Digital Cameras

My Camera

I'm using the Casio QV 2000-UX (thank you, Ann Perry!) for all my photographic endeavors.

This camera has a 3x optical zoom and can shoot at resolutions up to 2 mega pixels. At this high resolution, images can be blown up to 5" x 7" without any artifacts.

If you're interested in learning more about digital cameras or which one would be good for you, I recommend visiting the Digital Camera Resource Page.

While the camera itself is great, I have a tough time recommending it simply because of the lack of technical support. I have found Casio's phone support to be pathetic, and they have no email support, so there's no way to get help outside of the U.S.

Digital Cameras For Trekking

There are numerous issues that you must address when choosing a digital camera, especially when you will be away from home for long periods of time or in a third world country.

I've listed a few of the considerations and some of the solutions below.

Battery Power

If you've never owned a digital camera before, you'll be shocked at how abysmal the battery life is.

For that reason, it is imperative that you get good rechargeable batteries. If you are travelling abroad, I would INSIST upon a camera that uses standard AA batteries. If a power surge fries your proprietary camera battery in Khazikstan, you're screwed.

I've discussed all you need to know about rechargeable batteries, chargers, and voltage adapters here.

Storage Memory

The second problem you'll run up against, especially if you want to take decent high-resolution pictures, is memory/data storage.

The following table outlines the common types of consumer storage media, issues, and comments.

Storage Type

Comment

Max Capacity

Direct Transfer Options

Compact Flash (CF) Yeah! Type II: 1 GB!
Type I: 320 MB
USB card reader
PCMCIA adapter
Smart Media Hmmm 128 MB USB card reader
floppy adapter
Memory Stick Uh... (Sony Only) 64 MB USB card reader
floppy adapter
Floppy Disk Booo! 1.2 MB floppy drive

My personal feeling is that CF cards are the best, since they come in the largest sizes and are the least expensive. They are also the same memory type that is used by many handheld computers (PDAs) like the TRGpro (a Palm Pilot clone), Windows CE (Booo), and Psion Series 5 & 7 (which I've heard are very good). If the camera supports Type II (and therefor also Type I) CF cards, you can get up to 1 Gigabyte of storage in IBM's newest microdrive. If the camera limits you to Type 1 cards, you'll currently top out at 320 MB.

The ONLY advantage I can see for Smart Media is the "Flashpath" or floppy drive adapter, which allows you to read them in virtually any internet cafe. Very cool option. Otherwise they are more expensive, come in lower capacities, and are incompatible with most PDAs. Furthermore, when higher capacity Smart Media cards come out, current devices can't use them! Devices have to be pre-programmed to access each memory size, which can only be done for the current crop of sizes. Other storage media do not suffer from this limitation.

Sony's new contender, the Memory Stick, does show promise. There's a floppy drive adapter, and Sony's new Palm OS handheld and MP3 player use the sticks as well. Other companies have yet to adopt it, so you'll be married to Sony if you go that route.

All of these storage options are arguably irrelevant now that the Digital Wallet by Minds At Work is shipping.

This product is a small battery driven 6 GB (yes, that's Gigabytes!) hard drive for storage. It has its own operting system whose sole function is to copy data from ANY type of storage card. If this is true, then you'll only need one card of your choice and this drive! The main downside I see is that you'll have to carry yet another charger for their batteries.

Computer Connections

Any new digital camera should have a USB port for data transfer. If it doesn't, don't buy it. Period.

Image Format And Size

If you don't travel much, don't intend on sharing pictures on the road, or are crazy enough to carry around a laptop, then the format in which the camera saves the image isn't that important.

However, if you need to do your image editing on the road, you need to get the pictures to the right format (JPEG/.jpg) and size (30-70k) for acceptable viewing on the web. You have the following options:

Size And Durability

If size is your main concern, the Canon Powershot S-10, S-20, and Digital Elph are your best bets. Fuji has also come out with some small contenders. However, these cameras are severely lacking in other categories, such as battery type.

If durability and/or waterproofness is an absolute requirement, I would say most digital cameras are not for you. I've had my camera submerged in a river, protected by only two ziplock bags, but I consider myself lucky. Also had it "commit suicide" for about 4 days after hiking through a jungle in Borneo. The humidity did it in, but it recovered after drying out. Now, however, it's starting to fall apart physically, as the sliding door detached, and other major defects are showing up.

There is ONE digital camera that seems promising for outdoor hacks. I can't recall the name here in the Himalayas, but it's made by Kodak and I believe it's the 5000 something-or-other. This one is shock proof (can allegedly take a three foot fall on to concrete!) and water resistant, although not water proof. 2 Mpixels (Pretty Good), uses AA batteries (YEAH!), Compact Flash Cards (YEAH!), and has a 2x optical zoom (Hmmm). Give it a look-over; sounds promising.

Resolution

Many new digital camera owners are understandably concerned about the quality of the pictures they can get from their new camera.

The Digital Camera Resource Page has a good review of this issue, but the simplified answer is:

Digital Cameras For Professional Photographers

I can't comment on this as I'm not using cameras in this field. However, there ARE several models made for professionals and will accept those Canon and Nikon lenses you fanatics are carrying around. Rob Galbraith hosts a site for digital photojournalists and professionals at www.robgalbraith.com for you hard core National Geographic-type folks.


Once you've decided which of these features is critical for your needs, the Digital Camera Resource Page is the best place to go next (unless you're a professional, then go to Rob's site). They have good reviews, and a camera picker that sorts cameras for you based on your specified criteria.


Page Revised 8/31/00