Whether you're a cash-strapped entrepreneur or are managing a multi-million dollar budget, the great news about buying a digital camera for your business is you don't need to spend a lot of money to take professional-quality photographs.
The number of digital cameras sold worldwide last year hit 94 million and could reach 103 million in 2006, according to ICD, a research firm in Framingham, Mass. The market has been eroded some by the surge in sales of cell phones with digital cameras -- there were 381 million sold last year -- but the quality on those may not be fine enough for businesses purposes.
"The problem with cell phone cameras is the quality is really substandard compared with even the cheapest digital camera," says Christopher Chute, research manager at IDC. "If you're using this for business purposes, a digital SLR is worth the $500 to $1,000. You can take photos for a company website, you can print out posters and most have auto modes so that you don't have to take a photography course to shoot decent photos."
These days, even the pricier digital single lens reflex cameras (D-SLRs) are under a $1,000 these days, while decent point-and-shoot digicams may only be a few hundred dollars. With dozens of manufacturers and hundreds of models on store shelves -- each with unique features and varying price points -- choosing the right one that suits your needs seem like a daunting task.
Here are eight hot digital cameras worth considering to get the job done:
Nikon's D80 ($999.95; www.nikondigital.com) is the company's flagship digital single lens reflex camera for businesspeople who demand professional quality. Along with its 10.2-megapixel CCD imaging sensor (yielding photos as detailed as 3,872 x 2,592 pixels), this attractive D-SLR features a new 12- bit image processing engine, instant 0.18-second start-up times (with fast 80ms shutter response) and a high-efficiency rechargeable battery that can last up to 2,700 images per charge.
Canon's first-ever point-and-shoot digital camera with digital image stabilization -- the PowerShot SD700IS ($499; www.usa.canon.com) -- helps prevent shaky or blurry images while capturing shots for business or pleasure. This 6-megapixel digicam features a 4x optical zoom lens, ISO equivalent speed settings from 80 to 800 and a bright 2.5-inch color LCD screen to bask in your handiwork.
Sony's first digital SLR -- the Alpha DSLR-A100 -- is a prosumer digital camera with a 10.2-megapixel APS CCD image sensor and supports 19 Sony lenses and most Konica-Minolta Maxxum mount lenses. The A1000, which costs $900 for the body or $1000 with an 18-70mm zoom lens (www.sonystyle.com), is also the first to features Sony's new Dynamic Range Optimizer for bright and colorful shots.
Businesspeople in need of a powerful, versatile and affordable digital camera should consider Canon PowerShot SD630 ($399; www.usa.canon.com), a 6-megapixel compact cam with a huge 3-inch screen, 3x optical zoom and a touch- censor control wheel for the iPod generation. What's more, the digicam comes loaded with shooting modes that range from portrait and indoor to night photos and up-close digital macros to panoramic stitch assist and sepiatone.
Room for Some Zoom
Get up close and personal with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 ($500; www.sonystyle.com), a 7.2-megapixel camera with an incredible 12x optical zoom lens and focal length range of 36 to 432 millimeters (35 mm equivalence). Relish in your shots after you take them with the huge 3-inch LCD screen with anti-glare. Um, did we mention 12x optical zoom?
The Fujifilm FinePix F30 ($399; www.fujifilmusa.com) is a 6.3-megapixel digital camera that works well with motion or in low-light situations thanks to its full-resolution ISO equivalency speeds as high as 3200. Couple this with picture stabilization, a 3x optical zoom Fujinon lens and smart i-Flash system (that lights the subject according to the environment) and you've got a perfect pocket-sized pick.
Steady as She Goes
This slim, 7-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T10 ($400; www.sonystyle.com) features Sony's Super Steady Shot optical image stabilization to help prevent blurring caused by motion or low-light conditions. The T10 houses a 3x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar optical zoom lens, a large 2.5-inch LCD and long battery life -- up to 250 shots per charge.
If one of your failed New Year's resolutions was to shad a few pounds, you may be happy to know a HP digital camera can help you achieve the effect. The HP Photosmart R927 ($300; www.hpshopping.com) is not only the company's first 8.2-megapixel digital camera but it has a number of photo effects built right into the digital camera ranging from auto red-eye removal to a "trimming" feature to have your subjects look more svelte. Um, can you say "perfect for online dating"?