Digital Photography

Christopher Rath

— Contents —

Introduction How Our Photos Are Printed
Camera Selection Photo Printing Costs
My Opinion Of The Sony Printing Index Sheets
Next Time Around


The material collected in this section of the website pertains to our use of a digital camera. In the fall of 2001, our Pentax ME 35mm film camera died and needed to be either repaired or replaced. I had been watching the digital camera market for several years, and the Pentax’s failure become a catalyst for examining the current market (circa fall 2001) in earnest.

Camera Selection

Before beginning my search for a digital camera, I did a little World Wide Web-based investigation on the technology behind digital cameras.  The most comprehensive source of information I found was an online tutorial: A Short Course In Choosing A Digital Camera.

My search guided me towards choosing the following basic criteria:

In performing my camera comparison, I made extensive use of two internet sites devoted to the subject: Digital Photography Review and Steve’s DigiCams.  Both of the sites are excellent and I wouldn’t recommend one over the other. Later update: the DCVIEWS digital camera site is also worth checking out.

Here are a few of the models I considered, and my thoughts about the cameras (most of them are no longer sold, having been replaced by newer models):

My Opinion Of The Sony

If I had been spending green dollars, I would have purchased the Nikon Coolpix 995; however, since no money was being spent, the Sony DSC P1 became my first choice.  I have been using the Sony for the past 5 months, and the only negative comment I have to make is that its flash is not bright enough.

Unlike the Nikon and Canon cameras I considered, the DSC P1 is a fixed focal length camera.  The Nikon and Canon are auto-focus cameras.  This translates to longer battery life, as the camera doesn’t have to focus as each photo is taken.

Our photos are comparable to those we have been taking over the past 15 years with our Pentax ME.  So, we are satisfied with the result.  The weak flash can be overcome through use of the photo editing software that was bundled with our printer; a problem we couldn’t as easily overcome with a film based camera.

Next Time Around

The next time I purchase a digital camera I will consider one additional factor: the strength of the built-in flash.  The Sony’s poor flash has caused me to more closely examine the issue and I would not consider a flash with a rating lower than 10 m. the next time around (the Sony DSC-P1 is 2.3m.).

How Our Photos Are Printed

HP PSC 950We use an HP PSC 950 colour printer to print the photos onto 8.5" x 11" photo paper. We typically print three 4" x 6" photos on each page. The PSC 950 printer only has a USB port (i.e., no parallel or serial ports) and is a PCL3 device. These two features are really the printer’s biggest weaknesses: the USB port conforms to the USB 2.0 standard, which means that it is not compatible with PCs which contain USB 1.0 ports (e.g., Dell Latitude laptops); and, most of the features offered on the print control panel (e.g., multiple pages per sheet) are performed by the PC’s printer driver, which means that printing can be very, very slow if the page layout is complex. That said, the printer and its bundled HP photo printing software do an excellent job of printing our photos.

Rotary TrimmerThe photos are then cut from the full page using a BOSTON Rotary Trimmer. Contrary to the instructions provided with the trimmer, this device suffers from the same problem every other paper cutter I have ever used: as the blade moves down the page, the page warps (i.e., it is pushed out of place by the blade) and so the cut is not perfectly straight. This device does offer one advantage: it is easy to use a 12" non-skid steel ruler (with a cork backing) to hold the paper in place while moving the cutting blade. I find that after cutting 50 sheets (a full package of paper) the cutting blade needed to be changed.

Photo Printing Costs

While taking photos with a digital camera doesn’t cost money, storing and printing those photos does. I have been track usage of the colour cartridge and paper while printing photos in order to understand how the cost of digital photography compares to film photography.

The various raw materials and their prices are as follows:

HP Premium Photo Paper Glossy (8.5" x 11" x 7.5 mil): $49.50 per 50 sheets.
HP Colour Inkjet Cartridge (78) HP C6578A: $79.95 per 38 ml.
HP Black & White Inkjet Cartridge (15) HP C6615D: $74.99 per 2 x 25 ml.
X-ACTO Rotary Blade (#26412): $5.61 ea.

My first full colour cartridge was a 19 ml. cartridge; which was a little more expensive than the 38 ml. cartridge listed above. While the usage figures which follow are based upon use of the smaller unit, the cost assignments used are based upon the cheaper per ml. price of the larger cartridge.

My printing usage was as follows:

Number of 8.5" x 11" sheets printed: 56
Number of 4" x 6" photos produced: 162
Number of sheets cut per cutting blade: 50
Portion of black & white cartridge consumed (estimate): 0.25
Number of colour cartridges used: 1

This results in the following cost per photo calculation (click here to retrieve the small Excel workbook I used to perform the calculation):

Paper cost: 56 * ($49.50 / 50) = $55.44
Cutting blade cost: ($5.61 / 50) * 56 = $6.28
Black & white cartridge cost: 0.25 * ($74.99 / 2) = $9.37
Colour cartridge cost: $79.95 / 2 = $39.98
Cost per photo (Sum of costs)/56 = $0.69

In the past, we have had our film developed through Wal-Mart.  It is our experience that only one third to one half of the photos we take are worth printing; however, with the film-based method we were always required to print all the photos prior to knowing which photos were worth keeping.

Analogue film printing cost calculation:

36 Exposure 800 ASA Kodak film: $8.99
Develop 36 exposure, w/double-prints, at local Wal-Mart: $12.99
Total cost per 72 prints: $21.98
Cost per photo if 1/3 of pictures (18 prints) turn out: $1.22
Cost per photo if 1/2 of pictures (36 prints) turn out: $0.61

As can be seen from this calculation, the digital photo cost is quite comparable to the analogue photo cost.

Printing Index Sheets

As our digital photo collection begins to grow, it is harder and harder to keep track of all the pictures.  We find that we take more pictures than we used to; since we only have to pay to print the good ones.  The down-side of this is that we are reluctant to discard any shots, even the bad ones—just in case we change our mind later.

I took a couple of days recently to write a short Perl script that can be used with PDF-LaTeX to generate index print sheets.  The package and a sample of its output are available through these links:

  • Sample of genindex's ouput—sample.pdf (701Kb)
  • The genindex package (657Kb)

  • ©Copyright 2002, Christopher & Jean Rath
    Telephone: 613-824-4584
    Address: 1371 Major Rd., Ottawa, ON, Canada K1E 1H3
    Last updated: 2015/02/14 @ 21:34:00 ( )