As a bit of a hobby photographer, and many years joy using my SLR cameras, I decided to take the plunge and join the digital revolution. I'm not quite ready to give up my good old-fashioned film cameras just yet, and so I didn't want to shell out bucket-loads of cash on a full-on digital SLR camera, but by the same token, I didn't want some el-cheapo thing that would produce poor quality results, and stop working after a few months. I did a little research, firsly into the vast array of terms, that even as a seasoned camera person I didn't necessarily understand - optical/digital zooms, megapixels, memory and so on. Anyway, the number of pixels basically relates to how good an image the camera can record. The higher the number, the higher the price of the camera, but the better the quality of image. There are plenty of el-cheapo £100 and less cameras which offer around 1 megapixels - this is comparable with the image quality of a disposable camera. The majority of the market is in the 2-4 megapixel range, with at the lower end, the 2 megapixel cameras being equivalent to APS film photo quality, and the 4 megapixel somewhat closer to 35mm film. Again, there is a wide variance in price - some 3/4 megapixel cameras go for around £100, whilst other 2 megapixel ones go for nearer £200-300, despite theoretically having a lower image quality capability. This is because there is so much more than the number of pixels which dictates the quality of the image - there is the actual imaging circuitry of each camera, the quality of the optics etc. This brings us onto the optics - different brands of lenses offer widely differing quality of image - this is something I am well familiar with from my knowledge of SLR photography. This is why there is such a variation in price - cheaper cameras use cheaper lenses. The zoom is an interesting point. If you're looking for a digi camera, then look
at the zoom value, but be sure it referrs to optical zoom, not digital zoom. An optical zoom means that the actual optical lens is capable of zooming in, and the image is not compromised. If the zoom is digitally enhanced, then the image IS compromised, and you lose an amount of definition. Since most digital camera owners will have it linked to their PC, then there are a whole host of software packages which can do the digital zoom once the image is transferred to the computer, making such technology in the camera redundant. Finally, there is the memory. Each camera uses memory to store the images on, instead of film. The good thing about the digital memory is that if you take a photo, then decide you don't want it, you can view it straight away, and if you don't like it, erase it, so that you can get a full set of photos you actually want, rather than having to wait til the film is developed, only to find that out of your 24 photo's, half are rubbish! The better digital cameras have a screen on the back so that you can view your photos directly on the camera. If you fill one memory card, you simply remove it, and slot in another, just like with a conventional film. Ok so that's enough about digital cameras - this is a review of the Pentax EI200. Well having taken all of the above points into consideration, the the Pentax seemed like a great compromise, and an excellent first digital camera for someone who hopes for slightly more than taking pictures at parties! This is because it is equipped with a 3x optical zoom, with a fantastic pentax lens, which draws upon many years of producing top quality optics for thier film cameras. The zoom on the lens is from 5.2-16.5mm, which offers a good range of wide angle and zoom, which is controlled by a perfectly placed rocker button at the rear. The image circuitry and capture is handled by Hewlett Packard technology - the undisputed leader in digital imaging - which is why
so many companies use HP laserjet printers. The 2.1 megapixel image capture is sufficient to produce good quality images. The supplied 8MB memory cards are good for storing 30 images - not dissimilar to a propper film. The entire package cost me £229 - which seems to be a good deal considering the quality components which go into this unit, and the overall package. And the Pentax has lived up to expectation. We've had it a few months now, and has proved to be very straightforward to use - it has easy selection modes for panoramic and close-up photography, a self-timer, easy flash & red-eye selections, as well as a suberbly easy system to view and delete your wanted or unwanted shots from the memory. The built-in LCD screen is excellent, allowing you to hold the camera away from your face, yet still get the image you require. Setting up the camera to communicate with my PC was simplicity itself. The supplied cable plugs into a neatly hidden socket on the camera, and into my computer at the other end. As soon as I plugged it in, Microsoft Windows recognised the camera straightaway, and installed all the software for it without my even needing to insert a CD or disk! The camera then shows up as an extra drive in Windows Explorer, and I can copy images to/from the camera by drag & drop! On top of all this, the camera is very solidly constructed. This camera is designed to withstand the toils of many trips, and being thrown around by baggage handlers at airports! This makes is a little heavy, but for people who are used to SLR cameras, they will appreciate the solidity of this device for reducing camera shake - resulting in sharper pictures. The camera also has a mounting on the underside for tripods. It is also a nice looking unit - not perhaps as minature or flash as some of the other models on the market, but has a traditional quality camera look, with the usual ergonomics associated with SLR cameras. If you just want a basic digital camera, for replacing a cheap camera, then this one may be a little over priced for your budget, but I think that it is well worth the investment. If you're looking for a high-end digital camera, which is comparable to SLR quality, and has interchangable lenses - this is not the one for you. If you're looking for a compromise - something which takes great photos, with solid build and quality parts, but without paying the earth for it, then I'd recommend this pentax every time.