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3x, 5x, 10x: Denotes the focal length ratio of a zoom lens; this is an optical, not digital zoom. See also Digital Zoom for more information.
AC Power: Running your digital camera off wall-outlet power rather than by battery power.
Add-on Lens: Some lenses have filter threads on the front edge that allow you to mount an auxiliary wide-angle or telephoto lens in addition to the standard lens.
AE (Auto Exposure): Auto Exposure, a system for automatically setting the proper exposure according to the existing light conditions. The most common types of AE systems:
AE Lock (Auto-Exposure Lock): The ability to hold the current exposure settings and allow you to point the camera elsewhere before capturing the image. This is usually accomplished by half-pressing the shutter button and keeping it at that position until you're ready to capture the image.
AF (Auto Focus): A system that automatically focuses the camera lens, usually when the shutter release is half-pressed.
Angle of View: The angle of view is calculated by the focal length of the lens and the size of the image sensor. Consumer digital-camera focal lengths are usually stated in terms of their 35mm-film equivalents. For digital SLR cameras with interchangeable lenses, it's more difficult as different cameras have different size sensors.
Aperture: The lens opening formed by the iris diaphragm inside the lens.
Aperture-Priority AE (Aperture-Priority Auto Exposure): Exposure is calculated based on the aperture value chosen by the photographer. This allows for depth of field (DOF; range of focus) control - large aperture = shallow DOF and a small aperture = deep DOF.
Aspect Ratio: The ratio of horizontal to vertical dimensions of an image. The most common aspect ratio in digital cameras is 4:3 so that images fit properly on computer screens (800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024) and standard TV screens. Many cameras offer a 3:2 mode so that you can print 4"x6" prints with no cropping necessary. There is also a 16:9 mode on some digital cameras for viewing on new widescreen HDTV displays.
Aspherical Lens: A lens with flattened edges (not a perfect spherical shape) that produces a superior image.
Automatic Exposure (AE): The camera automatically adjusts the aperture or shutter speed or both for the proper exposure.
Barrel Distortion: A common geometric lens distortion causing an acquired image to pucker toward the center and be rounded along the outer edges.
Bluetooth: A wireless standard for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices such as cameras, PDAs, notebooks, computers, and cell phones. Uses very high frequency radio waves. Bluetooth devices establish a connection when in-range (less than 30 feet of each other).
Bulb: A long-time exposure setting where the shutter stays open for as long as you keep the shutter-release button held down.
Burst Mode: The ability to rapidly capture images as long as the shutter button is held down. Also known as Continuous Frame Capture.
Card Reader: A device that allows you to insert flash memory cards in order to transfer data to the computer. See also PCMCIA and PC Card.
CCD (Charged Coupled Device): A light-sensitive chip used for image-gathering.
Center-Weighted: An auto-exposure system that uses the center portion of the image to adjust the overall exposure value. See also Spot Metering and Matrix Metering.
CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor): Another imaging system other than a charged coupled device used by digital cameras.
Color Balance: The accuracy with which the colors captured in the image match the original scene.
Color Correction: The process of correcting or enhancing the color of an image.
Continuous-Shooting Mode: A useful mode for taking shots where there is movement such as children playing, sports, animals, etc.
Compression: A digital photograph creates an image file that is very large in size (a low-resolution 640x480 image has 307,200 pixels). If each pixel uses 24 bits (3 bytes) for true color, a single image takes up about a megabyte of storage space. To make image files smaller, almost every digital camera uses some form of compression. See JPG.
CAF (Continuous Auto Focus): The auto-focus system is on full-time and works before the shutter release is pressed.
DOF (Depth of Field): The range of sharp focus, controlled by the focal length and aperture opening of the lens.
DIS (Digital Image Stabilization): An electronic method of minimizing the effect of camera shake during video recording.
Digital Zoom: A digital magnification of an image. Digital zoom is crops a portion of a captured image and then enlarges it back to size. Therefore, no image detail is gained by using digital zoom.
