Some notes on digital still cameras for bird photography: Part 7.

To: <>
Subject: Some notes on digital still cameras for bird photography: Part 7.
From: "Robert Inglis" <>
Date: Thu, 1 Aug 2002 07:15:35 +1000
Hello Digital Desperates,

Part 7 has arrived.

Assuming that you have actually worked out how to use your new digital camera
and have actually taken some photos that actually are stored on the storage card
in the camera what is your next move?

Well this part of the story will tell you what I think you MUST do.
In the next part I will suggest what you SHOuld do and can do with the pictures.

But first I should tell you about "Metadata".
Now, this is, to my way of thinking, one of THE plus points of digital cameras.
When a photo is taken with a digital camera a great deal of extra information is
usually recorded along with the image.
This extra information is called 'Metadata'.
This causes the file to be saved in a variation of the 'normal' file format.
The most common file formats used by digital cameras are JPEG (a compressed file
format) and TIFF (an uncompressed file format).
These are universal file formats meaning they can be used with different
computer operating systems and different computer platforms.
When Metadata is also recorded these files are modified to EXIF (Exchangeable
Image Format) versions of the particular file.

The extra data recorded includes details about the camera settings used to take
the picture as well as the DATE and TIME (Great!!!!).
There is also details of the lens zoom setting and the flash.
(Note: It will not tell you if you had a teleconverter lens fitted at the time.)
Each image is given a coded file number and there is a 'Comments' box provided
for use later on when you have loaded the image into a suitable software

A 'suitable' software program?
Unfortunately not all image software is able to access this metadata, however,
the camera usually will come with some sort of software that is capable of
reading metadata.
If you don't have suitable software there is a 'freeware' program available at:
This program should allow you to view any image file that has been saved in
JPEG (EXIF) or TIFF (EXIF) and probably most other EXIF versions of image files.
If the files being viewed do not have metadata this program will tell you that
fact also.

Image software that cannot read metadata will still handle the image file as
'standard' JPEG or TIFF  files but when the file is saved again the metadata may
be deleted.
Note: If your image software provides the option it would be wise to 'save'
modified image files in JPEG (EXIF) or TIFF (EXIF) formats.
My version of Adobe Photoshop does not provide that option but I think the
latest version may.

Incidentally, very serious digital photographers who want to have the best
images to publish perhaps should look for cameras that can take images stored in
RAW file format.
Not many cameras are capable of producing this file format and I have not had
personal experience with it.
I believe it is more of a 'data' file format than an 'image' file format; that
might be being a bit pedantic but it stores information about the image in a
different way to an image file.
Even though RAW files are 'uncompressed' files they effectively contain more
information about the image than some 'compressed' files but are smaller files.
RAW files are not small files but when converted to TIFF files, for example,
they produce a file several times the size of the original RAW file.
The resultant file thus contains heaps of detail which allows for better
'reworking' in high-end image software.
Anyone wanting to know more about RAW files should start by looking at:
Good luck!!
A simpler explanation is at:

MUST do:
First of all there is something silly you can do and that is to leave the images
stored on the media card.
If you insist on doing this you are going to need a lot of media cards and you
will surely go broke buying them.
So that is really a DON'T DO!!.

What you MUST do is to copy the image files from the camera storage card to
another storage device.
Usually this is done first to a computer hard-drive.
There are some rather expensive 'stand-alone', battery powered, self-contained
hard-drive type devices on the market for people on the move to copy their image
files to until they have access to a computer but I won't go into those in these

There is a line of thought that suggests that another copy of EVERY image file
should be made and 'archived'.
The idea is that, even though there might be a significant number of 'rejects'
in the collection, more detailed examination at a later date may reveal
something important.
For example, I have a couple of very 'ordinary' pictures of waders taken at
Toorbul, SE Queensland, which contain a Broad-billed Sandpiper.
The pictures contain very little detail but the bird can be identified.
One day, when I have time to go through all my Tattler pictures I might even
find a 'Wandering'. :-)!
For my records, the metadata will tell me when the picture was taken .

How do you 'download' the image files to a computer?
Most digital cameras on the market these days will use a USB (Universal Serial
Bus) connection to transfer copies of the image files from the storage card
while it is in the camera to the computer.
Early model cameras used Serial Port connections.
The main reason for going to USB is the vastly increased data transfer rate
possible with USB.

But there can be a problem.

USB ports are a fairly recent addition to the computer scene and may not be
provided on many systems more than a year or two old.
Also, the Operating Systems (OS) used by older systems may not support USB.
As a general rule it is best to have Windows 98 SE (Second Edition) or higher as
your operating system.
(I am not familiar with Apple Macintosh but it would be advisable to check this
point yourself.)
The digital camera should come with a CD containing an image software program as
well as 'driver software' for USB.
You should read the installation notes for this software carefully.
Because of the great variation in the setup on individual computer systems there
is no absolute guarantee that the USB drivers will work on your system.
If your system doesn't already have USB ports it may be possible to install a
card of ports (sockets); if you are not a computer DYI person it would be
advisable to have an 'expert' do this job.
When considering the installation of a USB port card it would be an idea to fit
the newer USB Version 2 type.
Once again, there is no guarantee that your system will support USB!

If your computer does not have, and cannot support, USB an alternative is to use
a Floppy Disc Adapter.
This is a device that looks like a standard computer floppy disc but it has a
slot to take the storage card from the digital camera.
The adapter is inserted in the floppy disc drive and acts like a floppy disc.
- You need to get the right adapter for your type of storage card;
- Software drivers (supplied with the adapter) need to be installed on the
computer used;
- These adapters are extraordinarily expensive (e.g., $150 to $200);
- The data transfer rate is much slower than for USB.

An alternative to connecting the camera itself to the computer via the USB port
is to use a Card Reader.
I will discuss these devices in the next part along with some Should Dos and Can

Bob Inglis
Woody Point

Please note that these are my personal opinions gained from personal experience
and observation; other people may have other opinions and different experiences.
What I have written below is not intended to be absolute.
Anyone contemplating purchasing a digital camera for any reason or purpose would
be advised to seek advice from other sources as well.
Note that, except where a particular model of digital camera is mentioned, these
comments and notes are meant to be general by nature.
These comments and notes are not intended to be an endorsement for or a
statement against any particular brand or model of digital camera; they are
intended only to be a point of discussion for those people who may be
considering purchasing and/or using digital cameras for bird photography.
It should be realized that changes are occurring seemingly daily in this field
and therefore features and usability of digital cameras are changing also.
The types of digital cameras will change regularly as will the quality of image

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