Magazine Article


Let's Simplify Digital Photography

A Voice from the Industry Speaks Out

Let's Simplify Digital Photography

by Gary Kovak

"Do not buy this digicam if you have Windows XP. This camera does not work with Windows XP."

The above letter was posted in the "Customer Reviews" page on the website of a major retailer. The digicam purchased by this customer was made by a major manufacturer of consumer electronic products. Further down there was another customer review about the same camera: "This camera does work with Windows XP, but the PC takes as long as two minutes to recognize the camera...if you have XP, then just give it more time...eventually it will load."

A bit further down was this review:

"If you follow the instruction manual then you can not download. Go to the manufacturer's website, find the FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions), and follow THOSE instructions; the camera will then download."

Here is the last review of the camera:

"This camera does NOT work with XP...XP did not recognize the camera at all, and it crashed my system four times."

"Easy One-Step Downloading, just Plug-N-Go, it is so easy..." Down below though, in small print it adds: "Plug-N-Go works ONLY with XP."

What's Going on Here?

Consumers may be having so many problems because digicam manufacturers are still stuck in the "Horse-and-Buggy" stage of the product cycle. The early digicams did not have a removable memory card, so we were forced to connect the camera to the computer via a cable and download our pictures from the camera itself. This procedure required us to download so-called "camera drivers" to the computer. We also had to use an AC adapter to power the camera to prevent us from losing our precious pictures in case the batteries decided to expire while we were in the process of downloading them to the PC.

But today, practically all digicams priced around $100 and upward have a removable memory card. So why are we still using "USB cables," "camera drivers," and "AC adapters?" Didn't anybody realize that a simple-to-use, low-cost, card reader can replace all these items?

Several years ago, Kodak did sell a simple 2-megapixel camera (DC-3800) that was packaged without any software or a USB cable. The only accessory that came with the camera was a Kodak card reader. At the time, I used this camera and enjoyed its utter simplicity. It was easy to download the memory card to the computer for emailing photos. It produced great prints when I plugged the memory card into the CF slot on my Kodak home printer. So why was it discontinued? Perhaps it arrived "before the consumer was ready for it?" Or perhaps it was just too expensive at that time.

Consumer research has shown, again and again that consumers have major difficulties whenever they try to connect anything to their PCbe it a printer, a scanner, a digicam, an external storage device, or anything else. Consumers also have difficulties whenever they try to load a software CD-ROM into the PC. So why do we keep giving them "camera drivers" to load into their PCs? Why do almost all digicam manufacturers have this "follow the herd" mentality? Why do they use the same out-of-date system?

Did you notice that I said "almost all?" There is, at least, one exception: Olympus. The Olympus cameras do not require any software. The camera can be plugged into the computer and the computer will recognize it as an "external drive." The AC adapter though is still necessary. Kodak has also come up with a "compromise:" The "EasyShare" system. The EasyShare software is really terrific. However, I am not that enthusiastic about the docking station because, I feel, it contributes very little to the download function. A simple card reader would do the job just as rapidly and just as easily; and a simple $10 battery charger would charge the batteries just as nicely.

What the Photo Dealer Can Do to Help

OKso the manufacturers have gotten it a wee bit wrong. So now it is up to the photo dealer to put it right.

To start with, photo dealers should not let a digicam customer leave their store without a card reader, and an easy-to-use photo software program. In my opinion, the simplest programs are:

Kodak EasyShare (the latest version only).

Lexar Shoot-N-Share.

Fuji FinePix.

Pixology Piccolo.

Next, make sure that the customer understands the "limitations" of alkaline batteries in a digicam. Do your utmost to sell a set of NIMH batteries and a charger. If the customer has a laptop computer, then a PCMCIA adapter will be a very useful accessory.

Lastly, keep a PC-less printer on your counter and demonstrate how easy it is to make prints at home. Of all the PC-less printers, I have found that the Epsons have the greatest appeal to non-technical consumers.

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