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Olympus Brings Price Down on Digital Photography


"Talk about your point and shoot don't even have to put film in these puppies!"Not another computer doo-dad I need to learn! Is that your reaction to even hearing about digital cameras? If so, you're certainly not alone.

Many people feel a bit overwhelmed as computer technology takes over our lives. They try to maintain a modicum of familiarity with the various instruments they use -- be it in their newfangled wireless telephones or the growing complexity of their TV remotes. A telephone should look like a telephone, and a person should be able to guess the power button from the 50 choices on the remote.

Consumers must intuitively know how the product works while its look and feel must satisfy historic product expectations -- lest it scare off the overwhelmed majority. Digital product makers must learn from history not ignore it, or they'll be condemned to relive lengthy learning curves.

You don't have to be a techno-whiz to have fun with Olympus digital photography. Olympus studied the 'rocket science', so consumers can launch hobbies with the same familiar point and shoot technique they always have. In fact, with Olympus' two new digital cameras -- the D-200L and the D-300L, digital imaging is as easy (and as fun) as using the best of Olympus' film-based point-and-shoot offerings. They are digital cameras, not computers, in a camera bag.

Many digital cameras released to date appear threatening to consumers, and have frustrated those who attempt to use them, but Olympus feels this is a sad and unnecessary scenario. Digital technology and advanced software should make things easier, not harder; it takes some creativity and experience to provide users with the experience of being creative.

User friendliness is the basis on which the exploding personal computer market was established with visionary products such as the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows 95 -- you just point at what you want with your mouse and click. The computer does the rest. Why should taking a picture be any less simple than pointing the camera at the subject and clicking the shutter release? Photographers have done that for years.

Designed correctly, digital cameras should offer consumers more simplicity, ease of use, creative control and let them focus on the subject and not the hardware. For example, with new digital cameras there's not even any film to load or wind.

Nonetheless, they speak fluent computer. For example, mastering the art of hooking the new Olympus digital cameras to a computer (one cable, supplied) and manipulating the images (through a graphical representation of the camera's controls), then sending them to other users and enjoying them in countless ways is extremely intuitive. The cameras include customer user interfaces to Adobe PhotoDeluxe software (included) or Adobe Photoshop.

You can thus let go of both the camera and your imagination and enter new levels of creativity. You become the developer without getting your hands wet or turning off the lights. You become the touch-up artist, cutting and pasting your work into Word documents, sending them across the internet and printing them out on a color printer. This is called digital imaging.

Digital photography is the art of filmless photography, letting the computer store crisp images as a string of zeros and ones. Such images can be cloned repeatedly without any quality-loss. It may seem new, but professional photographers, those in the art, fashion and advertising industry, have been using it for years. The main difference is that they have been paying upwards of $15,000 for each of their professional cameras. Olympus' new cameras are available to consumers at $599 and $899 suggested retail price.

Olympus digital cameras use a CCD chip, rather than film, to record your image. You still have a viewfinder, but with these Olympus cameras, you also have an LCD viewfinder ('on demand' to really save batteries). This is similar to looking through a video camera monitor.

You'll see the area being scanned by the camera through a 1.8-inch screen on the back of the camera. This is a particularly fun feature, which allows you to see exactly what your photo is going to look like. LCD stands for "liquid crystal display," but all you need to know is it's a color TV screen!

Because these cameras have built-in LCD, you can always go back and review what you've shot. Then, you can select the photos you want to keep, and delete those you don't want. This enables you to free up additional space for taking more photos. If you don't like the shot, erase it and try again.

Another terrific difference between these cameras, and traditional film is that you don't have to keep changing rolls of film. Each D-200L can take and store up to 20 pictures, if set on high quality storage, or 80 photos on normal quality. Each D-300L can store up to 30 photographs on high-quality storage and 120 on normal quality. You can plug the camera into your computer and copy the photos to your hard drive, quickly delete the shots from the camera and begin all over again.

Another friendly feature for the non-computer literate, (or those who are buying the Olympics Digital cameras as a gift), you don't have to know whether the user works on a Macintosh or a Windows computer. Each camera comes with the appropriate software and other essentials to work with either. One size fits all.

And, because they come from Olympus, a leading name in cameras for over 78 years, you'll feel right at home with either digital camera. Users report a "comfortable" feeling when picking them up and finding buttons and symbols are instantly recognizable from their experience with film-based cameras. They are light and feel and work like a camera, with auto-flash, red-eye reduction and auto "white" balance. The D-300L also offers an auto focus feature.

Digital imaging has never been easier. Nor has it ever been more affordable. If you love photography - and most people do - or if you know someone who loves their computer and all it can do, consider Olympus' digital camera line. It may start you on a hobby that you'll be hooked on for life!


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