Digital cameras are mysterious things. You may read about mega pixels (a million pixels) and think that more is supposed to be better, but that doesn't apply to eBay applications or to Web images. Mega pixels measure the image resolution that the camera is capable of recording. For online use, all you need from a camera is 800 x 600 pixels (or at most 1024 x 600) because the majority of computer screens are incapable of taking advantage of more pixels. If you use a higher resolution picture, all you'll do is produce a pixel-bloated picture that can take a looooong time to load online.
You don't need a million pixels, but you do need the following:
I Quality lens: I'm sure anyone who has worn glasses can tell the difference between good lenses and cheap ones. Really cheap cameras have really cheap plastic lenses, and the quality of the resulting picture is accordingly lousy. Your camera will be your workhorse, so be sure to buy a well-known brand from a manufacturer known for making quality products.
I Removable media: Taking the camera to your computer and using cables and extra software to download pictures to your hard drive is old-fashioned and annoying. Removable media eliminates this annoyance. The most popular are Smart Media cards (wafer-thin cards), Secure Digital (even tinier than Smart Media cards), Compact Flash cards (in a plastic shell), and Sony Memory Sticks; all are no larger than a matchbook. You insert one of these cards into your computer, if your computer has a port for it, or you can get an adapter that connects to your computer through a USB port. You can get an adapter on eBay for a few dollars.
I Tripod and tripod mount: Have you ever had a camera hanging around your neck while you're trying to repackage some eBay merchandise that you've just photographed, and the camera is banging into everything? Or perhaps you've set down the camera for a minute (in a safe place) and then can't find it? Avoid all this by using a tripod to hold your camera. Tripods also help you avoid blurry pictures from shaking hands — and when you're shooting in macro mode, shaking comes with the territory. To use a tripod, your camera needs to have a tripod mount, which is the little screw hole that you see on the bottom of most cameras. In the following section, I give you some tips on finding the right tripod.
I Macro setting capability: If you're ever going to photograph coins, jewelry, or small detailed items, you must have a macro setting on your camera (usually symbolized by a little flower icon). This setting enables you to get in really close to items while keeping them in focus.
I White balance setting: Without getting into a long-winded discussion of measuring Kelvin and color rendering (I did this in another book), just know that good cameras have a sensor that ensures that colors are represented faithfully. It can be an automatic function of the camera, or you can select presets based on the type of light you are using: daylight, tungsten bulb, fluorescent bulb, and so on.
tt High optical zoom: When you're shopping for a digital camera, you'll see optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom enlarges the pictures through traditional quality lenses. The digital version pseudo-enlarges your images with a software interface within the camera. If you've ever enlarged a low-resolution photo and found that it got grainy and out of focus, you have an idea of what happens with digital zoom. The quality just isn't there.
t Autofocus: This option just makes life easier when you want to take pictures.
The bottom line here is to buy a brand-name camera. I use a Sony; a fancy Cybershot DSC-H1 (with a 12x optical zoom with image stabilization to overcome shaky hands — available on eBay for under $200), and an old, outdated Mavica FD92 (with a 10x optical zoom — available for around $60). Although the FD92 is pretty much an antique, it has all I need for eBay photos. They both store images on a Sony Memory Stick, which I just pop out and insert in either of my computers.
I bet you could find a camera that fits your needs right now on eBay for less than $150. Remember that many digital camera users buy the newest camera available and sell their older, lower-megapixel cameras on eBay for a pittance. Don't forget that many brick-and-mortar camera stores also sell used equipment.
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