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    Upping the ante on digital cameras

    Huge data capacity gives photographers more flexibility

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #718 July 29- August 4, 2003

    Summer is peak season for photo-taking, and snapshots are increasingly digital. In fact, digital camera sales are expected to overtake sales of film-based models by 2005.

    New models offer five megapixel file sizes, allowing users to print photos in sizes up to 11 inches by 17 inches, or to crop their pictures, focusing in on small details while retaining good picture quality.

    Along with still photos, all the recent models described below can create short video-clips with sound. In all cases, buyers should budget for optional higher-capacity memory cards because the 32 MB cards included with most models have room for only 20 or so full-sized photos.

    HP Photosmart 935

    HP's $700 five megapixel model focuses on ease of use, particularly when combined with the company's optional Photosmart 8886 camera dock. For instance, Instant Share buttons on the back of the camera let the user specify whether a photo should be printed, e-mailed or sent to a Web site. When the camera is synched with the computer, these tasks start up automatically. Up to 34 actions are supported by easily accessed menus and wizards.

    The camera uses two AA batteries, which is convenient, but powers only about 100 shots, far fewer than cameras with higher battery capacity. The optional ($130) dock is a handy way to connect to computer or TV, recharging the batteries at the same time.

    Canon Powershot G5

    The $1,500 Powershot G5 can be used in automatic mode, but for the extra money, you'll get extra features of interest to photo-enthusiasts. In many ways, it's similar to Canon's $1,000 four-megapixel G3 model. The G5 offers 12 different shooting modes, and an LCD display panel that can be rotated 270 degrees for use in crowds and other difficult shooting situations. Batteries are good for up to 450 high resolution shots. The high-quality four-times zoom is comparable to a 35-140 mm lens on a traditional film camera. An external flash unit, filters, and lenses can be added, offering much of the flexibility of an SLR film camera.

    Both HP's and Canon's models can be connected directly to selected printer models. (Not surprisingly, each only supports models from the same manufacturer).

    The many models of Sony

    Sony is currently offering four digital cameras with five-megapixel capacity. The $700 Cybershot DSCP92 and $850 DSCP10 look similar to one another and provide similar capabilities, each including a three-times optical zoom and the ability to produce VGA-sized (640x480 pixel) video clips, which will appear full-sized when displayed on a TV screen. E-mail mode features are well thought-out, creating smaller versions of video clips or still photos that are ideal for e-mail attachments.

    The $1,000 DSC-V1 offers compact size: about the size of one and a half decks of playing cards. The much larger $1,300 DSC-F717 stands out with its large rotatable five-times zoom lens. Both of these higher-end Sony models include fast USB 2.0, speeding up file transfers to a computer, along with Nightframing and NightShot low-light shooting modes. These use infrared light to capture images in total darkness at distances up to about five metres.

    Both of these models include a hot-shoe for adding an external flash to supplement the built-in flash. The small size of the DSC-V1 limits its batteries; expect to get 100 to 150 shots to a charge.

    Not only can the DSC-F717's large zoom lens swivel up and down, it's one of the few cameras in its class that includes manual focus (as well as automatic focus). Again, add-on lenses and filters are supported, extending the camera's use. The battery life is among the best in its class.

    Buy a Canon Photoshot G5 from

    Buy an HP Photosmart 935 from

    Buy a Sony DSCP92 from

    Buy a Sony DSCP10 from

    Buy a Sony DSCV1 from

    Buy a Sony DSCF717 from

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan