Lust and gluttony, the only two deadly sins worth the trouble...
Isabel Allende

My digital camera experience:

My original motivation was an addition that i was to build onto my brothers house in Norman OK. I thought it would be cool to put together a timelapse movie of the whole construction project. If we took a frame every ten minutes for sixteen hours a day, we would end up with about four seconds of video per day. Since I expected the visually stimulating part of the work to take about ten weeks, we would end up with a four minute video at the end. Long enough to see some detail, but short enough not to bore our future audience. That would require a dedicated camera that could be mounted firmly in place, protected from the elements, and would take the required number of pictures without too much effort on my part. The first thing i considered was using a cheap (<$100) webcam. These little devices are generally hooked up via USB. The problem with the USB interface is that it is limited to a cable length of around 5 meters. That meant that I would have to put a computer outside with it, as the only location that had a decent view of the whole project was the far corner of the yard. I considered buying a cheap computer and boxing the whole thing up out in the yard and hookin up an extension cable, but that rapidly lost it's luster when i considered all the ancillary stuff that would have to be done - like installing a UPS, and setting up the whole shebang. It is possible to boost the USB interface and hook multiple cables up, but... each booster can only drive one cable, and you are limited to a maximum of 5 cables. Not only would that cost $25 for each booster and $10 for each cable, but I would only get 25 meters total- not nearly enough to reach into the house onto my desk where my computer was comfortably at hand. Aside from that limitation, those USB webcams have a decidedly funky picture quality. So that idea was shot down. Wireless x10 cams were dismissed for the same reason- low quality images, and the neccessity of buying a bunch of kludgy hardware that I probably wouldn't have any use for when i got done with this. Non-recyclable hardware to boot.

The next level was an ethernet cam. These are cameras with a built in computer that functions as a webserver and sends the images out to an ethernet connector on the camera. Very cool idea. Ethernet cables can go a hundred meters reliably, and the cable is dirt cheap. However, the cameras are not. The cheapest ethernet camera costs about $600 dollars for a reasonably high quality 640x480 image. So i approached my brother, thinking that he might be willing to split the cost of the camera, seeing as he would be getting an incredible mind altering movie at the end of this huge project that he could show his grandkids some day. Plus, I would be doing all this fancy-schmancy programming and video work for nothing, i mean, I wouldn't do this for anyone else for less than a couple thousand dollars. No dice. He didn't seem very thrilled by the concept. He's the sort of guy who is more apt to spend a couple hours whittling a banana holder. Somehow I just couldn't justify spending $600 *and* all the time this was going to take. Though an ethernet webcam might have all kinds of interesting applications....

so on with the search- the next alternative was a still camera with a timelapse setting. the kodak dc-280 does this, and with a lo-res setting and a 64mb card in it, i could capture at least 500 frames at a time. but it would be a difficult to set the camera up in the same exact position every time, and it would tie up a camera that would be very useful otherwise. so i finally set my sights a little lower and decided to get a still camera and just take lots of pictures.

What i needed was: at least a 3x zoom- i had had a sony mavica with 6x zoom and a Canon Optura with a 10x zoom both of which worked beautifully and spoiled me. I ended up in favor of a small format camera, realizing that if i could put it in my pocket, i would be much more likely to have it with me when i wanted to take pictures. so i browsed the web for deals and reviews and what i finally come down to were the following models:

canon gl-1 or gl-2: $5-900 : very nice largish lens and picture quality, attractive layout and design

Canon Powershot s110 $400 : extremely small and light, small lens

CanonOlympus E-10 $1100? : a real SLR format fixed lens camera, this was $2600 when it first came out.

nikon Coolpix 995 $500 : good lens and picture quality - overall fine reviews, perhaps the best all around buy. put a 256mb card in this and you are all set.

fuji FinePix 4700 $375 : quite small, and consistently good ergonomics



more later.