Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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My New Camera

My new digital camera is a 98379 Series Digital Camera from Digital Concepts/Sakar International Inc. It uses PhoTags Express (which I like) and WebCam Express (which I have not tried) software. It requires two AAA batteries; I haven't had to replace them yet, but they didn't stay fully charged for very long. Special thanks to browngirl and my partner Doug for this highly educational experience.

I have taken the camera outside three times for photo shoots to explore its features. So far I've taken, hmm, probably around 150 pictures and kept maybe half that, mostly so I can see what I did.

Some stuff I have already learned:

* This camera is very lightweight and compact. It's the nicest in hand since one I lost when I was little.

* Hardware interface is pretty good. I can use the buttons. I can read the menu icons on the preview screen. I can't see much detail in the preview screen for photos, alas, because it is only about 1" wide and 1/2" tall. The camera is still functional; I haven't killed it yet. This is promising for my ability to use digital cameras in general.

* Software interface is quite good. I like many of the features, particularly the tagging and keyword functions. There are options for adding captions and simple shapes too. I am especially impressed that this software makes these things a separate layer rather than burning them into the picture file itself; I am unlikely to be satisfied with other software lacking this feature, although I could wish for somewhat more flexible manipulation options. On the whole, I'm pleased enough to recommend it.

* This camera does not focus well. None of the photos are really crisp; many are so blurry as to be illegible. Bracing the camera against my body and/or concentrating on remaining motionless produces modest improvement in quality, but bracing it against a solid object such as a fencepost does not produce another level of improvement. I am used to getting much better results out of a film camera than this. I am not sure whether the cause is: 1) I'm out of practice, 2) the camera is very lightweight, or 3) it's a cheap camera.

* The camera has an auto-shutdown for power saving that turns it off after 30 seconds. I understand that this is a feature, not a bug, because the batteries are already not lasting very long. But it's driving me NUTS. I have the aim of an archer and the patience of a hunter; these do not interface with a camera that turns itself off two seconds before I intend to push the shutter button.

* The camera does not seem to have any stop-motion ability. Even small motions in the target render the picture illegible. This means that the "continuous capture" feature -- which takes 3 photos in rapid sequence -- is useless. If it actually worked, it would be cool.

* The hi-resolution VGA (640x480) mode produces mediocre images. The lo-resolution QVGA (320x240) mode produces lousy images. One of the exercises I did involved shooting several photos at hi-res and then several at lo-res, for comparison.

* The compression and noncompression modes don't seem to look any different in the photos.

* The color accuracy is not great. Things in the pink-red range don't come out as bright as they should; I've got shots of red (dark-pink-colored) and white clovers that look almost the same color. Things in the blue-purple range seem to fare better. Greens are sometimes a little muted. Bright reds and yellows seem to come through okay.

* The light/shadow distinction is wretched. I understand that all cameras have some limitation of how dark or bright things can get before losing detail, which is why it's hard to photograph fire. But this camera is consistently losing detail on white flowers, clouds, etc. and sometimes darker things like deep green leaves. I've seen this problem before, but not to this degree; it's probably either this camera, or the digital medium.

* The viewfinder and the actual lens are about an inch apart. Also the capture zone seems to be rather smaller than the viewfinder zone. Those are mechanical limitations; I know that going to a more expensive single-lens-reflex camera would solve that problem. Now add the fact that I'm dyslexic; it makes the compensation more challenging. I've dealt with this before; it just takes practice.

* I don't have as clear a sense of the pictures I'm taking with digital as with film. Part of that is unfamiliarity with the equipment, but part is an actual sense that connects me to my subject; that sense is dimmer, like I'm working through gloves or something. This could be due to the camera, but is more likely due to me; could be temporary or permanent.

* If I were to shop for a better camera, things I'd look for would include: interchangable photo storage that could be increased, better battery capacity (even if it made the camera a little heavier, but not too heavy: I like that this one doesn't kill my wrists), higher resolution, better color accuracy. Adjustible aperture and shutter speed ... maybe. Too many gizmos on a camera are out of my skill range. But I had one once with a simple twist-ring for adjusting how much light got in, and I liked that.

On the whole, I am used to getting average to good results from a film camera of basic or enhanced basic quality. Out of this camera, I'm getting bad to below average results so far. I'm still trying to figure out all the reasons for that -- whether they are due to my skill level, this individual camera's quality, the digital medium, or some combination -- and what improvements could be made. But I have determined that touching a digital camera doesn't necessarily entail instant total death of equipment, and that at least some features and software are usable for me. It's the results that are less than ideal.
Tags: personal, photography

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