FROM THE TUSTIN NEWS, Thursday, April 25, 2002


Plan a digital vacation now

The last column discussed planning for our summer vacation. Now that it's planned, we want to figure out how we are going to take pictures on our trip.

Digital cameras have come down in price and offer the opportunity to take pictures, download them directly into a computer, manipulate the images in low cost computer imaging programs and then either print copies or email them to family or friends.

This weekend I had the opportunity to use a friend's small Sony DSC-P1 camera. It was a lot of fun. I was able to take a picture, look at it immediately and then decide whether I wanted to keep it or delete it and take a better shot. I even made fast printed copies and gave them to the subjects. Neat!

The Sony DSC-P1 is a 3.3 megapixel camera. The megapixel rating of a digital camera is an important indicator of the quality of the finished image. A "pixel" is a "picture element" and 3.3 megapixels means that the finished image in this camera is made up of 3.3 million little individual picture elements.

Current digital camera range from about 1.1 to a little over 5 megapixels. Since megapixels have much to do with the cost of the camera, you have to decide how you are going to use your camera. Many of us are going to keep our pictures in our computers to view on our screens and possibly send to family and friends via email. For us, a reasonably featured camera of approximately 3.3 megapixels is sufficient. Cameras with fewer than 3.3 megapixels usually don't have the features we want for good vacation pictures. However they might be just fine for those shots of items to be sold on Ebay. Good 3.3 megapixel camera can be purchased for around $400 - $500 and 1.1 megapixel cameras can be had for around $100.

Newer cameras with over 5 megapixels of resolution are capable of taking images that can be printed in eight by ten or even eleven by fourteen inch format on high quality photo paper and displayed on the wall. They don't yet have the resolution of photographic film images but they still are excellent. The cost of these cameras, however, is usually $1000 and above.

The DSC-P1 that I used had a direct USB cable connection to my computer. This is a nice feature because it makes transferring images from camera to computer simple. It also had the proprietary Sony Memory Stick, a replaceable storage device a little larger than a postage stamp capable of storing up to 80 images in its 8 megabytes capacity. This means that I can store that many pictures in the camera before putting in another Memory Stick or transferring the images to a computer.

Other cameras use other forms of image storage similar to the Memory Stick and are offered in various capacities. More capacity, higher cost. Some cameras even store their images on standard diskettes or miniature compact disks. The choice here is up to the user though people who use cameras with diskettes or compact disks like the ability to show their images on anyone's computer. Cameras with memory sticks require a direct cable connection to the computer or an adaptor and cable that transfer the images to the computer.

Other camera features include optical zoom lenses, electronic zoom and a full range of image formats from TIFF to JPEG. Then there is the whole discussion of computer image manipulation to get the best from our pictures. These we will save for latter columns.

If you would like the opportunity to learn all about digital cameras and photography, Roberto Segura of MicroCenter is going to visit 'Coffee and Computers', Friday, May 3rd at 9 a.m. at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 South 'C' Street, Tustin. He will speak on and demonstrate the latest in digital photography and tell us about MicroCenter's digital photography sale which is going to take place during the month of May. They are going to be offering a twenty percent discount on many digital photography products.

Digital photography has come a long way in the last few years and may be the wave of the future. If you would like to hear more about digital photography, or other computer topics, visit 'Coffee and Computers' at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning from 9 a.m. until noon. Bring your questions or just come in and visit. And don't forget the special 'Coffee and Computers', Friday, May 3rd.

In the meantime, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.


Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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