Diopter Adjustment: Adjusts the optical viewfinder's magnification factor to suit the eyesight of the user.
Download: Transferring image data from the camera to a computer using a cable attached to either the serial or USB port.
DPOF (Digital Print Order Format): Allows you to embed printing information on a memory card.
DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex): An interchangeable-lens digital camera.
Dynamic Range: A measurement of image accuracy in color or gray level. More bits of dynamic range result in finer gradations being preserved.
E-TTL/E-TTL II: Canon's flash-exposure system used on their digital SLRs. E-TTL II system captures the subject as a plane and ensures that images containing various colors and levels of reflection are captured accurately and optimally.
EV (Exposure Value): The ability to override the digital camera's auto-exposure system to lighten or darken an image.
EVF (Electronic Viewfinder): A small-color LCD with a magnified lens that functions as an eye-level viewfinder. Usually found on video camcorders, they can also be used on digital cameras where optical viewfinders are impractical beyond 4x.
EXIF (Exchangeable Image File format): The embedded camera and exposure information that a digital camera puts in the header of the JPG files it creates. Many graphic programs (Photoshop, ThumbsPlus, Qimage Pro, CameraAid) can read and display this information.
EXIF Print: Under EXIF, the digital camera can record data tags for specific camera settings and functions, such as whether the flash was on or off, if the camera was in landscape, portrait, or night-scene mode, etc. Referencing some or all of this information, an EXIF-print compatible application can process digital camera images intelligently based on specific camera settings and the shooting environment.
Exposure: The amount of light that reaches the image sensor and is controlled by a combination of the lens aperture and shutter speed.
Exposure Bracketing: The camera automatically takes a series of three or five pictures and slightly varies the exposure value for each frame. This insures that at least one of the pictures will be as close to perfectly exposed as possible.
Exposure Compensation: Allowing the lightening or darkening of an image by overriding the exposure system. Also known as EV Compensation or Exposure-Value Compensation.
F-Stop: A numerical designation that indicates the size of the aperture. It is inversely proportional as a smaller number, ex: F2.8 is a large opening and F16 is a relatively small opening.
Face Detection: This mode automatically finds and focuses on faces.
Fixed Aperture: Normally when a zoom lens goes from wide-angle to telephoto, the aperture changes. If the camera has an option to fix the aperture value, then it remains constant regardless of focal length.
Fixed Focal Length: A term that describes a non-zoom lens; it is fixed at a given focal length and not variable.
Fixed Focus: A lens that is preset to a given focus distance. It has no auto-focus mechanism to give the camera the maximum depth of field.
Flash: A built-in flash supplies auxiliary light to supplement natural or available lighting conditions often resulting in better color and exposure and improved picture sharpness.
Flash Memory: This is the "film" for digital cameras. It can be erased and reused many times. It is non-volatile memory where data is preserved even when it is not powered on. They are several major types used in digital cameras: CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and Memory Stick.
Focal Length: A lens' angle of view, most commonly indicated as wide angle, normal, or telephoto. The focal length of a lens is defined as the distance in mm from the middle of the lens to the focal point.
Focus Assist: Some cameras employ a visible or invisible (infrared) lamp to illuminate the subject so the auto focus can work in low light or total darkness.
Focus Lock: Pre-focusing the camera and then moving it to re-compose the image before capturing it. Accomplished by half-pressing the shutter button and keeping it held at that position while moving the camera to another point before pressing it all the way.
FOV (Field of View): The area covered by the lens' angle of view. This is important to those with a digital SLR camera using lenses designed for 35mm-film cameras. The manufacturers specify the field of view for these lenses when used on a 35mm camera, but not when they're used on a digital SLR camera.
Gigabyte (GB): A measure of computer memory or disk space consisting of about one thousand million bytes (a thousand megabytes). The actual value is 1,073,741,824 bytes (1,024 megabytes).
Histogram: A bar-graph analysis tool that can be used to identify contrast and dynamic range of an image. Histograms are found in the more advanced digital cameras and software programs (graphic editors) used to manipulate digital images.
