Digital photography has come a long way since the advent of the technology in the ancient days of computing.
Once considered to be a low-end rival to film-laden cameras - unable to produce clear crisp prints to rival 35-millimeter rigs -digital cameras can now produce 8x10 photos that make film seem obsolete.
I've been playing with two new cameras from Toshiba and Konica that have not only broken the film barrier, but have also made it easy for anyone to become proficient in taking digital pictures.
The Toshiba PDR-M71 ($399) and the Konica Digital Revio KD-400SZ ($450) give you the biggest bang for the buck in this world of high-priced ($800 or more) digital photography.
The PDR-M71 is a well-designed, 3.2-megapixel camera that comes packed with features you'd expect to find on the more expensive models and delivers sharp images, even when blown up to 8x10-inch prints.
This camera not only delivers a wealth of preprogrammed features we've come to expect from digital units, but it gives budding photographers the ability to use several manual exposure controls often only found in the higher-priced models.
On the downside, photos taken with its built-in flash were a bit dark and it only comes with an 8-megabyte SmartMedia memory card. Many of its rivals include 16 MB cards, allowing you to store more pictures at higher resolutions. Also, its black high-impact plastic case won't win any awards for design.
Also, there is no distinct click - or pause - letting you know when you've switched from optical to digital zoom. Although the hobbyist may not know - or care - about the difference, optical zoom lenses deliver crisper images than their digital counterparts. The only way you can tell the switch has been made is to look at the camera's LCD screen to see if it has been enabled. Another way to avoid the problem is to turn off the LCD, which disables the digital zoom.
Other features of the PDR-M71:
- Weighs only 12.1 ounces with batteries installed.
- Maximum resolution of 2048 by 1536 megapixels.
- Focal range of 35 millimeters to 98 millimeters.
- Shutter speeds from half a second to 1/1000 of a second.
- Optical and LCD viewfinders.
- USB and video connections.
- One-year warranty on parts and labor.
- Aperture priority, auto exposure, shutter priority exposure settings.
- Self timer.
- AVI digital video at eight frames per second.
- EV value displays under- and overexposure in manual mode.
- Can create new folders for storing images on the memory card.
- Ability to take a 16-shot sequence of a moving image at the push of a button.
- Action, portrait, landscape and back-lit program modes.
- Built-in flash with red-eye reduction.
The Digital Revio is much more powerful.
The first 4-megapixel camera to feature dual memory slots (SD and Memory Stick), this is one of the smallest (7.2 ounces) high-resolution cameras on the market. In addition, it features a 3X optical zoom lens, the ability to record memos using its built-in microphone, the ability to play back short AVI movies (with sound) and a stainless steel alloy exterior.
Although it lacks the manual modes and video outputs of the Toshiba, it makes up for it by including a 16-megabyte SD card and with its smaller, more compact size. Also, because it's a 4-megapixel camera, it provides images at a higher resolution.
Among its features:
- Resolution up to 2304 by 1704 pixels.
- Focal range of 39 millimeters to 117 millimeters.
- Shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/2000 of a second.
-A 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
- A 2x digital zoom when using the LCD and a 3x optical zoom using the optical viewfinder.
- Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
- Two megabytes of internal memory.
- Fine and normal compression rates.
- Can be used on Windows or Mac operating systems.
- Software package includes Adobe Photoshop Elements.
- Interfaces with PCs, PDAs, cell phones and inkjet printers using Memory Stick or SD memory cards.
- Single, macro, landscape, sepia, self-timer, portrait night-view, movie with sound, voice, memo and copy program modes.
- Multi-Mode auto flash with red-eye reduction.
- Limited one-year warranty.
The choice is yours. Both cameras have features previously found only on higher-priced cameras, which may signal the beginning of a trend.
(Mike Berman can be contacted at email@example.com)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com)