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Clueless In Digicam Land (Cont'd)

Digital cameras are packed with bells and whistles– an example of electronics engineering run amok. You'll probably never use most of these features but manufacturers include them because they think consumers want them and, indeed, you pay extra for them. When's the last time you used the time-lapse function, bracketing, slow-synch flash, movies or uncompressed TIFF (and waited forever for the shot to be processed)? And does the Canon G2 really need 43 shutter speed settings? I have an award for you if you can see the difference in images shot at 1/4, 1/5, or 1/6 of a second. The world's greatest pictures were taken with cameras that had a dozen shutter speeds or less. And they weren't shot through electronic viewfinders (which some digicams like Minolta and Sony use) that make images look like wavy mirages in the desert and deplete battery power.

Camera manuals are another sore point with buyers. If you buy a $1,000 digicam, don't you think the manufacturer should supply a comprehensive printed manual and not just some skimpy instructions and a CD-ROM? What about a decent warranty? Sony, Panasonic, and JVC are still holding fast to 90 days– buying their cameras could have a high hidden costs. And then there's that small nagging point about truth in advertising. The Megapixel Wars can be ruthless– like Fuji first claiming they had a 6-million-pixel resolution camera when, in fact, it was just a 3MP digicam that doubled its pixels by interpolation.

Hopefully, some manufacturers will begin to put out the right stuff at the right price and buyers will recognize it as the right thing. The Olympus E-20 is nearly there but still needs some refinement, like a bigger buffer for more consecutive shots and higher top end shutter speeds at full resolution. The Minolta Dimage-7i has improved on the original but it still retains the less-than-desirable electronic viewfinder.

This industry needs to end its "gee-whizz" phase and go back to its photographic roots. Here's what's needed:

1. Elimination of shutter lag.

2. Faster shot-to-shot time.

3. Bigger buffers for more consecutive shots.

4. Lower battery consumption.

5. True SLR viewing without electronics.

Along with those, how about controls that are easier to adjust, written manuals, and a fair warranty. And how about putting an optical viewfinder (with a correct field of view and not just 85% of it) on all camera models so you don't have to hold them away from your eye to take a picture using the sometimes useless (in sunlight) LCD monitor.

Here's my advice to digicam manufacturers: Just pick up one of your best film cameras and do what you have always been so superb at– copy it!

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