When deciding to purchase
your first digital camera, you're faced with many choices. How
To Buy Your First Digital Camera is an educational CD-ROM that's
designed to answer many of the initial questions you might have.
The presentation appears to have been produced in Hypertext Markup Language
and uses whatever Internet browser software you have installed on your
computer. Because of the design, I expected the CD-ROM to be cross platform,
but this is clearly a Windows-only product. When I slipped the disc
into my Power Macintosh G3's drive, it wasn't recognized.
On my Windows 98 computer, the disc automatically triggered the AutoRun
feature and launched Microsoft's Internet Explorer. In fact, navigating
through the disc was much like browsing a web site.
How To Buy Your First Digital Camera presents its information in a straightforward
manner without lots of glitzy on-screen special effects. If you like,
you can print information from the screens to read while away from your
computer and actually shopping for a digital camera. Another option
is having one of the disc's producers, John Stewart, talk directly
to you in calm measured tones.
The other option uses on-screen text that contains more details than
the spoken word version along with illustrations made by Stewart. The
audio portions of the disc use RealAudio of MP3 software allowing you
to listen to the text. If you don't already have it, the disc
contains a button that lets you install MP3. I already had RealAudio
installed along with a set of Benwin flat panel speakers. Because the
presentation is mostly Stewart's voice with occasional sound effects
and music at the start of each section, you don't need to have
a set of high quality speakers to get the most out of this educational
CD-ROM, but I think that having good audio reproduction enhances the
overall computing experience.
The disc is divided into five major sections: The first is called "Accessing
Your Needs" and is an introduction to using digital cameras. While
it may be too basic for readers of this magazine, true neophytes will
find it to be a useful introduction to the pros and cons of using digital
cameras. The second part includes information on basic imaging concepts
such as resolution, interpolation, and compression. Things that you
should know before shopping for a digital camera. This section contains
some information not normally discussed, such as the fact that the size
of the image sensor may not be the size of the captured image. Next,
Stewart provides a guide for choosing the best digital camera configurations
and pulls no punches in giving the bad news that a set of batteries
can easily be gobbled up in an afternoon's shooting. Techies may
be put off by Stewart's pronunciation of each of the letters in
CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) instead of phonetically
as "Sea Moss." The fourth part provides information on digital
film or what Stewart calls "image cards" along with some
useful and practical accessories that can make digital imaging more
fun. The final section includes details on digital camera features such
as swiveling lenses, filters, and the pros and cons of using a built-in
electronic flash. Although he skips over the current trend of providing
hot shoes and PC connections on newer digital cameras. Throughout the
disc, you will notice that there are no model names or prices mentioned,
which is a realistic reflection of the fast-changing world of digital
Some people will point to camera backs like the Leaf Contare as proof
that Stewart's assertion that digital cameras cannot produce film-like
results is wrong. I tend to look at this CD-ROM as aimed at first-time
digital camera buyers who are less likely to be snapping a Contare back
onto their Hasselblad. On the other hand, Stewart is honest enough to
admit that what might be a top of the line digital camera today, could
be "old news" in six months. Overall, the tone of the presentation
is that of sitting down and chatting with a knowledgeable friend and
listening to his advice on what to look for when you go shopping.
A bonus section contains information about image-editing programs and
the disc even includes two of them that were produced by European programmers.
Stewart suggests that "even if you use another program, you will
want to try these, as they may offer additional special effects and
other features." Both programs are free and no registration fees
are required. In addition to cropping and sharpening images, the Irfanview
program lets you add text and special effects. Ultimate Paint from MegaLux
is a paint program that can draw and edit graphics, although there are
several additional built-in photographic processing functions and effects.
You may find it useful to retouch existing drawings and photographs.
Either one can be installed by clicking a button in your browser's
window, which gives you the option of running the program directly or
saving it onto your hard drive.
How To Buy Your First Digital Camera costs $24.95 postpaid and is available
from the publisher at: (800) 647-8273 or you can order it directly from
their web site at: www.acpress.com
If you've been searching for answers before making your first
digital camera purchase, this is a good place to start.
For more information, contact Audio Computer Information, Inc., PO Box
216, Spring Grove, MN 55974; (507) 498-3279.