Epson PhotoPC 500 Digital Camera

Product Review
754 words Digital cameras are rapidly becoming the preferred gift for special occasions such as birthday, Christmas, or retirement. They are also proving to be an invaluable business tool. When I acquired an Epson PC500 two years ago the retail price was around $900. Now it can be purchased for half that amount. Nowadays everybody sells them, perhaps two-dozen companies including Agfa, Sharp, Kodak, Canon, Nikon etc., etc. But I suspect, from the similarity between specifications, price, and the sales literature, that there are only a few makers producing these cameras. On the street they sell for less than seven hundred dollars and deliver photos at 1280 x 960, twice the definition of my original. From all the available cameras, at that time, I chose the Epson PC500. It fitted my idea of the KISS (Keep It Super Simple) philosophy. Beefed up with 4 mb of internal memory, it held up to 100 Fine Definition(640 x 480 pixels) as JPEG images. The camera ran on 4 AA rechargeable batteries, and downloaded easily to a computer. A 3 1/2 inch floppy disk would hold around 25 images. Each image time and date stamped. There is a, handy, optional color liquid crystal display (LCD) monitor to preview, playback and perform other timesaving functions. Users can also thread their own 37mm video camcorder accessory lenses or filters for close-up, wide-angle and special effect pictures. Now what could be simpler than that? As a travel writer, the camera has been used as a journal over the last two summer bike tours and has survived banging around in a pack on a bicycle for 9-10,000 miles, and recorded more than 2,000 pictures. It is reliable, even "bombproof." Sure little things are wearing out; a rubber grip on the back keeps falling off, and I keep forgetting to glue it, and the little door on the battery compartment looks the worse for wear. At 640 x 480 the PC500 camera won't win any photography awards, and that definition isn't high enough for newspaper and magazine reproduction, but it will take pictures that will print out sharply, in snapshot size, and on a computer screen are quite spectacular. Who among us is out to win photo awards? We want to record the things we see, family members and events, and e-mail them to eager recipients. Using the accompanying software, colors can be changed at will and the tricks are endless. Give Uncle Peter two heads or place the family car on the roof of the house. The business applications are endless. I know an oilfield service specialist who records the wear on drill-bits as they exit the ground, and an international large equipment seller and leaser in Canada who, within seconds, places detailed photos of a newly available machine, in the hands of a potential user in Germany. These image capturing devices, as the computer crowd call them, have revolutionized the real estate business. The macro setting will even record the printed page, plans and drawings without a scanner, also eliminating the out-of-date fax technology. And all this in glorious color. Ready-to-go at a moment's notice and capable of remarkable results they are the ideal family camera. No more waiting to finish a roll before having it processed, or wasting unexposed film when you can't wait. Developing film uses many toxic chemicals. These chemicals often end up flowing down the drain and into our streams and rivers. Our 900-plus photo record of last summers trip ended up on one CD saving sizeable developing costs and physical storage space. Digital photography is a work in progress. Each generation, as film did, brings new improvements and innovations. With the advent of the newer, better models, it was time for a change. This time we again chose Epson -- why? Because we're in a rut, that's why. Because when performance meets expectations, and a company stands behind its product with service that exceeds what you expect, you stay with them. That's a lesson too many companies need to learn. The Epson PC750Z reflects that. All of the perceived shortcomings of earlier models have been addressed. It zooms, it macros, and it produces images at up to 1600 x 1200. That's definition to make an editor's mouth water. And it does it all for just over seven hundred dollars. PC 750Z The old PC500? Well, it's recording life in a far-north village, and on the land, far above the Arctic Circle. It is also tracking the growth of my new grandson, just as it was meant to do.

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