VIEWS FROM 1000 FEET

Looking Down, 23622 bytes
We discovered that swiming pools were common garden adornments in this prosperous part of Warwickshire, but some people are more adventurous - there's a windmill in this picture somewhere! Sadly the light was fading and the DC200+ camera was set to its most aggressive compression setting, so some of the detail has been lost.

Water Tower, 39355 bytes
Flying towards the water tower, south-west of Warwick.

Near Warwick, 18955 bytes
Gazing down on the outskirts of Warwick, as the other balloon dips below the horizon, looking for somewhere to land.

Eye candy

About my camera


Several people asked me about my camera, so here are some details. It's a fairly cheap consumer model, but allows me to get pictures on my TV (via composite video) or to most sorts of computer with leads that come with it. Digital Cameras are fast-moving computer products, so you should expect whatever you choose to be obsolete within two or three years. That doesn't mean it won't still be useful - just that new models will be several times lighter, faster, cheaper and more capacious.

I can recommend the Kodak DC2xx series, having programmed it as well as used it - it produces good results and is capable of three times the resolution, and much less compression, compared with these examples, which are packed to reduce memory needs and download time.

In other words it can store images that are considerably more detailed that you'd be justified in viewing on a computer or TV screen, given the relatively limited resolution of those displays. It still cannot compete with 35 millimetre film, used by an expert, but no digital camera comes close to that, at any price, nor will it for years yet. A typical analogue modem would need literally hours to download all the nuances of a single 35 mm negative.

I returned with about 60 images, mostly taken on the flight, packed onto the 4 Mb Flash memory card. Larger memories, priced from 40 to 80, can hold up to a couple of hundred images each (though fewer at higher resolutions) and it only takes a couple of seconds to swap one out and put a new one in when you've run out of space. There's no practical limit on the number of times the space can be re-used.

Later models like the DC210 and DC215 have the edge over mine because they include an optical zoom feature - mine is fixed focus. My DC200+ cost about 200 in Summer 1999, and the zoom models are about 50 more, which is well worth the extra in my opinion. Kodak are not making money on these - they have more embedded computer power than many office PCs - but have little choice about making them. They collaborate with Canon and Nikon on the built-in image-processing software, which makes a big difference to the quality, capacity and speed of operation of any digital camera. There's a trade-off between these three factors.

Whichever manufacturer you pick, avoid cheap models with no back screen - the facility to view as you go along is crucial to the usefulness of a digital camera, and allows easy control - but budget for lots of AA batteries - you'll exhaust a set of batteries long before you fill the memory. I use rechargeable NiMH ones or RAM (rechargeable Alkaline Manganese) cells. The official power supply costs 70, but as it delivers about seven times more power than a typical DC 'wall-wart' this is not as much of a rip-off as it might appear.
Well, not quite.

By default these cameras come with typically bloated and resource-hungry software for 'IBM clone' PCs, but Kodak have a good developer support programme which means lesser known but relatively flexible computers like QLs and Amigas are also supported, if you know where to look for the free drivers, written by enthusiasts. I use DC210 Wizard, from the comm/misc directory on Aminet, the world's largest repository of free software - all of it for Amigas :-) and my own software, custom-written for British Qdos systems. You can get Apple Mac drivers from Kodak too, but they may cost extra. :-(

Eye candy

More pictures... Local Landmarks