TOOLS & TOYS: KODAK'S DIGITAL CHAMP

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Digital pictures are starting to approach photo quality, with resolutions of well over a million pixels now being the gold standard (hence the new buzzterm, 'megapixel' cameras). One of the current champs is the Kodak Digital Science DC260, a 1.6 million-pixel camera with a 38-115mm autofocus zoom lens. The DC260 uses high-quality optics that virtually guarantee satisfying pictures, displaying none of the blockiness of previous cameras' output. Photo sizes up to 8.5x12" look nice and sharp. This pricey stocking stuffer ($999) has a clean look and logical controls that make it easy to use right out of the box. Similarly well-designed software, included, lets you download pictures into your computer for e-mailing, Photoshop manipulation, etc. The DC260 is one of the few cameras that takes advantage of newer computers' USB ports (which provide faster connections than the old serial and parallel ports). Kodak includes a connecting cable in the package, but if you use a Mac, better find an adapter plug somewhere; the cable provided is for PCs only. The other kind of connection is troublesome no matter what your computing platform, at least until you shell out more money. That's because the pictures you take are stored on an 8Mb card that can be plugged into a computer's PCMCIA slot with the use of a special PC card adapter -- a great idea except that the adapter is once again not included. It would have been nice if Kodak had been less stingy with these options. Then there's the battery problem. Our fresh Duracell set was depleted after taking and reviewing about 25 pictures. Yes, we used the built-in flash most of the time, but energy-wise, that's still substandard performance. The DC260 was among the bulkiest of the crop, and at 20 ounces, it's not exactly a featherweight either. Despite these misgivings, we feel that if you must have a digital camera now, the DC260 is an excellent choice. It's userfriendly, and it has the highest resolution of the 49 cameras whose specs we compared. But give it another six to 12 months, and the state of the art will have yielded smaller, better, and
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