Digitally captured


Digital cameras suffered from poor quality in the early days, but recent improvements have meant they can compete better with their analogue counterparts. Both Nikon and FujiFilm have upped the ante with new cameras boasting resolutions of over two megapixels. The Nikon model is an update to the familiar CoolPix series, the CoolPix 950. Apart from the increased resolution there are a number of other enhancements. It is really the resolution that takes the greatest leap ahead. The maximum is now 1,600-x-1,200 pixels. Not as high as the FujiFilm MX-2700 which boasts 1,800-x-1,200 pixels, but both are good enough for large printed images. The results can easily be printed at up to A4 size with similar quality to film cameras. This fact in itself could sound a death knell for film cameras, or at least the beginning of the end. Until now the convenience of the digital camera usually meant that you had to give up a little quality. Now you can achieve the same kind of quality as a film camera, with all the convenience of digital. The only difference is you must forgo the kind of add-ons like filters and lenses associated with quality SLR cameras. These cameras may not yet replace the SLR-quality camera, but they are definitely competing with the high-end point and click cameras. Lenses are a big issue with professional photographers, and on that count the Nikon has the edge. There are a number of different lenses available for the CoolPix. Focusing on both cameras was good for the most part. The Nikon did tend to judder a little as it constantly searched for the right focus. This is not necessarily bad, it is just a feature of the sensitive auto-focus. But I do wonder about how much stress this puts on the battery life. Batteries are the cross you have to bear with the other conveniences of digital cameras. Fuji has the edge in this department, using a proprietary battery that can be charged without taking it out of the camera. This is infinitely more convenient than the Nikon method of supplying four rechargeable AA batteries and a bulky third party charger. It may have the advantage of being able to charge more batteries while the camera is in use, but it is still a hassle. Having a pocket full of AAs can be a nightmare – trying to figure out which ones are dead and which ones are charged, or half-charged. The Nikon has an unusual feature that I haven’t seen in any other camera. Nikon calls it the Best Shot Selector, which automatically takes five shots in quick succession. It then studies the five shots and chooses the best one. It is claimed that this helps avoid blurring caused by camera movement. We certainly didn’t come across any blurring in this mode. What ought to be the least important thing about the camera is how it looks. In real life, however, this is quite important to the fashion-conscious pro-sumer. If you are going to spend £600 on a camera it should at least look the part. Both cameras take a different tack on what they consider to be good-looks. The Nikon is a fairly sombre black plastic affair; sturdy perhaps, but fairly dull. It has the same twist-in-the-middle design as previous incarnations of the CoolPix, but this doesn’t really enhance usability. The FujiFilm MX-2700 is a different matter entirely, with it’s brushed aluminium body. It is more compact than the Nikon and simply looks expensive, a good thing when you have paid £600 pounds for it. It is a small camera by any measure, standing just four inches high and weighing in at 8 ounces. This makes it just right for a shirt pocket, something the Nikon is too big for. The increased resolution on these cameras means that the file size is substantially larger than before. This means that downloading the pictures to your Mac will take much longer if you use the serial port. There is a way to combat this, but it helps if you have a USB equipped Mac. What you need is a card reader, for reading the memory card used in the camera. These cards come in two flavours: the SmartMedia Card for the FujiFilm, and CompactFlash for the Nikon. There are card readers available for both formats, but only as USB. If you don’t have USB and can’t justify buying a whole new machine for this purpose, help is at hand with the KeySpan USB PCI card. This means you can equip your older Mac with USB. I would recommend getting a card reader for either camera because spending 30 minutes or more defeats the instant qualities of these cameras.
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