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Instant gratification

Mavica MVC-FD5. Sony digital camera - uses 3.5-inch floppy disc to transfer images to computer, Pounds 449. From High Street Sony dealers.

There are times when you see a piece of equipment and realise that it is just right and that its virtues outweigh its deficiencies - like the Sony Mavica (MVC-FD5 or MVC-FD7) digital camera.

It is bulkier than most, image quality is good, but if you want super quality don't look at mid-price digital cameras yet. However, digital cameras are about something else - instant feedback, visual note-taking, visual literacy, Web illustration, images for art, taking risks, learning quickly from your mistakes and accessibility.

The Mavica's major virtue is that it records the images on to an ordinary high-density floppy disc, the kind that suits most school computers. Most other cameras require complex routines and wiring to get them into your computer. Depending on the quality of image you choose, you can have either 40 or 20 on a disc. They are saved as standard graphic (JPEG) files. You can see the images immediately through playback in the camera, or you can simply eject the disc and put it into your PC, Mac or Acorn. An image manipulation program is supplied, so you can experiment, as you can in a darkroom, with colour and light intensity. If you don't want to do this the image will go straight into programs such as Word or Excel.

The camera runs from a lithium battery with a working life of 120 minutes and has to be charged periodically. There is a built-in flash and a macro lens facility for close-ups. The image format is suitable for PC, Mac or Acorn.

The MVC-FD7 costs about Pounds 100 more. It has a superior zoom lens for telephoto and wide-angle, and its simplicity and accessibility make it ideal for use in schools. Every area of the curriculum can be enhanced with a camera like this. All ages can use it.

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