How to get the best from your digital camera

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By  Vijaya George Published  February 26, 2002

I|~||~||~|We have come a long way since traditional cameras. In the new age, the possibilities for taking photographs seem endless. More importantly, they seem to give us the freedom to choose how we want to store our images—digitally or as prints—and they are, in the long run, cost-effective. And as time passes, we don’t just seem to want a digital camera but our own printing solutions as well. If they have become affordable to the average consumer, why shouldn’t they go for it? So, Windows Middle East decided to go out into the market and profile some of the more popular digital cameras along with their printers, so that you would have a comprehensive digital solution to cater to your photography needs.

All the cameras here are for high amateurs and have many features in common. But we have attempted in this Workshop to brief you on those features that are unique to each digital camera and printer so that you can make an informed choice based on your requirements.

EPSON 3100z
PRICE: US $667
Specifications: 3.3 Mega pixels, Print Image Matching (PIM) enabled, 6x seamless optical-digital zoom, 25 second Video Clip Function, Hot shoe for external flash gun, Adapter for additional lenses and filters, Fully Automatic Programme and Manual control modes, 16MBytes CompactFlash memory card included, USB connectivity

User Profile: For amateurs as well as dentists and jewellers

The 3100z has some impressive components that could make dentists, jewellers and people who need to photograph the finer details of an object want to get their hands on one. The 3100z can be enhanced from 3.3 mega pixels to 4.8. It incorporates Epson’s proprietary PIM technology, which ensures that lighting and colour are accurately reproduced in print as well.

A special macro feature allows dentists to get a closeup of a patient’s dental structure with the finer details. This would not have been possible with an ordinary zoom that would have blurred the image. And while snapping a picture, it allows for a 5 second voice over as well which can be used to record data about the patient or say a quick hello to a friend you are sending your photograph to. The camera uses a compact flash (CF) card like most other digital cameras, thereby, allowing for greater flexibility. Although meant for still photography, you can dabble in the occasional video recording.

The camera allows for a 25-second video clip recording with voice over but the quality is not comparable to that of a video camera. Photographs can be taken in jpeg as well as TIFF formats. Included is a lens adaptor that will allow you to change the colour of your lens. As an aside, it is said that the Dubai police use Epson digital cameras to take photographs of criminals owing to an image authentication software (IAS) that allows them to stamp a lock onto the picture so that it cannot be manipulated.

||**||II|~||~||~|Software: Photo! 4 and PhotoQuicker

The Epson CD comes with Photo! 4 and PhotoQuicker to do a variety of editing. The PhotoQuicker allows PIM information stored with digital camera images to be utilised by PIM-enabled photo printers and enables the creation of a virtual darkroom. It allows the user to have a range of printing options including multiple printing of the same image on a single sheet and automatic image resizing, an assortment of filters and image enhancing effects and facilities for adding text and photo information or building templates, enabling the creation of a virtual darkroom. Quite useful this!

Printers: Epson Stylus Photo 895
PRICE: US $272
Specifications: 2880 x 720dpi resolution, 6 colour printing, 7.8ppm black & 7.6ppm colour, Borderless prints on 100x150mm & A4 media.
With this system, you only require one cartridge whether it is to print from Word or Excel or to take a photo printout. Included is an LCD display for previewing images. You can print anything from an A4 size to 4” by 6”. You can either print through a PC or a laptop or allow for direct printing from the camera straight to the printer. The Epson digital camera, software and printer solution is a comprehensive one to consider if you are planning on some digital photography or for your job.

||**||III|~||~||~|HP C318
PRICE: US $215
Specifications: 2.31 megapixels, 1/3 inch CCD, 8 Mbytes internal memory, 2x digital zoom, USB to PC and Mac or via CF Type I, compatible with Windows (NT 4.0, 98, 2000, Me, XP) and Mac OS (8.6 and higher)

User Profile: The right stuff for students and amateurs

Small budgets, little time and huge assignments are the bane of today’s college-going student. Most projects demand that information be supplemented with photographs. There is nothing quite like a digital camera to help you today because you only need to get the photographs you want t get printed unlike a traditional film roll. All you need to do, in this case, is click the image on your camera and transfer it to your computer or printer. That apart, plenty of occasions with friends demand that memories be stored to cherish in future.

One would imagine that today’s students would rather have them stored away in a digital format such as a CD-ROM. HP’s 318 is an ideal solution for such students. Four AA Energiser batteries should do the trick. The camera comes with the first four and it is recommended that you stick to the same brand. Additionally, this camera uses the low-end Type1 Compact Flash card. And if you forgot to take along a flash card, there’s no need to worry. The camera has an internal memory that allows you to store 8 MBytes of images on it. Most digital cameras do not come with this feature. There is a small catalogue with easy-to-follow instructions and corresponding pictures to show you how to install the software and how to use the camera. You can choose between five languages—English, Deutsch, Spanish, French, Italian. It might also give you a little kick to put your image on the welcome screen.

