Friday, March 18, 2005

Mama don't take my Kodachrome away

I was an early adopter in the digital photography revolution. So early, in fact, that I was the guy who put digital cameras in my old company (the ad agency/studio down on the South Shore) back in 1992. Before anybody else commercially had heard of them.

I made a good living for quite a few years based on that decision.

Anyhow, I also was ahead of the curve in buying a consumer-grade digital camera - I bought an Olympus C-3000z back in November of 2000. It was ahead of it's time, offering 3 megapixels of resolution, a high-quality 3x zoom lens, and excellent battery life, all for a price of about $600. I've used it since then. But it had some major drawbacks, which had become more prominent as time (and later model cameras) moved on. The C-3000z is pretty big and bulky - far too big for any coat pocket. It has a significant shutter lag, which makes it impractical for most action shots (when you have a toddler, every shot is an action shot). At 3 megapixels, the resolution is entry-level for today's standards. The C-3000z uses the very obscure SmartMedia 5 volt variant for storage - expensive, not stocked in many places, and slow in operation. And finally, the lens cap was the sort that had to be removed and stowed separately, or kept dangling from a cord.

So last fall, I started looking into the idea of replacing it, with Jane's blessing. We decided that our camera was OK unless we got a really worthwhile buy that jumped out at us. And, with my hefty Staples Rewards bonus check (and a $20 coupon) that was about to expire in hand, yesterday one camera did jump out at me.

I bought an HP R707 - this one is about 1/3 the size of the Olympus, with 5 megapixels of resolution and a really nice on-screen menu system. Shutter speed is fast enough that I actually caught David in the act of eating for the first time since he was a baby (oatmeal). It fits in a pocket nicely, uses cheap SD media, can fire in burst mode, and has all sorts of capable in-camera image enhancement available. Very nicely representative of what a circa 2005 camera can do compared to just a couple of years ago. And it includes Mac software, though it works out-of-box with iPhoto. The cable is also a standard mini-USB, as opposed to the oddball cable the Olympus used. And, the best part is that it was under $250 with the discounts I had.

What did I give up with this camera? The Olympus had a sync connector for an external flash. And it used "AA" batteries, so I could keep rechargeable handy (Alkalines lasted about 5 minutes in there) - the HP uses a little Li-Ion battery that looks like the one from my iPaq. But there's a disposable battery available from most stores that I can buy and keep stashed to use in a pinch.

The best part is that the pictures are even better than before, and since it's so small I'll be a lot more likely to carry it around casually - when you have to keep the camera in a bag it makes spontaneity more difficult. So expect more frequent David page updates.

Kodachrome? I used to use a lot of it. But I've hardly touched my Nikon since going digital 5 years ago, and this is likely to finish off the rest of it. Anyone want a Nikon 6006 in great shape?

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