for most of us, this simply indicates that the photo will be focused for you at the touch of a button. Usually, auto-focus works by pressing lightly on the shutter button.
Burst Mode – Digital and traditional film cameras with a burst mode (or Continuous Frame Capture) allow you to take a series – or burst – of images just by holding the shutter button down. Used often for high-speed and action shots.
CCD – This stands for Charged Couple Device, a fancy phrase for what is basically your digital film. The CCD is what actually records a picture. You want the highest pixel counts in CCD that you can afford – higher pixel counts equal a more detailed image.
DPI – This stands for Dots Per Inch. DPI goes hand-in-hand with CCD, measuring the resolution of photos you can take with a particular digital camera. The higher the number of DPI, the sharper the images you will create.
F-Stop – This one goes hand-in-hand with aperture. Basically, f-stops are the increments that aperture uses to measure the amount of light let in by your lens. The higher the number, the smaller the opening – and the less light that’s allowed to pass through your lens.
File Format – Completely a digital camera term, this indicates what format your images are stored in. Most digital cameras store images in JPEG or JPG format because it is recognized by the largest number of graphic editors and is ready to be uploaded to the Internet or printed. Some digital cameras are now using a standard camera file format called CIFF. This format will need to be changed to post to the web, and often in order to print.
Memory Card / Media Card – Every digital camera has one of these. They are like the negatives created by film cameras; they actually store your images, a miniature hard drive. Get the largest size (16 MB to 4 GB) that you can afford – the more space you have on your memory card, the more photos you can take at a time.
Optical Zoom – On a digital camera, there are two types of zoom: Digital Zoom and Optical Zoom. This is the important one, enlarging a subject by using the camera’s lens. Digital Zoom enlarges a subject by making pixels larger, and usually results in a blurry image.
USB Connectivity – Most computers now have several USB ports. This is one of the easiest ways of getting photos off of your camera and on to your computer for printing, saving, and posting online. If you can get a digital camera with USB connectivity, definitely do so. It’s not only easier, but it’s much faster than the serial port method other cameras use.