T he days of waiting to develop a roll of ilm have given way to instant view- ing, simple editing, and the ability
to share photos easily. Today’s youngest
students may never load a cartridge of film,
but they will grow up using powerful cameras to easily capture and share the images
of their lives.
Digital cameras often have an optical
zoom and a digital zoom. A zoom’s magnification capabilities are specified by a
number and a multiplier—for example,
5X. The bigger the number, the greater the
Many features previously found on
cameras costing more than $500 are now
available on units that are affordable for
classrooms. This roundup compares digital
cameras that produce high-quality images
and offer a powerful selection of features
for less than $200.
The type of zoom you use affects the
quality of the image. An optical zoom
physically extends to magnify your subject. This provides a higher-resolution image. A digital zoom, which uses a magnification process called interpolation, crops
your image and enlarges it. This actually
reduces image quality.
When you buy a digital camera, you
should consider five key elements: cost,
resolution, zoom, editing, and sharing.
Many affordable cameras now offer image stabilization, red-eye correction, and
video capture. However, larger LCD viewing panels and greater image resolution
will increase the price. There are also other
costs associated with digital photography to
factor into your budget. For example, printing high-quality photographs will require a
color printer, specialized photo paper, and
color ink cartridges.
Intuitive menus, in-camera viewing, and
image manipulation features make editing photographs within a camera possible.
Free software is available for additional
editing options, such as cropping, adjusting brightness, and saving files in multiple
formats. For more sophisticated editing—
using layers, clone stamps, and special effects—consider budgeting for a dedicated
image editor, such as Adobe Photoshop
Elements or Pinnacle Studio Express. Both
of these sell for less than $100. (See L&L
Buyer’s Guide, May 2011, pages 40–41).
Digital images are comprised of small
dots called pixels. A camera’s resolution is
determined by the number of pixels lined
up horizontally and vertically behind its
lens. By multiplying the number of vertical and horizontal pixels and rounding the
number off to the nearest million, you get
the approximate number of megapixels
(MP) a camera can collect in a single shot.
For example, 2048 pixels wide by 1536 pixels high equals 3,145,278 pixels, or 3.1 MP.
A 6 MP camera will provide enough resolution for most printing needs. More will
allow you to print up to poster-size images
Digital cameras typically come with a
USB cable and memory card slot for easy
transfer of image files to a computer.
While students can easily email large
image files or post them online, a computer screen is limited in the number of pixels
it can display, so more megapixels do not
usually offer an advantage when it comes
to online sharing. Also, smartphones with
relatively low image resolution may take
acceptable pictures, and many have internet connectivity.
—Maureen Yoder, EdD, is on the faculty of Lesley University’s Technology in Education Program.