Here is some quick info / recommendations for digital picture processing.

Digital cameras

If you want good quality digital pictures, first of all, don't expect them from a video camera or a cell phone that has the ability to take still pictures as a bonus feature. Buy a digital camera designed for the sole purpose of taking pictures.

There are two basic categories of digital cameras. The first contains compact "point and shoot" models that often fit in your jacket pocket, and can easily be obtained for $250 or less. These cameras are fine for snapshots and will produce acceptable prints from 4x6 to 10x15 sizes and look fine on your website. They typically have 10-14 megapixels, and contain small image sensors (the area inside the camera that captures the image is much smaller than for example the surface area of a 35mm film negative). Unfortunately these cameras are generally marketed based heavily on their megapixel count, with little or no mention of their sensor size. More megapixels can mean a better quality image up a to a point, but a small sensor can only record so much data without introducing "noise" which visually looks sort of like film grain.

The second category of digital cameras is the digital SLR. These cameras currently cost a minimum of $500 (body only). Digital SLRs operate in a manner very similar to traditional 35mm film cameras - with the addition of an LCD screen so you can see a preview of each picture as soon as you are done shooting it. The body of the camera can be bought separately from any lens, and you can re-use a lens that you bought for a 35mm SLR camera (generally needs to be from the same company). Digital SLRs typically capture images having 14 to 24 megapixels. More importantly, the image sensor of these cameras is much larger than in compact digital cameras - approaching the size of a 35mm film negative. The larger image sensor produces much higher quality images, allowing images to be blown up to larger sizes without visible flaws (assuming proper technique was used in taking the picture, e.g. keeping the camera as steady as possible). Digital SLR cameras can produce images of similar quality to those captured with 35mm film cameras.

A third category: Now there are also a few cameras designed to have the best of both worlds - a somewhat compact size with a larger sensor such as the ones found in a D-SLR.

Sensor Size Comparison

Some current compact digital camera models

Don't choose any of these compact cameras on the basis of megapixels - 12 is plenty.

Brand Model megapixels 35mm equiv. sensor size viewfinder LCD size/pixels storage weight (g) price
Canon PowerShot Elph 110 HS 16.0 (4608 x 3456) 24-120 1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55) no 3.0"/461k SDXC 135 $180 street
Canon PowerShot A3400 16.0 (4608 x 3456) 28-140 1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55) no 3.0"/230k SDXC 126 $100 street
Canon PowerShot S110 12.0 (4000 x 3000) 24-120 1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58) no 3.0"/461k SDXC 198 $400 street
Canon PowerShot G15 12.0 (4000 x 3000) 28-140 1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58) yes 3.0"/922k SDXC 352 $450 street
Fuji Finepix XF1 12.0 (4000 x 3000) 25-100 2/3" (8.8 x 6.6) no 3.0"/460k SDXC 255 $450 street
Panasonic DMC-LX7 10.0 (3648 x 2736) 24-90 1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58) accessory 3.0"/920k SDXC 298 $450 street
Samsung EX2F 12.0 (4000 x 3000) 24-80 1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58) no 3.0"/614k OLED SDXC 294 $400 street
Olympus XZ-2 11.8 (3968 x 2976) 28-112 1/1.7" (7.44 x 5.58) accessory 3.0"/920k SDXC 275 $600 street

Some fairly compact cameras with larger sensors

Brand Model megapixels FCM - sensor size (mm) Viewfinder mag. LCD size/pixels storage weight (g) price Video
Fuji X100F 24.0 (6000 x 4000) 1.5 - 23.6 x 15.6 (EVF accessory) 3.0"/1040k SDXC 469 $1300 street w/fixed 35mm lens 1080p:24/30/60
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 16.0 (4592 x 3448) 2.0 - 17.3 x 13.0 1.4/2.0 = 0.70 3.0"/1040k SDXC 410 + lens $800 street w/28-84 equiv. lens 1080p:24/30/60 2160p:24/30
Olympus PEN E-PL8 16.0 (4608 x 3456) 2.0 - 17.3 x 13.0 (EVF accessory) 3.0"/1040k SDXC 357 + lens $700 street w/28-84 equiv. lens 1080p:24/30
Sony DSC-RX100 V 20.0 (5472 x 3648) n/a - 13.2 x 8.8 EVF (built in) 3.0"/1229k SDXC 299 + lens $100 street w/24-70 equiv. lens 1080p:24/30/60 2160p:24/30
Canon G1 X mark III 24.0 (6000 x 4000) n/a - 22.3 x 14.9 OLED 2.36m EVF (built in) 3.0"/1040k SDXC 399 $1300 street w/fixed 24-72 lens 1080p:24/30/60
Canon EOS M5 24.2 (5184 x 3456) 1.6 - 22.3 x 14.9 OLED 2.36m EVF (built in) 3.2"/1.62m SDXC 428 $950 street 1080p:24/30/60
Nikon 1 J5 21.0 (5568 x 3712) 2.7 - 13.2 x 8.8 EVF 3.0"/1040k SDXC 231 $500 street w/27-81 equiv. lens 1080p:30/60 2160p:15

Some current digital SLR models

Besides Canon and Nikon, D-SLR models are available from Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung, Panasonic, and Sony. I only list Canon and Nikon because they have the largest selection of lenses, and by far the most market-share in the D-SLR category.

