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[at-l] RE: AT Camera - Staring from Scratch

Darn it Jan! I just got rid of all that AT-L email and I come home and find
my mailbox stuffed full! Oh well <G>

First of all, let me define my credentials, I am NOT a professional
photographer. There are some of us on the list who are and who have used
digitals on the trail. However, I was a rep for Canon back when the very
first $20,000 digital wondercamera was first introduced. I sold a lot of
them...to people like the Miami Herald. That said and keeping in mind your
wish to avoid the technical, here goes:

Things to keep in mind when purchasing a digital camera:

1) Resolution - defined in terms of pixels or in modern cameras megapixels
(millions 0f pixels). The greater the number of pixels or megapixels, the
better the picture will be ignoring any fancy per or post processing the
various cameras are capable of (such as white balance or other color
adjustment features). Current standard is 4.1 megapixels or better. This
will allow an 8x10 printout that is barely distinguishable (with a
magnifying glass) from a photo when using a good photo printer.

2) Storage Media - How does the camera store the picture? The old kind that
used 3-1/2 inch floppies are a no-no. The new kind that use 3-1/2 inch CDs
are also a no-no. They are energy hogs and VERY slow. Preferred are digital
memory cards. There are several different types, they are NOT
interchangeable. The defining point here may be what kind of memory card can
your friend read? Buy a camera that uses that kind of card. Be aware that
you may even have to buy the exact same camera, some cards cannot be
interchanged between different makes of camera even if they are the same
type of card because of the way the camera initializes the card. I prefer CF
(CompactFlash) cards. They are somewhat more interchangeable than the other

3) Storage Format - The preferred format is JPEG. There are others out
there, but they either do not compress as well (if at all) or they are not
well supported. JPEG retains full color while compressing the image. A good
camera will allow you a choice of how much you want to compress the image,
the more compression, the grainier the printed picture will look. I can
store 256 images at 1600 x 1280 resolution on a 256 MB CF card using low
compression. These images will then print at up to 8 x 10 with good quality
or 5 x 7 with excellent quality.

4) Performance - How fast does it store an image to the memory card? Does it
have a high speed buffer? Especially important for action shots and video.
Most modern digital cameras support digital video, but video is a energy and
memory hog. Some newer cameras, such as the Pentax Optios have large
internal memories (up to 11 MB).

5) Lens - You want the best optical zoom you can afford. Digital zoom has a
similar effect to compression, it makes the printed picture grainier. I
would look for a minimum of 3X optical which is the equivalent of about a
50mm telephoto on a standard SLR camera. Some newer cameras are up to 5x
optical or better.

6) Weight vs. Durability - for a backpacker, both issues are important. I
chose the S110 because it was both lightweight AND had a metal case rather
than plastic. This is one you will have to decide for yourself. Water
resistance is another consideration.

7) Batteries - The preferred battery is one that you can buy at any
Wal-Mart, drugstore or grocery store. Very few digital cameras use off the
shelf batteries. If you find one, buy the Eveready E squared Photo Lithium.
They last MUCH longer than alkaline batteries and are less than half the
weight...and cost five times as much. If you must use a rechargeable battery
provided by the manufacturer, look for one that is Lithium Ion, and buy an
extra. Keep the charger in your bounce box. I really doubt that you can burn
through two batteries between town stops. Most will last at least 75 shots,
sometimes as many as 250 shots.

8) Computer Interface - USB or Firewire, nothing else. All modern computers
have USB, which requires no drivers to load. Supposedly a no brainer. In
reality, it doesn't quite work that way, but it is still a lot easier than
serial or other interfaces. Firewire is another, much faster interface also
based on the serial interface. Not as easy to set up, but worth the effort
if your friend also has one.

For a complete comparison of ALL digital cameras see Digital Photography
Review's complete database at:


choose the link to "feature search" or "side by side search". They even
provide links to places to buy the camera. So, do I get in your Will? <G>

I currently am using a Canon S110. My recommendations from the current crop
are the Pentax 430RS, the Konica KD500Z and the Minolta DiMAGE F100 in that
order. Only the Minolta uses AA batteries and only the Pentax uses CF cards.
All are 70mm (5x) zoom and  support resolutions in excess of 3 megapixels.

Lee I Joe

Once I knew where I was going, but now I have  forgotten.  Sometimes my mind
wanders.  Sometimes it goes alone, and other times it takes me along...this
isn't one of those times...