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Oct 10, 2000

Ask The Guru


Which Digital Camera Part II

Q: I'm thinking of getting a digital camera. A professional photographer, into golf, suggested the Nikon 990. Now I need to figure out if I'm in that price range or not. Where would you buy one?

Brian D.

A: I bought my camera mail order and was happy with it. I don't think it matters too much who you get it from.

I checked several sites before buying the 950. I found that no one place consistently has the lowest price on everything, so you need to shop around. Egghead had a great price on the 950 and I ordered it. Interestingly, after I ordered it they raised the price!!

Personally, if I was buying a camera now I would definitely get either the Olympus 3030 or the Nikon 990. They offer the best combination of features, image quality and price at the moment (though there's a new camera coming soon from Olympus that I might lust after...) Note that the 990 seems to be $50-$100 cheaper than the Olympus. I've seen reports on the web from a couple of people who own both the Nikon 950 and Olympus 2020 (the previous equivalent models) who said they were very similar cameras in terms of functionality and performance. But interestingly, both seemed to lean slightly toward the Olympus model.

I think you'd be happy with either.


Which Digital Camera Part III

Q: I have recently gone into business- remodeling and hardwood finish. My biggest and best job is in its final hours and I am desperate to get the best camera for the money. I need great images that I can use on my website and presentations.

I purchased the cheapest Sony months ago- big disappointment. I may get one useable shot out of fifty, and usually do not get a second chance because I take pictures through out the building stages.

Is there a particular camera that would be best for taking wide shots, when there is not enough room to back up- like remodeled baths and kitchens. Sometimes I have to take a shot- outside of a window- aiming in. Does that make any sense ?

In the $8-$900 range, what is the best.Is there a true 3+ megapix out there ? and what is an "enhanced" 2 MP- making it a 3MP ?

Phil P.

A: In the price range you are looking at I would recommend either the Nikon 950 and its Wide Converter Lens WC-E24, or the newer Nikon 880 with the same adapter. This converts the lens to the equivalent of a 24mm lens on a 35mm film camera. That should enable you to get photos in tight areas, but be warned that these inexpensive wide angle lenses can suffer a bit from barrel distortion [Barrel Distortion makes straight lines appear to bow slightly, and may not be desirable for taking shots of bookcases etc.] Whether this will be acceptable for your work really depends upon your needs and expectations: unfortunately, this problem is common to all digital cameras in this price range.

You should be able to get the 950 for $700-$800, and the converter lens for $100. The 880 is about the same, with a higher resolution (and probably is the better choice unless you get a deal on the 950.) You'll also need to get a 32 or 48 MB CompactFlash card (varies widely, $80-$150) as the 8MB card they come with is just too small to be useful. If you don't have one, you should get a CompactFlash card reader (between $50 and $70) for the 950. This makes transferring images much faster than using the serial port of the computer. While not necessary, if you will be taking a lot of pictures you'll be grateful for this after a while! The 880 includes USB, so you don't need the card reader if your computer has a USM port. You should be able to get all that for just under $1000.

From personal experience, the Nikon 950 takes very nice pictures, with a resolution of 1600 x 1200. The Nikon 880 (and it's other brother, the 990) take pictures that are 2,048 x 1,536 -3 megapixel. The 990 has better manual controls than the 950, the 880 fall somehwere between the two. Unfortunately, the 990 is currently selling for $999 and you'd still have to buy the lens converter, and a 48MB Compact Flash card (only comes with a 16MB one.) It does have USB support built-in, so if your computer has USB then you don't need the card reader.

 You will probably want a tripod if you don't already have one. It will be very useful in situations where you are photographing inside; you do not want to use the flash with the wide angle lens because it will not be able to cover the whole area that the lens "sees." And you also get a lot of glare with the flash. Better to use a tripod and use available light.

You ask about true 3 megapixel. There are "true" megapixel cameras out there (the 990 and Olympus 3030 are just two of many such camera.) Just be aware that all digital cameras in this price range are one chip cameras so their color reproduction when you look at the image at actual size may not be as accurate as you'd get from a film image that has been scanned. I nearly always resize my images (using Photoshop or some other graphics program) and this can actually improve the look of the picture; i.e. a 1280 x 960 pixel image taken with a camera with a resolution of 1280 x 960 won't look as good as an image captured with a 1600 x 1200 camera that is rescaled to 1280 x 960. At least, that's been my experience.

Hope this helps,


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