Taking Digital Stock

The "digital hub" Steve Jobs demonstrated during his Macworld Expo Keynote on Tuesday is more than just a clever turn of phrase. Spend five minutes on Macworld Expo's showroom floor and one thing becomes apparent: digital gadgets are in, digital products are everywhere, and digital is cool.

Digital imaging has come a long way in the last year -- even in the last six months. And that's especially true for those of us who have only basic experience with a film camera, and have been reluctant about paying the price for a digital camera. Prices have come down of late, and consumers can choose from more digital camera models than ever before.

While today's top-of-the-line three-megapixel digital cameras cater to professional photographers and include features such as compatibility with film camera lenses, two-megapixel digital cameras have a wider appeal that includes professionals, casual photographers, and novices alike. Digital imaging has matured since its introduction; today products sport stronger and improved features (including the ability to record audio and video, extended battery life), accessories (including casing for taking underwater pictures), ease of use, modern design, compact size, and lower pricing.

Digital cameras are just part of the picture. Photo printing is not something that happens in photo labs or at the drugstore anymore. While photo printers were once more of a high-end product, their appeal has trickled down to the masses along with consumer interest in digital cameras. A consumer who buys a camera wants to be able to print photos at home, too -- and be able to eliminate completely the need to save all those little strips of paper for the day or two it takes for film to be processed at the drug store. There are a number of photo printers available on the market now, ranging from desktop to mobile printers and, as with digital cameras, the assortment is bound to grow in time. Plus, photo printers don't just print photos -- many also print regular text documents.

How are scanners figuring in to this digital picture? Quite nicely. Over recent years the price of scanners has dropped, speed and efficiency have increased, and selection has grown. Scanners often double as copiers, and make sending e-mail messages of your favorite photos easy and convenient -- much more so than having extra prints made. Plus, Nikon's new Coolscan and Super Coolscan film scanners feature software that can bring old film photos back to life.

Many products originally thought of as for the office only are beginning to find a place in the home environment, as well. This couldn't be more clearly illustrated than with the HP LaserJet 3200m, an all-in-one featuring printing, faxing, copying, and scanning abilities. Additionally, Epson's line of PowerLite projectors, while primarily for the business presentation market, can double as a home theater.

This is the second trade show in which I've carried a digital camera with me, taking pictures for the Macworld.com Web site. While my family had a Betamax until 1989, and I used a typewriter through college, I, like a growing number of consumers, find that of late I have become lured into the digital age -- and I love it. This is just the beginning.

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