We review a book aimed at anyone new to digital cameras
Author: Simon Joinson
Publisher: David & Charles
Jacket price: £14.99, $19.99
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Summary: Get the Most from Your Digital Camera was first published at the end of October, so it's right up-to-date. It's a full-colour, 160 pages publication and Amazon's synopsis is: "Appealing to the fast-growing number of people who are replacing their point-and-shoot cameras with digitals, Simon Joinson explains the basics - how digital cameras work and basic information about image files, how to take better pictures and how to manipulate them using any of the basic free manipulation software packages available (as well as Photoshop). There is also detailed information on how best to print digital images, arrange them into electronic albums, send them by email, post them on a website, as well as a host of other uses not possible before the advent of digital cameras. A really versatile book that will help everyone and anyone have fun with digital photography and use it to its full potential."
About the author: Simon Joinson has worked as a digital photography magazine publisher, editor and has a long list of book titles in his CV. He's a recognised expert in using Adobe Photoshop.
Most of us have used a film camera in the past. Get the Most from Your Digital Camera is a book designed to help you successfully make the move from the film world to digital domain. Few assumptions are made about the reader's fundamental prowess with a camera, so it's suitable for absolute beginners and those with moderate experience alike. Four sections, Digital basics, The digital image, Taking pictures and The digital darkroom, are covered.
Digital basics looks at features and facilities that are common to most digital cameras and Simon Joinson points out the key differences between a film camera and a digital one. There is an interesting look inside a digital camera, literally, through an exploded view of a Sony DSC-F828 in a chapter called 'Anatomy of a digital camera' and there is also a chapter devoted to the ultimate digital photographer's tool, the digital SLR camera. Joinson also covers essential extras and points out that a home computer isn't a crucial necessity for taking digital photos and getting them printed.
The digital image
Part two, The digital image, looks at the building blocks of a digital image. The first chapter in this section called Pixels, dots and points, though 'points' – which is a typographical rather than strictly photographic term – doesn't seem to be covered anywhere. That niggle aside, this section covers all the basic knowledge you need to understand digital images. Here you will also find some more in-depth discussion and advice about PCs, Macs and ancillary hardware. Good coverage of essential knowledge about colour theory and colour printing is also included.
By far the largest section of the book is Part 3, Taking pictures. A great deal of this section is general advice on picture taking that serves both film and digital photography equally well. But techniques and options specific to digital cameras aren't left out, so references to subjects like white balance, variable ISO speed and camera scene modes often pop-up.
The digital darkroom
The final section of Get the Most from Your Digital Camera, The digital darkroom, reminds me of Joinson's other recent publishing venture, Secrets of the Digital Darkroom co-authored with Peter Cope. Like that book, this section of Get the Most from Your Digital Camera is a source of ideas and inspiration for using your photos as source materials for new, imaginative, visual creations. But even here you will find some useful technical tutorials, including an explanation of how histograms, levels and even tone curves work. This section is quite advanced and should extend the useful life of the book once the reader has mastered previous parts.
Can be improved
There are lots of things that are very positive about this book. However, I think it could easily be improved in a number of ways that are commonly demonstrated in other publications.
First of all, the index is quite poor. With such a technical subject as digital photography, a detailed index is essential and the simple one-page index in Get the Most from Your Digital Camera just doesn't do the rest of the book justice.
One important set of comparison images, to show the effects of extreme image compression (p30) doesn't work, though on the previous page there is a very successful set of comparisons showing how image interpolation degrades and image.
I'd like to see a reader-friendly summary of the concepts covered in each chapter or section and maybe some simple tasks offered to the reader so that these concepts can be explored personally. Lots of similar books do this to great effect.
Probably a reflected by its lower price, but the overall design and production quality of Get the Most from Your Digital Camera, although certainly not poor, doesn't compare with the excellence of Secrets of the Digital Darkroom. I only mention this last point as I wonder if the book might have turned out better from the Ilex stable, which produced Secrets of the Digital Darkroom.
There is no doubt that Get the Most from Your Digital Camera is a book that its target audience will find informative and useful. Besides the main prose, there are hints and tips, plus jargon busters to help you along and it's easy to read. On this basis alone, I can happily recommend Get the Most from Your Digital Camera. But with a minimum of effort, the book could be significantly better. Nit-picking aside, in answer to the final question asked of all books, is Get the Most from Your Digital Camera worth buying? – the honest answer is, yes.
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