Hot Shoe: A flash connector generally found on the top of the camera that lets you attach a flash unit and trigger it in sync with the shutter.
Hologram-Laser AF (Auto Focus): A new laser-assisted, auto-focus system that uses a safe class-1 laser to paint a grid on the subject that makes the auto focus fast and accurate.
Image Resolution: The number of pixels per unit length of an image.
Image Sensor: A traditional camera exposes a piece of light-sensitive film, while digital cameras use an electronic image sensor to gather the image data. Refer to CCD and CMOS.
Image Stabilization (IS): An optical system for removing or reducing camera movement in zoom lenses. Using gyroscopes, an internal lens is moved around to counteract the movement of the camera. This usually allows someone to shoot at two to three stops slower than a camera without image stabilization under the same conditions. Also refer to Digital IS.
Interval Recording: Capturing a series of images at preset intervals. Also known as time-lapse.
IR (Infrared): Also known as IrDA. Uses an invisible beam of light to either wirelessly control a device or as a method of transferring data from camera to computer (or printer) without cables. Some cameras also employ infrared in the auto-focusing system.
ISO (International Standards Organization): The speed or specific light-sensitivity of a camera is rated by ISO numbers such as 100, 400, etc. The higher the number, the more sensitive it is to light. As with film, the higher speeds usually induce more electronic noise so the image gets grainier.
JPG: The most common type of compressed-image file format used in digital cameras.
Landscape Mode: Holding the camera in its normal horizontal orientation to capture the image. Also see Portrait Mode.
LCD (Liquid-Crystal Display): There are two types: (1) a TFT high-resolution color display device like a tiny TV set. (2) A monochrome (black and white) information display using black alphanumeric characters on a gray/green background.
LED (Light-Emitting Diode): Small red, green, and yellow indicator lights used on cameras, power supplies, and most electronic devices.
Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion): A rechargeable battery pack found on some digital cameras. Lithium batteries are lighter than NiMH or NiCd rechargeable cells and can be recharged regardless of their state of discharge. They're lighter in weight, maintain a better charge in colder temperatures, and last longer when idle.
Macro: The ability of a lens to focus very close (less than 8") for taking pictures of small objects at a 1:1 ratio.
mAh (Milliamps Hour): A rating used in the consumption of power of an electronic device such as an LCD or the storage capability of a device like a NiMH or Nicad rechargeable battery.
Matrix Metering: In most digital cameras, there is a matrix metering option which uses 256 areas of the frame to calculate the best overall exposure value. Also refer to Spot Metering and Center-Weighted.
MB (MegaByte): Memory term meaning 1,024 Kilobytes. Used to denote the size of a flash memory card such as 4MB, 8MB etc.
MegaOIS: Optical image stabilization system used on some digital cameras.
Megapixel: Charged coupled device resolution of one million pixels. Digital cameras are commonly rated by megapixels, multiplying the horizontal resolution by the vertical resolution to get the total pixel count. Megapixel sizes:
Memory Card: There are different types such as CompactFlash, Secure Digital (SD), Mini SD, and XD cards, as well as a Memory Stick.
Memory Stick: A flash memory card. It resembles a stick of gum.
Metering: Used to calculate the exposure from the existing light conditions. See: Matrix Metering, Spot Metering, and Center-Weighted.
mm (millimeter): Measurement to denote the focal length of a lens (i.e. 50mm).
MMC (MultiMedia Card): A flash memory card used in some digital cameras and MP3 players. It is identical in size and shape to SD flash cards.
Modes: Not all cameras have every one listed below:
MOV: A common multimedia video file format often used for saving movies and other video files developed by Apple®, compatible with both Mac® and Windows platforms. Known as Apple QuickTime® MOVie format. See Movie Clip.
Movie Clip: A sequence of motion captured in AVI, MOV, or MPEG format. Some digital cameras can capture short movie sequences, and some can also record the sound.