Brand Model megapixels FCM - sensor size (mm) Viewfinder mag. LCD size/pixels storage weight (g) price (body only) Video
Canon EOS Rebel T7i 24.0 (6000 x 4000) 1.6 - 22.3 x 14.9 0.82/1.6 = 0.51 3.0"/1.04m SDXC 532 $750 street 1080p:24/30/60
Canon EOS 80D 24.0 (6000 x 4000) 1.6 - 22.5 x 15.0 0.95/1.6 = 0.59 3.0"/1.04m SDXC 730 $1200 street 1080p:24/30/60
Canon EOS 7D Mark II 20.0 (5472 x 3648) 1.6 - 22.4 x 15.0 1.0/1.6 = 0.63 3.0"/1.04m SDXC 910 $1800 street 1080p:24/30/60
Nikon D3400 24.0 (6000 x 4000) 1.5 - 23.5 x 15.6 0.85/1.5 = 0.56 3.0"/921k SDXC 395 $500 street w/lens 1080p:24/30/60
Nikon D5600 24.0 (6000 x 4000) 1.5 - 23.5 x 15.6 0.82/1.5 = 0.55 3.2"/1.03m SDXC 420 $700 street 1080p:24/30/60
Nikon D7200 24.0 (6000 x 4000) 1.5 - 23.5 x 15.6 0.94/1.5 = 0.63 3.2"/1.3m 2 x SDXC 765 $1000 street 1080p:24/30/60
Nikon D7500 20.7 (5568 x 3712) 1.5 - 23.5 x 15.6 0.94/1.5 = 0.63 3.2"/922k 2 x SDXC 720 $1250 street 1080p:24/30/60 2160p:24:30
Nikon D500 20.7 (5568 x 3712) 1.5 - 23.5 x 15.7 0.94/1.5 = 0.63 3.2"/2.54m 2 x XQD 860 $2000 street 1080p:24/30/60 2160p:24:30
"Full Frame"
Canon EOS 6D Mark II 26.0 (6240 x 4160) 1.0 - 35.9 x 24.0 0.71/1.0 = 0.71 3.0"/1.04m SDXC 765 $2,000 street 1080p:24/30/60
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV 30.1 (6720 x 4480) 1.0 - 36.0 x 24.0 0.71/1.0 = 0.71 3.2"/1.62m CF, SDXC 890 $3,500 street 1080p:24/30/60 2160p:24:30
Canon EOS 1D X Mark II 20.0 (5472 x 3648) 1.0 - 36.0 x 24.0 0.76/1.0 = 0.76 3.2"/1.6m CF, CFast 2.0 1530 $6,000 street 1080p:24/30/60/120 2160p:24:30:60
Nikon D610 24 (6016 x 4016) 1.0 - 35.9 x 24.0 0.70/1.0 = 0.70 3.2"/921k 2 x SDXC 850 $1,600 street 1080p:24/30
Nikon D750 24 (6016 x 4016) 1.0 - 35.9 x 24.0 0.70/1.0 = 0.70 3.2"/1.3m 2 x SDXC 750 $2,000 street 1080p:24/30/60
Nikon D810 36.1 (7360 x 4912) 1.0 - 35.9 x 24.0 0.70/1.0 = 0.70 3.2"/1.3m CF, SDXC 980 $3,000 street 1080p:24/30/60
Nikon D850 45.7 (8256 x 5504) 1.0 - 35.9 x 23.9 0.75/1.0 = 0.75 3.2"/2.36m SD / XQD 1005 $3,300 street 1080p:24/30/60 2160p:24:30
Nikon D5 20.8 (5588 x 3712) 1.0 - 35.9 x 23.9 0.72/1.0 = 0.72 3.2"/2.36m 2 x XQD 1415 $6,500 street 1080p:24/30/60 2160p:24:30

Recommended digital camera info/review website: www.dpreview.com

Digital Darkroom (image processing)

Often you may wish to edit the images captured from your digital camera before printing them. While there are many image editing software applications on the market (you can easily find a big list using a search engine), I suggest one of the following (in order of price): Picasa (Free) (http://picasa.google.com), GIMP (Free) (www.gimp.org), Corel Paint Shop Pro ($80) (www.corel.com), Adobe Photoshop Elements ($100) (www.adobe.com), Adobe Photoshop Lightroom ($200) (www.adobe.com), or Adobe Photoshop ($600) (www.adobe.com). The free tools do have some limitations, especially in processing RAW files (produced from digital SLR cameras). The Adobe line of products is by far the most popular, so if you choose Adobe you will have the widest choice of books and online resources to guide you.

