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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 and at

If you are interested in professional digital photography, where prices are in thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, take a look at

Richard O'Reilly, The Times' director of computer analysis, will answer questions of broad interest in this column. E-mail questions to, 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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