NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2003
My New Camera
by John Hoffmann, CAUG
mhoffman@stx.rr.com (click to email author)

This story starts out back quite a few years ago when I bought my very first ever camera. I bought it at the local drug store, a Kodak box camera using 120 film - whatever that meant. I think it cost $13 but I really cannot remember these details from the 1940s. Although I was never a Matthew Brady, I did use this camera all through my high school years. I wonder where all those black and white photos prints have gone?

My first "real" camera was purchased in Japan while I was a guest of our USA government in Korea. It was a state-of-the-art 35- millimeter Canon camera..

Being in a foreign country for an extended stay made a great opportunity for taking lots and lots of pictures. This I did faithfully - actually, there was nothing else to do. I did learn how to setup and read a light meter. Then I could pick a shutter speed and set the aperture. Just had to focus and then take the picture. I got quite good with this equipment.

In this era of my picture taking days, one would send the Kodak 35-mm film in to Kodak for developing and they would send you a replacement roll of film along with the picture prints. Of course this practice was ruled illegal as it cut off competition of other wannabee film sellers. Anyway, I still have all those pictures or should I say 35 mm slides - boxes of 'em right along side of the Kodak carousel projector. It's all collecting dust now but I am about to scan and computerize these slides.

The Canon camera broke once and I could not get it repaired, so I got out of the picture-taking business. My wife took up the slack with a $100 35 mm camera. This generated a lot of pictures on paper and a lot of albums. I think we look at albums more then we look at slides - too much trouble to set up the projector. These albums are slowly being scanned and the pictures converted into digital picture files.

Now, folks, the digital world is upon us. I taught myself computer technology starting in the early 1980s. As technology got better - better equipment - I got interested in the digital camera as it aided and abetted my computer hobby.

About three-and-a-half years ago, I bought my first digital camera. It was state-of-the-art, cutting edge, 2 megapixel Nikon camera. I was planning a long driving vacation and just had to have this camera - ever hear of that excuse before? Well, almost every picture I took was point-and-shoot. Thank goodness the digital cameras do so well in automatic. I took few pictures outside of the automatic settings. Mostly, these did not work out well as I failed to read the manual.

The next chapter in this saga has me joining our CAUG Digicam Special Interest Group (SIG). This participation has, in effect, force-fed me into taking different kinds of pictures in different ways. Heavens to Betsy, I had to learn how to use more of those buttons and settings on my camera. I am getting better at picture taking and have read the camera manual from cover to cover. Found out there is a whole new language written in small icons. Just another hurdle, I guess. In any SIG group, you get out of it what you put into it. This is true for me in the Digicam group.

Computer technology changes very fast, as we all know. Digital camera technology has improved immensely the past few years so much so that a good digital camera takes as good a picture as a regular 35-mm camera. Of course, there is room for both types of cameras in our picture-taking world. Digital camera changes have followed improvements in computer technology. The digital camera is nothing but a small computer, which makes picture taking very automatic. Most of the buttons are to undo some of the automatic stuff and, therefore, heads back to the old ways of setting film speed, shutter speed, and aperture size. A $1000 digital camera at 2 megapixels four years ago can now be bought for about $300. Of course, there are newer and better $1000 cameras, which brings me to the final chapter.

My new camera is another Nikon. The major feature that attracted me to this camera is the 8X (telescoping magnification parameter) optical zoom and a 5 megapixel sensor. High megapixels is the name of the game for amateur digital photographers like myself. The more mega- pixels, the higher the picture quality at a good size (say 8" by 10" or so.) Lots of new features. Some of these features resemble what can be done to digital pictures electronically with a good computer graphics program.

A few new (new for me anyway) characteristics of my Nikon 5700 cameras are worth mentioning. First, the battery requirements are way up and one needs to use an expensive, high quality lithium- ion battery.which must be recharged frequently. Secondly, the memory requirements are horrendous.

For my old Nikon camera, I used a 32 megabyte (MB), 64MB and 128 MB flash cards to hold all the digital information on pictures I had taken. At the very highest picture quality (means no compression for storage.) I could take up to 45 pictures. On long vacations, I would lower the quality a little (minimum compression used) and could take over 250 pictures. Of course, even lower quality would lead to over 1000 pictures from my three flash cards. Now, I can only take eight very highest quality pictures - not near enough for any trip.

Now Nikon, and a few others, have a new card format that doubles the number of high quality pictures you can take on a given flash card, called RAW. This format is not yet standardized so each camera manufacture has its own version. The RAW format reads the camera sensor data but does not construct the picture although a thumbnail-size picture is available. The RAW picture format must be converted to a picture so the various computer graphics programs can be used for viewing it. The camera software does this conversion.

Haven't much track record with the new camera yet so will end this story at this point. The newsletter is not a place to view a picture from my new camera. Come to the Digicam SIG and I will show you a high quality picture taken with a 5-megapixel camera.

John Hoffmann is the SIG leader of our computer user group's Digital Camera SIG. Email: mhofffman@stx.rr.com

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using the article as long as it is kept in context, with proper credit hgiven to the author. This article is brought to you by the Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an International organization to which this user group belongs.

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