Original article: 28th July, 1998 Last Update: 15th July, 2004 Download a copy of this article in EPOC Word format here: (Updated 15th July, 2004)
Digital cameras seemed like a bit of a gimmick when they first started to appear in the mid-90's. Low resolution images and limited onboard memory coupled with exorbitantly high prices meant they were effectively the reserve of extreme gadget freaks [as opposed to just Psion owners, say... ;-) ]. After all, why bother with them when for the cost of a budget flatbed scanner (~£150 at that time) and a disposable camera, you could produce prints of far higher resolution and scan them into your PC? This all at a fraction of the cost of a then fairly large, clunky, digital camera.
Well, digital camera technology has moved on:-
There are quite a number of brands about - from some well-known consumer electronics companies (eg. Panasonic, Epson, etc.), to the more traditional camera manufacturers (eg. Olympus, Nikon, Canon, etc.), and on to some of the companies perhaps better known for being photographic film manufacturers (eg. Kodak, Agfa). This last category are the most interesting (Kodak especially IMHO) as these are companies who are facing the possible demise - or at least decline - of their traditional bread and butter market for film. It's good to see them accepting the challenge and coming out with a good range of products.
In my opinion, the future is fairly clear. SLR (Single Lens Reflex - ie. view-through-the-lens cameras usually with changeable lenses) and other professional-type cameras will be around for a long time because they offer a versatility and image quality that won't be beaten for the foreseeable future. Disposable cameras will also survive because they're so cheap that nothing can challenge them. The big inroads however will be into the compact camera and 'instant picture' market.
People like compact cameras because they're small and easy to use. Picture quality is acceptable (especially for 'snapshots') although lens quality rarely comes close to SLRs and can become a limiting factor.
Instant picture cameras however have even fewer saving graces I suspect. They're relatively bulky and picture quality is poor (often worse than, say, VGA resolution), the film is fairly expensive although the camera prices are relatively cheap. I think however that their days are effectively numbered. As digital cameras becomes smaller, cheaper, and still higher resolution, somebody's going to come out with a cheap little 4"x5" or 5"x7" high quality paper printer. Certainly, if I worked for the camera or film manufacturing division of a certain well-known 'instant camera' company beginning with 'P' I'd be updating my CV I think...!
So what are the criteria for a Series 5/mx/7/netBook/MC218 owner thinking about buying a digital camera. The most obvious one is the choice of memory media - although in my opinion there isn't any choice! Internal-memory-only cameras are limited to their internal memory's capacity (naturally). SmartMedia memory cameras are fine - although SmartMedia cards aren't available in as large capacities as Compact Flash cards. The compelling factor however is of course that the Psion uses Compact Flash (CF) cards. Hence you can take photos on the camera, transfer the CF card to your Psion, and view your photos immediately (albeit in shades of grey on a 5/mx/MC218 - or 256 colours on a Series 7/netBook). Most digital cameras are capable of storing the images in a standard DOS format directory as Jpeg (.jpg) images which you can view using either the web browser in Message Suite (on a Series 5), 'Web' on a newer 'ER5' machine, Opera's new web browser for EPOC, or a 3rd party program such as Lieuwe de Vries's excellent MBMView.
[Update 2004: Actually, I don't think this applies any more. The fall in memory card prices in recent years has negated the need for most of the above. It's cheap and easy to carry multiple cards. My latest camera (see below) is a CF card camera - but it'll probably be the last. Partly because the manufacturers are gradually moving away from CF cards and partly because SD/SM cards are smaller and more convenient.]
Actually there's even more flexibility available to your average Series 5/mx/7/netBook/MC218 user than that. After you've taken some photos, you can store images that you want to keep on your Psion - thereby freeing up your camera CF card to take more pictures.
Most of the CF cameras available today come with a card supplied (4, 8, or 16Mb) - which is always useful. If you're like me and have had your Psion for a while, you may already have a spare card (left over from the dreaded 'upgrade path' disease) - hence more free 'film'!!
Well, the life of my DC-210 was relatively short-lived... It got dropped on the ground in 1999 and refused to co-operate any further. However the insurance company came up trumps. Since the 210 was no longer being made, they instead shipped a brand new DC-240 direct to my house from a distributor - excellent! Higher resolution, a USB connection (very nice!) and lots of goodies in the box (an 8Mb and a 16Mb CF card, a PCMCIA CF card adaptor, 2 sets of researchable batteries + charger, etc.). A very useful piece of kit and 100% compatible with my Psion...
Original article: 28th July, 1998
Last Update: 15th July, 2004
Download a copy of this article in EPOC Word format here: (Updated 15th July, 2004)
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