Breaking down digital photography pixel by pixel.

Author:Dum, Mary

IT IS UNUSUAL TO FIND an appraiser who doesn't use a digital camera. The old concerns about quality, reliability and ease of use have disappeared with the introduction of new cameras and better ways to transfer and display images. Just a few years ago some lenders refused to accept digital pictures; now most require them and many insist that they be e-mailed along with the appraisals reports. The tables turn quickly.


Most appraisers are in their second or third generation of digital cameras. Those who started with digital photography seven or eight years ago have upgraded to better models and may be ready for yet another upgrade. But the need for higher resolution is just about at an end for typical appraisal work. Cameras with 3+ megapixel resolution are available at modest prices and top-of-the-line models with up to 6+ megapixels are coming down in price.

How many pixels do you really need? It depends on how you intend to use the image. If you e-mail all your images, pixel count is not an issue. No matter how high the resolution of your image, the recipient receives a much lower quality image. E-mailed pictures are low resolution; there is nothing you can do about it.

Having said that, there are still good reasons to purchase a camera offering at least 3-megapixel resolution. It's simple: cameras with better construction and better lenses have high pixel counts. If you decide that resolution doesn't matter, you will also give up something in overall quality. If you have seen a cheap digital camera slip from someone's lap and fall into half a dozen pieces as I have, you will give some extra thought to quality.

What is available in the 3+ megapixel range? Too many choices, unfortunately. It is impossible to cover all of the acceptable cameras on the market today. A buyer will do well to stick with well-known brands, since every conventional camera maker now has a line of digital cameras. Here are a few examples:

* Canon PowerShot A70 with 3.2 MP, 3X optical zoom equivalent to 35mm-105 mm, CompactFlash Card Type 1, built-in flash.

* Fuji Finepix 800 with 3.34 MP, 6X optical zoom equivalent to 38mm-228mm, XD Picture Card, built-in flash.


* HP Photosmart 720 with 3.34 MP, 3X optical zoom equivalent to 34mm-102mm, SD Memory Card, built-in flash.

* Kodak Easyshare SX6340 with 3.3 MP, 4X optical zoom equivalent to 36mm-144mm, SD/MMC Memory Card, built-in flash.

* Minolta Dimage with 3.3 MP, 3X optical zoom equivalent to 37mm-111mm,...

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