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Think pixels, not pictures

Digital cameras are getting cheaper. Entry-level models now meet the needs of most amateurs


NOTICED THE flood of print media advertisements for digital cameras, these days? There's a good reason: International prices are falling quite rapidly and most vendors now feel they are at a point when the lay Indian customer can be persuaded to go digital. In practice this means, entry level models from big name companies cost Rs 7,000 - Rs 15,000; while bargains from some brands can be had for as low as Rs. 5,000. Clearly these prices are well within the `lakshman rekha' that the canny `desi' buyers had set for themselves!

The other driving factor is the complementary fall in budget photo printer prices - indeed can pick up a camera and a printer for around Rs 10,000 today - which makes sense, because you really need the combo to fully exploit digital photography at home.

A quick scan of who is offering what this month shows:

* Hewlett Packard has entered the Indian market with half a dozen digicams - the most compact, price and size wise is the PhotoSmart R607 that features 4.1 megapixels and 21x zoom for Rs 20,000. There is a slightly cheaper model -- the 735 but it is due to be phased out soon.

* Canon too has aggressively entered the lists. Its cheapest offering is the PowerShot A 400, a 3.2 megapixel with 2.2x zoom that costs Rs 13,000.

* Kodak, which has virtually ended its film-camera phase, has a wide range on offer in India. The cheapest is the EasyShare 7220 at Rs 9500. This has 2 Mega pixels and zoom. The 7300 is slightly cheaper an boasts 3 Mega pixels but does not have zoom.

* Nikon's cheapest in the CoolPix range is the 3200m, a 3.2 Mega pixel machine with 3x zoom. That costs around Rs 10,000.

* Umax, the company known for scanners, has 3.1 MPixel/ 3x zoom model, the Astrapix 570 for Rs. 7,000.

If you want cheaper models and don't care for a big name on the box, try the computer monthly magazine small ads. These are mostly Taiwan or Korea makes but are functionally quite good. A 4 mega pixel/ 4x zoom from Tech Com was on offer for Rs. 5,900.

Remember for reasonable sized prints - that is 6 by 4 inches or better, you need 2 megapixels at the very least. However, better go for 3 megapixels minimum, as any thing smaller will be obsolete by next year. Zoom is essential and the `x: factor shows how many steps you have, to get close to the scene.

Another `hidden' cost: The internal memory of most cameras is insufficient to hold too many large sized pictures. You will have to buy an additional Flash card of 64 MB or 128 MB for around Rs. 300. Happy pixel picturing!

A. VISHNU

(vishnua@hotmail.com)

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