Once solely a cumbersome and costly tool of the photojournalism trade, the digital camera is now available for the layperson. A host of companies have unveiled point-and-shoot digital cameras of late, and one of the best--balancing price and performance--is Olympus's D-200L ($600; 800-622-6372).
Rather than using film, a digital camera translates light coming through the lens into electronic information, which is stored on a microchip. Later, you transfer the images to your computer so that you can catalog them, manipulate them, E-mail them to friends, and of course, print them.
The D-200L has an excellent fixed-focus lens, equivalent to a moderate wide angle, and it offers all the stock features of a "simple" camera--built-in flash, red-eye reduction, self timer. But the fun begins once you snap a shot: Seconds later, you can view it on the 1.8-inch LCD monitor. The monitor doubles as a viewfinder, but unlike similarly priced models, the
D-200L also features a conventional viewfinder, important in the wash of bright light.
Getting the photos out of the camera--it stores 80 low-resolution shots or 20 at high resolution--may well send you to a community college computer primer. In theory, all the horsepower you need is a PC running Windows 3.1 (with a 486 processor) or a Macintosh running system 7.0 (with a 68040 processor). In practice, however, my two-year old PC wouldn't talk to the
D-200L, and I found that a computer running Windows 95 (with a Pentium processor) is the way to make it go. In the Mac camp, new models equipped for multimedia should suffice. It's worth noting that I didn't suffer my technical trials in isolation; Olympus's support crew proved patient and helpful. The camera comes with the necessary computer cable, as well as Adobe
The Olympus D-200L isn't yet the idiotproof toy that conventional point-and-shoots have become, but once set up, the system hums along nicely. And although I'm not quite ready to replace my quiver of film cameras, the D-200L is well worth the attention of any photographer who spends as much time at the computer as in the outdoors.