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Shoot Your Shot With the Best Digital Cameras, According to Photographers

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Top Product: Sony A7-III | $1,998 | Amazon

Never has the world of photography been so diverse, but figuring out where you belong in it can be confusing. Almost everything has a camera now, so contemplating the best digital cameras is like trying on a new pair of jeans. Those you love won’t fit right, and some will have you saying, “Meh, I can make it work.” And make it work you will.

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Likewise, the best camera is usually the one you have with you. For most people, this is a smartphone, but if you’re looking to graduate to something that affords more creative freedom, you’ll want a separate digital camera, and many are available for the cause.

There’s just one problem: with so many cameras to choose from, most of which are fantastic, even after you’ve settled on a particular brand or form factor, it’s hard enough to decide. For the first rendition of this list, we’ve highlighted five great digital cameras that fit a variety of budgets and needs, and we’ll be updating it over time to introduce more options from each of the top brands.

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Best Overall: Sony A7-III Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera

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Image: Sony

Sony spearheaded the mirrorless market with a meaty lineup including both APS-C and full frame options. After several years of maturation, the company has created what I feel is one of the most impressive cameras in its range. Especially if you can find it on sale around $1,800 (body only), the Sony A7 III—while not the newest of the camp—is a great value for full-frame mirrorless. The 24.2MP sensor has an insane ISO range. It reaches 204,800, and while it won’t produce what I’d call a “pleasant” photo that high, you’ll get very little noise up to ISO 51,200. Put simply, this thing is a beast in low light conditions. It bests most cameras on the market by at least one or two stops, which could be the difference between a usable photo a snapshot bound for the trash bin.

The Sony A7-III fits a variety of needs. With a 10fps silent shutter, you’ll be able to shoot sports, children playing, and other fast-motion scenes in a powerful buffer-filling burst. Its impressive autofocus system has up to 693 focus points in its phase-detection system covering about 93% of your screen, and with features like Eye-AF, Sony makes it easy to produce sharp photos. It also has some of the best battery life you’ll find in a mirrorless camera thanks to Sony’s upgraded NP-FZ100 battery.

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For video users, the Sony A7 III offers full-frame 4K at 24fps with in-body image stabilization (meaning your lens won’t need it!), and you can sacrifice some of those pixels to reach 30fps. If you stick to 1080p, you’ll be able to reach up to 120fps for slow-motion editing. Although considered “entry-level” gear by seasoned photographers, the A7-III packs plenty of pro features like a dual microSD slot, a dedicated exposure dial, and tons of customizable buttons. You’ll need to contend with a messy and confusing menu system, but once set up and mastered, the Sony A7-III is a delight to use.

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Best for Beginners: Sony A6100

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Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

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If you like the Sony A7-III but find it’s overkill for you needs, consider the Sony A6100. A great beginner’s option at its price, Sony has a rare advantage in offering the same mount system across both its APS-C and full frame bodies to date. That means you can buy this thing and get some great E-mount lenses for it, plus you’ll be able to take that glass with you no problem whenever you’re due for an upgrade.

Better yet, the Sony A6100 boasts the same impressive autofocus performance as its bigger siblings (albeit with a 10% cut to usable focus points) all while pushing a respectable image quality in its own right. Many would opt in for size alone. Smaller than the full-frame options, it’s the perfect walk-around camera for taking both photos and video. And with a flip-up LCD screen that even the more expensive A7-III lacks, it’s one of the better cameras for 4K vlogging.

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Best for Streaming Video: Fujifilm XT-4

Illustration for article titled Shoot Your Shot With the Best Digital Cameras, According to Photographers

Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

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The Fujifilm XT-4 is a very popular choice for video. This APS-C camera is nice and petite with a fully articulating display, and that alone is a win in some books, but the fact it achieves a full 4K at 60 frames per second with some of the most flexible color grading profiles available makes it an excellent choice for videographers. Step down to 1080p, and you’ll be able to record at up to 240 frames per second for silky smooth slow motion. In-body image stabilization is included to help if you can’t use a gimbal, too.

This classically designed camera is also top-notch for stills. It has a 26.1MP CMOS 4 sensor that stretches to ISO 12,800, and with the help of a powerhouse processor inside, you can fill a buffer at up to 30 frames per second (albeit with a 1.25x crop at those speeds). A hybrid autofocus system uses both contrast and 425 dedicated phase-detection points for speedy target acquisition. But you want to know my favorite feature? It’s got a 3.69-million dot OLED electronic viewfinder, one of the few on the market rivaling that of typical DSLRs.

