How to Choose a Digital Camera for Your eBay Listing Images

If price isn't a factor, you should buy the highest-quality digital camera you can afford to shoot images of your items, especially if the items vary in size and shape. Highest quality refers to a camera from a quality manufacturer that has a high-power optical zoom and a good (nonplastic) lens.

Samsung, Sony, Canon, Kodak, and Nikon all make good basic digital cameras. You can find them for about $150 (easily found on eBay for even less). Middle-of-the-road new (and quality used) digital cameras sell for between $100 and $75. Compare prices at computer stores and on the web.

A great place to buy digital cameras is (surprise!) eBay. Just do a search of some popular manufacturers, such as Canon, Samsung, Sony, and Nikon, and you will find pages of listings of both new and used digital cameras.

When shopping for a digital camera, look at the following features:

  • Resolution: Look for a camera that has a low resolution of at least 1024 x 768 pixels. This isn't hard to find because new cameras tout their strength in megapixels (millions of pixels). You don't need that high a resolution for eBay because your pictures will not be printed; instead, they're shown ultimately on a monitor.

    A pixel is a tiny dot of information that, when grouped with other pixels, forms an image onscreen. The more pixels an image has, the clearer and sharper the image is; the more memory the image scarfs up, however, the slower it can show up on a screen. This lag becomes more important when you optionally add images to your description.

    When you upload images to eBay, they compress them for optimum viewing and loading as part of the item page.

    The minimum requirement (eBay's rules) is that your image must be 500 pixels on the longest side; they recommend images to be at least 1600 pixels for best reproduction. A 1024 x 768-pixel image may seem paltry next to the 14-million-pixel punch of today's digital cameras, but no one viewing your listings will ever know the difference. And pictures included in the description will load a lot faster.

    You want only high-pixel, high-resolution images for printing. The terms ppi and dpi (found when you scan photos) only affect the printed size of the final picture. The human eye sees photo prints with printer output resolutions over 240 ppi (pixels per inch) as continuous-tone images, even though the image is actually made up of slightly overlapping dots of ink.

    Digital images for the web or e-mail attachments usually run between 150 x 250 pixels for “thumbnail” images to as large as 1024 x 768 pixels. Images of 600 x 800 and smaller will fit on almost all monitors without requiring scrolling.

  • Optical zoom: Here's where the camera manufacturers try to pull the wool over consumer's eyes. They sell cameras with an optical and a digital zoom. The optical zoom is a true zoom done by the camera, the lens, and its built-in CCD (computer chip in cameras that converts light into electronic data) — but a digital zoom is virtual; it's interpolated through software in the camera.

    That means it makes up data to fill in any holes it doesn't capture. You've seen this effect if you've ever tried to enlarge a picture from the web in a software program — it gets all blurry.

    If you ever plan on shooting close-ups, look for a high-quality optical zoom.

  • Storage type: Smart card? SDHC? MicroSD card? CompactFlash card? Memory stick? (Whew.) The instructions that come with your camera explain how to transfer images from your media type to your computer. (No instructions? Check the manufacturer's website.)

    Most computers have card slots into which you can insert your camera's memory card; the computer reads the card like it's a teeny-tiny disk drive.

A versatile way to get the best images of items that require extreme close-ups (such as jewelry, stamps, currency, coins) is to use a super device called a Cloud Dome. When photographing complex items, no matter how good your camera is, you may find it difficult to capture the item cleanly and exactly (especially the colors and brightness of gems and metals).

Your camera mounts to the top of this Cloud Dome, and pictures are taken inside the translucent plastic dome. Cloud Dome now also makes a Nimbus Dome, to be used with your smartphone.

The dome diffuses the light over the entire surface of the object to reveal all its intricate details. You can purchase Cloud Domes on eBay or from the manufacturer's website. Even in black and white, you can see the difference that a Cloud Dome can make when taking pictures of jewelry.

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