Digital cameras are among the most desired new toys for technology buffs. According to Boston's Infotrends Research Group, 2001 is supposed to be a pivotal year for the industry, with an estimated 18% of all U.S households owning a digital camera by the year's end.
According to Yossi Fogel, head of the Digital Camera Department at B&H Photo in New York City, price has a lot to do with the camera's widespread popularity. Where digital cameras were once too expensive for the average person, there are now a variety of brands offering competitive prices. Another big factor in the camera's desirability is the advanced technology that allows the user to see immediately what he or she has shot.
Like film-based cameras, digital cameras come in a variety of sizes, prices, and with many options, but they all operate on the same principle. Instead of capturing an image on film, they record pictures onto a small chip-like storage device. The resolution of the picture improves depending on mega-pixels. Fogel advises that a 1-megapixel camera may be fine for e-mailing photos, but for printing, users may want a higher-pixel camera. "Say you have an eight-by-ten picture. The more pixels you have in there, the more information there is for the printer to read, the better an image you're going to have."
Not surprisingly, the greater the number of pixels, the higher the price. In New York City, a 1-megapixel camera can cost anywhere from $200 to $350, 2 megapixel cameras range from $300 to $550, and 3-megapixel cameras, for 8-by-10 pictures, begin at $500 and climb depending on the features you want.
Fogel also gave us the inside scoop on which cameras were doing well. "For the very low price, the $200 and $230 camera, the Olympus V100 is a very nice camera. The Canon Elf is probably the most popular camera in the $400 to $500 range because it's small, it's easy, it's got a decent resolution, it's a two-megapixel camera, and it fits just about anywhere." For those able to spend a bit more there are three or four different popular options: Canon's G-1, Nikon's Cool Pix 995, and Olympus' 3040.
These days, with so many choices on the market, it is important to know your needs and also your product. Brian Clark makes a living testing out the latest and sometimes most expensive tech toys for MONEY magazine. For his money, he likes a digital camera priced at the lowest end of the spectrum. "I think if you are just starting out in digital I would try the Intel camera. It's 99 dollars. If you find that you really like digital photography, you really like the things you can do, and you would like to do more with it, then you can buy something a little bit more expensive." The downside to the Intel camera is that it has few features, and a flash is not one of them.
For those who want better picture quality and a variety of options, Clark suggests either Nikon's Coolpix 995 or the more moderately priced Olympus Brio d-150 and Kodak's new line of Easy Share cameras. One digital selling point for Clark is the software that allows for editing, emailing, or printing pictures at home. One last pointer to keep in mind: making digital pictures a reality can add up; between the special paper, extra color ink cartridges, extra memory, batteries, computer and ink jet printer, the costs can really begin to climb.