HARDWARE

Digital Cameras that Get the Job Done

If you're looking for a digital camera for your business, keep an eye out for these characteristics.
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Newer technology isn't always superior to what it replaces. Microwave food in the lunchroom doesn't taste better than what's cooked in an oven at home; clients don't sound half as good over cell phones as they do over wire line phones; and it could be argued that e-mail wastes more time at work than it saves.

Fortunately, you don't have to swap quality for convenience when it comes to choosing the right digital camera for your business.

Not only can today's digital still image-quality rival (or, in most cases, exceed) that of standard 35mm cameras, but "digicams" offer many advantages. Users can see the photo right after it's taken. The digital memory card can store many more photos than regular camera film (plus it's reusable). And there's no need to pay and wait for someone else to process your pictures when you can choose the ones to print -- and do it at the office printer.

For photo needs in today's fast-paced business world, digital provides an easy way to shoot an image, crop and touch-up photos on a computer, and then e-mail the pictures anywhere in the world, post them to a corporate Web site, or incorporate into a PowerPoint presentation.

When buying a camera for business, first examine your needs, suggests Sharon A. Curia, a New Jersey-based photographer and business owner. "If you need it to produce very large files, you should purchase a digital SLR [Single Lens Reflex] camera that produces anywhere from 6 to 16 Mega pixels," says Curia. "Also, the kind of camera you need will vary whether you're shooting 10 frames per second for fast sports or if it will be used to photograph still objects or people under professional lighting?"

Here's what features to look for when shopping for a digital camera for business.

Form Factor

You first need to decide what kind of digital camera to buy for the company. Do your real estate agents need compact point-and-shoot digicams? Or should you pick up the higher-quality (but bulkier and pricier) digital SLR variety? D-SLRs, which can be found for less than $1,000, also offer interchangeable lenses, more manual options and faster shutter speeds.

Resolution

"Mega pixel" is an industry buzzword that means there are one million pixels (i.e. little dots) of information per image. The more mega pixels, the higher-quality the image (and, of course, the more expensive the camera will be). As a general rule of thumb, a 4- or 5-mega pixel camera or higher can print large photos ("8.5 x 11" or higher) without looking grainy. More mega pixels also means you can zoom in on a digital photo and crop it (e.g. focus in on one car out of six in the picture) and it will look less blurry when enlarged. If you're only posting photos to a Web site, even a 3MP digital camera is fine. But it's better to buy more than you need.

Zoom

There are two kinds of zoom: optical zoom and digital zoom. Quite simply, an optical zoom is made to bring the camera-user closer to the subject without needing to physically move. Like older cameras, this is done with a retractable lens. Digital zoom gives the illusion the user is closer to the object. Thus, the optical zoom is a more important number, as it's the "true" zoom. Generally speaking, a 3X optical zoom is more than enough for non-professionals.

Memory

Before transferring them to a PC, digicams save the photos on tiny memory cards inserted into the camera, such as Secure Digital, Compact Flash, Memory Stick Duo, XD, and so on. You can often use those same cards for other compatible devices, such as a PDA, camcorder or cell phone. Usually, only a 16MB or 32MB card will be included with the camera you purchase, which is fine to start. But it's advised to buy at least a 1GB card (roughly $50 to $70) to store hundreds of photos on those long business trips (without needing to "dump" them onto a computer before erasing and starting again).

Printing

What the salesperson probably won't tell you about printing off images is how costly it can be, so be sure to use your PC to choose what you want to print ahead of time. Even with a relatively inexpensive photo-quality printer, the proper ink and photo paper can burn a hole in your wallet. So keep it "digital" if you can. Alternatively, you may choose to drop off your memory cards at a photo lab or camera kiosk. Or take advantage of those online services, such as Shutterfly.com, and they'll print off and mail the photos to you.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2006




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