Software: ArcSoft PhotoImpression

The C318 comes with photo imaging software for PCs and ArcSoft PhotoImpression software for Macintosh. The software is user-friendly and can handle all common formats. Moreover, this software will be compatible with all future HP models as well. It uses three languages- English, French and Deutsch. It allows you to send email, share the jpeg with the network, make an album, change colours or send it to your Web page.

Printers: HP Photosmart P1315
PRICE: US $ 320
Specifications: 17 ppm black,13 ppm colour, LCD screen colour, USB and parallel, CF card, smart media and memory stick card readers, HP Photoret III precision technology, HP Coloursmart III

One of the latest in the Photosmart line, HP’s 1315 is not just an ideal solution for its own digital camera but good for other digital cameras as well. For one, it uses a printing technology called PhotoRet III, comes with 3 kinds of slots to accommodate Sony’s memory stick, smart media card and a compact flash card. Also, the built-in LCD screen allows you to preview the images before printing them. That gives you immense flexibility to print from most digital cameras available in the market. But this printer isn’t as fast as its predecessor, the 1215 when it comes to printing text.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a photo printer option, the 1315 is a good buy although a little expensive. You can print sizes from post-card size up to A4. Every HP printer also comes with an inbuilt CF reader, thereby, eliminating the need to purchase one for direct printing.

||**||IV|~||~||~|Nikon-Coolpix 775
PRICE: US $602
Specifications: Effective pixels 2.0 million, CCD 1/2.7-in. type (2.14 million total pixels), 3x Zoom-Nikkor, CF Card Type I, one Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL1, approx. 185g without battery and CF.

User Profile: The perfect family camera

Light weight and compact, this camera comes with an LCD monitor and excellent options to enhance your photography experience. There are, for instance, nine shooting modes that you can choose depending on your location and lighting conditions such as auto mode, party settings, backlight option, portrait, night shots, landscape, beach or snow and sunset mode.

A self-timer mode with three-second feature prevents photos from blurring and a ten-second feature gives you time to pose in front of the lens. Nikon has a Macro feature as well like Epson. For the finicky photographer, there is a manual white balance adjustment option apart from auto presets. A 60-second video recording is possible although voice recording is not. Exposure settings can be altered. Photographs can be taken in a single, continuous, or multi-shot sequence.

If you are picturing your baby, for instance, turn the continuous shot mode on so that when your shutter release button is depressed, it takes 3 photographs every 2 seconds. The video mode items in the SETUP menu offers a choice NTSC and PAL standards for video output. If you plan to print your images at some point, it will help to take the images in normal or fine mode. Comes with a USB port and related drivers so that you can transfer the images to the PC. But for photo prints, Nikon recommends that you go to a studio.

FinePix 2800
PRICE: $658
Specifications: 2.11 mega pixel CCD, optical 6X zoom lens, multi-programmed flash with Red-Eye Reduction, 60 second motion picture with sound, automatic plus six white balance selection, electronic viewfinder, 1.8-inch LCD Monitor, 16MB SmartMedia Card, USB Cable, FineViewer, DP Editor, AppleQuick time 5.0, Videoimpression, Adobe PhotoDeluxe HE 4.0 for Windows

User Profile : For the family

Between Fujifilm’s FinePix 2800 Zoom Digital Camera and the Coolpix 775, there aren’t so many differences as similarities. A distinguishing feature in this camera is the voice recording for still photography and motion picture. Four AA size alkaline batteries that are included with this camera should get you started. Alternatively, use an AC adaptor.

If the camera remains unused for two minutes, the auto power off function switches the camera off. As with the Nikon, you can’t use the zoom in movie mode. Exposure compensation and white balance settings can be adjusted for this one as well. A few flash modes are available such as “forced”, which permits flash in any lighting conditions, “suppressed”, which switches it off even under low light and “slow-synchro”, which slows the shutter speed.

A PC-Cam mode enables video conferencing between PCs across the Internet. And FinePix Viewer software takes care of your basic editing needs once you are done with your shots. But like Nikon, if you want to go in for photo prints, get them developed at a studio for optimum results.

||**||V|~||~||~|Sony DSC-P
PRICE: US $685
Specifications: 3.21 mega pixels, 3x Optical Zoom, MPEG Movie EX, Clip motion, AF illuminator, InfoLithium compatible, ISO sensitivity setting, WB, TIFF Format image capture, Playback Zoom, Sharpness setting, LCD monitor, USB, A/V out.

User profile: Ideal for a businessman

Sony’s greatest asset is the memory stick, which can store audio, video and text files. Shooting modes such as sepia colour tones, black and white, mosaic etc are available. With a 128 MB memory stick, you can record 90 minutes of low resolution video and a clip motion mode allows you to take 10 images in a sequence, which are looped as one animated image.

An AF Illuminator will help you focus on your subject in the dark. And an intelligent battery tells you how much time is left, and how many snaps you can take. When you photograph text, the camera switches to B/W and high contrast in the text mode to increase legibility. Moreover, flash can be adjusted to high, medium or low. Sony also has a Macro feature. Sony’s mouse can be used as a normal mouse and as an adaptor.

