What is it: digital camera
Applications: small photos for catalogues, security passes or brochures; electronic images for presentations, CD-ROMs and Web pages
Canon has understandably cashed in on the success of its Sureshot brand with its latest digital camera, the Powershot.
In theory, a digital camera is fairly similar to a conventional film camera: you aim it at your subject, press a button, and a series of optics and imaging technologies capture the picture. In practice, a digital camera replaces film with a charge coupled device (CCD) for imaging, and flash memory for storage.
The CCD and flash memory are the major pros and cons of a digital camera.
On the plus side, the image is immediately in a computer-friendly, digital bitmapped form, ready for dropping into a presentation, page layout or Internet Web design. There are no messy chemicals or time-consuming scans.
You can transfer the images from the camera straight into your PC in seconds, either by direct cable, removable media or over a telephone line.
The downside is that CCDs and memory are expensive, particularly at high resolutions. You could buy a digital camera to match the resolution and performance of 35mm film, but it costs around u10,000.
However, the market has recently been flooded with digital cameras for less than u500. They look like compact 35mm cameras and have maximum resolutions of around 640x480 pixels. At this resolution you will only be able to reproduce images in colour at a couple of inches squared. So what's the point?
Catalogues, security passes and estate-agent details all require small images. More relevant, perhaps, are electronic publishers, whose audiences typically run their computer screens at 640x480 or 800x600 pixels. The average budget digital camera is more than adequate for Web pages, where images are usually half this size.
At u799, Canon's Powershot is slightly more expensive than its rivals.
Canon has spent most of its budget on a decent CCD, capable of three resolutions: 320x240, 640x480, and an above-average 832x608 pixels. It can work at three levels of compression. At 832x608 pixels, it can store four images in fine, nine in normal, or fifteen in economy mode; 1Mb of flash memory is standard.
Those who want more will be pleased to find a PC-Card slot which can house Type I, II or even Type III cards, opening up the possibility of using a Type-III hard disk. The supplied docking station provides a quick parallel port interface to your PC - software is a Windows-only TWAIN driver. Images are exported in the standard JPEG compressed file format.
The Powershot 600's lens is equivalent to a 50mm focal length on a 35mm camera, and focuses from 10cm to infinity. Canon has an optional wide-angle lens adaptor.
Verdict: an above-average performer, with high-resolution images, optional audio clips for reference and provision for Type I, II and even Type III PC-Cards. It's relatively large, pricey and there's no screen, but the Canon Powershot 600 remains a flexible all-rounder.
Contact: Canon on 0121 680 8062 or at www.canon.co.uk
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