RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A row of digital cameras at Comp USA in Kakaako illustrates the number of choices available to budding photographers.
Take your best shot
Smaller and improved digital cameras allow for photo ops any time
» You took the picture -- now what?
AS PRICES drop and technology continues to improve, digital cameras are quickly becoming an indispensable part of everyday life.
More than 105 million were shipped in 2006, according to market research firm IDC. While consumers are still most interested in megapixels, an indication of a camera's resolution quality, other features are beginning to factor into purchasing decisions.
"Different colors are a new option" for those looking to stand out in a crowd, said Lynnette Sue, a communications and imaging specialist at CompUSA.
"Cameras are still a really popular gift to give," she said. "People want something small. ... They want it to be pocketable. They find that if you buy a bigger camera, you don't tend to take it out as often."
Image stabilization and face-recognition technology are other new features generating interest this holiday season. Image stabilization helps eliminate blurry photos caused by slower shutter speeds and shots taken in low light, while face-recognition technology allows the camera to adjust its own exposure and focus settings in response to the number of people in the picture.
Sony and Casio are two of the most popular brands among locals, said Sue, adding Canon to her own list of manufacturers that put out quality products.
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-W200 offers 12.1 megapixels for less than $350, adding direct HD output via a proprietary cable and an MPEG movie mode that captures VGA audio at up to 30 frames per second. The company's digital SLR (single lens reflex) production is also on the rise, with 326,000 shipped in 2006.
Casio's Exilim S880 is barely more than half an inch thick, yet it offers 8.1-megapixel resolution with a 3x optical zoom and 2.8-inch LCD screen, for $249.99. A YouTube-capture mode is another special feature that sets this camera apart.
But Canon remains the undisputed champion, shipping more than 17 million compact cameras and 2 million digital SLRs in 2006. Its PowerShot line of cameras "sport nearly everything you'd want in a point-and-shoot," according to CNET Reviews.
The PowerShot SD950 IS combines 12.1 megapixels with a 3.7x optical zoom and face-detection technology, while the PowerShot SX100 pairs 8.0 megapixels with a 10x optical zoom and image-stabilization technology.
"When you get higher in megapixels, the price tends to go up a bit," said Sue. "But megapixels don't really determine how good a picture you get. The lens makes a big difference.
"$200 will get you a good digital camera. It's dropped steadily the last few years, but that price seems about right this Christmas."
If one of the top uses of your new camera is to take photos of yourself, you might consider the XShot, a telescopic rod that can be attached to a still or video camera to let the photographer into the shot. At $24.95 the XShot is available online at xshotpix.com or call (866) 974-6899.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
MOO.com can take images you've stored on an online hosting service, such as LiveJournal, Facebook or flickr, and turn them into post cards, stickers or stand-up notecards. Or order a box of mini-cards. At half the size of business cards, they can be used as holiday gift tags. You can even have the reverse side printed wtih a message.
You took the picture -- now what?
Photo printers, software, stores and Web sites offer an array of options for showing your photos
NOW THAT you've taken all those pictures with your digital camera, what do you do with them? For years, consumers had few options when it came to printing images from traditional rolls of film. The digital era, however, offers more possibilities than ever before.
Print it yourself
For those who don't like to wait, a photo printer is the best choice for instant gratification.
Inkjet printers are the leading do-it-yourself solution, as prices have fallen steadily over the past few years. Resolution, paper-tray capacity and the cost of replacing ink cartridges are the three most important factors to consider when buying, according to PC World magazine.
Most printers have a maximum color resolution of 4800 by 1200 dots per inch, with paper trays able to hold 100 to 150 pages. Some brands offer a maximum color resolution of 9600 by 2400 DPI.
Canon's Pixma IP4500, which retails for about $125, can print 24 pages per minute at that higher resolution. PC World described it as "faster than even some low-end lasers" in a recent review.
HP's Photosmart and Epson's Stylus lines are other good choices, according to the magazine. And while Lexmark might entice some with its bargain prices, beware of the high cost of ink cartridges.
Dye-sublimation printers, which use heat to transfer ink onto the printed page, are also gaining in popularity as some manufacturers release compact models designed to work almost anywhere.
Canon's SELPHY CP740 is a compact photo printer that retails for less than $100 and doesn't require a computer to operate. Using a built-in retractable USB cable, the printer connects directly to a compatible digital camera to produce high-quality 4-by-6-inch prints in less than 60 seconds.
Hit the shops
Local retailers are still a good pick for printing, and some have optional services for turning digital memories into keepsakes suitable for giving to friends and family.
Wal-Mart Keeaumoku offers a number of options: Photos can be turned into Christmas ornaments ($11.96) and 4-by-8-inch greeting cards ($8.24 for 25 cards with envelopes), affordable choices that provide a touch of originality during the holiday season.
Walgreens Kapiolani partnered with a number of local artists to produce a line of greeting cards called "Aloha Designs" onto which personal photos may be printed.
Customers can also add their images to items like teddy bears ($24.99), coffee mugs ($13.99), T-shirts ($16.99) and sweatshirts ($24.99), ties ($19.99) and even a diaper bag ($49.99). Pets get their own custom gifts, too. Print a picture of your pooch on its own dog bowl or leash for $19.99.
Kinko's is another option for a quick turnaround. Like Wal-Mart and Walgreens, Kinko's sells a variety of calendars that feature up to 18 images provided by the customer, with its year-on-a-page ($6.99) and monthly tear-off ($10.99) calendars the most affordable options. Magnets ($5.99), luggage tags ($8.95) and drink coasters ($19.95 for a set of four) are also available.
Online options are extensive
The most creative solutions, however, are found on the Internet.
With the ability to service millions of customers worldwide, Web sites like CafePress.com offer hundreds of products that incorporate images uploaded directly from your home computer. Others, like MOO.com, integrate seamlessly with online photo-hosting services that might already hold hundreds of your images.
LiveJournal, Facebook and flickr users, for example, can import directly into MOO's design system to produce custom postcards and greeting cards.
Apple's iPhoto software is also useful for creating custom books using images on your hard drive. Simply create a library of photos and click on the "book" button to initiate the process.
More than a dozen designs are available. Hardcovers are $29.99 for 20 double-sided letter-size pages, with up to 100 additional pages at 99 cents each. Medium-size softcover and wire-bound books are even cheaper, $9.99 for 20 double-sided 6-by-8-inch pages (49 cents per extra page).