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In Camera Mondo: Secrets of Digital Photography III

March 2000

By Mike Gould

Finally derailing our train of thought from the last 2 months, here are some final words of advice about digital cameras: some examples of current models, some advice on where to buy, and some pointers for finding more info on the WWW. And some final attempts at raising the general cultural level around here with some words of wisdom from our dead buddies, the Romans.

Zeus in Olympus Est (The Cameras of the Gods)
The megapixel wars are heating up, with 3 megapixel cameras in the offing from Nikon and Canon, and 6M monsters from Fuji and Kodak ($$$). These will be available sometime after this Spring; for the moment, here are some other cameras to consider.

(Disclaimer: I haven't actually had hands-on with any of the below. The following is a distillation of research and word of mouth. The prices are suggested retail, and vary all over the place.)

At the Way-High end, there are Nikons and Canons that top out around $15K; if you have that kind of money, you probably know all about these. If you have that kind of money and don't, you can hire me to advise you, heh heh. (Email address below).

At the medium-high end, there's the Olympus C-2500L SLR ($1,499; http://www.olympus.com, 800/622-6372), which features a 2.5 million-pixel CCD, manual and autoexposure options, and no waiting between shots. It also accepts various lenses, which is unusual for many DC's.

The Nikon Coolpix 950 ($999; http://www.nikonusa.com, 800/526-4566), won the best DC award of 1999 from MacWorld magazine. Using a 2.11 million-pixel CCD, this is the camera of choice for many. It features accurate autofocus, 8MB of default memory, and a high-resolution 2-inch LCD display.

A friend of mine has been very happy with his Kodak DC265 ($899; http://www.kodak.com, 800/235-6325). It provides great color accuracy and USB support. It also has a nifty feature whereby you can plug it into the VCR jack of a TV and play the pictures you've taken as a slide show.

There are dozens of models in the $500 range; they're everywhere. I would advise sticking to the major brands; Agfa, Fuji, Minolta, Pentax, etc., and the ones mentioned above. If you are absolutely strapped for cash, there are even ultra low-end models around $200 - just don't expect much resolution at that price point.

Caveat Emptor (You've got to Shop Around)
This may sound radical, but I recommend camera stores. Yeah, you might save a few bucks at your local drugstore/convenience store/housewares emporium, but your chances of getting intelligent answers to your questions are pretty slim. Remember that DC's are cameras, after all, and they share many of the same behaviors as their analog brethren. Why not talk to the folks who've been dealing with lenses and flash units for years? I've also found that local camera stores are pretty competitive to their online and catalog counterparts. I'm not so sure about computer stores; I think you'll get better advice at camera stores. My theory is that it is easier to teach computers to cameramen than it is to teach camera techniques to computer salesmen.

Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam, Circumspice (When Shooting Pictures in Michigan, Local Dealers are Convenient)
In Ann Arbor, I've had good experiences with Big George's camera department, Studio Center, and the various Ritz Camera outlets. Just march right in, tell them how much money you have and what you want to do, and they'll set you straight. Just remember to check that the camera is compatible with your computer and its connectors.

Then head over to your favorite computer store and load up on RAM, CD burners, and all the other goodies I've discussed recently. I've gotten in the habit of actually reading the advertising supplements to the Ann Arbor News on Sunday; bargains abound in CD blanks, RAM, and other supplies. Also a good way to check out current pricing on DC's.

And it always pays to do your homework: buy a few camera magazines, cruise the Web, and ask your friends with DC's what they recommend. I've been reading Popular Photography for years, and they have gradually (and grudgingly) been increasing their coverage of the digital scene. In recent years new magazines such as PC Photo (http://www.pcphotomag.com/) and Digital Camera Magazine (http://photopoint.com/dcm/) have appeared.

Ut omnia reperias, consulta araneam orbis terrae
(To Seek Everything, Look on the World Wide Web)


The Digital Camera Resource Page:
http://www.dcresource.com/
Number 1 site; reviews, discussion boards, the works.
Photo Net:
http://photo.net/photo/, by Philip Greenspun
An excellent source for all photographers, analog and digital.
Camera Swaps:
http://www.photorama.com/
For those of us who enjoy looking at new and used camera gear in motel meeting rooms.
Steve's Digicams:
http://www.steves-digicams.com/
Good site with up-to-date reviews and news

Me, I still have a battered 2-year-old Kodak DC 210, updated via internal flashram to 210 Plus (available in most stores for around $500). It does the job; shooting stationary objects on a camera stand for the Web. Also fun for snapshots; good color balance, outputs to TV. I am currently saving up for something that uses my Canon EOS lenses and costs less than $15K.

Mondo Gratias to Terry Vogel for keeping my Latin (mostly) on track.

MonodoDyne <M> The Sound of One Hand Clicking...
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