Digital Photography Pocket Guide 2nd Edition by Derrick Story, ISBN 0-596-00627-6

Reviewed by: Paul Schneider, Ph.D., March 2004, send e-mail
Published by: O’Reilly and Associates, Inc., go to the web site
Requires: N/A
MSRP: $14.95

Digital has arrived in the world of photography. Although digital cameras have been around for several years, it has not been until more recent times that the quality of the images and functions of cameras began to rival their traditional film counterparts. Of course you may quibble that this technology arrived some time ago, but for most, until it was affordable it might as well have not been there. If you are considering the purchase of a digital camera or if you have one and do not believe you are getting the most out of it you may be in the market for a certain pocket guide.

The Digital Photography Pocket Guide is designed to be, literally, a pocket guide for users of digital cameras. The guide, a well thought out 113 pages packaged into a pocket size format, covers three major areas: what are digital cameras, what they do and a final chapter on pulling it all together.

You might ask, as I did, how the author could provide a pocket guide for all digital cameras in such a compact volume. I recently purchased a Nikon D100 digital camera. It's a high-end, 6 megapixel SLR camera meant to be a replacement for my 35mm film camera. When I purchased the D100 I had to consider whether or not it would serve my serious needs as well as the simpler point & shoot tasks. Well, on some levels the Digital Photography Pocket Guide did fall short. But in most areas it did quite an admirable job of providing useful information for just about any digital camera user, including instructions and suggestions for quickly switching between point & shoot and more advanced modes when using cameras like my D100.

The first chapter entitled “What is it?” takes a look at what makes up a digital camera. The author provides an overview of the front and back of a typical digital camera along with all the common components. The focus here is on the general, and thus the diagrams and features are more appropriate to your point and shoot digital cameras as opposed to an SLR digital camera. Even so the book does occasionally mention features that are typically only found in higher end models. Given the wide range of available cameras in today’s market it would be difficult to provide a comprehensive overview. The Digital Photography Pocket Guide wisely steers clear of this and ends up providing a decent orientation for those who already own digital camera and an excellent introduction for people who have yet to take the digital plunge.

Not surprisingly, the second chapter entitled “What does it do?” focuses on what can be accomplished with a digital camera. The chapter is packed with a whole slew of information that is helpful to folks just starting and to those who have been snapping away for years. If you are a true pro you might find some of the content a bit elementary (and I'm not sure you'd need the book in the first placed). Author Derrick Story provides a nice introduction that covers all the basic principles of photography and how they apply in the digital realm. In reviewing this chapter my mind drifted to my previous photography class and all the great principles I learned there, but dare I say, forgot? No matter though, with Mr. Story’s assistance the knowledge began to come back with ease. The guide looks at each of the key principles of photography, applies them in the digital environment, and does so in a friendly easy to understand language. After reading this chapter, terms such as ISO and exposure will soon become part of your own vocabulary.

The last chapter, as the author indicates, is more conversational. Here you learn about how to apply some of the different skills previously presented. Story drops you into common scenarios and, applying your new skills, shows you how to effectively deal with them. The scenarios include how to take good quality photographs of an aquarium, how to get great action photos at a soccer game and many others.

The last things the Digital Photography Pocket Guide fills your pocket with is several quick reference tables and a comprehensive index. Overall, the guide provides a good introduction to digital photography, covering the basics and sprinkling helpful hints here and there, as well as feature text about some more advanced principles. If you are looking for a comprehensive guide this probably is not your best bet. However, if you are looking for a pocket guide that is easy to read and covers all of the basics, the Digital Pocket Photography Guide is probably for you. Recommended.

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