HOME Technology 2005
Cameras getting cosy
Advances in smarts and style
Digital cameras are getting smarter, smaller and cuter, and with the price coming down and capability improving they’re becoming a more discrete and personalised item for professional and amateur photographers alike.

The latest models are easier on the batteries, quicker with the shutter speed and processing and have a higher pixel count. The main attraction, is not having to load film and the convenience of instantly seeing what you have shot. You can quickly transfer your images, either on memory cards or by USB cable, directly to a computer where you can remove red eye, crop or adjust images and print.

The major camera manufacturers have models from $300-$1200 to suit most home and business requirements, and the market has become increasingly competitive as more people migrate from older style 35mm SLR models. While entry level cameras at $300-$400 are capable of taking good quality 4Mpixel images higher end offerings are delivering more features at a more affordable price.

Only a couple of years ago you would have paid $3500 for an 8-10Mpixel camera, if you could get one. Now Panasonic, Canon, Kodak, Pentax, Fujifilm, Olympus, Nikon, Minolta or Sony with 12 x optical zoom lens that will deliver that quality for between $800-$1000.

The cost of removable memory cards is dropping, and the capacity and number of photos that can be stored is going up. A memory card can be popped directly into newer photo printers or taken into a booth or photo lab for output to high quality paper. While most cameras come with a 32Mb memory card, replacement or additional cards are up to 2Gb now. "Typically salespeople will try and sell an additional card which acts like extra film."

There are different cards for different cameras including CompactFlash, SD or XD cards but Vaughan Nankivell, Kingston Technology’s product manager for memory and storage warns most cameras do not clearly document read or write speeds which may impact the ability of the camera to process and save images.

As a rule of thumb, digital cameras with up to 5 Mpixels will work fine with standard-speed Flash cards (less than 45x), although newer professional cameras designed for continuous shooting at greater than 5Mpixels will benefit the most from Kingston Elite Pro and Ultimate cards rated at 45 x write speed or greater.

Most digital camera manufacturers are looking at way to make their offerings and the resulting pictures stand out in the crowd. Fujifilm has developed RealPhoto technology enabling consumers to use their camera without a flash in low light situations that would have been impossible previously. Its a step back to the old 35mm camera where you could adjust film speed to allow more light in through the shutter. Digital cameras have previously been limited to 400 ASA speeds. Fujifilm’s new cameras allow up to 1600 making them highly sensitive to light, with a shutter speed as fast as .001 of a second.

Product manager Peter Bonisch says the new Fujinon lens and super CCD (charge coupled device) uses hexagonal rather than square pixels, allowing the camera to catch more information in each pixel, resulting in greater clarity and more natural colours. The new technology will be in the mid to high end range of its latest models starting with the ES5600 5.1Mpixel camera with 10 x optical zoom ($649). Its F10 and F11 cameras come with new Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries that can last up to 500 shots compared with 180-250 shots for most equivalent cameras.

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