MP (MegaPixel): Abbreviation for MegaPixel, i.e. 1.5MP or 1.5MPixel.
MPEG (Motion JPEG movie file): Also refer to Movie Clip. The digital-video compression standard agreed upon by the Motion Picture Expert Group from the motion picture-computer industry. MPEG-2 is used by most camcorders and MPEG-4 (a higher compression ratio) is popular with digital cameras that offer motion video recording.
Multi-Point Focusing: The auto-focus system uses several different portions of the image to determine the proper focus.
Multi-Zone Focusing: Many digital cameras now offer multi-zone focusing. The camera will automatically determine which zone (center, left, right, upper, lower) to use to perform the auto focusing. You do not have to make sure the subject is dead-center to be properly focused.
NiCd: Nickel Cadmium (aka Nicad), a type of rechargeable battery. Nicad was the original type of rechargeable battery and has been mostly replaced by the NiMH version.
NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride): A type of rechargeable battery. NiMH is the more modern type of rechargeable battery and has been touted as having no memory effect (as is common with Nicad-type batteries when they are charged before being fully discharged). NiMH may also be called NiHy.
Noise: Pixels in your digital image that are misinterpreted. Usually occurs when you shoot a long exposure (beyond .5 seconds) or when you use the higher ISO values from 400 or above. It appears as random groups of red, green, or blue pixels.
Noise Reduction (NR): Some cameras that offer long shutter speeds (exceeding 1 second) usually have a noise-reduction feature that is either automatic or can be enabled in the menu. This helps eliminate random hot pixels and other image noise.
OEM (Original-Equipment Manufacturer): The piece of equipment is made by one company but labeled for and sold by another organization.
Optical Image Stabilization (OIS): Most commonly found in higher-end digital SLR telephoto and telezoom lenses. OIS uses a spinning gyroscope and lens element to counteract camera movement and handshake at longer focal lengths and lower shutter speeds.
Optical Viewfinder: An eye-level viewfinder that is used to compose the photograph.
Optical Zoom: A real multi-focal-length camera lens. This is not the same as Digital Zoom which magnifies the center portion of the picture. The higher the optical zoom on your camera, the farther away you can take a clear, close-up image.
Panorama: Capturing a series of images to create a picture wider than what you could capture in a single image. Requires special stitching software to combine and blend the images into one finished image.
PictBridge: A standard for direct USB printing from digital cameras to inkjet and dye-sub photo printers without the use of a computer.
Pixel: The individual imaging element of a charged coupled device or the individual output point of a display device. This is what is meant by the figures 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1280 x 960, etc. when dealing with resolution of a particular digital camera. The higher the resolution numbers, the better quality.
PNG (Portable-Network Graphics): An image file format. It is a compressed file format similar to JPG.
Point and Shoot: A term used for a simple, easy-to-use camera with a minimum of user controls. Generally turn on the camera, aim it at the subject, and press the shutter button. The camera does everything automatically.
Polarizing Filter: A filter than helps eliminate light reflections by limiting the angle of light that reaches the lens. There are two types: linear and circular. Linear type filters should not be used with digital cameras as they hinder the auto-focus system. The circular type filters can be rotated to adjust to the light angle needed.
Pre-Flash: Some digital cameras use a low-power flash before the main flash to set the exposure and white balance.
Programmed AE (Auto Exposure): The camera picks the best shutter speed and aperture automatically. Also called Automatic or Point and Shoot mode.
RAW: Files that store the unprocessed image data from the camera's imaging chip to its memory storage device.
Red-Eye: An effect caused by an electronic flash reflecting off of the human eye and making it appear red.
Red-Eye Reduction Mode: A special flash mode whereby a pre-flash or a series of low-powered flashes are emitted before the main flash goes off to expose the picture. This causes the pupil in the human eye to close and helps eliminate red-eye.
Resolution: The quality of any digital image—whether printed or displayed on a screen—depends in part on its resolution. Resolution is the number of pixels used to create the image. More and smaller pixels add detail and sharpen edges.
