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Digital Cameras:
High Resolution vs
Low Resolution

Digital Cameras
Volume 1, Issue 3
November 2000

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Internet Medicine

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Digital Cameras

There was a time when cameras just took pictures. Not anymore.

One of the newer digital cameras lets you e-mail, fax, and browse the Web. Another has been combined with a cell phone so that you can take pictures and chat.

They haven't come up with one that brews coffee yet but I'm sure it's on the way.

In July Martyn Williams of wrote about South Korea's Samsung Electronics SCH-V200 digital camera, which is found on the back of a telephone handset, and can take low resolution pictures at 640 x 480 pixels.

Williams reported that in regular mode up to 20 images can be snapped and in a second mode 26 images of a lower resolution. The images are transferred to a personal computer using a cable.

He said that Samsung spokespeople speculated the telephone would be a hit with young people and also useful for taking pictures in an emergency situation.

The camera that lets you e-mail, fax and browse the Web, is the Ricoh RDC-i700. In September, Cameron Crouch of PC World reported that it had just come out in Japan but wouldn't hit US retailers until about February, when it's expected to sell for about $1500.

The RDC-i700 is a 3.34 million pixel camera that weighs 19.9 ounces.

Crouch quoted Jeff Lengyel, marketing manager for Ricoh as saying, "The camera can even capture text and graphics as group 4, the small TIFF protocol used for faxing....It removes anything that isn't black and white so that text is true black and anything that's not text is white."

Using a flip-up 3.5-inch LCD touch screen users can send and receive e-mail, browse the Web and send a fax.

Bloomberg News reported in August that according to market researcher International Data Corp, by 2004, global digital camera shipments will increase six fold to 41.6 million units, from 6.5 million units in 1999.

Reporting in May on a study done by Info Trends Research Group, David Becker of CNET wrote that predicted revenue from digital camera sales in North America would reach $1.9 billion this year, surpassing revenue from film cameras by almost 10 per cent.

If Japan is any indicator, there is every reason to believe that digital cameras will soon overtake traditional cameras. In a September article by Stephanie Miles of CNET, Michelle Lampmann, an analyst at Info Trends Research Group, said that in some regions like Japan, digital cameras with resolutions of 2 million or 3 million pixels (megapixels) were regularly being used as people's primary camera.

Individuals usually purchase a digital camera to take pictures for making traditional prints or for posting photos on the Internet. Some want to use it for both.

While it's true that newer high resolution digital cameras create sharper images, which is great when you want to make an 8 X 10 print, it is also true that they require more memory. This can be an issue if you are using the camera for pictures you want to post on the Internet.

If you aren't planning to print large photos, then you might not require one of the newer more expensive high resolution cameras. Internet images are usually kept at a lower resolution so that they load faster on Web sites. It is a small percentage of the Internet population who has the speed fast enough to accommodate large photo files.

This of course may change in the future once Internet connection speeds increase. As it is right now, depending on your connection speed, waiting for a high resolution photo to load can be like watching paint dry.

While the images from low resolution cameras aren't as sharp, the cameras producing low resolution images like (640 x 480 pixels) are considerably cheaper. You may also be able to pick up a low-resolution used digital camera.

David Farkas of PC World reported in June that entry-level cameras such as KB Gear's JamCam capture images at 640 by 480 pixels and start at about $90 US.

If you are looking for a small low resolution "spy" camera you might try Kodak's PalmPix Camera. Jeff Pittelkau wrote for IDG earlier this month that although the PalmPix didn't offer a lot of the traditional digital camera features, it was a good "spy" camera because it was tiny and lightweight in comparison to regular digital cameras.

On the other hand, if you want sharp, clear pictures that you want to print into photos for your album, then you will want to go with a more expensive high-resolution camera.

"Times have changed: New high resolution digital cameras, coupled with photo quality printers, mean you can ditch film altogether. And as prices continue to fall, your days of dropping off film for processing could be over," wrote Farkas.

He reported that cameras with 1 megapixel (million pixel) captures are fine for both snapshots and Web images, and cost about $300 from vendors such as Olympus, Epson, and Kodak.

Bloomberg News reported in September that Fuji Photo Film was to begin selling the FinePix a 1.31 million pixel digital camera in October for $470.

Farkas provides a good overview of what various pixel sizes represent. "Midrange cameras, which cost from $500 to $900, capture approximately 2 megapixels of data, resulting in image sizes of about 1600 by 1200 pixels. Such cameras let you print a letter-size photo on an ink jet printer, or a high quality 5 by 7 inch image.

The latest cameras capture more than 3 megapixels, for images of about 2048 by 1536 pixels -- large enough for very high quality 8 by 10 inch prints. They cost about $1000."

In August Olympus America Inc. introduced the E-10 Digital SLR Camera, the world's first 4.1 million pixel digital camera. The E-10 is expected to sell for about $1999 US.

