Magazine article Technology & Learning

Getting the Picture on Digital Cameras

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Getting the Picture on Digital Cameras

Article excerpt

Digital cameras make adding images to projects,

newsletters--even cyberspace--as simple

as point and shoot. Here's the lowdown on how

they work and the features you'll want.

You want to illustrate a Web

site. Your class needs photos

for it's e-mail pals. You're

way behind on the pictures for the

school newsletter. Before you reach

for your class volunteer list, consider

a digital camera.

Just imagine--you take a picture,

plug the camera into your computer, and the picture appears

on the screen. With a digital camera it's almost that simple.

No film, no processing expenses, no scanning. For a modest

investment (many cameras cost less than $500) you can add

fun and professionalism to newsletters, Web sites and other

classroom projects.

HOW IT WORKS

All digital cameras have these components: a lens; a CCD

(Charge-Coupled Device), which is an image sensor; memory

to hold the pictures; batteries; and a way to move the pictures

to a computer. Each has a viewfinder or LCD (Liquid Crystal

Display) to help you frame the picture, and some have both.

Most of the cameras mentioned in this article feature removable

memory cards to make the process of transferring images

from camera to computer more efficient.

A microprocessor stores a picture in the camera's reusable

memory as you take it. Software, usually included with the

camera, helps transfer picture data to your computer and

allows you to store files in standard image formats.

COST CONSIDERATIONS

Although the least expensive cameras can be had for under

$200, the lowest price for cameras with 640x480 pixel resolution,

the minimum required for print work, is about $400. The

most expensive cameras considered for this article cost about

$995. Most cameras are packaged with the required image

transfer software and cables for both Windows and Mac OS

computers. Rechargeable batteries are a nice option, and some

cameras include a charger.

However, the camera is not the only cost involved. Editing

your digital photos requires a more powerful computer than

those typically found in classrooms. If you're buying a new

machine, or upgrading an older one, these are the features

you'll need:

* RAM: Although most picture editing programs will work

with 16 megabytes of RAM, you may not be satisfied with

the performance. With too little RAM, image-editing software

will be sluggish and may crash more often. Expect to

purchase at least 32 Mb of RAM.

* Hard Drive: Typical picture

files range from 50 to 150

kilobytes. These balloon,

however, when images are

edited for print. Plan on a

two- or three-gigabyte hard

drive. Or augment your

space with removable storage

such as Iomega's Zip, or SyQuest's SyJet.

* Processor: Pentium or PowerPC-equipped computers,

particularly those with at least a 100 megahertz processor,

work well for image editing.

* Display: Digital picture editing is easier and more precise on

systems capable of displaying a greater number of colors.

Windows systems call this capability High Color or True

Color. On Macs it's called Thousands or Millions of colors.

Monitor size is also important. 13- or 14-inch screens are

adequate, but larger displays offer space enough for the

many palettes and windows used by graphics applications.

SHOP FOR A CAMERA LIKE A PRO

Before you fill out the P.O., here are some features you'll

want to know about to evaluate different models.

* Resolution: Cameras with higher resolutions produce sharper

pictures. …

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