What Type of Camera Will You Use?
The subjects you choose to photograph and the equipment you decide to use will be determined by your budget, your interests, and your skill level. If you initially intend to take snapshots of your children as they grow but then decide you want to take your SLR camera on a photo safari to Africa, you will probably outgrow your camera — especially in these times when technology is evolving so rapidly.
The 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera, which debuted in 1960, ushered in modern-day photography; it continues to be the technology and format in widest use today. Unlike earlier 35mm cameras, SLR cameras featured special mechanisms that allowed photographers to see the same image in the viewfinder that the lens captured on film. With their interchangeable lenses and complete control over shutter speed, lens opening, and focusing, SLR cameras also offered photographers the tools to expand their creative abilities beyond what was previously possible.
For photographers wanting to take advantage of some of the versatility and creativity of the new cameras without having to learn the techniques necessary to master them, numerous manufacturers came out with easier-to-use (and cheaper) versions, including the point-and-shoot camera. In the 1980s, the introduction of capabilities like autofocus, autoexposure, and other automatic features allowed users to concentrate more on the images they wanted to capture and less on the mechanical processes necessary to create them.
In the mid-1990s, photography in the point-and-shoot world evolved further with the introduction of the Advanced Photo System (APS). Developed by an international consortium of camera and film manufacturers as a fully integrated photographic system for amateur photographers, APS features a special magnetic coding process that facilitates communications between the camera, film, and photofinishing equipment and makes for almost goofproof picture taking. APS cameras are smaller than 35mm cameras; they have smaller lenses and use smaller film as well. They're fully automatic and self-loading, which virtually eliminates any user errors. They feature three different picture formats — C, or classic, similar to a standard 35mm print (3.5” × 5” or 4” × 6”); H, or high vision (also called group or HDTV), measuring 3.5” × 6” or 4” × 7”; and panoramic, measuring 3.5” × 8.5” or 4” × 11.5”. APS cameras also allow users to switch between formats on the same roll of film. Magnetic strips on the film record the exposure and sizing parameters for each picture. During processing, the photofinishing equipment reads the information recorded for each negative and makes the necessary adjustments.
FIGURE 1-2 Today's photographers have lots of good options and choices. These are both point-and-shoots, but the one on the left looks and functions a lot like an SLR.
While the APS system makes panoramic pictures a breeze to create, it's possible to make pictures in this format with 35mm cameras as well. You can also turn any print into a panorama shot by trimming off the top and bottom. This is especially easy with digital photos, where two images can be merged.