New York's Trusted Source for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus

H. Jay Wisnicki, MD
"I'm only here for one reason: to help people see better. If your eyes have a problem, I want to help."


Dr. H. Jay Wisnicki has over 20 years of specialized care in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus.

He frequently volunteers with Orbis International to save the sight of children in developing countries.

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Digital Cameras: Point, shoot, and edit

Tech Talk

By H. Jay Wisnicki, MD

Digital photography has exploded in the past several years. In the mid-1990s, a person would have been lucky to pick up a decent digital camera for less than $1,000. Today, however, most cameras come in under that price point, and many decent-quality ones can be had for under $500.

While that price might still seem a bit steep, remember the beauty of digital cameras is the lack of waste. No film to develop. No bad shots printed at your expense. Instead, you can shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, while only printing the images you wish to keep.

Most camera manufacturers have taken their traditional photographic experience and transformed it to the digital arena. Kodak, Olympus, and Nikon all have multiple offerings in the under-$1,000 sector. Add to that the number of traditional hardware suppliers selling digital equipment, and the choices are amazing, especially for a product still in its infancy.

With traditional film cameras, the film itself usually determines the graininess or clarity of a shot. The higher the ASA number, the less light that is needed for pictures. However, a side effect is a grainier picture.

With digital cameras, however, the camera determines the clarity of the photo. There is no film; the image is saved immediately to a disk.

In an ophthalmic practice, digital photography can replace conventional photography for patient documentation. For external photography, digital cameras can be effective. Digital image quality has now become excellent. Digital photos dramatically ease filing space, and photo retrieval on a computer is fast.

There are also ways to attach digital cameras to existing slit lamps, and of course, full-blown digital fundus cameras and anterior segment cameras are now available.

Resolution quality

While the first digital cameras featured up to 600 dots per inch (dpi), digital cameras today have the ability to pick up 1.3 million pixels, recording them at up to 2,048 by 1,536 resolution. The clarity has improved tremendously over just 3 years ago.

Digital cameras store recorded images internally, on floppy disks, or on memory cards, which are read directly into PCs. Cameras that record images internally need to upload those photos to a computer via USB connectors. Disks are simpleójust insert them into the PC. A card reader such as SmartCard or CompactFlash reader is needed to upload an image to a computer.

Cards can store as many as 300 images. However, in general, the better the photo resolution, the fewer pictures you can save to a card.

If you are using your digital camera to take vacation pictures, you might have to buy several memory cards or carry a laptop to download the selected shots.

Cards range in size from 8 to 200 MB. The 8-MB cards cost as little as $40, while higher-volume cards can cost several hundred dollars. However, remember you are no longer buying film. For someone who takes a lot of photos, film savings alone can be tremendous, especially if you take many pictures but have only a few ìgreatî shots per roll.

Like conventional cameras, digital cameras are available in a variety of styles and price points. Many point-and-shoot digital cameras can be had for $500 or less, but often they do not offer the variety of attachments, zoom capability, and media storage that even amateur photographers demand. However, for those who wish to get their digital feet wet before exploring the inner depths of digital imaging, point and shoots might be an ideal first foray.

Instead of traditional viewfinders, where you look through a lens to see your subject, many digital cameras have LCD viewfinders that let the shooter see a better indication of the saved image. These viewfinders also allow the shooter to see the shot after it has been taken and decide whether to keep it.

Editing your photos

After the film has been shot and downloaded into your computer, you can manipulate it using a variety of software programs. You can retouch red-eyes, adjust colors, even cut and paste images to create an entirely new photograph. These images can be sent via e-mail, saved as digital images, or printed out.

Adobeís Photoshop is one of the most popular image editing programs available. While some may be put off by its cost (several hundred dollars), the variety of tools it offers is tremendous. You can crop unwanted portions of an image, touch up minor blemishes, even turn a gray sky to blue!

PhotoSuite III is another popular photography program, allowing the user to manipulate images in a variety of ways. Significantly less expensive than Photoshop, PhotoSuite is a good program for introduction to graphics.

Other photo editing programs include Corel Photo-Paint, ACDSee, and ArcSoft Photo Studio 2000. All offer a variety of editing effects.

There are two ways of printing digital photos. The simpler is to use a standard color printer, which will give a decent, but not great, image. Just remember that many printers can print up to 600 dots per inch, and a digital camera is saving photos at a higher resolution. You will see a difference.

The second method is to use a photo printer. Many camera manufacturers offer printers that will print edited images as well as ones directly off the camera. These printers use paper that is comparable in weight to regular paper, and you will have an image that looks like a photo, not a computer image. These printers allow you to combine and print multiple images on one sheet, or just print a large image on one sheet. They start at about $300.

Digital photography is the wave of the future. Prices are coming down and there are more and more attachments available to allow users to take better photos, edit them, and store them in a smaller space than the traditional family album.

But, like any growing technology, the biggest growing pain is the investment.

While you can enter the digital sector for a few hundred dollars, expect to spend several thousand dollars to get the most out of it.

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