Point, Shoot, Compute

When it comes to using pictures in documents and presentations, employees have always been thwarted by the expense and inefficiencies of photography. After all, there's a lot of leg work involved in shooting photos, waiting for film to be developed and then taking everything down to the print shop.

This process was made less cumbersome by the advent of high-resolution, pictorial scanners that allow users to translate analog pictures into digital format. However, scanning is expensive and complex. Now meet the concept of "Point, Shoot and Compute" for under $1,000.

Eastman Kodak, Apple, Epson and at least two other camera companies now have products on the market that target the photographic needs of the workplace with low-cost digital cameras that capture images on removable PCMCIA storage cards. The cards can then be popped into a computer, viewed, manipulated and transmitted over a network.

Development and scanning of images is completely negated with these cameras, which are easy to use and reliable. Kodak's DC-50, for example, is a recently released zoom-lens model that costs around $900. The company has long been a leader in the digital camera market with professional and commercial products such as the DCS 460. Its newest product, however, is being marketed as a means for mainstream organizations to gain efficiency enhancements. The DC-50 is currently available on the GSA Schedule.

"We don't see the DC-50 so much as a stand-alone camera with the end result being a photograph that you can hold in your hand," said Dennis Guyitt, a digital applications specialist with Eastman Kodak. "We see it as a tool to improve workplace productivity. This [will] be the product that breaks digital imaging into general use, in what we call the small office, home office or business marketplace."

This category of digital camera does not offer the high-resolution or photographic sharpness that traditional cameras or higher-end digital cameras do, but the quality is still quite good, especially when images are sized at 4 x 6 inches or less. What's more, Kodak is working with Hewlett-Packard to improve image output quality via color printers.

The real estate and insurance industries are two of the early users of the camera. Employees in both industries require pictures to communicate and document their work. "In particular, we're seeing a lot of insurance companies move in that direction because they want to [allow] their adjusters in the field... to put the required documentation directly into the report and then send it back to the home office," Guyitt said. "Ultimately, they want to settle the claim while they're still on site."

Several government agencies, including the Defense Department's Inspector General's office and several law enforcement agencies, as well as large corporations, want to use the DC-50 to replace instant film technologies, but Guyitt believes that nearly all organizations can benefit from the camera.

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