Photo Op

Digital cameras keep getting better, and now's a great time to upgrade.
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the May 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Film is so last century. When it comes to cameras and your business, digital is where it's at. As a sign of the times, Nikon, following similar moves by Canon and Kodak, is stopping production on most of its film cameras. For entrepreneurs, that means it's time to start shopping for a digital camera. Even if you're already wise to the ways of digicams, you may want to look into upgrading to a newer model. Prices are down, picture quality is way up, and the convenience is undeniable.

You'll want to find a camera that fits your business needs, so take a moment to consider what you'll use it for the most. Are you making your own product brochures? Do you need to add product photos to your website? Do you need to send pictures of finished projects to your clients? Will you be printing 4-by-6-inch snapshots or making larger digital prints? Do you need images to upload to eBay? Chances are, you have multiple uses in mind.

One big spec you'll see trumpeted is megapixels. For the greatest versatility, a camera with at

least 4 mega-pixels is a smart way to go. Most of the cameras in our chart clock in at 5 or 6 megapixels. That range will give you plenty of image quality to play with.

Extra features abound in digital cameras. Check out the $399 (all prices street) 6-megapixel Samsung SC-MS20, which includes a camcorder, an MP3 player, a voice recorder, a webcam and data storage all in one slick-looking package with a spacious, 3-inch LCD. If you can make use of those extra features, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck. Keep in mind that many digital still cameras will also capture video clips. And some digital cameras are making the inevitable step to Wi-Fi. The Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital ELPH comes equipped with 802.11b for wirelessly transferring pictures to a computer or wirelessly printing directly to certain Canon printers. At $499, you'll pay a bit of a price premium, but the sheer convenience may outweigh the extra initial cost.

On the other end of the price spectrum you'll find a 5-megapixel camera like the Concord 5040 for $130. One trade-off comes in not getting optical zoom abilities. This model is for point-and-shooters who may want an inexpensive camera to keep in the glove compartment or toss in a briefcase. The $350 6-megapixel Olympus SP-500 UZ gives you plenty of options with a threaded barrel for accessory lenses and an impressive 10x optical zoom for getting up close and personal with your subjects. Using optical zooms gives you higher-quality pictures than you can achieve with digital zooms. A 3x optical zoom is fairly standard in most 5-megapixel cameras.

If you're tired of being disappointed by blurry images brought on by camera-shake, check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20K and its advanced optical image stabilizer. For $550, you also get an impressive 12x optical zoom, and there are lots of manual controls for those who don't always like to shoot on auto. The $450 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 also features optical image stabilization technology, as well as high light sensitivity for clearer photos in lower-light situations.

If you expect to be shooting in unusual circumstances like low light, taking panoramic shots or shooting across long distances, look for a camera that fits your specific needs. Unless you have extreme resolution needs, shop on features that you'll make use of, such as zoom, wireless capabilities or image stabilization. Otherwise, most cameras in the 5-megapixel range should perform well in a variety of business situations.

Shopping List Get a shot of these digital cameras from every angle so you can capture the one that's right for you.
PowerShot SD430
Digital ELPH
(800) OK-CANON,
5 3x optical 2 inches 802.11b wireless-enabled,
print adapter included
(954) 331-4200,
5 4x digital 1.8 inches 16MB internal memory,
voice recorder
FinePix V10
(800) 800-FUJI,
5.1 3.4x optical 3 inches Compact design, Real Photo,
Technology to reduce graininess
Photosmart R817
(800) 888-0262,
5.1 5x optical 2 inches 32MB internal memory,
adaptive lighting technology
EasyShare V570
(800) 23-KODAK,
5 5x optical 2.5 inches Dual lens, ultra-wide-angle lens
and optical zoom lens
(949) 790-3800,
5 3x optical 2 inches 16MB internal memory,
webcam capabilities
Coolpix S3
(800) NIKON-US
6 3x optical 2.5 inches Voice memo function,
compact design
SP-500 UZ
(888) 553-4448,
6 10x optical 2.5 inches Threaded lens barrel,
in-camera editing
Lumix DMC-FZ20K
(800) 272-7033,
5 12x optical 2 inches Optical image stabilization,
manual focus feature
Optio E10
(800) 877-0155,
6 3x optical,
4x digital
2.4 inches 10MB internal memory,
movie mode
(800) SAMSUNG,
6 3x optical 3 inches 64MB internal memory, voice
recorder, webcam, MP3 player
Cyber-shot DSC-T9
(888) 222-SONY,
6 3x optical 2.5 inches High light sensitivity,
optical image stabilization
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