In October 2004, consumer research from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) found that some 84 percent of current owners are satisfied with their digital cameras. After reading this piece about how to assemble a first rate digital photography (DP) system maybe we can edge your happiness quotient up to 100 percent. In this how-to roundup we look at some best of breed products that will give you megapixel merriment for some time to come.
We will be reviewing a great DP camera, a terrific little photo printer, some software to turn even your worst nightmare photos into beautiful dreamscapes, a crystal clear computer monitor to edit and display your proud handiwork, and finally, some wonderful automated backup devices to ensure your digital life doesn’t all go up in virus-riddled smoke. Best of all, this review was deliberately setup to cover gear that is compatible with both PC and Macs so no one is left out of the picture (even Linux penguins can crowd into the shot).
THE CASIO EX-P600 CAMERA
The most obvious place to begin in digital photography is, whaddyathink, the camera. DP cameras essentially fall into two distinct categories: DP cameras for dummies, and DP cameras for experts. The former are all about ease of use and idiot-proof point and click. These low-end DP products are the equivalent of Big Macs—Inexpensive, all you can shoot, and always with predictable results.
The expert DP cameras are for those who fancy themselves a soon to be reincarnated Richard Avedon and need all the manual adjustment bells and whistles they can fiddle with. In the perverse world of high-end anything, the more work you have to do to get a great result, the more it’s going to cost you, and DP cameras are no exception. In this upper DP segment, models typically range in price from the high hundreds to several thousand dollars.
Casio’s EX-P600 camera, the latest addition to the company’s Exilim series, provides a feature set that explores the middle ground between these low-high DP market segments. The EX-P600 is a tote anywhere “lifestyle” camera. However, unlike most other dumbed down cameras in this consumer market segment, the EX-P600 provides users with an easy migration path from idiot-proof point and click to using advanced features like focus bracketing and multi-variable auto-bracketing, adjustable white balance, and other semi-pro exotica. The EX-P600’s MSRP is $549, which neatly positions the camera smack in the middle of things.
The EX-P600 sports a 6.0-megapixel (effective) CCD capable of delivering a range of image resolutions from as high as 2,816 x 2,112 pixels to as low as 640 x 480. Interestingly Casio has chosen to buck the CMOS sensor trend and to continue down the CCD path, which may prove to be a noise-elimination challenge if the company continues to stick with this technology.
You can shoot uncompressed TIFF images, or you can compress your photos into JPEG format using one of three settings; Fine, Normal, or Economy that uses less memory by a factor of about 2:1 over Fine. The EX-P600 has a real-image optical viewfinder as well as a very bright 2.0-inch, high-definition, color LCD display.
The EX-P600 optics are from Canon and feature a 4x digital or 4X optical zoom, 7.1-28.4mm glass lens; equivalent to a 33-132mm lens on a 35mm camera. When the lens reaches its maximum optical zoom (which also affects the lens aperture), it stops momentarily. Keeping the zoom controller pressed will cause the camera to switch over to digital zoom automatically, which at its maximum setting gives a 16x zoom. The hybrid zoom works seamlessly in operation. For the hard core, the camera also has support for add-on conversion lenses from Casio as well as for several standard Canon models that provide the camera with telephoto or wide-angle capabilities. There is also a close-up lens that enables macro photography.
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