HOME Technology 2002
Growing focus on digital
The digital still camera has a long way to go before it reaches maturity but the appeal of instant images is growing in consumer and business markets as prices come down and quality and capacity increases.

At the 1995 Americas Cup 95 per cent of the photography was conventional slides and film by 2000 this was down to 45 per cent and this time 75 per cent of media photographers covering the event on Auckland’s waterfront are working with digital cameras.

Sam Williams digital imaging product manager at Sony New Zealand says unit sales of film cameras are still way ahead of digital although the new market is up about 50 per cent this year with 60,000 units expected to be sold by March 2003, compared to 35,000 units in 2001.

It’s an extremely competitive market and prices are coming down significantly. While entry level can be as low as $200 you still need to spend $500-$1000 for quality, and scale upwards according to functionality and output.

A lot of people have been burned in the past few years with cheap low resolution units that just don’t cut it. A key feature watch for is the CCD (charged coupled device), which determines the picture quality. More pixels mean more image information, which translates to clarity and size of output.

Digital cameras typically have removable memory cards such as compactflash, memory stick or secure digital cards, which store the images captured. The lower the resolution the more images can be saved. These can then be downloaded via a USB (universal serial bus) port into the computer or via a dedicated card reader into a laptop or other device.

Some higher end camera even allow users to capture small low resolution moving MPEG films for playback on Windows Media player or posting on the Web.

Its best to stick with reliable names including Kodak, Hanimex, Minolta, Panasonic, Fuji Film, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Kodak, Casio, Agfa and Canon who had a long history with making quality film cameras before moving into the digital space?

Canon’s entry level offering is a 2 megapixel (million pixels) Powershot A200 camera good enough to produce a high quality postcard sized print for $599. If you want to print out a larger image or crop a portion of your photograph for enlarging you need a lot more information. For a more professional image an investment of $2000 (4 megapixels) would be required and for a professional use a digital SLR can cost anywhere from $6000 upwards capable of at least six megapixel capture.

Sony, along with its growing range of high-end still cameras, has just launched three new models of its Cybershot cameras aimed squarely at the youth market. The SCU20 models in metallic silver, black and blue are being marketed as a ‘lifestyle accessory’. The miniature ( 84.5 x 39.8 x 28.6 mm) two megapixel units designed to be carried around in a pocket or purse are far from a toy at $799. They have inbuilt flash and use Memory Stick technology – a 128Mb card can store 120 images in high resolution and up to 700 at the lower 640 x 480 resolution.

The old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is being realised by a growing number of businesses who’re seeing the value of capturing digital images of products or properties for sale or assess damage to a property or a motor vehicle. These images can quickly be downloaded to a computer and emailed to a client or business partner or placed on a web site.

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