2003 Tech Buying Guide

Market Report

The benefits of digital photography as a leisure luxury have been obvious for a few years. In the work place, those assets have been less evident. Nevertheless, with digicams getting some buzz for showing up on business-oriented cell phones and handheld devices, manufacturers are prompting professionals to consider going digital.

"Pictures pretty much make the sale," says automobile salesman Kyle Russell, of D-Patrick Automotive. He sees great benefits in the ability to show a prospective buyer a simple digital photo he's snapped of a car from his lot and downloaded to a Handspring Treo 90 Palm device. Likewise, real estate agents, insurance claims adjusters, and others who rely on visuals to close a deal or illustrate a point are natural users.

When it comes to buying digital cameras, count pixels before considering other features. If you'll be taking simple snaps for Web pages or e-mail attachments, focus on a camera in the 2-megapixel-plus range. But if you're going to be replacing film-quality images -- making prints, enlargements, or including photos in publications, it's time to move to 3-megapixel models or better.

Fortunately, a steady decline in pricing has brought digital models into the range of traditional point-and-shoot cameras. This selection, which skews a bit to the high end, is geared toward both quality and ease of use.

If you're a serious photographer who wants the ability to switch lenses and have a true single-lens reflex experience, a 5-megapixel model like the Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi [$1,300; www.minoltausa.com] fits the bill. The 7X optical zoom covers a 28mm to 200mm range, and the autofocus can be overridden with a manual focus. Extra perks include fast shutter advance and a lens that accepts 49mm SLR screw-on accessories.

The Canon PowerShot S230 Digital ELPH [$400; www.usa.canon.com] is a straightforward 3.2-megapixel point-and-shoot zoom model that also records short video clips. Used in concert with Canon printers, you can bypass the PC for direct printing.

The 4-megapixel resolution of the Kodak EasyShare LS443 [$449; www.kodak.com] guarantees prints at sizes even beyond 8x10. Optical and digital zooms combine for a total 10X zooming power. It is also the most effortless camera to use of this trio, with intuitive controls, a good solid grip, and a one-button setup for transferring photographs to your PC using the included cradle and EasyShare software.

What to Ask

  • Do I need top-of-the-line images?
  • If so, why?
  • What bells and whistles am I paying for?
  • Is the memory expandable, and if so, how?
  • Can I carry this thing?
  • Do I want to replace a film camera?
  • Do I want video capabilities?

Case In Point

Richard Aaron
BizBash Media

THE NEED: "Planners are extremely visual people," says Richard Aaron of his clientele. These customers use the New York City-based BiZBash to find the latest information about products, services, and locations they can use to plan their business events. The goal is for Aaron's crew to get the highest quality photos possible from galas, dinner parties, and New York bars and clubs to these planners with a minimum of hassle.

THE SOLUTION: Three Canon PowerShot S30 3.2 megapixel cameras

FEATURES CONSIDERED: The "right price point" was key, but "quality is a huge consideration," says Aaron, who wanted 3-megapixel cameras with excellent zoom and editing features and memory sticks that offered enough capacity so "we can shoot as much as we want, and then get rid of them. We absolutely went on the Web. We researched digital cameras," he says, then added a human touch. "We went out and put our hands on the cameras, to see the features and which were easier and better to use."

NEXT TIME: Aaron would "obviously like an [even] higher generation" of image quality, but at the current time finds the cost prohibitive.

JUSTIFYING THE COST: "We chose 3-megapixel cameras and paid $400 to $500 each" instead of buying the more expensive 4- or 5-megapixel camera. "It's required equipment -- very much a part of our infrastructure," says Aaron.

DON'T FORGET TO ASK: He stresses matching camera with the users in your organization, who may have varying levels of technical competency. "So many cameras have too many technology bells and whistles: Know what the end use is going to be," says Aaron.

2003 Tech Buying Guide
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