Scene Modes: Many digital cameras have an exposure mode called scene where the user selects the best pre-programmed scene to suit the current shooting conditions.
SD (Secure Digital) Card: SD cards are the most popular type of flash memory card used in digital cameras. Identical in size and shape to the MultiMedia Card (MMC) flash cards. The difference: SD cards were designed to hold protected, copyrighted data like songs. Not all cameras that use SD cards can use MMC cards.
SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity Cards): Allows capacities in excess of 2GB (4GB to 64GB) and uses the same form factor as SD cards, but is not compatible with older, non-SDHC devices.
Self-Timer: Preset time delay usually 2, 5, or 10 seconds before the shutter fires. This allows the photographer to get into the picture without using a cable release or remote control. It is also good for taking macro shots as you don't touch the camera to trip the shutter, eliminating any camera shake.
Sepia: The brown mono-toned images from the past that are now found as a special image effect on some digital cameras.
Shake Reduction: Minimizes the effect of camera shake.
Shutter: The physical device that opens and closes to let light from the scene strike the image sensor. Digital cameras use both electronic and mechanical shutters.
Shutter Lag: The time between pressing the shutter and actually capturing the image. This is due to the camera having to calculate the exposure, set the white balance, and focus the lens.
Shutter-Priority AE (Auto Exposure): The photographer chooses a shutter speed and the aperture is automatically determined by lighting conditions. Shutter speed priority is used to control motion capture. A fast shutter speed stops fast action, and a slow shutter speed blurs a fast moving subject.
Slow Sync: A flash mode in some digital cameras that opens the shutter for longer than normal and fires the flash just before it closes. Used for illuminating a foreground subject, yet allowing a darker background to also be rendered. Good for nighttime shots of buildings with people in the foreground. Often called Night Scene or Night Portrait mode.
SLR (Single-Lens Reflex): The camera has a viewfinder that sees through the lens with an angled mirror (that flips up when the shutter fires) and allows the light to strike the image sensor.
Spot Metering: The camera's auto-exposure system focuses on a very small area in the center of the viewfinder to critically adjust the overall exposure value only for that area.
Stitching: Combining a series of images to form a larger image or a panoramic photo. Requires special graphic software.
SuperCCD: An image sensor used in some digital cameras.
Telephoto: The focal length that gives you the narrowest angle of coverage, works well for bringing distant objects closer.
TFT (Thin-Film Transistor): Refers to the type of hi-resolution color LCD screen used in digital cameras.
Thumbnail: A small, low-resolution version of a larger image file that is used for quick identification or speedy editing choices.
TIFF (Tagged-Image File Format): An uncompressed image file format that is lossless and produces no artifacts like other image formats such as JPG.
Time-Lapse: Capturing a series of images at preset intervals. Also called Interval Recording or Intervalometer.
True Color: Color that has a depth of 24-bits per pixel and a total of 16.7 million colors.
USB (Universal Serial Bus): Data in/out port on most digital cameras. Found on modern PC and Mac® computers. Faster than a serial port.
UV Filter: This is an Ultraviolet-absorbing filter that helps overcome the abundance of blue in outdoor photographs. Not really necessary in digital photography as the camera's white balance system adjusts for the color temperature of the scene. Can be used to protect the camera's lens from scratching, fingerprints, or dirt.
Video Out: A digital camera being able to output its images on television screens and monitors using either NTSC or PAL format.
Viewfinder: The eye-level device you look through to compose the image.
White Balance: Adjusting the relative brightness of the red, green, and blue components so that the brightest object in the image appears white. Also see AWB.
Wide Angle: The focal length that gives you the widest angle of coverage.
Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity): Using the same IEEE 802.11b/g protocol as wireless networks for computers, digital cameras can transmit images to a computer, printer, or between cameras.
Zoom Lens: A variable focal length lens. The most common on digital cameras has a 3:1 ratio (i.e. 35-105mm).