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Best Point-and-Shoot: Panasonic Lumix ZS200

Illustration for article titled Shoot Your Shot With the Best Digital Cameras, According to Photographers

Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

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If you’re looking for something akin to traditional point-and-shoots of old, look no further than the viewfinder of the Panasonic ZS200. Unlike the options we presented above, the ZS200 doesn’t have an interchangeable lens system, but that doesn’t doom you from an image quality standpoint either. While it won’t match a solid cylinder of removable glass, the 15x zoom Leica DC lens (equivalent to 24-360mm on a 35mm body) can produce decent bokeh (background blur) effects thanks to its f/3.3-6.4 max aperture. Combined with a 12,800 maximum ISO, the one-inch MOS sensor has surprisingly potent low light performance. The Lumix ZS200 supports 4K video recording at up to 30 frames per second, all of it kept steady with built-in stabilization.

Don’t let looks fool you, either: this is an exceptionally versatile camera in terms of options and features. You can set and forget with its wide variety of preset modes; however, you’ll also get manual shooting modes to dial in the perfect settings for exposure or artistic effect. The Panasonic ZS200 is a fantastic bridge to give you more control over your photography if you’re not ready to leave this convenient form factor behind.

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Best Action Cam: GoPro Hero8 Black

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Graphic: Quentyn Kennemer

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When you’re roaming the unbeaten path, there’s no substitution for a GoPro. Although it’s praised mostly for its 4K video recording capabilities, the GoPro Hero8 Black also snaps decent photos. It’s not as flexible as other action cam options given its single focal length and noted lack of manual controls, but you’re still afforded a respectable suite of customizable settings to match your scene. And don’t forget, that includes underwater shots. Alongside dust and shock resistance, you can submerge the GoPro Hero 8 in waters up to 33 meters deep, ideal for capturing modest aquatic adventures.

The GoPro Hero 8 includes the company’s HyperSmooth 2.0 image stabilization, and while it can’t deliver gimbal-level stability, you’ll be surprised how much camera shake it eliminates. That means you can simply strap one to your helmet or chest strap, hit the road, and then share your exciting life with built-in live streaming and cloud uploads.

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How to use Google’s budget feature on Android so you don’t overspend

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Google has provided a budgeting feature in its Play Store that allows Android users to establish a monthly maximum they want to spend on digital content. This applies to apps, games, movies, TV shows, music, ebooks, and so on. As you get close to reaching your budget limit, you’ll see an alert that you’re nearing it — or have gone over the amount you specified.

You access it like this:

  • Open the Play Store on your Android device, bring up the left-side menu, and then go to the account section.
  • From there, you should see a “Purchase History” tab.
  • Choose the “Set budget” option and enter the amount you’re comfortable spending on your apps, music, movies, TV shows, and ebooks for a month. Then hit “Save.” Your budget can always be adjusted or removed altogether from this same screen.
Choose an amount for your budget
Choose an amount for your budget.

You can remove or edit the budget anytime.
You can remove or edit the budget anytime.

As Google notes, setting a budget won’t actually do anything to prevent purchases or subscriptions on your Google Play account once you’ve exceeded it. This feature is meant to be an easy reference for tracking your spending that you can take advantage of; it doesn’t implement hard restrictions like Google’s Family Link parental controls can. One other thing to know is that you can only set budgets using the currency of the country where your Google Play profile is linked.

Update October 20th, 2020, 2:37PM ET: This article was originally published on April 17th, 2019 and has been updated to reflect the fact that the feature is available to all.

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How to Vote If You Catch COVID

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Illustration for article titled How to Vote If You Catch COVID

Photo: Steve Heap (Shutterstock)

People are already voting by mail in record numbers this year, but what happens if you planned on voting in-person, but then get sick right before Election Day? Maybe it’s COVID-19, maybe it’s something else. Whatever it is, you want to make sure you don’t get any of the poll workers or other voters sick (plus you probably shouldn’t be doing something as strenuous as voting in person anyway). In that case, you may need to get an emergency ballot—some version of which is available in most states. Here’s what to do if that happens to you.

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First, check mail-in ballot deadlines in your state

When it comes to mail-in ballots, there are a few different deadlines to keep in mind—and yes, each state has its own timeline. In some cases, there is a deadline to request an absentee ballot, as well as other cutoffs stating the latest possible postmark on the ballot and/or the date it must be received by the local elections board. At this point, it’s pretty late in the game to request an absentee ballot, but as always, check your state’s election guidelines to find out when everything is due.

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How to get an emergency ballot

If you end up getting sick past the point when you’re able to request an absentee ballot, most states give you the option of requesting some form of emergency ballot. Again, check with your state or local election office to find out what the process involves, but it’s pretty safe to assume you’re going to need to find and fill out an application of some sort (which should also be available on your state’s website).

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) states handle emergency ballots in varying ways:

38 States permit emergency absentee voting in the case of a medical emergency

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Election officials in 6 states will deliver an emergency ballot to you if you’re unable to get to the polls because of a medical emergency

Arizona, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia.

Hospitalized voters in 17 states may designate someone to request/deliver/submit their emergency ballot

Arkansas, Colorado*, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.

