VIEWS FROM 1000 FEET
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
Flying towards the water tower, south-west of Warwick.
Gazing down on the outskirts of Warwick, as the other balloon
dips below the horizon, looking for somewhere to land.
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. :-(