As I mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, the Quality control determines both the image resolution and file format of the pictures you shoot. To access the control, press the Menu button and then display Shooting Menu 1, shown on the left in Figure 3-2. Highlight Quality and press the Set button to display the screen you see on the right in the figure.
If you're new to digital photography, the Quality settings won't make much sense to you until you read the rest of this chapter, which explains format and resolution in detail. But even if you are schooled in those topics, you may need some help deciphering the way that the settings are represented on your camera. As you can see from the right side of Figure 3-2, the options are presented in rather cryptic fashion, so here's your decoder ring:
1 The first three rows of settings produce files in the JPEG file format.
1 The little arc-like icons represent the level of JPEG compression, which affects picture quality and file size. You get two JPEG options, which carry the labels Fine and Normal. The Fine setting is represented by the smooth arcs you see in the left column of options. The Normal setting is represented by the stairstepped icon, shown in the right column. Check out the section "JPEG: The imaging (and Web) standard" for details on this issue.
i Within the JPEG category, you can choose from three resolution settings, represented by L, M, and S (large, medium, and small). See the next section for information that will help you select the right resolution.
i The Quality settings on the fourth row, which enable you to capture images in the Raw file format, appear only if you set the camera Mode dial to one of the advanced exposure modes (P, Tv, Av, M, or A-DEP). All Raw files are created at the Large resolution setting, giving you the maximum pixel count. One of the two Raw settings also records a JPEG Fine version of the image, also at the maximum resolution. The section "Raw (CR2): The purist's choice" explains the benefits and downsides to using the Raw format.
To select a Quality option, just highlight it and press the Set button. The selected setting then appears next to the Quality item in Shooting Menu 1 and also in the lower-left corner of the Camera Settings display, as shown in Figure 3-3.
Note that changing the Quality setting also changes the number of pictures that you can store on your memory card. That number appears in the lower-right corner of the display, as labeled in Figure 3-3. See the upcoming sidebar "How many pictures fit on my memory card?" for details on this pictures remaining. issue.
So, which Quality option is best? The answer depends on several factors, including how you plan to use your pictures and how much time you care to spend in the digital darkroom, processing your images on your computer. The rest of this chapter explains these and other issues related to the Quality settings.
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Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.