Recommended Books

Digital Nature Photography: The Art and the Science, 2nd Edition, (copyright 2015), by John and Barbara Gerlach

Digital Landscape Photography, (copyright 2009), by John and Barbara Gerlach

The Better Photo Guide to Digital Photography, (copyright 2005), by Jim Miotke

Real World Digital Photography, 3rd edition, (copyright 2010), by Katrin Eismann, Sean Duggan, and Tim Grey

The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers (2017 release), (copyright 2017), by Scott Kelby

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers (2015 release), (copyright 2015), by Scott Kelby

Printing digital pictures

There are four basic types of printers that can be used to print digital images.

  1. inkjet
  2. pigment based inkjet
  3. dye-sublimation
  4. digital silver halide

The most common for home use is an inkjet printer. Pigment based inkjet printers such as the Epson R2000 or Epson R3000 are better quality and more expensive. Dye-sublimation printers are basically obsolete.

Digital silver halide - only certain photo shops and mail order services use this type of equipment (and it's much too expensive and bulky for home use). The digital silver halide printing process uses photographic paper - the same stuff used to make prints from film negatives. The paper is exposed using laser light and then developed.

I'm currently aware of four companies that make digital silver halide printing machines. Fuji has the Frontier series. The bigger models can produce bigger prints. These machines can be found at some photo shops - see www.digitalcameradeveloping.com to search for a store that has a Fuji Frontier machine in your local area. A company called Noritsu also makes several similar machines, although Fuji seems to have a better reputation. Cymbolic Sciences (owned by Oce) makes the LightJet series of machines. LightJet machines are not commonly found in photo shops, but some mail order services use a LightJet. Finally there is the Durst Lambda series of machines, also aimed at large format professional printing and probably not easy to find except though mail order.

For high quality prints, it's best to either use a pigment based inkjet printer or the digital silver halide process. One significant difference between these two printing methods is that inkjet printers are halftone printers and the digital silver halide process produces continous-tone prints. Printer specifications regarding dpi (dots per inch) cannot be compared side-to-side for halftone vs. continous-tone. A continous-tone print at 300 dpi is about the same quality as a halftone print at 3000 dpi (10x the dpi value).

In order to get a 300 dpi (continous-tone) 4x6 inch print for example, you need 1200x1800 or 2.2 megapixels. Here is a table with more figures. 300 dpi is good target to shoot for, but for poster size prints that will mostly be viewed from a distance, 200 or 150 dpi is sufficient.

print size 300 dpi res. 300 dpi mp. 200 dpi res. 200 dpi mp. 150 dpi res. 150 dpi mp. 100 dpi res. 100 dpi mp.
4x6 1200 x 1800 2.2
8x12 2400 x 3600 8.6
10x15 3000 x 4500 13.5
12x18 3600 x 5400 19.4 2400 x 3600 8.6
16x24 4800 x 7200 34.6 3200 x 4800 15.4
20x30 6000 x 9000 54.0 4000 x 6000 24.0
24x36 4800 x 7200 34.6 3600 x 5400 19.4
36x54 7200 x 10800 77.8 5400 x 8100 43.7 3600 x 5400 19.4

Notes:

Converting 35mm film/prints to digital

If you've got a bunch of old pictures that you would like to convert for digital for storage purposes, it's best if you still have the original negatives and scan those instead of scanning the print. There are basically three types of scanners you can use for negatives:

  1. Flatbed scanner with an attachment to scan negatives - cheapest solution but does not produce very high quality negative scans
  2. Special purpose negative scanner. These are shaped much different than a flatbed scanner and ideally use LED-light instead of a Flourescent light to shine through the negatives. They also generally include an infra-red sensor to help eliminate dust/dirt/scratches while scanning. The Nikon Coolscan line of scanners was great but Nikon no longer makes them. I would checkout the Plustek OpticFilm 8200i Ai.
  3. Absolute best quality negative scanners are drum scanners. They use a more senstive type of image sensor. These are very expensive so you would never buy one to take home, but you can pay a service to do drum scans for you using their drum scanner. The expense of a drum scan is probably not worth it unless you want a high-resolution scan of your best photographs.

As far as making prints from a 35mm negative, of course you may get a better print directly from the negative, rather than converting to digital and then printing. The reason to convert to digital is for the long term - because 35mm negatives deteriorate over time (and take up space).

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