Bloomberg News reported in September that Sony would start selling the Cyber-shot CSC-P1 with 3.34 million pixels Oct. 20 in Japan for $940 US.

There is development underway that will bring even higher resolution cameras onto the market. In September Thor Olavsrud of InternetNews wrote, "Earlier this month, Santa Clara, Calif based startup Foveon Inc. announced that it had set a new image standard -- 16.8 million pixels - for sensors constructed using a production process known as CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor)."

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Buy the Sony MVC-CD1000 Digital Camera

He further reported that Kodak was also working on a 16 megapixel CCD chip.

Because of the large size of digital photos one of the problems that has plagued digital cameras in the past has been image storage capability. Another has been transferring the images to a personal computer.

According to Farkas most of the newer digital cameras store files in flash memory. Flash memory keeps recorded data until it is intentionally erased and once the image has been stored it can be uploaded to your computer for editing and printing.

Most cameras come with serial or Universal Serial Bus cables and software for uploading images to your computer. Flash card readers let your computer read a memory card as if it were a removable disk and some printer's let you print directly from flash memory.

He adds that you can buy additional cards to expand your storage capacity. CompactFlash and SmartMedia are the two most popular forms of this memory.

CompactFlash cards, he reports, can store up to 128MB and an 8MB card costs about $40 US. SmartMedia cards can store up to 64MB, and an 8MB card costs about $30US.

Ian Fried of CNET reported in October that Market researcher IDC is predicting that flash memory cards will become a $5.3 billion market by 2004.

According to IDC Compact Flash and SmartMedia, will continue to dominate the digital camera market while flash cards will show up in new mobile devices.

Last year the most popular camera on the market was Sony's Mavica camera. According to Joe Wilcox of CNET, this was because it used 1.44-MB floppy disks for storage.

He interviewed market researcher, NPD Intelect analyst Neil Portnoy, who said that the method was popular with consumers who found transferring images using cables attached to a PC difficult.

Floppies don't have adequate memory for storing the images from newer high resolution cameras. As a result Sony has come up with an even better system for its newer cameras.

In late October Jack Poorman of did a review of Sony's new Mavica MVCCD1000 Camera, reporting it to be the first digital camera to record on its own built in CD-R.

It writes the images to a CD inside the camera, giving it more than a 100 times the storage capacity of a floppy. The CD can then be transported into a CD drive on a computer.

Poorman reports that the "8-cm CDR holds about 160 shots at high resolution, and 1,800 in low resolution mode (640x480) pixels. You can also record MPEG1 video for up to 60 seconds." The camera, which has 2.1 million pixel resolution, retails for $1,299 US.

Another feature that Poorman praises is the camera's E-mail Mode.

He writes, "Email Mode allows a user to record two images at once from the same snap at a disk space reduction of only about 12 percent. This means the user can take pictures in high resolution mode and also send a quick e-mail of each shot to friends and co-workers. The time and tedium this can save a documentation project or a trip to dinner with friends is a godsend...."

The camera only weighs 35 ounces but one complaint Poorman had was that it was bulky.

In order to make life even simpler, companies are also starting to combine cameras with printers.

According to CNET News, Hewlett-Packard had begun shipping the HP PhotoSmart C500 digital camera in March. The camera allows users to print photos directly from the camera using the wireless "JetSend" system, bypassing the PC. The 2-megapixel camera was to cost $699 US.

Individual photo printers are also a new development. In a press release in February, Sony introduced the UP-DP10 Photo Printer reporting that because of its tiny footprint it fits well as a second printer for the home.

The printer produces laminated, 4 x 6 borderless pictures, resembling the prints people are accustomed to picking up at a photo lab. It had a suggested list price of $389 US.

There is every indication that the digital camera industry will over take traditional photography in the very near future. Some businesses are seen to be making adjustments to prepare for the change.

In his article Olavsrud reported that Yahoo introduced its film and digital pictures product offering in August. The service also includes mail in film development. Users receive prints and negatives from Yahoo but also have free online photo access to the pictures.

He also reported that in September Kodak and Weave Innovations announced plans to start selling the Kodak Smart Picture Frame.

"It is a 6.4-inch, active matrix liquid crystal display in a cherry-wood frame with a built in modem that dials up Weave's StoryBox Network and downloads pictures the owner has sent to the frame. Users can order hard-copy prints of the photos from Kodak directly from the frame. It can hold up to 36 pictures."

According to Erich Luening of CNET, in an effort keep from falling behind in the digital photography market, Kodak had planned to make an equity investment in San Francisco based The Web site is for photo enthusiasts. He added the company was also planning to provide digital printing tools through Print@Kodak.

Everything happening in the photo industry is not unlike what we've seen happening in other industries. The Internet continues to pull the rug out from under the business world leaving behind the traditionalists on the sidelines attempting to capture it as it flashes past.


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