Digital Cameras: Quality & Options

Brothers Mike, foreground, and Bob Bryan of the US, celebrate a point, during the men's doubles final against Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic, on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Saturday, July 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Just because prices for digital cameras have gone way down it doesn't mean people should buy one right away.

Consumer technology expert Steve "Mr. Gadget®" Kruschen told The Early Show that digital camera might not be for everyone and what are the alternatives to the digital camera revolution.

The prices of digital cameras have steadily decline since its inception into the consumer market. Some basic prices for digital cameras have gone down to $200, fine for Internet posting and sharing online. The top-tier consumer cameras can past $1,000.

The biggest drawbacks to going digital are inherent in the differences between electronic and film media and how we use them. With digital, there is no "shoebox" in which to put photos. Photos will be needed to be kept in computer hard drive (not a good idea) or photos saved to a CD. Saving photos to a CD can be done inexpensively and easily by many consumers using what is generally referred to as a "CD burner," that can create or "burn" a CD.

The so-called sweet spot in cameras is the 2.1 megapixel (million pixels) imaging sensors, most commonly named CCD (Charge Coupled Device). The chip allows the camera to "see."

Digital Image Quality

Digital cameras have varying image quality... called megapixels.... the more megapixels, the higher quality the image, and the larger the file size. A higher quality makes for better enlargements and maintains a better quality image when cropped and enlarged. When shopping compare the various megapixel ratings and the maximum enlargement size.

Digital cameras don't use film. They use on-board memory to store the pictured you've shot. The memory in digital cameras is always reusable. The greater the number of pictures taken without transferring to the computer, the larger the capacity and more expensive is the memory that is required. Most consumer digital cameras can use removable memory, and there are several types of memory devices, may come with about 16MB, enough for as many as 20 photos at full resolution. A 128MB memory card of the various memory types now costs about $60, less than half what it was a year ago. It's either a case of taking extra memory on a trip or take your laptop computer (or an expensive device that will off-load the images and store them while you're on the go).

Memory providers include Lexar(www.lexarmedia), SanDisk (www.sandisk.com), Kingston (www.kingston.com), SimpleTech(www.simpletech.com) and PNY (www.pny.com). Despite the claims, they're all about the same from manufacturer to manufacturer, so buy on price, whether you need Compact Flash, SmartMedia. MultiMedia, Secure Digital, or Memory Stick.

Printing and Other Viewing Options

Next comes the printing issue. It is relatively expensive to print photos on an inkjet printer. Paper costs can run from about $.23 each for 4x6 sheets to about $.50 each for good quality, high-gloss 8x10 photo paper.

Add the cost of the ink and each photo can run from $.50 to $1 each, or more. Also, in most cases, these inkjet photos do not last but a few years without fading, especially if you want to frame these photos and expose them to daily light, even if not direct sunlight, while traditional photographic prints last generations.

Some printer makers are offering what they call archival inks that they say last as long as traditional photos, but at considerably greater cost. Any color inkjet printer, and especially inkjet photo printers will do a decent job. You can shop for photo paper in various sizes and in various finishes, but the following information may save both time and money. Konica paper quality is as good as any other. The paper is reasonably priced through their Website (www.konicaonlinestore.com).

There are also dye-based photo printers starting at about $300 that will do a great job printing photos. Check out these products from Sony(www.sonystyle.com), Olympus (www.olympusamerica.com) and from Canon (www.powershot.com).

Consumers can also upload digital photos to a photo sharing Website, such as www.ofoto.com and at prices start at $.50 for 4x6. They will use that same photographic process as with traditional 35mm film to make prints from your digital images that will last, because they are just like 35mm film prints.

An increasingly popular alternative to doing-it-yourself or to using an online digital photofinisher is a local solution. Do-it-yourself kiosks are sprouting up at retail locations that accept the removable digital media from your camera and offer photographic prints at a reasonable fee. Both Kodak and Fuji are leading the charge, with Sony announcing recently a move into this market.

Consumers simply may not wish to print their digital photos, but still share them. It's easy to upload photos to the photo sharing Websites and create albums for invited visitors, family and friends to view. Users from anywhere, any time, can log on and see a slideshow (most sites offer this feature) of photos and even order their own prints! Or, simply send the images as e-mail.

  • Rome Neal

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