Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Opportunity in obsolescence

Photography has never been a great interest of mine, nor have I ever had much of a knack for it. About ten years ago I bought a Kodak DC280 digital camera to take pictures I could email to friends or use on websites. It was a 2.3 megapixel camera that could create 1760 x 1168 images and cost, if I remember, an eye-watering £500. It is still working but wasn't used all that much and until recently I never had the slightest interest in replacing it.

After starting this blog I realized that it would be nice to have photos to accompany some of my postings. Because the DC280 is about the size and weight of a half-brick I rarely bother to take it with me on outings. Nor can it focus down very close so it can't produce nice sharp pictures of electronic bits and pieces. So I started thinking about finding a new, compact replacement with a good macro facility. But I didn't want to spend much money on it.

The local discount store Aldi had a Traveler brand camera for about £60 which was the right sort of price. But I could not find out if it had a macro facility and it had a ridiculous number of megapixels. I think the top digital cameras now are about 12 megapixels, while even budget models like this Traveler have 7 or 8Mp.

I really don't know why compact cameras used for holiday and family snaps need such a high resolution. The pictures they take aren't going to appear in National Geographic. They take up a lot more space on the memory card or computer hard drive and need to be reduced to fit the screen. What's the point? But whenever you talk to someone about digital cameras the first thing they ask is "how many megapixels has it got?"

I started looking through eBay and found a new Pentax Optio S30 for sale. Pentax is a good brand and the S30 had good reviews. It has 3.2 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom and a super macro mode that focuses down to a few centimetres. It was made in 2004, when it cost around £200. I assume that this one sat on a dealer's shelf for years until the firm went bankrupt or someone had a clearout.

I haven't had much opportunity to try it out yet, but this picture of illuminated reindeer in the grounds of nearby Armathwaite Hall on a typical grey Cumbrian day looks good enough when reduced to a suitable size for web viewing.

I tested the macro capability by taking another picture of my K3's cracked RF gain knob. As you can see, it's a lot clearer and sharper than the one taken by my wife's Canon Ixus. So I think the Pentax is going to be able to do everything I want.

The price I paid for this quality camera that lacks only a fashionably high megapixel count? Just £25, or one twentieth of what the Kodak DC280 cost a decade ago! The seller has 4 more left!

I found I can also save on accessories. The camera didn't include a memory card, and it can only take an SD card up to 1GB. All the websites advertising cheap 1GB SD cards were out of stock of the cheap ones. I decided 512MB would be enough for me, and was able to pick up a Camlink SD Camera Kit on Amazon for just £2! Yes, £2 for a 512MB SD card, a USB card reader, a desktop tripod, a lens cleaning kit and a camera case. There are 4 more of those left, too.

How quickly technology items become worthless, able to be sold only at giveaway prices. But if you aren't bothered about having the latest spec it's clear you can get yourself some bargains.
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