Digital Imaging Is Innovative, Useful and Now within Educators' Reach

Article excerpt

Digital imaging has grown phenomenally in a very short time. (We'll define digital imaging in this article as taking digital pictures, manipulating them on a PC and printing them out or integrating them into various projects.) This rapid acceleration of growth is due to a few recognizable factors: plummeting hardware prices; cheaper and more user-friendly image manipulation software; a continuously growing base of installed computers capable of handling digital imaging; and, finally and perhaps most importantly, the rapid growth and acceptance of the Internet -- a natural arena for this technology's application.

Now, many educators are recognizing the benefits digital imaging provides. Benefits like immediate access to their pictures; control over the image enhancing and editing process; no money spent on film and processing; and integrating images into multimedia-based projects, Internet projects, Web sites and more. The best part of all: these benefits are now available at prices most educators can afford. (One caveat -- image resolution still can't quite match that of regular film.) This article will point educators to good deals and reveal applications for this burgeoning technology.

The Technology

A quick study of digital imaging technology reveals that a digital camera is no more difficult to operate than a regular camera. What's different is inside: instead of conventional photography's chemical reaction process, digital photography (like all digital processes) utilizes an electrical reaction. Suffice it to say, images are stored in a camera's on-board memory, or removable PC (PCMCIA) cards. Using a PC card adapter like ActionTec's (800-797-7001) CameraConnect or serial or parallel cable, images are transferred to a PC where image editing software lets you convert, enhance and edit images. After integrating these images into a plethora of projects, or simply touching them up, you can print images out on color inkjet printers.

The applications for this technology in the education environment are limited only by one's imagination. How about capturing a school's media inventory with a digital camera and downloading the images into a digital picture-enabled database? Or printing up a program for the school pageant, with pictures of all the cast in their various costumes? Or producing photo-identification cards? Or utilizing the camera for a university newspaper? As you can see, it only takes an active mind to come up with new uses every day for digital imaging.

The Cameras

For a low-priced kit that fits well into many education applications, check out StarDot Technologies' (888-STARDOT) WinCam.One. For $269, the kit includes a camera that can handle 640 x 480 resolution images, a slide holder for digitizing 35mm slides, a tripod, all necessary cables, a power supply and WinCam software that controls the camera. Designed as a desktop camera, aiming and focusing is accomplished using the software. There are many uses for this type of camera, from taking photos for portfolios to setting up a lowcost desktop surveillance system. It could even be taken outside and hooked up to a laptop and tripod for outdoor shots.

In addition to the DC50 we review in this article, Kodak offers a couple of cameras at prices that may entice educators. While not capable of the same resolution the DC50 features, both the DC20 and DC25 are designed with the same usability that pervades their bigger brother. Both cameras offer 493 x 373 resolution, on-camera image storage (1MB for the DC20, 2MB for the DC25), optical viewfinders and a good mix of bundled software, such as Kai's Power Goo SE. The main differences between the two cameras are the memory capability and the DC25's built-in color LCD display, which enables immediate previews of stored images. These differences are reflected in the prices: the DC20 goes for $199; the DC25 for $399.

Panasonic also is offering a digital camera under the $400 mark. …