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Say Cheese!

With so many features and styles to choose from, these nifty digital cameras will put a smile on anybody's face.

Whether you're selling handmade pottery or repairing drywall, it's a visual world. From brochures to buildings, your clients want to see what you have to offer. A digital camera can help you enhance your website, put together a publication that looks professional, and capture images of finished projects.

Quality is up and prices are down, making this a good time to invest in your first digital camera or upgrade your old one. Cameras in the 4- to 6-megapixel range offer good value, flexibility and image quality. For general use, any of the cameras in our chart will do. If you have specific needs, look to specific models. For example, the 4-megapixel, $400 (all prices street) Nikon Coolpix 4800 lets you take shots a half-inch away from the subject--a boon if you need to snap small objects or take extreme close-ups.

At the other extreme is the $499 Kodak EasyShare DX7590, a 5-megapixel camera with a 10x optical zoom lens. That's the most powerful optical zoom in our chart--a consideration if you'll be taking pictures at a distance. These cameras have optical and digital zooms, with optical zoom offering higher-quality pictures. The Kodak's style will appeal to users who like traditional SLR cameras. Compare that to the Hewlett-Packard PhotoSmart 945, which is about $400 and has the same body style. The HP is notable for its adaptive lighting technology, which makes it easier to capture detail in shadowy situations.

With so many features to navigate, ease of use is an issue. We tried the 5-megapixel, $400 Canon PowerShot S60. All the basic functions are straightforward, and the menus are easy to navigate. The LCD is bright, and picture quality is sharp, whether displayed on a computer or printed with the $250 Canon CP-330. The CP-330 is a no-frills, compact photo printer that will print right from your camera. Check it out if you need to print quality photos on the go for yourself or to hand out to clients and customers. Both devices get high marks for user-friendliness.

The $360 Epson L-500V is a tiny camera with a big 2.5-inch LCD display. The navigational toggle switch is a nice touch and makes it easy to get around the well-laid-out menus. The large display lets you easily evaluate the images, which are clean with good color balance. First-time digital camera users will feel comfortable with this model.

The 5-megapixel, $600 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M1 is pricier, but it comes with an innovative design and some unusual video-capture features. Just about every digital camera in this range will capture short movies, but the Sony also uses the fairly high-quality MPEG-4 format. It features a mode that captures a few seconds of video before and after a still photograph to put it in context. If you can imagine a business purpose for that, you may be able to justify the extra cash outlay.

The 6-megapixel Concord 6340z is at the other end of the price spectrum, with a price tag under $230. Budget-conscious entrepreneurs who place a premium on megapixels may want to check into this one. Otherwise, expect to land in the $500 range for models like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX7, with its high-quality Leica lens. Whatever your budget or needs, there's a digital camera that will fit the bill.


Shopping List
No matter your budget, there's a digital camera out there that's bound to zoom in on your business's needs.
MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACTMEGA-
PIXELS
ZOOMFEATURESSTREET PRICE
Canon
PowerShot S60
www.canonusa.com
(800) OK-CANON
53.6x optical, 4.1x digitalCompactFlash, PictBridge technology$400
Concord Camera
6340z
www.concord-camera.com
(954) 331-4200
63x optical, 4x digitalSD card, 16MB internal memory$229
Epson L-500Vwww.epson.com
(800) 463-7766
53x optical, 4x digitalSD card$360
Hewlett-Packard
PhotoSmart 945
www.hp.com
(800) 888-0262
58x optical, 7x digitalSD card, adaptive lighting technology$400
Kodak
EasyShare DX7590
www.kodak.com
(800) 23-KODAK
510x optical, 3x digitalSD card, records movies, SLR-style body$500
Nikon
Coolpix 4800
www.nikonusa.com
(800) NIKON-US
48.3x optical, 4x digitalSD card, records movies$400
Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FX7
www.panasonic.com
(866) 888-2929
53x optical, 4x digitalSD card, records movies, Leica lens$499
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-M1www.sonystyle.com
(888) 222-SONY
53x optical, 2x digitalMemory Stick, advanced video features$600

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This article was originally published in the March 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Say Cheese!.

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