Picture Perfect

If it seems like everyone you know has just bought a digital camera, you might be surprised to hear that nearly seventy percent of American households don't have one yet. One big reason — the idea of printing your own photos can be intimidating. But Consumer Reports says digital cameras are easier to use than ever before.

When he's shooting friends and family at home, professional photographer Matthew Jordan Smith uses a digital camera.
"You shoot it, you can take it home immediately, put it on your computer — send it away five minutes later. In that way it's great."
Consumer Reports has tested more than 60 digital cameras. Prices range from about 200 dollars all the way up to 900.

Tester Kerry Allen says a two or three megapixel camera is fine for casual photographers who print mostly four by six photos.
But cropping and enlarging pictures is a lot of the fun of a digital camera. For that you'll need a four or five megapixel camera. Prices for many of these cameras have been dropping.

"We've seen the price come down at least 200 dollars for a five megapixel camera."
But there's a trade-off with these lower-priced cameras. They may have fewer features.
If you're worried about getting your photos off of your camera, there's new technology that's making it easier. One feature testers are seeing more of is PictBridge. It lets you send the pictures straight to the printer, bypassing the computer altogether.

Other cameras have a docking system that makes it easier to download photos right into the computer. You plug it in, set your camera in the cradle, and the job is done.

If you're planning to crop and enlarge your digital photos, Consumer Reports recommends the four megapixel Kodak EasyShare DX 6490. It costs 500 dollars. This camera has a docking station and offers great picture quality.

When you print photos Consumer Reports has this important tip. Be sure to let the photos dry for a few hours before putting them in an album or frame. That way the ink will dry completely and it won't come off on the glass of the frame or cover of the album.

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