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Monday, August 13, 2001
On Hardware

Load pictures to a Web site
Chiranjeev Pal Singh

THE digital camera is by far, the hottest commodity in the computer peripheral market these days. It’s compact, easy to use, and able to capture a digital image rivalling film quality, for a price comparable to that of a standard camera.

The real reason why these devices have gained so much popularity over such a short period of time lies in their versatility. Digital cameras blend the features of a good 35 mm camera with Polaroid. You can snap the picture, load it to your computer and have the image on the Web for the world to see in less than five minutes.


Learning the camera

To derive the maximum from your camera, you need to know its limitations first of all. There is no better way to gain this knowledge than to just get there and take pictures. Since the camera is digital, you won’t rack up a lot of processing cost just to learn about its functioning. You also need to know the camera’s operations inside and out. For this we suggest that you read the manual from cover to cover.


Nearly every digital camera gives you the option to capture images at a varying level of resolution. Your best lesson here is to learn not to be a resolution snob. If you only plan on using the pictures you’re taking for your Web site, don’t bother with resolutions over 640 x 480 pixels. You would simply be wasting the storage space. However, if you’re planning to print the images onto photographic paper and want the best results possible, head to the upper range of resolution. The table below shows the minimum resolution in pixels that you need to get acceptable printed results.

1024 x 767 3" x 5" print

1280 x 960 4" x 6" print

1600 x 1200 8" x 10" print

Equipping yourself

If you’re like most of us gadget freaks, having the digital camera just isn’t enough—you have to accessorise! But be careful — you can spend as much on these items as you did on the camera itself. With that said, let’s look at the legitimate, reasonable purchases you should consider:

g Batteries and chargers: Unlike traditional film cameras, digital cameras just love these power sources. With the standard battery set-up in most cameras, you shouldn’t expect more than 50 or so shots before the power starts to fade. You can greatly increase the typical charge life of the batteries by turning off your camera’s LCD screen but then you can’t review your photos. If your camera didn’t include them, your most valuable accessory purchase will be a good set of rechargeable batteries. Expect to pay anywhere from $ 10 to $ 40 for the batteries and the charger.

g Memory: The digital camera uses a solid-state memory flash cards to store images. These cards, which can range in size from 4 to 128 MB, come in two primary configurations—CompactFlash and SmartMedia. Additionally, some newer cameras accept the new IBM Microdrive, which gives you a whopping 340 MB of storage space.

How much memory you need depends on several factors. For instance, an image 1600 x 1200 pixels can take up to 1.5 MB each. If you only have an 8 MB card, then you’ll only be able to capture about five images before you download the files on your computer. While the images will have great resolution, it isn’t convenient downloading pictures after just a few shots. Spring for a couple of extra cards. Expect to pay about $4 to $5 per MB.

g Card readers: If you don’t want to bother connecting your camera to the computer each time you transfer your photos, consider purchasing a card reader. These devices, which typically run around $ 40, plug into your computer’s serial, parallel, or USB port. To transfer images to the computer, you simply slap the card into the reader and launch the computer’s transfer software. We’d consider these devices more of on-the-luxury side of the accessory field. Epson even makes a printer with a built-in card reader. Just insert the card, press a button, and the device prints each of the images.

Beyond the freebies

Chances are your camera comes with a couple of different applications that you can use to transfer the photos to your computer and manipulate the images. But don’t assume that this is the only software that will work with your camera. There are a number of excellent tools available on the Web that can make transferring and managing your images a snap. Also, don’t think of the photos as the end-results. Instead, consider them as the war material for your creativity. Take the images into applications like Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or Goo and experiment. Remember that photography is a creative release. Convert your photos to grayscale and then colorise them a la Ted Turner. Cut out your subject and put them in front of a different background.

Sharing with the world

Probably the greatest thing about a digital camera is the ease in which you can share your pictures. You can load your pictures to a Web site, send them to a friend, or have traditional prints made—all from your desktop. In fact, as you’ll see from the list below, the digital medium allows for even greater latitude of ideas.

Who needs their own Web site? You don’t have to go to a lot of trouble to share your photos with the world. Just fire up the old Web browser and head over to PhotoPoint. Set up a free account and then you can post an unlimited number of photos to an unlimited number of online photo albums. Visit the playground! If you’re looking for ways to have fun with your digital camera, Kodak’s Picture Playground is sure to please. The site includes online tools to turn your photos into online postcards, puzzles, cartoon, and much more. And, the service is free.

The future

With its continued advancement, digital imaging will give you freedom to expand your artistic abilities far beyond, which is possible today with a regular film. But you will still have to rely on, and understand the basics of the art form.