Getting the Perfect Picture: Falling Prices, Higher-Quality Cameras, and Educators' Increased Comfort with Technology Have Ignited a Digital Photography Revolution in Schools. Here, the Latest Tools for Joining the Ranks of the Clickerati. (Update: Digital Cameras)

By Doyle, Al | Technology & Learning, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Getting the Perfect Picture: Falling Prices, Higher-Quality Cameras, and Educators' Increased Comfort with Technology Have Ignited a Digital Photography Revolution in Schools. Here, the Latest Tools for Joining the Ranks of the Clickerati. (Update: Digital Cameras)


Doyle, Al, Technology & Learning


Unlike their pre-digital parents and teachers, today's kids have known for quite some time that 35-millimeter film is definitely "old school." It's easy to see why they find digital cameras appealing: no more dropping off rolls of film at the local photo shop, fewer wasted shots, and perhaps most important, instant feedback--snap a picture and view the image almost immediately.

In my classroom, students use digital cameras in a variety of ways. One exercise we do is take photographs of objects such as leaves, trees, and birds, then upload the images to a computer where kids label the parts using graphics software. Digital cameras make it particularly easy to chart these objects as they change over time. For example, my students document plant growth by taking a series of photographs once a week for four weeks; then, after uploading the images to the computer and comparing them, they generate a growth chart. In a recent architecture project, students took advantage of the cameras' digital capabilities to superimpose photos of themselves standing next to famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the pyramids at Giza. Needless to say, kids loved this new twist on virtual field trips.

According to Daniel Grotta, president of Digital Benchmarks, an independent digital camera testing firm, educators can expect the recent trend of falling camera prices accompanied by higher image quality (also known as resolution) to continue. Currently, prices range from $200 for "good enough" resolution to about $600 for megapixel models that include more advanced features such as manual focus and interchangeable lenses. "How good is `good enough' depends on the user's purpose, budget, and level of sophistication," says Grotta. With those caveats in mind, read on for a collection of resources to help you determine which camera matches your classroom needs and budget.

10 Digital Cameras

The following is a sampling of offerings from some of the digital camera industry's major players. For detailed product information, check out the Web resources cited on the next page.

Entry-Level

Canons Powershot A20 is a 2.1-megapixel digital camera that offers 3X optical zoom, 8MB CompactFlash memory, and a 1.7-second shooting interval (up to 2.5 frames per second in continuous mode). For printing photographs on the fly, this model works well with Canon's new Card Photo Printer CP-10, which can connect directly to the camera via a USB cable. $283.

Kodak's new EasyShare DX3600 features 2.2-megapixel resolution, 2X optical zoom, 3X digital zoom, 8MB internal memory, USB interface, and the ability to capture up to 30 seconds of video with audio. Similar to the DX3600, the DX3700 model offers 3.1-megapixel resolution and 3X optical zoom. Both cameras cost about $300 each.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The Olympus D-370 is a 1.2-megapixel camera that includes USB interface, 2MB internal memory (accepts optional SmartMedia memory), and a QuickTime movie mode. The D-370 also comes with Camedia Master software for "stitching" up to 10 frames into a panoramic image. $199.95.

Sony's Mavica MVC-FD75 is the most affordable Mavica available, featuring 350,000-pixel resolution, 10X optical zoom with auto focus, and high-speed image capture. Users can save snapshots to a floppy disk, a useful feature for schools with older hardware. $349.95.

Intermediate

The Canon Powershot S110 is a compact, 2.1-megapixel camera that features 2X optical zoom, 2.5X digital zoom, 8MB CompactFlash memory, high-speed image capture, and the ability to shoot 20-frame-persecond movie clips with sound. $429.25.

The Casio QV-2900UX 2.1-megapixel model offers 8X optical zoom, 2X/4X digital zoom, CompactFlash memory, USB interface, plus a "best shot" mode that provides automatic exposure settings for different situations such as blue sky or night. $399.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The compact 2. …

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