• 05-03-2004, 10:09 AM
    General Use and Archival Work?
    Hi. I am considering purchasing my first digital camera in preparaton for a summer research trip. I would want a camera that takes sufficiently good images that I could photograph sixteenth-century documents and read them later (i.e. difficult handwriting-not typed documents :) ). Another student has a Kodak EasyShare 3 MP camera that she says has worked fine, but the reviews tend to be mixed on the Kodak cameras.

    I visited a local camera shop and the salesman nearly convinced me that what I need is the Pentax Optio S40, but it's significantly more expensive than what I was hoping to pay, especially since its internal memory is only 11MB. (Grad student...limited budget...) There aren't many online reviews for the S40, since it's brand-new. Generally, reviews of the S40's predecessors are positive. It has a setting for photographing text, but I'm not sure that's not just a gimmick.

    Does anyone have any recommendations for lower cost alternatives or commentary on the value of the S40? (Have looked online at Olympus D540, Fugi Fine Pix A330, Toshiba PDR430--these all run about $200 online.) Or pointers as to things I should look for that I might not be thinking of?

    Thanks! I appreciate any feedback.
  • 05-04-2004, 08:57 AM
    Almost Any 3 Megapixel Camera
    Almost any 3 megapixel camera will take fine pictures of documents. The main requirement for what you want is sufficient resolution so that you can read the text, later. More resolution is always nice, although it also means you'll need more memory. Internal memory doesn't matter at all because it's never enough to actually make a difference. No matter what, you'll need to buy extra memory cards. I'd buy a couple 125 meg or 1 256 meg card. It depends on how many photos you think you'll be taking during your trip.

    The Pentax cameras get great reviews. I think the Optio S40 would be great. But if you're looking to spend less, go ahead. I think the Kodaks cameras would be fine. Photographing text isn't very hard. Color, speed, etc, aren't that important if you only want to be able to read the text later. What you're paying for in a good digital camera is image quality, speed, exposure options, and resolution. Think about what's really important to you and buy accordingly.
  • 05-05-2004, 08:00 PM
    Thanks for your reply. I hope you might have a bit more guidance for this neophyte...

    So, since my last post, I found that Ritz Camera has the Minolta Dimage S414 on sale for $200. Since this is $100 less than the Pentax, I'm tempted, but I'm not sure it won't be intimidating. Is it sufficiently straightforward for a beginner? I'm fairly technologically saavy; I can program a VCR if that's the classic test, but... (Should the compact flash memory vs. SD be a consideration?)

    A second question: for the very reason of ease of use, the Kodak cameras do seem pretty great, but am I right in thinking that the dock won't work on the European power grid, anyway, so it's a non-factor?

    Last but not least: I will be leaving in three weeks, and given the current exchange rate, I'd like to have the accessories that I need before I get to the Euro-zone...In addition to a camera I need memory and batteries. Anything else? If I have an outlet transformer for Europe, can I safely use that with a battery charger, or should I just plan on needing to buy two chargers, one for 110 and one for 220 V? This might be outside of your area of expertise, but hey, it was worth asking...

    Oh...is it to your advantage to click through this site to purchase products? I'll make sure to do that if it is.

  • 05-06-2004, 09:20 AM
    Good Deal
    The Minolta (now Konica Minolta) sounds like a great deal. It has a very high rating in the reviews on this site and it has all the features you could ask for. I'd prefer Compact Flash memory over other types as more cameras, including digital SLRs, use it. I believe it's also cheaper per megabyte than other memory cards.

    As for the Kodak cameras, I like them. I think they've been very innovative in the past couple of years and their high-end cameras are very nice, with great features and very nice image quality. I'm not sure about the camera docks for Europe. They're USB connected and they may get their power from their USB cable. If that's the case, then you only have to worry about power for your computer, if you're taking a laptop. That would be ideal. If you aren't taking a laptop with you, then power will definitely be a problem.

    I haven't travelled in Europe so I don't have any experience with battery chargers, power adapters, etc. But it's not like there aren't tons of people with cameras and other electronics travelling. I'm sure it's no big deal to buy a charger. The Konica Minolta would be good because it uses AA batteries. That means you can buy a couple sets of Ni-MH batteries and I bet you can find a charger that works for 110 and 220.

    Last, but definitely not least, please use the dealer links in the reviews. That's one of the main things that pays for this site. When you use the Hot Deals, the "Buy It Now" links in the reviews, or any of the commercial links in the forums, or even the new gallery, this site gets paid. And thanks very much for asking. I love being able to help photographers with this site, but we can't do it for free. We need your support.

    Let me know if you have more questions. I'm at your service!
  • 05-07-2004, 02:52 AM
    I have a Kodak DX4330 which is an easy dock model. It's great for snapshots and the like.
    The dock has a seperate power supply.
    It takes non rechargable Lithium battery packs or rechargable AAs but it won't recharge the rechargables from the dock (it will only recharge the Kodak NiMHi battery pack)
    There is a work around for this (you glue the microswitch inside the battery compartment down).

    However the dock and power supply are more cumbersome than a seperate charger that will also take 4 batteries (giving you two spare) which you can also plug in to a cars cigarette socket. This would be worth thinhing about for travel.
    Also, a couple of the Lithium packs would probably see you through, they last for ages (my first one lasted almost a year, with not inconsiderable use (about 1500 shots) they cost about 5 UK and you do away with the whole recharging problem. (they give very little warning of impending failure though so always have a spare handy)
  • 05-07-2004, 08:03 PM
    Thanks! Hope I've made the right (or at least a good) decision!
    Thanks for the input here.

    I ended up deciding against the Dimage S414. I went and looked at one and was not thrilled with the LCD in comparison with the Pentax. That combined with the extra weight of the bigger camera and the extra batteries I would seemingly have to lug around with it (everyone agrees it eats them like candy!) were points against it. Plus, I read so many online complaints about Minolta cameras not focusing in low light (I also looked at the Dimage G400). Since archives aren't exactly bright places, I figured this was asking for trouble. Basically, I think I was looking for an excuse to buy the Pentax, but I think the small size will allow me to carry it in an interior pocket of my laptop bag, where it will be farther from potential bumps and bruises. So I took the plunge today and ordered the S40 ($250 from Butterfly Photo).

    Just in case it might prove useful to someone here in the future--about the travelling in Europe thing...many (most?) cameras which come with their own chargers (Pentax S4i, Canon S400, for example) can be used with a simple plug adapter like you use on a laptop. I decided to go with the Pentax S40 instead of the S4i, which has a cradle to recharge the battery, because the S40 takes AAs, which I can always just buy if I'm on a trip and unable to recharge.

    I found a battery charger at Tiger Direct that is 110/220 compatible. The MAHA chargers also are available with 220 adapters, but I decided to risk the performance of a cheaper charger, at least for now. I bought my SD card from Tiger, anyway...

    Well, now I have to wait for it to all get here. I'll have to let you know how it works out! Thanks again for your advice. (Even that of it which I didn't follow!)