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*Colorado mails ballots to all eligible voters, but if there is an emergency or natural disaster after the deadline by which ballots are mailed and a voter can’t get a replacement ballot in person, they may designate an authorized representative to obtain a replacement ballot on their behalf.

For full details on the regulations in your state, see the NCSL website.

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Bored at home? Here’s 10 handy tools you can build with Python

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Python project ideas for developers

If you have made up your mind about the platform you’re going to use, let’s jump straight into the projects. Mentioned below are some fun projects addressed towards developers of all skill levels that will play a crucial role in taking their skills and confidence with Python to the next level.

Content aggregator

content aggregator tool
Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

The internet is a prime source of information for millions of people who are always looking for something online. For those looking for bulk information about a specific topic can save time using a content aggregator.

A content aggregator is a tool that gathers and provides information about a topic from a bulk of websites in one place. To make one, you can take the help of the requests library for handling the HTTP requests and BeautifulSoup for parsing and scraping the required information, along with a database to save the collected information.

Examples of Content aggregators:

URL shortener

URLs are the primary source of navigation to any resource on the internet, be it a webpage or a file, and, sometimes, some of these URLs can be quite large with weird characters. URL shorteners play an important role in reducing the characters in these URLs and making them easier to remember and work with.

The idea behind making a URL shortener is to use the random and string modules for generating a new short URL from the entered long URL. Once you’ve done that, you would need to map the long URLs and short URLs and store them in a database to allow users to use them in the future.

Examples of URL shortener:

File renaming tool

File Renaming tool created with Python
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

If your job requires you to manage a large number of files frequently, then using a file renaming tool can save you a major chunk of your time. What it essentially does is that it renames hundreds of files using a defined initial identifier, which could be defined in the code or asked from the user.

To make this happen, you could use the libraries such as sysshutil, and os in Python to rename the files instantaneously. To implement the option to add a custom initial identifier to the files, you can use the regex library to match the naming patterns of the files.

Examples of bulk file rename tools:

Directory tree generator

A directory tree generator is a tool that you would use in conditions where you’d like to visualize all the directories in your system and identify the relationship between them. What a directory tree essentially indicates is which directory is the parent directory and which ones are its sub-directories. A tool like this would be helpful if you work with a lot of directories, and you want to analyze their positioning. To build this, you can use the os library to list the files and directories along with the docopt framework.

Examples of directory tree generators:

MP3 player

mp3 player built by Python
Photo by Mildly Useful on Unsplash

If you love listening to music, you’d be surprised to know that you can build a music player with Python. You can build an mp3 player with the graphical interface with a basic set of controls for playback, and even display the integrated media information such as artist, media length, album name, and more.

You can also have the option to navigate to folders and search for mp3 files for your music player. To make working with media files in Python easier, you can use the simpleaudiopymedia, and pygame libraries.

Examples of MP3 players:

Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe is a classic game we’re sure each of you is familiar with. It’s a simple and fun game and requires only two players. The goal is to create an uninterrupted horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line of either three Xs or Os on a 3×3 grid, and whoever does it first is the winner of the game. A project like this can use Python’s pygame library, which comes with all the required graphics and the audio to get you started with building something like this.

Tic tac toe
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Here are a few tutorials you can try:

More fun Python projects for game dev:

Quiz application

Another popular and fun project you can build using Python is a quiz application. A popular example of this is Kahoot, which is famous for making learning a fun activity among the students. The application presents a series of questions with multiple options and asks the user to select an option and later on, the application reveals the correct options.

As the developer, you can also create the functionality to add any desired question with the answers to be used in the quiz. To make a quiz application, you would need to use a database to store all the questions, options, the correct answers, and the user scores.

Examples of quiz applications:

Calculator

Developing a calculator with Python
Photo by Eduardo Rosas from Pexels

Of course, no one should miss the age-old idea of developing a calculator while learning a new programming language, even if it is just for fun. We’re sure all of you know what a calculator is, and if you have already given it a shot, you can try to enhance it with a better GUI that brings it closer to the modern versions that come with operating systems today. To make that happen, you can use the tkinter package to add GUI elements to your project.

Build a virtual assistant

Build a virtual assistant with Python
Photo by BENCE BOROS on Unsplash

Almost every smartphone nowadays comes with its own variant of a smart assistant that takes commands from you either via voice or by text and manages your calls, notes, books a cab, and much more. Some examples of this are Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana, and Siri. If you’re wondering what goes into making something like this, you can use packages such as pyaudioSpeechRecognitiongTTS, and Wikipedia. The goal here is to record the audio, convert the audio to text, process the command, and make the program act according to the command.

Currency converter

As the name suggests, this project includes building a currency converter that allows you to input the desired value in the base currency and returns the converted value in the target currency. A good practice is to code the ability to get updated conversion rates from the internet for more accurate conversions. For this too, you can use the tkinter package to build the GUI.

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