Owning a Digicam
A Look at the CostsDec. 29, 1999
I got the Canon PowerShot
A50 I wanted for Christmas - and I like it a lot.
I've been shooting with SLRs almost exclusively since
10th grade, which was about 25 years ago. I've owned several
brands, finally switching to a Nikon N6006 a few years ago
when I discovered I couldn't focus as well as I used to. I
love my Nikon, especially the 28-200 zoom for general use
and my fun lens, a 19-35 super-wide zoom.
But the Nikon is fairly bulky. Toting a camera bag with
three lenses (even a 50/1.8), a flash, spare batteries, and
film is a real job. I get great pictures, but don't use it
as much as I used to.
Besides, I'm a webmaster. I want to take pictures for my
site without the expense of film, so a digital camera looked
like the way to go.
I settled on the PowerShot A50 because it has a good
reputation, has the widest lens, and has a very attractive
price (I've found it in stock for under US$400 several
places). Better yet, it's the most compact zoom lens digicam
on the market.
The A50 is compact, although I has surprised it was so
thick. It's like a slightly large Canon ELPH, the incredibly
compact and cool APS camera.
The viewfinder is easy to use, even with glasses, and
there's also a 2" LCD on the back which can be used while
taking pictures or to review what you've shot. The controls
are very comfortably arrayed and easy to learn. There's a
bit more delay in taking a picture than I'm used to, but I'm
learning how to work with that.
Probably my favorite feature is the rubber semicircular
grip on the front of the camera. Not only does it make for
great handling, but if you set the PowerShot down on its
face, it's not going to slide anywhere.
But all is not rosy in PowerShot land. Before I filled
the 8 MB CompactFlash card halfway, the low battery light
came on. I've since learned that battery consumption is one
of the banes of digital photography. (Turning off the LCD
helps, but there is a lot of electronic circuitry in these
Replacement lithium batteries generally go for $10-15
online, and the DK110 Power Supply Kit for $99 - although
I've found a few places selling it for under US$80. (I
ordered mine from The
Most sites recommend at least two rechargeable batteries,
and more if you're going to be outside for most of the day.
For our upcoming trip to Disney World, I'm contemplating
buying two $40 batteries to supplement the one that comes
with the DK110 kit.
Adding Up the Cost
Buying the camera is only the first expense of owning a
digicam. At just over $380 shipped, I've got the heart of
the system, but that's only the start.
First, you really do need rechargeable batteries. I
recommend no less than two, so you can always have a
replacement ready to use. In this case, that's another
I want to shoot a lot of pictures, so a higher capacity
CompactFlash card is a must. I managed to locate a 32 MB
card for US$80 - and from the same firm that sells the
DK110 kit for just under $80.
I could use the slow serial connection on my SuperMac
S900, but will eventually
invest in a USB adapter - a whole lot faster, I won't have
to turn off the computer, and another US$80 or so
investment. (I'll probably go with the Microtech
USB CameraMate, which supports both CompactFlash and
In the final analysis, I'll end up spending $280-320,
depending on whether I buy one or two extra batteries. Add
this to the cost of the PowerShot A50 itself, and it
suddenly becomes a $700 investment.
Is It Worth It?
My wife keeps asking, is it worth it? If I'd looked at
the total cost from the start, I might have said no. On the
other hand, I can defer the cost of the USB CameraMate for a
while if I'm willing to take my camera to work and download
the images there.
But we have to look at the big picture. Maybe I'll shoot
the equivalent of 10 24-exposure rolls this year. The film
itself will cost maybe $2.50-3.00 per roll (I really like
Kodak Max), then another $8-10 for developing. That's $120
per year I don't have to spend now - unless I want to use
conventional film. So the first year pays for the DK110 kit
and extra battery. And no need to drop off the film for
developing, then pick it up later.
Beyond that, I have plans to do a lot of photography that
would be inconvenient with a conventional camera. I have
several web sites, including one that profiles the growth
patterns of well over 100 area churches. I'd like a photo of
each, including older buildings for those that have
relocated. That's part of the reason I have a 19-35 zoom on
But I can shoot those on my PowerShot A50, which has the
equal of a 28mm lens. And when that's not wide enough, I can
stitch four shots together in a 2x2 grid to create the rough
equivalent of a 14mm lens - something I would never dream
of buying. And I can also create panoramas in software,
showing the surroundings.
All this will be far easier than using my Nikon, having
the negs digitized, and all the time and cost involved with
that. In fact, I figure that project alone would cost about
$800 in film and scanning, easily covering the entire cost
of the PowerShot A50.
I would also like to do some of my own product
photography for the Low End Mac site. I've got a nice
collection of older Macs, some of which I don't have
pictures of on my site. The digicam will make that easy.
In short, because I'll be doing a lot more than family
snapshots and vacation pictures, it's easy to justify the
cost of the camera and accessories.
And then there's the photo quality printer....
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