September 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio September 2000 Current Issue
September 2000 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:




The first rule for neophyte digital-camera buyers: No impulse purchases

Devices that were once the height of modern technology eight-track-tape players, Betamax video recorders now seem downright quaint. Your good old camera, which requires film, soon will be relegated to the same obscurity, a victim of the digital revolution.

But before buying a digital camera, you need to decide how you are going to use the pictures you take. Will the camera be taking low-resolution photographs at meetings for posting to a Web site? Or will you want to print the pictures, which requires a high-resolution image?

In evaluating cameras, buyers have to decide how and where they want to store images. Cameras come with a disk, which can be upgraded to hold more images. The two most common formats are cards called CompactFlash and SmartMedia or SSFDC (Solid State Floppy Disk Card). While each has advantages, the CompactFlash format is becoming more of the standard. Canon, Kodak and Nikon all primarily use it. Both types store from 8 MB to 128 MB and range in price from $30 to $300.

What about connectivity? While the storage cards are all-important if you are going to take your pictures somewhere else for developing, amateurs (that’s most of us) usually just transfer the pictures to our PCs, from which we e-mail them to family and friends. That being the case, make sure your camera supports the correct cable for your PC: serial, parallel or USB. USB cable is the new standard on PCs and peripherals, and transfers data faster than either serial or parallel cables.

One limitation in digital cameras is the megapixels they hold. The higher the number of megapixels, the fewer pictures that can be stored but the greater the detail (resolution) in each picture.

So, what is a pixel? A pixel is a digital color square that, when combined with other pixels, makes up the image on your computer screen. That’s what choices like “1,280 by 1,024” refer to in your monitor settings. The display is 1,280 pixels wide by 1,024 pixels tall. To determine megapixels, multiply the height times the width 1,280 by 1,024 would be 1,310,720 pixels or 1.3 megapixels.

Confused? All this might be more information than most of us need to replace our Brownies. We also could discuss optical zoom vs. digital zoom (optical is better), battery life and interpolation, but, if you are like me, the final decision will be guided by what you can afford.

Having said that, how much should you pay for a digital camera? The inexpensive, good-quality ones with limited zoom now run between $250 and $400. These would include the Kodak DC215, Olympus D-360L and Fuji FinePix 1400.

You can easily spend $1,500 or more. At that level, the feature set, storage capabilities, shutter speed, zoom options and attachments will rival high-end 35mm film cameras. A new entry in this market is the Sony Mavica MCV-CD1000, which stores images on a CD that fits in your CD drive on your PC no cables needed.

One word of caution: If photographs taken at a meeting will be posted on your Web site, get releases from the people in the pictures. Once you intend to put a digital image on the Web, you will be “publishing” it. You need a disclaimer signed by your subjects allowing you to use their images before you can put their faces out for the whole wide world to view.

For more information on digital cameras, visit, where you can read reviews, chat with digital camera owners and share your pictures.

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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