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The Three (DigiCam) Musketeers

And Now For The Swordplay...

I've gone into a lot of detail that buyers new to digital cameras don't normally think about but which can make or break your love affair with the medium. Bear in mind, though, that specifications do change and the camera you buy may not perform exactly like the one I tested. In the RESOURCES section, you'll also find a list of web sites where you can find additional information and download sample images from all three cameras.

Incidentally, the photographs displayed in this column are squeezed to death (1:60 compression or more) so they can download reasonably fast. You may notice some artifacts... pixelization in whiskers or image unsmoothness in large areas of the same color...that result from this torture. The Epson ink-jet print-outs do not exhibit any of these.


Cameras are listed in the tables order of their appearance on the market: Olympus, Nikon, and Kodak in that order. Check additional specification at the manufacturers' web sites (see our RESOURCES section) for standard features common to all, such as self-timers, built-in flash, and so on.

Olympus Nikon Kodak
Equivalent Film ISO 100 64-128 100
Lens Focal Length In "mm" And (35mm equivalent) 5.8 —17.4; (36—110) macro zoom 9.2—28; (38—115) macro zoom 9.2—28; (38—115) macro zoom
Apertures At Wide, f-2.8 or f-5.6; At Tele, f-3.9 or f-7.8 At Wide, f-2.4 to f-6.6; At Tele, f-3.6 to f-6.6 At Wide, f-3.0 to f-14; At Tele, f-4.7 to f-22
Lens, Mechanical No external moving parts, lens cap holder on camera strap No external moving parts, needs lens cap (or sunshade) to prevent finger marks on lens Lens retracts into camera body and moves in and out in zoom mode, tethered lens cap
Accessory Lenses Has 43mm threads and can take most accessory WA lenses but slight vignetting at  corners occurs with some Takes only Nikon WA and Fisheye lenses due to small lens diameter of 28mm No provision for accessory lenses (mount not threaded) but they can be jury-rigged
Shutter Speeds 1/4 to 1/10,000 1/4 to 1/750 1/4 sec to 1/400
Manual Exposure Compensation + 3 EV in 1 stop intervals + 2 EV in 1 stop intervals + 2 EV in 1/2 stop intervals
Burst Mode Rate And Resolution None 2 fps for 10 consecutive frames at 640 x 480 resolution Up to 3 fps at 1536 x 1024 or 1152 x 768; 12 at 768 x 512
Optical Viewfinder Correction For Eyesight Yes, click stops Yes, continuous No
Uses Removable Memory Cards Yes; SmartMedia 3.3V (cards come in 4-8MB sizes) Yes; Compact Flash (cards come in 4-64MB sizes) Yes: Compact Flash (cards come in 4-64MB sizes)
Video Output To TV No Yes Yes
Documentation Hard copy supplied On CD ROM, can be printed out by user Hard copy supplied
Computer Compatibility Compatible with older 386 PC's and 68030 Macs as well as latest computers Mac (68040 or Power Mac w/ Sys 7.5.1 or later— must have Finder Scripting Extension present); PC (486 Pentium w/WIN 95) PC (486/66 or Pentium w/ WIN 95 or NT 4.0); Mac requires SCSI PC Card Reader
Transferring Images To Computer Through Photoshop plug-in and/or supplied standalone software via cable to serial port Through stand-alone software via cable to serial port or straight copying of .JPG images to computer (camera can act as an external "drive" which a MAC or WIN computer will mount Via cable to serial port (WIN only) or USB (Universal Serial Bus), or wireless via IrDA (infrared). Transfer to MAC requires SCSI PC Card reader (about $250 extra)
Special Features Can print contact sheets or individual pictures up to 4" by 6" directly to the Olympus P-300 Dye-Sub printer.In-camera slideshows.
Slow-synch flash; shutter fires at 1/4 second to retain background detail in dark scenes.

Contrast and brightness adjustment...Ansel Adams would have loved this instant digital  Zone System.

In-camera and on-TV slideshows.

Exposure lock mode for panoramic shooting.

Other features.

External strobe synch (built-in flash doesn't fire) with f-3 through f-22 manually set stops.

Long exposures; 1/2 sec to 4 sec in half-second intervals.

Time Lapse photography.

Sound Annotation.

In-camera and on-TV slideshows.

Additional scripts downloadable to camera.

Other features.




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