Get the digital picture

10th October 1997 at 01:00
I am listening to digital music while typing on my digital computer. I have just spoken to someone on their digital phone about the digital camera I have borrowed. I enjoy technology and think most of it is beneficial, but I must come clean. I am a photographic purist. There is nothing more exquisite to me than a perfectly produced black-and-white photo, preferably taken on a plate camera invented more than 100 years ago. That is what I call serious photography. Even colour somehow makes the image seem more ordinary.

So to have a camera that, in moments, gives me a small video display of the image I have taken, with no darkroom, no fixative, is just not what I am used to. But I am open-minded, and to bypass these processes may not be too bad. For colour work it also certainly beats the wait and expense of High Street processing. But what of the quality? Well, I don't think Ansel Adams would have traded in his trusty 10in by 8in plate camera, but it's quite good depending on what you use the image for. I have been using one of the first generation of digital cameras, a Casio QV-10A. This is the least expensive of their range and, at around Pounds 349 plus VAT, is good value. Although the basic model, it is far more versatile than the original Canon Ion cameras.

It has a video screen to look at for taking the picture that gives a good idea of the finished result. Once the picture has been taken it can be immediately viewed and, as more than 90 images can be stored, alternative compositions can be tried - several images can even be viewed at once on the small screen for comparison. There is a good macro facility, for getting really close up, and control over the exposure so you can darken or lighten at will. The camera is easy to use and, when transferred to a computer, gives acceptable resolutions on screen. Then things like colour balance can be changed and the image can be distorted and manipulated to your heart's content.

A digital camera can have a significant impact upon a school. The directness of use is one of the big attractions. Photographs can be taken and immediately utilised. Putting together a school newsletter can easily include images of pupils, teachers, plays, events, teams. Pupils' work can also be included. Art departments will find a digital camera an invaluable creative tool when linked with a computer. An image bank recording pupils' art or technology projects for future reference can easily be made. Geography and history departments could photograph field trips and add images to their notes. Modern languages could make a series captioned photographs, or even photo-stories. The drama department could photograph various actions or stances. PE may find use in recording techniques - how to run, throw, tackle, and so on. Science could record experiments. English could make photographs the starting point for creative writing. Mathematics . . . I'm not too sure, but you get the idea.

The possession of a digital camera goes beyond classroom boundaries. Think of the school as a community. What better method of recording a year in the life of a school? In large schools pupils often find it difficult to get to know the names of staff. Why not have a collection of digital photographs of the whole staff photocopied and given to each new pupil at the beginning of the year and incorporated into the induction booklet? Issues such as anti-litter campaigns could use photographs for publicity. Even the school prospectus could benefit.

If you prefer traditional cameras, the digital revolution need not pass you by. There are other ways of getting your photographs on to the computer. Kodak offers a service in which a 35mm film can be developed, printed and recorded on CD, which makes it easy to transfer to the computer. Another alternative is to scan photos into a computer. The least cumbersome method, however, is the direct use of a digital camera.

It will be some time before digital photography threatens traditional ways of working, but the potential impact within schools is huge, and don't forget, once a digital camera is purchased, running costs are minimal.

* The QV-10A has now been superseded by the Casio QV-11, which costs Pounds 300 and is available from Casio Electrinics Co Ltd, Unit 6, 1000 North Circular Road, London NW2 7DJ. Call 0181-450 9131, or fax 0181-452 6323

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