Digital photographyDigital photography is photography using a camera that uses an electronic sensor to record the image as a piece of electronic data rather than as chemical changes on a photographic film. The sensor is either a light sensitive CCD, or a CMOS semiconductor device. A digital memory device (usually flash memory; floppy disks and CD-RWs are less common) is usually used for storing images, which may then be transferred to a computer later.
The advantages of this method over traditional film include the greatly reduced cost per image, the potential to make taken images instantly available for appraisal, the greater number of images that can be conveniently transported, and the removal of the requirement to develop the film in a photo lab. In addition, digital cameras can be smaller and lighter than film cameras.
Recent digital cameras from leading manufacturers such as Nikon and Canon have promoted the adoption of digital Single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) by photojournalists. Images captured at 2+ megapixels are deemed to be of sufficient quality for small images in newspaper or magazine reproduction. Six megapixel images, found in modern digital SLRs, when combined with high-end lenses can match or even exceed the detail of film prints taken with 35 mm film based SLRs, and the latest 12-megapixel models can produce astoundingly detailed images better than almost all 35mm images.
The number of pixels n for a given maximum resolution (w horizontal pixels by h vertical pixels) can be found using the formula: n = wh. This yields e. g. 1.92 megapixels for an image of 1600x1200.
The theoretical maximum resolution of a camera (w horizontal pixels by h vertical pixels) providing n pixels total can be computed following the formulas
With the acceptable image quality and the other advantages of digital photography (particularly the time pressures, of vital importance to daily newspapers) an increasing number of professional news photographers use these devices.
In late 2002, 2 megapixel cameras were available for less than $100 and some 1 megapixel cameras were under $60. At the same time, many discount stores with photo labs introduced a "digital front end," allowing consumers to obtain true chemical prints (as opposed to ink-jet prints) in an hour. These prices competed with prints from negatives.
But the general public still purchased far more single-use film cameras than digital models.
Some commercial photographers, and some amateurs interested in artistic photography, tend to avoid digital photography at this stage, as they believe that the image quality available from a digital camera of a given price is still inferior to that available from a film camera, and the quality of images taken on medium format film is near-impossible to match at any price with a digital camera. Some have expressed a concern that changing computer technology may make digital photographs inaccessible in the future while printed images have a very long lifespan.
Digital photography was used in astronomy long before its use by the general public and had almost completely displaced photographic plates by the early-1980's. Not only are CCD's more sensitive to light than plates, but the information can be downloaded onto a computer for data analysis. The CCD's used in astronomy are similar to those used by the general public, but are cooled to liquid nitrogen temperatures so as to reduce the noise which is caused by heat.
Other commercial photographers, and many amateurs, have enthusiastically embraced digital photography, as they believe that its flexibility and lower long-term costs outweigh its initial price disadvantages.
Exchangeable image file format (EXIF) is a set of file formats specified for use in digital cameras. This specifies the use of TIFF for the highest quality format and JPEG as a space-saving but lower quality format. Many low-end cameras can deliver only JPEG files. Another format that may be encountered is CCD-RAW, which is unstandardised.