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Digital Cameras

One of the greatest  things about mountain biking is where the sport takes place.  From the coast,  to the mountains and deserts and everything in between, if you are interested in photography then now is the time to get started.  Today's digital cameras  with their small size and excellent picture quality, make a great addition to the biking gear.  Being able to  go home after a bike trip and instantly view the pictures on your computer is simply amazing.

Below is a listing of some of the most important features to look for in a camera.

Mega pixels- When it comes to mega pixels, bigger is better.  Don't settle for a camera that is less than 4 MP no matter how low the price.  The number of  pixels is going to determine the image size of your digital files and your ability to make large prints.  A general rule of thumb is a 3 MP camera will produce near photo quality pints up to 5x7,   a 4 MP camera up to 8x10 and a 5 MP to 11x14.   Bottom line is if cost is an issue go with a 3 MP, but for best results go with a 4MP or larger.

Optical Zoom- No need to explain what zooming is, the more the better.  Most cameras today come with a 3X optical zoom and that should be the minimum when choosing a camera.  If your budget is flexible, go for a 4X or better but realize  with a larger zoom the camera will be wider to accommodate the lens so perhaps a tad bigger.   Don't pay too much attn to the digital zoom feature.  Rarely will you use it and if you do, the picture quality may suffer. 

Batteries- Need to make sure the camera comes with rechargeable batteries.  Today's rechargeable batteries come primarily in two flavors, they are either called  NIMH   batteries (AA size)  or are the lithium type.  The trade off is the lithium holds a charge longer but are more expensive because each manufacture uses a different type.  The important thing is whatever battery  your camera comes with,  make sure you carry a spare and keep it charged up.

Memory Cards- Unfortunately memory cards come in a variety of  flavors so no one size fits all.  The most common and least expensive card is the Compact Flash card used by Canon and Nikon, the XD card ( which replaced Smartmedia)  is used by Fuji and Olympus,   the Memory Stick by Sony and Secure Digital/Multi Media cards by Pentax  and a few others.   Memory is cheap so don't skimp.   Get either a 128 MB (megabyte)  or a 256 MB card to store your photos on.  Each camera is different but the most typical image sizes will run from 600K for the 3MP cameras up to 1.5 MB for the 5MP models. 

Camera size is another important factor to consider.  Ideally, if you plan to use the camera when biking, it helps if it's small enough to fit in your bike shorts pocket otherwise it's a pain to take the pack off each time to shoot a picture.  But be careful, smaller cameras can be difficult to handle for bigger hands and the zoom range and other advanced features may be limited. 

Another important feature to look for in a camera is  a manual mode.  Most cameras perform fine in Auto mode,  but as you learn how to adjust things like white balance, aperture  and shutter speed, then your results will be more consistent and you will be able to take your photography to the next level.

Other items to consider would include a camera case (no they don't come with the camera), a flash card reader and a  lens cleaning kit.

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