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Digital Camera Accessories - Page 1 of 2
Posted: May 20, 2005
Author: Jason Kohrs
Manufacturer: N/A
Source: Tech Tips
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Digital cameras are great devices that have made photography simple and enjoyable to countless people. They make taking and sharing photos easier and more economical than film could ever do, but a digital camera may not be optimized as-is straight from the retail packaging. It needs to be accessorized, and this Tech Tip will take a look at five accessories worth considering for use with any digital camera.

Flash Memory:

Most cameras are sold with either a removable flash memory card included, or an onboard memory chip, for storing the images the camera takes. The problem is that the included memory may not be the best for many practical uses, and will need to be upgraded by the end user immediately. The memory provided with many cameras generally is of too low a capacity, and the performance of the modules may not be the best either.

A camera taking images at the high resolutions possible today is going to chew up space on a flash card quickly, and the typical 16MB or 32MB card provided by the manufacturer just isn't going to cut it. I recently purchased a high-quality 3.2 Megapixel (MP) camera that came with a 16MB Compact Flash card. I was somewhat surprised to see that I would only be able take 9 pictures at maximum resolution before the card was full, and wondered why the manufacturer bothered to include a memory card at all. The first step to making the camera more usable was to upgrade to a 512MB Compact Flash card that upped the total storage to 299 images while at the highest resolution.

Taking a look around shows that this practice is common, and that even cameras at 5MP and above may include just a 32MB card. When purchasing a camera, this is something to pay close attention to, and if the camera seems to be a good fit otherwise, be prepared to buy a larger memory card at the same time.

The other issue with flash memory is that they are not all able to read and write at the same speed. While a slower memory card may be more than adequate to keep up with playing any collection of digital audio files, when it comes to taking a steady stream of high resolution images, you need media that can keep up. SanDisk's Ultra II series of SD cards provides much higher read/write speeds than your typical SD cards, which are more than likely the type you will find included with a camera. Having a high-speed memory card may be the difference between capturing a string of high resolution action shots, and sitting in frustration as the light blinks on your camera indicating that it is still writing the previous image.

These details and many others were covered in two previous Tech Tips dedicated to flash memory. If you missed them, please make sure to check out both Part 1 and Part 2 of that series.

Card Readers:

A card reader may be just the accessory to consider for use with the new, high-capacity flash memory card you picked up with your digital camera. These devices can either be installed internally or externally to your computer, and provide a convenient way to get the files off of all the common flash memory formats used in cameras, digital audio players, and PDAs. Internal ones are great for use with systems that you know will always need these features, but external readers are just as handy, and can be taken with you for use on any desktop or notebook computer with an open USB port.

Not only do these devices provide a convenient interface for accessing the various types of flash memory you may use in a camera, they may be able to do so quicker than using the standard cable provided with a camera. Most card readers take advantage of the high-speed transfers afforded by USB 2.0, and even if your camera supports USB 2.0, the camera's User Interface may slow you down. The card reader will treat any flash memory inserted into it as a disk drive and allow you to browse the contents and copy what you want onto your hard drive quickly. Some cameras use a proprietary software interface that may slow things down or otherwise be inconvenient, but if you can use Windows Explorer (or the equivalent in other operating systems) you can get your photos from a card reader with ease.

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