July 1, 2000
By Scott Lewis
I have always wanted a photo capable printer since
color ink-jet printers first started appearing on the market. I have had
access to a scanner of one type or another for about 4 years now. But I
have not been impressed with the quality of printers for reproducing
photographs in the home market.
That is, until I saw the results from Hewlett
Packard’s latest photo “smart” printers. But the decision to buy was
cinched when we saw that these printers accepted SmartMedia & Compact
Flash cards that let you print pictures from a digital camera without a
Kodak DC280 Zoom
I played with a friend’s digital camera a couple of
years ago. I took pictures of my Ford Explorer with it for this web site.
The quality of those pictures was acceptable for web pages and e-mail, but
not much more. That was then, this is now. Two years makes a huge
difference. Current digital photography is becoming viable to replace
traditional film photography.
When my HP OfficeJet 710 died, I started looking for
a replacement inkjet printer. When I saw printers that worked directly
with digital cameras I decided that a digital camera would be better than
getting a scanner; which I used 95% of the time to scan snap shots.
The Kodak seemed to have almost everything I wanted.
In fact, when checking prices and specs the only thing I wish the DC280
had was more optical zoom. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The DC280 is a very simple to use point and shoot
style camera. The basic equipment list includes:
32MB Compact Flash Card
2X Optical & 3X Digital zoom (for total 6X zoom)
USB & Serial Cables
4 AA Alkaline batteries
4 AA Ni-MH batteries and charger
RCA Video out cable
When we opened the package and saw the alkaline
batteries we thought this was a really nice touch. Since the Ni-MH
batteries needed time to charge, the alkalines allowed us to start using
the camera immediately without searching around for batteries. Nice touch,
Another nice touch was the memory. The camera was
supposed to come with a 20MB CF card. Inside the box was a note from Kodak
apologizing for a shortage of the 20MB CF cards and telling us they
supplied a 32MB card for our trouble. Now that
is my kind of apology. Again, nice touch, Kodak!
Although I am the type that doesn’t bother reading
the manual, I highly suggest you do. This camera is so simple to use, but
it might elude you how to do some things without reading the manual. For
example, the digital zoom. It only works when you turn on the LCD display
while shooting. This is just a one button operation, but you won’t know
how easy it is unless you read the manual.
The DC280 takes two resolutions of pictures
(1760x1168 and 896x592). The high resolution is supposed to be enough for
8x10 prints. The low resolution works great for 4x6 printing, and they
look extremely close to real photographs. I have printed a couple of 8x10s
from the low resolution images. Results were good, but could be a little
better. If you know you want 8x10s then set the camera for high
resolution. However, if you take a lot of low resolution snapshots, you
should be able to get a decent 8x10.
The camera has three levels of quality for pictures.
The quality determines the amount of compression used to store the
pictures in memory, and does not effect taking pictures. The higher the
quality, the fewer pictures the camera will store in the memory card. But
with higher compression comes a slight loss in the quality of the image as
it is stored.
With the included 32MB CF Card the DC280 will hold
approximately 50 high resolution, high quality pictures. It will right
around 385 low resolution, “good” quality pictures. Picture quality is
called Best, Better, and Good. Dare they say low quality? I tend to leave
the camera on low resolution/high quality for approximately 140 pictures,
more than enough for my. However, if I went on an extended vacation
without a computer I would likely by another memory card.
Operating the camera is so easy. However, it is not
without its flaws. I mentioned above I would prefer more optical zoom,
maybe in my next digital camera. That is not truly a flaw, but something I
really would like. Ironically the DC240, almost exactly the same except
it’s a cheaper 1.3 megapixel camera, has a 3X optical zoom. Go figure.
By the way, the DC280 is a 2 megapixel camera.
The biggest flaw with the DC280 is the menu on the
camera’s LCD display. It could use a lot of improvement. Basic use is
easy enough. Just scroll though menu items and select the item you want.
It is the order in which they are laid out that bothers me. The menu
always starts at the top. I think it should start with the item you last
adjusted. Also, there seems to be little thought in the order the items
are listed. I would assume resolution and picture quality should be at the
top of the list, since they would be adjusted most often. Instead they are
a few items down the list. This would not matter if the menu would
remember you are changing between resolutions and left that item
This means you can expect to spend a fair amount of
time scrolling through the menu if you like to adjust your pictures
frequently, as I do.
The next flaw lies with action photos. The camera is
slow to recycle. It can take three to four pictures in reasonable
succession, but it cannot take them in a rapid fire situation. Also, once
it is trying to process 3 or more pictures, it seems to wait until it is
finished before letting you continue. Some cameras, including Kodak’s
more expensive DC290, have burst modes. This takes a batch of pictures all
at once. This would be a great feature. Currently I can survive without
that feature. Once again, in my next camera.
