Magazine article Technology & Learning

Digital Hot Shots

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Digital Hot Shots

Article excerpt

From time to time, T&L will be tapping into the extensive lab testing offered by our sister CMP publications to report results on products of interest to schools. This month's reviews are courtesy of Winmag.com, a daily online publication that tests, evaluates, and compares dozens of hardware and software products each month.

With the wide range of affordable digital cameras readily available today, you may be wondering what the top-of-the-line products reviewed here can give you that lower-cost cameras can't. Simply put, why should schools on tight budgets jump up to the higher end?

Lower-end cameras, as you might expect, tend to have fewer perks: less memory capacity for storing images, a fixed-focus lens that can't be manually adjusted, and image resolutions around 1,024 pixels by 768 pixels (less than two megapixels). If you want a simple, point-and-shoot camera for 5" x 7" snapshots and Web pages, these models have good enough image quality and should suit your needs just fine.

If you're trying for a more professional look, however, "megapixel" cameras are worth checking out. In addition to more manual controls, flash modes, and various extras for taking the best shot, these devices have higher resolutions that let you print outstanding images. To achieve the same quality as a standard 35-millimeter camera, choose a camera with no fewer than two megapixels--three megapixels is optimal.

The good news for shutterbug teachers and students is that digital camera prices will continue to drop as image resolutions increase. As always, do your homework before you buy, whether you're after an entry-level camera or a device that offers more.

Here, we feature a full review of a recent offering on the market along with a quick-look comparison chart of other recommended models (page 17). While Winmag.com focuses entirely on the Windows environment, the products mentioned here are also compatible with Macintosh. Full reviews can be found at www.winmag.com/reviews/hardware.

Pixel Perfect: Epson's PhotoPC 3000Z

Reviewed by Joel T. Patz for Winmag.com

Epson digital cameras always seem to come with just a little something extra. In the case of the PhotoPC 3000Z, a 3.34-megapixel camera, you'll find a convenient soft carrying case with an inner pocket for an extra CompactFlash memory card, a lens cover and strap, and a lens adapter. In addition to the usual video, USB, and serial cables, there's also a battery charger for the four NiMH rechargeable batteries. The documentation that accompanies the PhotoPC is also one of the best I've seen--easy to read, easy to understand, easy to follow for perfect pictures--and the comprehensive index is a rare find.

That's just the non-camera stuff. As far as the camera itself is concerned, you're going to like this one. It fits just about everyone's hand (though for the first five minutes I wanted to push the power button to release the shutter). The 3000Z weighs just over 1.1 pounds with the batteries and memory card installed and lens cap and strap attached, making it a little heavier than some other cameras. It measures 3.5 inches by 4.3 inches by 2.6 inches (HWD) and includes a 16MB CompactFlash memory card, allowing between one and 155 images, depending on the image quality setting you choose.

The more I played with the camera, the more I liked it. Just about everything can be adjusted to your needs. There are five image quality settings, controlled easily by one of three top-mounted buttons between the camera dial and the LCD status panel: Standard JPEG (640 pixels by 480 pixels), Fine JPEG (2048 pixels by 1536 pixels, moderate compression), Fine JPEG (2048 pixels by 1536 pixels, low compression), HyPict JPEG (2544 pixels by 1904 pixels, interpolated with moderate compression), and Uncompressed TIFF (you need at least 9.1MB available on your memory card). One of the other buttons lets you manipulate the flash settings (auto, forced, red-eye reduction, slow synchronization, and off), and the third is used for timer shots (the usual 10-second delay). …

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