How to Find a Digital Camera for Great eBay Product Images - dummies

How to Find a Digital Camera for Great eBay Product Images

By Marsha Collier

For eBay use, the most you need from a camera is a miniscule 2 megapixels, or 1600 x 1200 in size, which allows for cropping. Images uploaded to eBay’s picture hosting are optimal when they’re at least 500 pixels wide. The eBay servers will perform magic on your pictures and reduce them down sharply.

The camera you use for eBay is a personal choice. Would-be big-time sellers starting out in an eBay business usually go out and buy the most expensive digital camera they can find. A camera with a bunch of megapixels is the last thing you need for eBay images.

You don’t need a million pixels, but you do need the following:

  • Quality lens: Really cheap cameras have plastic lenses, and the quality of the resulting pictures is accordingly lousy. Your camera will be your workhorse, so be sure to buy one from a company known for making quality products.

  • Removable media: Most cameras can connect to your PC with a USB cable, and many sellers are happy with that type of connection. Others find that taking their camera to the computer and using cables and extra software to download pictures to the hard drive is annoying. Removable media eliminate this annoyance. Here’s a starter list of removable storage media:

    • Secure digital card (SD, SDHC or SDXC): This amazing little piece of technology is one of the most durable of the small media. It’s encased in plastic, as is the CompactFlash card and the Memory Stick. It also uses metal connector contacts, making it less prone to damage. These cards can be found to hold up to 2 TB (a single terabyte = 1024 gigabytes).

    • Mini and Micro Secure Digital cards: If the matchbook-size SD card wasn’t small enough, manufacturers decided to miniaturize them further — and increase the amount of data they offer. The mini version is about the size of a postage stamp. The micro card can often be purchased with an adapter that allows it to be inserted into a carrier so it can be used in any standard SD card slot.


    • Memory Stick: A tiny media card (about the size of a piece of chewing gum and as long as a AA battery), the Memory Stick is a Sony device used in most Sony products. Memory Sticks now hold as much as 256 GB. One of the great things about a Memory Stick is that it can be used in numerous devices besides cameras, including PCs and digital video recorders.

  • Optical zoom versus digital zoom: Two characteristics to keep in mind when looking for a camera are convenience and optical zoom. Choose a camera that is easy to use and has the accessories you want. Also, make sure that the optical-zoom capabilities will help you capture the level of detail that your merchandise requires.

    When shopping for your camera, find one with the highest-power optical zoom that you can afford. Optical zoom is magnified by the camera’s lens, producing a vivid picture.

    Digital zoom is valuable with a camcorder when you’re shooting moving pictures, because the eye can’t focus as easily as the camera on moving results. When your camera uses digital zoom, it does the same thing as enlarging a picture in photo-editing software. The camera centers the focus over half the focal plane, and uses software interpolation to enlarge the picture. This makes your image slightly fuzzy.

  • 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? Avoid this hassle by using a tripod to hold your camera. Tripods also help you avoid blurring your pictures. To use a tripod, you need a tripod mount, the little screw-hole that you see at the bottom of some cameras.

  • Macro setting capability or threading for a lens adapter: These features will come in handy if you plan to photograph coins, jewelry, or small detailed items. A camera’s macro setting enables you to get in really close to items while keeping them in focus. Usually the macro mode can focus as close as 1 inch and as far away as 10 inches.

    A small flower icon in the camera’s menu normally signifies the macro setting. A threaded lens mount is an alternative that enables you to add different types of lenses to the camera for macro focus or other uses.

    The average camera’s focal length (focus range) is from three3 feet to infinity. If you have a camera that says the macro focus range is set at 5.1 inches, it means you can’t focus it clearly on an object any closer than 5.1 inches.

  • Battery life: When you’re choosing your camera, be sure to check into the length of time the camera’s battery will hold a charge. The last thing you want to do is run out of juice at the wrong moment. Consider the following:

    • Keep a spare battery on hand.

    • Invest in a charger and rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable backup batteries last a long time and are worth the investment.

  • White-balance setting: This is a tricky feature. Most eBay digital photographers set the camera to Auto and hope for the best. If you can adjust the white balance, do so. Manufacturers use different presets. The list of options can include settings for incandescent lights, twilight, fluorescent lights, outdoor, indoor, or shade. All these lighting situations have different color temperatures.

    It’s worthwhile to take the time to play with the various white-balance settings of your camera in the different places where you normally photograph eBay merchandise. Make notes on settings that give you the truest colors in your digital images.

  • Autofocus and zoom: These options just make life easier when you want to take pictures, and should be standard features.

The bottom line is that you should buy a brand-name camera.