If you have Windows XP on your PC, a driver for this called Picture Transfer Protocol already exists and you do not need to load Sony’s MGI Photosuite software, which comes with the P5. Sony’s printer DPP-SV77 (US$ 600) has an LCD screen and prints only postcard size. When the image is displayed on your LCD, you can have a calendar with your picture on it, a border or even write on the LCD with the stylus (included) and it will get printed with the photograph.

Panasonic EX21
Price: $1090
Specifications: Digital video camera and still camera , Leica Dicomar lens, 1.08 still picture, mpeg4 internet movie, DV in/out & analogue in/out terminals, built-in flash, USB link, SD voice recorder, 2.5” LCD, playback, infra-red remote controller

User Profile: A tourist’s best friend

A video camera first and a digital camera after, the Panasonic EX21 is a two-in-one. It uses an SD memory card and comes with copyright protection, which means anything I copy on it is encrypted and copyrighted. That’s a first in the market. The highest available memory in the local market for the SD card is currently 64 MBytes although higher specifications are available worldwide. This camera is detachable. Slide the top half off and the bottom half becomes a digital still camera. Slide the top half back in place and you have a video camera, with a digital resolution of 800 pixels.

Video recording takes a DV tape. You can shift what you take on the video camera to the PC for which you need a software called Motion DV studio. The camera comes with a USB reader, an 8MB SD card, and a battery. The Leica Dicomar lens is to be envied. Since this is a video camera, still photography is a bit of a compromise. But for a tourist, who wants the best of both worlds, this is a good bet as the resolution for still photography is also a good 1.8 mega pixels. You can also listen to music on this. Just get a headset. For direct printing from the EX21, you would need a Panasonic ADPI printer, because only this one currently has an SD card slot. Although a good option for Panasonic-only users, the fact that most other digital cameras don’t use an SD card is a disadvantage. Moreover, it also only prints photographs in post-card size.

||**||VI|~||~||~|Canon S40
PRICE: $730
Specifications: 4 mega pixel CCD, 3 x optical zoom, new digital signal processor, RGB filter for colour reproduction, Direct print mode, 13 shooting modes, Movie with sound recording and playback.

User Profile: A perfect companion for journalists

The S 40 is a powerful little digital camera that can be used by anyone but will be most useful to people like journalists who need to take high-resolution photographs to supplement their stories. At 4.1 mega pixels, the S 40 can live up to that promise. The control dial is very similar to the SLR to ensure ease of use and comes regular features as well as extra modes that the high amateur will be able to appreciate.

The white balance, for instance, comes with 5 presets and a manual feature as well. Even switching on the camera is as simple as sliding the shutter door open and vice versa to shut it off. A Compact flash (CF) card ensures greater flexibility between cameras. If occasionally, you need to do a video shoot, the camera allows for a 30-second recording along with voice over although the quality is not comparable to video recording. More importantly, Canon cameras come with a comprehensive software bundle and if you have lost your copy, just log onto www.canon.com and download it from their Web site.

Printers: Canon S800
PRICE: US $380
Specifications: 2400 x 1200dpi, 1/6 density photo inks & new High Colour Inks, Microfine Droplet technology, Single Ink technology
The Canon Bubble Jet Printer delivers print-outs that will rival traditional silver halide photographs. An A4 photo takes two minutes to print and smaller sizes lesser. Six ink-tanks in the S800 take individual colour inks.

A scanner cartridge will also enable you to convert the S800 into a 600 dpi scanner. With a special paper available in the market, you can print images that can be transferred to a T-shirt. The printer also has a PhotoOptimiser Pro feature, which analyses the brightness, colour and lighting of the image and automatically rectifies it before printing. Good taste, if you ask me.

Nokia digital camera
PRICE: Available for an additional US $100 along with the Nokia Communicator. Not available for individual purchase.
Specifications: Comes as an optional buy with Nokia Communicator 9210 and above, 24 bit colour depth, 1”/2.73 cms thick, and less than 4 oz., Works only with Windows OS.

User Profile: Sits well with a mobile executive

The Nokia Digital Camera is an optional product that you can buy only with a Nokia Communicator. It comes at an additional price of $100.
The Nokia comes with only four basic options, namely, delete, ready to use, auto flash and send via infrared. It operates on 2 AA batteries and has an internal memory that allows you to store 12 photos on it. Alternatively, you can use a multi-media card. This camera comes with no cable connections. It only supports infrared. So, to transfer images from the camera to your Communicator or alternatively, to a laptop, these devices must have infrared support.

The Communicator has a rotate feature and a zoom in and zoom out to manipulate your images. Some printers such as Canon come with infrared and can be used to take a print-out. But the images are tiny and the size of an image is between 50 to 60 kb. There is no special software to go with this camera. If you have a Windows operating system, preferably 2000, that should do the trick.
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