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Digital cameras are everywhere these days, aren't they? Expensive ones, cheap ones, big lensed ones, ones with 6.6 megapixel resolution, some with TFT screens that are bigger than my first flat....where do you start?
I really haven't ever needed a digital camera; I've always made do with disposable Kodaks and been happy enough with the (relatively expensive, after developing) results. However, last weekend I found myself at a polo match (not my usual cup of Pimms, it was a competition prize) and at the ceremony at the end I found myself feet away from Prince Harry and had no camera to hand. Bum! My wife had her Olympus D-390 and was snapping away, wouldn't let me have a go, and so a few days ago I resolved to buy a cheap, small, good enough for the job digital camera for myself.
Being quite mean - they'll probably find me dead at the back of a pay-as-you-leave bus one day - price was an important parameter. The cheapest brand new digital camera in Argos or Comet is/was around the £50 mark, and a 2.1 megapixel spec....having used my wife's small silver curved pleasuregiver (the Olympus....whaddaya think I meant?), I know that 2.1 megapixels is okay but a little limiting at times.
So I hit the well-trodden virtual streets of EBay. For around £60, you can get a 6.6 megapixel non-optical zoom beastie imported from Germany. Oy vey, too expensive. Any second-hand, previously-cherished 3.1 megapixel cameras around? Not many, actually.....but in the end, I bid on and won an Aiptek PocketCam, boxed and used twice, for £26 including delivery.
Next day, it was in my hands, service faster than a bat up a nightdress. And I'm very impressed; here are the techie speccies...
1600 x 1200 CMOS sensor 1.5" TFT LCD Display In-built flash with red eye reduction Compact Flash memory slot TV out Auto Exposure and Auto White balance Digital Zoom Easy to use colour menu
Sensor Type: (1600 x 1200) CMOS sensor LCD Display: 1.5" TFT LCD Flash strobe: anti-red eyes / auto /off External Slot: CF slot , 16MB card included Digital Zoom: 4x Still Image Resolution: Max 2048 x 1536, Normal 1600 x 1200 AVI Movie Format: 320 x 240, 10 fps Memory: 16MB SDRAM Image control: Auto Exposure & Auto White - Balance Self Timer: 10-seconds Power Saving: Auto power off if idle over 60 seconds Battery: 2 x AA Alkaline , included Dimension: 2.3" x 3.86" x 1.9"( 59 x 98 x 47 mm) Software Support: Microsoft Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP
But here's what you REALLY get;
A smart looking, silver and blue (very Sony) camera than fits neatly in your hand...it's a little fat, like a gutsy robin, but feels good.
A very simple to use switch/button interface - click the knob on the top to the function you want ( WebCam/OFF/Camera/Playback/Video) , and use the zoom and menu buttons to choose the menu item you need.
A really good webcam that's easy to use with the comprehensive and simplistic ULead software enclosed.
A video camera that will record for as long as you've got space on your CF card.
Lots of accessories; a tripod (more useful than you realise), a 16MB CF card, video editing software, a USB cable, a TV out cable for reviewing the pictures on your TV, and a carrying case.
Three resolutions to get plenty of pics on your CF card; the best resolution saves pics sized 700k each, so you can get about 25 of them on the supplied card.
The resolution is no doubt extrapolated, so its better than a 2.1 megapixel shot (certainly better than my wife's Olympus) and just under the quality of a professional 3.1 megapixel CCD sensor.
A very good x4 digital zoom - you really don't lose too much quality and it makes a big difference.
Plenty of battery life; I've used it for hours and it still has juice in them thar Duracells. Like most TFT equipped cameras, there's a button that lets you turn off the screen and use the optical viewfinder instead.
I've only got one small niggle with it; the small rubber inserts that protect the TV out sockets, USB hole and power in socket do stick out and may fall off with use - be gentle with them.
The overall quality of the camera is good, but not great; the body and TFT screen may scratch easily if you don't use the carrying case.
My final surmision is that this camera (£20 odd !!) is perfect as a starter camera, use it for a year or so before you spend some slightly more serious dosh and get a camera with an optical zoom lens.
Thanks for looking - and happy bidding on EBay for an Aiptek!