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High Tech Stocking Stuffers for Christmas

By Jeff Bloom & Rob Kay

It's the time of the year again for our annual high tech stocking stuffer issue. There are many cool gifts for the digitally minded but this year we wanted to focus on digital cameras.

This market is clearly exploding and there's no question the days of film are numbered. How to buy the digital camera of your dreams? With so many models on store counters it's hard to determine what makes sense for you. To simplify our quest we scoured the Net for reviews, road tested several cameras and talked to friends who actually use them on a daily basis. We came up with a couple of models across the spectrum. The numbers listed are lowest "street prices" that we found on CNET.

Kodak DX 215 ($160)
The KODAK EasyShare DX3215 is for adults or kids just getting into digital photography. Its got a1.3-megapixel CCD (1280 x 960 picture resolution) that allows you to take photo-quality prints up to 5" x 7". It's also got a 4X zoom and a "dock" for charging the battery and for fast transfer of photos to a computer for editing. The best thing about the DX3215 it is its ease of use. To prove the point, we turned it over to the kids (aged 10, 13 and 15) for a couple of weeks. It turned out to be a real educational process. In addition to taking photos, which they promptly attached to email and sent to cousins in Hong Kong and Canada, they were also able to learn the basics of photography software. This entailed manipulation of images, storage of photos, etc. Having an inexpensive but powerful camera provided the kind of educational incentive to learn the skills of digital photography and software that could serve children well in the future. At prices as low as $160 (minus the dock) this is a winner.

CoolPix Nikon 775 ($300)
The super-compact CoolPix Nikon 775 has a 3x 38-115mm (35mm equivalent) Zoom-Nikkor lens with 2.14-megapixels is the lightest (6.5 ounces), pocket-sized point-and-shoot digital camera you can buy. It's also got sufficiently sophisticated electronics and optics to keep a more experienced photographer happy. One of the cool features was a "Transfer" button that allows you to move your digital photo files to the desktop or upload to NikonNet where you can order prints. The price is extremely competitive for the technology you're getting.

Cannon G2 ($750)
It was our friend, Jay Fidell, a local attorney and founder of ThinktechHawaii.com who steered us towards the G2. An avid photographer Jay has used the G2's predecessor, the G1 for the past year and he's raved about it. The upshot is that the G2, is even better, and ranks among the best "pro-sumer" cameras out there. Improvements include higher resolution, better image quality, and faster processing. Power consumption has been halved so that you can run the G2 as long as 5 hours in playback mode on a single battery charge. This is important because the single complaint that photographers have about digital cameras is that they suck up batteries very rapidly. The good thing about this camera is that you can either use it as a point and shoot machine or tune its sophisticated electronics to your own agenda. It's got a 7-21mm, F2-2.5, 3x all-glass Canon zoom lens, which proved very flexible and processes images quickly enough so that you can snap away without waiting for the camera to "wind up". We used it for family photos of the kids, which go out every year and, the 4-megapixel capacity allows you to print 8 x 11 shots with ease. It's a bit pricey but the hard core digital camera buyer will love it.

Printing Those Photos

If you do buy a digital camera you're probably going to want to print your own photos. Here are some recommendations for printers to do this.

Epson Stylus Photo 780 -- Received good reviews in the trade press but is targeted exclusively towards photographic printing. Under $100.

Canon S800 -- Good for SOHO or home users for almost any kind of printing and provides great photo quality too. Under $300.

Jeff Bloom, SBA Small Business Person of the year, is the founder of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, a computer education/consulting firm based in Honolulu. His contact is jeffb@cta.net or 839? 1200. Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who specializes in technology. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Suggestions for column topics are welcomed.

Published December 14, 2001

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