Lastly, the camera takes too long to zoom in and out
digitally. While at Sea World I needed near full zoom to get close
pictures of Shamu while on the other side of the stadium, but needed
almost no zoom when he came around to the side of the stadium I was on. I
was not able to change the zoom fast enough and have ended up with some
great pictures of Shamu’s belly.
The RCA video out is used to display images on a TV.
This is great when I visit my in-laws and want to show them the latest
pictures of their grandchildren. Having the USB connection makes transfers
to a PC a snap. Even the highest resolution pictures only take a few
seconds each to transfer from the camera. (Note: I find it a fair amount
faster to transfer pictures to my computer through the camera’s UBS
connection than using the memory slot in the printer reviewed below.)
The software bundle includes Adobe PhotoDeluxe
Business Edition (both PC & Mac versions of the software are bundled
with the camera). I don’t care for it and don’t recommend installing
it. I have successfully used Pant Shop Pro to maintain my digital library
and find it more than good enough.
Overall, I love this camera. It is easy to use. The
rechargeable batteries last a long time (longer than regular alkaline
batteries). It takes great pictures. If it were faster and had more lens
options I would never need another camera.
Hewlett Packard P1000 Photosmart
Digital cameras will never be able to threaten film
photography unless you can get good quality prints. The inkjet market has
been touting photo realistic capabilities for years. But they have never
been close enough to matching film pictures. Until now.
HP’s Photosmart printer series is the first real
threat to film the company has delivered. With a resolution of 2400x1200
on special photo paper, the P1000 prints 4x6 snapshots that look extremely
close to real photos.
Special to HP’s Photosmart series is the ability to
insert SmartMedia and Compact Flash memory cards directly into slots in
the printer. This allows you to print photos without using a PC. Also,
using the USB connection the printer can act as a memory card reader. If
you already have a digital camera that uses either memory, but has a
serial connection, this is a great plus. It saves you the expense of
buying a separate memory card reader. The USB connection means transfers
to the computer through the printer are plenty fast (though, as noted
above, not as fast as USB transfers using the camera itself).
The P1000 is also a traditional inkjet printer that
is rated at 600dpi and 11ppm. That speed is a bit of a stretch. It is only
for draft quality, and better print modes are around 5ppm or less. Always
pay attention to the fine print when comparing specs.
If you do a lot of two sided printing you might want
to consider the P1100 printer. It does duplex printing automatically (by
flipping the paper over internally). As an added bonus the P1100 has some
level of networking built in. I do not have any experience with this so it
is up to you to decide if that feature is something to shop for.
The Photosmart printer can print an index sheet of
thumbnails as well as print 4x6 and 8x10 pictures. It has a separate tray
to hold 4x6 paper. This is extremely convenient with the amount I have
been using the printer.
I have printed a number of 8x10’s (actually the
paper is 8-1/2 X 11, but you get the idea). Sometimes the results look too
good. I have noticed that people sometimes look like they were layered on
the paper. Almost like they were cut and pasted from another picture.
However, I am 99% sure this is due to the images I was printing from the
camera. The camera has a soft setting that is supposed to soften the edges
in pictures. I am sure this will change things.
HP provides a printing software package. It can be
used to print standard size prints on *-1/2x11 photo paper. What this
software does is print 2 5x7 prints on one page, or multiple 4x6 and
wallets pictures on one page. The number of combinations are extreme. And
they don’t have to be of the same picture. You can print a slew of
different pictures in many combinations of sizes to maximize your
investment in photo paper. However, the software has one great flaw, no
white space. All pictures are printed but up against each other. This may
help get the most out of your paper, but unless you are an expert with
scissors you will mostly not be able to get perfect cutouts. In the future
I am going to play around with added a few pixels of white border to my
images, and use the HP software to print. I think that will make a great
system. Until that time I am successfully printing with Paint Shop Pro.
My experience with the P1000 has been excellent. Its
black text is very sharp and is good enough to replace my LaserJet during
the time we will be building our house. We are moving into an apartment. I
need to save space wherever I can, so I lent my LaserJet printer to my
in-laws until our house is finished.
Overall I am extremely impressed with my digital
camera and photo printer choice. Having the ability to take high quality
pictures without the expense of developing (this is only economical if you
pick and choose the pictures you print) will hopefully rekindle my love of
photography. It was the expense that dosed the flame in the past.
If all goes well, I will make sure my next digital
camera has aperture and time exposure settings that can be manually set.
Ultimately, I would like remote control of the shutter and the ability to
connect the camera to a telescope for sky and astronomy photography.