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THE CUTTING EDGE / PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY | CUSTOMER SERVICE
/ RICHARD O'REILLY

Don't Count on Digital Cameras to Do It All

July 01, 1996|RICHARD O'REILLY

Q: Can you discuss the pros and cons of digital cameras? I've been looking at them for some time but have not been able to get good information from the salespeople.

I don't think they know much about the subject.

Mike Moulton,

via America Online

*

A: Digital cameras aimed at consumers remain special-purpose devices that trade picture quality for convenience.

The cameras are good for taking pictures you want to put on a World Wide Web site, integrate into a computer-produced newsletter or similar document, or simply display on a computer screen. But if you're looking for a camera to take snapshots for a photo album, digital is the wrong place to look.

About the lowest price you'll find for any digital camera is $500, and for that kind of money you can get a splendid film camera. You can also buy color scanners from about $350, meaning that for the cost of many digital cameras you can buy a film camera and a scanner and make no sacrifices in the quality of pictures you post on your Web page.

You should also consider spending your money on a video camera and a $199 Snappy video frame grabber. You get essentially unlimited image storage (a videotape), compared with the 16- to 96-image capacity of many digital cameras. And the quality of your digitized images will be at least as good as that of low-end digital cameras.

However, if what you want is to be able to take a few quick pictures and load them into your computer as fast as possible and less than full-screen pictures are adequate for your needs, then a digital camera is the answer.

Several recent reviews have focused on the $500 Epson PhotoPC as the best performer for the price. Search for comparisons beginning at http://www.netguidemag.com and at http://pcmag.ziff.com

If you are interested in professional digital photography, where prices are in thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, take a look at http://stoegbauer.com/Pages/Cameras.html

Richard O'Reilly, The Times' director of computer analysis, will answer questions of broad interest in this column. E-mail questions to cutting.edge@latimes.com, fax to (213) 237-4712 or mail to Answers c/o Richard O'Reilly, Business Editorial, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirro Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.

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