Smile! You're on Digital Camera

When Brother Mark joined our community, he brought along a couple of identical $50 digital cameras.

Why two? Because when he bought them on QVC (Quality, Value and Convenience, an Internet and cable-TV retailer), he thought they were such a bargain — one could always be given as a gift to someone. It soon turned out that he wished to give one to our community. I soon learned why he'd gotten such a “good deal”: no flash and only manual-focus settings.

For outside shots in good light where the distance was known, the pictures came out reasonably sharp. And the camera was good for about 120 pictures on its medium-quality setting. Unfortunately, the Florida weather did in both of Brother Mark's digital cameras. My guess is that moisture got in behind the camera lens. Every picture comes out blurry.

Not long ago, a photographer for a newspaper came to shoot us (not literally) in front of our land for our future new monastery. He had what looked like an expensive digital camera. After taking the pictures, he took out his wireless laptop, plugged in the camera and e-mailed the digital images to his newspaper. Not bad for a day's work.

With our community soon to begin the construction of this new monastery, I thought having a digital camera would be a real plus. I could snap pictures as the construction progressed, download them into the computer and then upload them to the Web site. No waiting for film processing and then scanning prints into the computer. As we had a benefactor who was willing to buy us a digital camera, I went to Walmart to pick one out.

Now if you are thinking I did extensive research on digital cameras beforehand, you would be wrong. I wanted a cheap one, as I was mainly going to use it for the Web. Just to be on the safe side, I grabbed the latest copy of PC magazine, hoping to quickly look over their digital-camera recommendations. Wouldn't you know it? That issue had no reviews. Being totally ignorant on cameras, I was totally at the mercy of the salesman at Walmart.

The cameras ranged in price from $70 to more than $500. I noticed that price went right along with resolution — from 1 to 4 megapixels (MP). The salesman told me that 1 MP would be good enough for the Web, but not for making prints. I would need at least 2 MP for that, so that's what I went with.

The salesman recommended a $125 Kodak CX6200, as it was their hottest-selling camera. I went with it, figuring Kodak has been making cameras for years and other people apparently thought this particular one was a good buy. The 90-day money-back guarantee sealed the deal.

The camera itself was easy to use. The first time I turned it on, it asked for the date and time, which I set without having to refer to the user's guide. I then turned the mode dial to auto and began shooting pictures with the default settings. A review window in the back of the camera allowed me to see the pictures taken immediately after each snap for a few seconds — a real advantage for those shots that are not easily repeatable. I took one picture in low light and the flash automatically went off, producing a clear picture. I was impressed at how sharp the pictures looked with the camera just out of the box.

The user's guide was very helpful in exploring the camera's full functionality. I had difficulty installing the included “EasyShare” software, however. I kept getting one of those vague error numbers from Windows. I went on the Kodak Web site and was able to successfully download and install the software from there. When the camera was connected to the computer, it appeared as a hard drive under “My Computer.” From there I could directly save images to the computer hard drive or delete images from the camera. EasyShare allowed picture adjustment and special effects as well as an easy way to share pictures, as the name implies.

The software had a tab for ordering prints online. However, it was easier just to put the photo I snapped on a floppy disk (with more photos, one could burn a CD) and get it developed at Walmart for 27 cents — not bad, considering you can print and pay for only the pictures you want. Try doing that with a standard roll of film. And the prints looked as good as any film camera could produce with automatic processing.

Are digital cameras going to replace traditional film cameras? I think so. We finally decided to go that way. That will mean returning this digital camera for a slightly more expensive camera with more features, like zoom and macro capabilities. We hope some people still like using and buying film cameras — we have a 35mm film camera that will soon be up for sale on Ebay!

Brother John Raymond, co-founder of the Monks of Adoration,writes from Venice, Florida.