The Digital Camera Revolution

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There's a good chance that you or someone you know may have received a digital camera on Christmas morning. If so, you will probably need a little help figuring out exactly how to use it.

Tech editor Brett Larson stopped by The Early Show with some tips for mastering the basics of this hot new tech toy.

Digital cameras are fast becoming a regular household item. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, they topped the gadget list this holiday season.

Digital cameras capture photos not on film, but in an electronic imaging sensor that takes the place of film. Memory cards are to digital cameras what rolls of film are to standard cameras. Small cards pop in and out of a camera and act like rolls of film. They store data, or photo images, in memory.

Larson explains the images are simply computer files. Although, most digital cameras, like the latest Olympus Camedia C470, come with a memory card, the storage capacity is extremely low. For instance, the xD memory card for the C470 model has only 16 megabytes (data storage is measured in megabytes). That translates to about 12 to 16 photo images.

Larson suggests buying a second memory card compatible to your camera with a higher megabyte -- as much as your wallet can afford. They can go up to 1024 MB!

Some of the most common types of memory cards are Compact Flash, Secure Digital (or SD) Cards, and Memory Stick.
  • CompactFlash is a common type of digital camera memory card, about the size of a matchbook. There are two types of cards varying only in thickness, and you're limited to whichever your camera can handle (Your camera will specify Type I or Type II).

  • Secure Digital (SD) Card. These cards are the size of a postage stamp, and come in sizes up to 512MB. There's only one type, so you won't have to worry if it will fit. You really only have to worry only about losing them, since they're tiny.

  • A Memory Stick is slightly smaller than a single stick of chewing gum, and, like CompactFlash, it is flash-based storage for your photos. Memory Stick is the format of choice for Sony products and its entire line of digital cameras. It tops out at 128 Megabytes, or about 50 to 64 pictures.


Settings

Digital cameras can usually capture low-quality to high-quality images, with a few stops in between. If you're using these pictures strictly to post on the web, such as a personal web site or an auction site, the low camera's setting is fine. But, if you want to print your pictures, you'll want to use the highest quality setting.

Printers

After you have snapped your images, Larson says, you've got a few options for printing pictures. You may already have a printer, but if not, here's what's new.

Some color inkjet printers can perform double duty by printing both documents, web pages in color, graphs for school and reports as well as your photos. You simply hook the printer up to your computer and use either the included software with your camera, or off-the-shelf software to enhance and prepare your pictures to print. Epson's printer will print up to 8x10 photos.

Then there are options like Kodak's EasyShare, in which you simply choose the photos you like, and dock the camera on the printer. A press of the button and a few seconds later, your printer spits out your photo in full color, but at a size of 4x6.

Larson says the HP's 245 printer is similar to the Kodak EasyShare, but it is flexible enough to work with almost all digital cameras. Instead of docking the camera, you eject the media card and insert it directly into the printer. The display on the printer lets you see the photos you'd like to print, and make some simple adjustments in brightness and contrast. You can even add effects like black and white and sepia before you print your choices with the push of a button - no computer needed. The downside to the HP, like the Kodak, is that the size is limited to 4x6.

Printing materials

If you are considering investing in a printer, keep in mind the additional costs of photo paper and ink. Printing photos on regular office paper won't be near as pleasing as using photo paper, which, although expensive, gives you the best results. There are many types of photo paper, such as matte paper, glossy paper, even semi-gloss paper. There's also a variety of sizes, from wallet up to 8x10 (of course, you'll need a printer that can print that size as well).

You'll also need to invest in ink for your printer. The price you pay for ink will vary on the printer you use -- but expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $40 or more for replacement ink cartridges. The length of time they last will vary on the number of prints you create.

Printing services

Don't feel like printing your own pictures? Check your local film developer or retail store like Kinko's and WalMart. They may be able to take your media cards or CDs full of pictures and create prints with little hassle and no need to mess with printers, paper and ink.

Or, try an online printing service like Snapfish or Ofoto. Both services let you upload your digital pictures, and place them into albums. You'll then be able to order prints online and have them mailed right to you. By using these services, you can share those albums with anyone in the world who has a net connection, and they can order prints, too.
  • Rome Neal

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