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FEATURE

 

TOMORROWS TECHNOLOGY

 

DIGITAL CAMERAS

 

INTRO

The microchip happy snap camera is just around the corner and photographic film is dead, or so they would have us believe...

 

COPY

Electronic still cameras, that has a familiar ring to it.

 

They’ve been around for ages. Sony unveiled their ‘Mavica’ system back in August ‘81. Since then, every five years or so there’s been a little spurt of interest with the techno pundits predicting the imminent demise of photographic film. Early models recorded analogue images on a miniature floppy disc, the latest digital still cameras (DSC) store images as compressed data on microchip memories. Prices start at around £400.

 

But what’s the point? I already get pretty good pictures from my thirty quid 35mm compact camera.

 

Maybe so, but you have to wait to see your prints.

 

What, a whole hour from my local photo shop; is digital photography quicker than that?

 

Well, theoretically it’s instant, there is no processing, though on many DSCs you can’t actually see the pictures until you connect the camera up to a display device, usually a PC or TV.

 

Sounds great, but how do I show my holiday snaps to my mates down the pub? 

 

Tricky, but you could always buy a colour video printer, that will make hard copies of your photographs. They’re quite expensive though, good ones that produce decent size pictures cost around £800, and prints work out at about £1 each.

 

So what else can DSCs for me?

 

They’re very cheap to run -- unless you make a  lot of hard copies -- and cameras can hold dozens, or even hundred of images, depending on the size of the memory and resolution mode. Once you’ve loaded the digital images into your PC they can be manipulated in many and various ways. Pictures can be incorporated into documents -- apparently digital still cameras are very popular with Estate Agents --  you could even use one to create your own Web pages. Once a picture is inside your computer you can send it to others, over the phone; some digital cameras have an optional modem facility.

 

Who makes these things?

 

Casio are the leading players at the moment, they’ve just brought out a new PC-based model, called the QV-100, which costs £500. Apple’s Quick Take, another PC cam, costs around £400; traditional camera manufacturers have been quick to get into the act too, with DSCs from Canon, Chinon, Kodak, Minolta and Nikon, though they’re mostly high-end products, aimed at the semi-pro market. The latest DVC camcorders also have still image capture facilities, and picture quality is actually a lot better than conventional DVCs.

 

What about picture quality, is it as good as film?

 

Professional DSCs are getting close, but we’re talking serious money; they’re mostly used in the newspaper and publishing industry, where the facility to send images anywhere fast by phone outweighs quality. Consumer DSCs are getting better all the time but even the best ones can’t match the resolution of a cheap Instamatic camera.

 

So, let me get this straight. I can replace my perfectly good 35mm compact with a digital still camera, PC and colour video printer for a couple of thousand pounds, and the pictures won’t be as good?

 

That’s about the size of it...

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1996 0612

 

 

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