cameras offer the
best of both worlds
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
13-19, 2005; issue 829
High Tech Office
Digital cameras give users the ability to share images through e-mail
or online along with saving them on CD or even (gasp!) making prints
using an inkjet printer or a traditional photofinisher.
While their popularity is driving the camera market, I often hear from
digital camera users bemoaning the loss of control compared with 35-mm
single lens reflex (SLR) film cameras.
Popular digital cameras have combined point-and-click convenience with
some advanced features, often hidden deep in a convoluted menu
structure. But early on in the decade-old digital camera development,
Nikon sold a digital camera back that could be used with some of its
pro-level SLRs. Costing some $20,000, it had little mass-market appeal,
though it was adopted by some newspaper photo departments.
Today, though, digital SLRs have moved down in price. Models in the
$1,000 to $2,000 range are becoming increasingly popular among camera
users who want the power, control and interchangeable lenses and
filters of traditional SLRs along with the flexibility of digital
photography; dSLRs are available with brand names familiar to 35mm
fans, including Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Pentax.
For my holidays this summer, Nikon let me test drive their new D70s
model. The camera body is priced at $1,150. It came equipped with
Nikon's $500 18-70mm zoom lens.
After using small automatic cameras, this felt big and heavy, but it
had a pleasantly solid feel. While including all the typical SLR manual
and semi-automatic options, it also had a good variety of automatic
modes. And unlike most smaller digitals, there were handy buttons on
the body to quickly adjust white balance, picture quality and ISO.
Users needing to access the menus will find them better organized and
more readable than on most digital cameras. And there's a Help button,
in case of option-overload. Users cannot store customized collections
of settings, however.
Especially nice: near-instant power on. It quickly came into focus,
either manually or automatically. As well, internal memory allows quick
shooting without the typical digital camera delay while each shot is
written to the memory card. Users can shoot three shots a second with
this internal cache holding up to 144 shots. Note that no dSLRs shoot
the short video clips available on many digital camera models.
Nikon's rechargeable battery is rated at a very good 2,500 shots per
charge. Unlike some models, the D70s cannot use standard AA batteries.
The built-in flash worked well, popping up when needed, and covering a
larger area than the often under-powered flash built into many digital
cameras. A built-in hot shoe can be used to attach external flash units.
Shoppers for dSLRs may notice that Canon's popular Digital Rebel XT
offers eight megapixel resolution while the D70s (and Nikon's
lower-priced D50) tops off at 6.1 megapixels. In most cases, I find
megapixel ratings overplayed. Users rarely (if ever) have need of all
the resolution available on these high-end consumer cameras. I was
impressed with the D70s' performance and picture quality.
With a dSLR around my neck, I found myself noticing how many other
tourists had moved to these models.
On one walking tour, I was surprised that out of some 20 participants,
I counted four dSLRs. This technology is catching on faster than I
With prices down from the stratosphere, digital SLRs now make it
possible to get the best of both digital and traditional 35mm film