"Go South! C'mon girls!"
The cheers went up around me at a recent junior high volleyball tournament at Free State High School.
My daughter Bonnie and her team were doing well. And I wished I had brought my camera.
It was at home because I was tired of fighting the "Oh-Dad-please-don't-bring-your-camera-to-the-game-and-totally-embarrass-me-and-ruin-my-life" gene. That kicked in a couple of years ago, when my older teens hit junior high.
Since then, to get photos of them in sports or cheerleading, I've sometimes had to use a telephoto lens and hide in the upper balcony.
So I was a little envious of Jack Schwartz, who got up from the stands to walk down by the net to take some closer shots of his daughter.
"I'm going to get photos of all the girls and e-mail them out this afternoon," Jack told me.
That sounded like a great idea for sharing photos.
And it spurred me to start checking into the latest offerings in digital cameras for the amateur photographer.
Counting the pixels
I checked out the budget cameras on the market that still provide a fairly decent image for printing.
According to some consumer Web sites, what you should look for is the pixel count of the camera if it's under a million pixels (a megapixel), the images will look best on a computer screen or on a small print.
For better prints and professional quality, you should go for a camera with multimegapixels. You'll need at least 2.0 megapixels to make film-quality 8-by-10 prints.
It's also good to get a camera with an LCD display so you can view your photos afterward. And you might want to consider a camera that has a range of compression sizes. The tradeoff: The lower the compression, the fewer images you can get but they'll have higher quality.
You'll also want to look at a camera that makes it easy to download images to your computer. Some cameras store the images inside the camera. Other use removable memory storage cards, which can be reused.
A few new cameras
One of the top-rated, low-priced cameras is the Canon PowerShot A20, which costs in the $300 to $350 range.
The PowerShot, which came out in May, has 2.10 megapixels resolution, with 1,600-by-1,200 resolution as the highest output. It also has 8 megabytes of memory, which holds 46 standard images. You can buy an optional memory card (compact flash type 1). It also has a 1.5-inch LCD display, plus a 3X optical zoom and a 2.5X digital zoom.
Another top-rated, entry-level camera is the Kodak DX3500, which came out in April and costs about $300.
Seen as a great camera for beginners, it offers 2.2 megapixel resolution, plus 3X digital zoom. It has 8 megabytes of internal memory, and you can get an optional memory card. One of its features was an optional $80 docking cradle that makes it easy to download photos to your computer. The camera's battery also recharges while it's in the docking cradle.
Another camera that's due out this month is the Olympus Camedia Brio D-230. It weighs about 6 ounces and offers 2.0 megapixel quality. It also has a digital zoom of up to 5X. It's a step up from the Brio D-150, which offered 3X digital zoom and 1.3 megapixel quality. The D-150 runs about $350, but there is no price listed yet on the Olympus site for the D-230.
Sitting cross-legged on the center court sideline, Jack Schwartz trained his camera on the center net.
He framed his camera on our daughters as they played in the junior high volleyball tournament. As the match continued, he snapped photo after photo.
Meanwhile his wife, Debbie, was in the stands, collecting e-mail addresses from team members and their parents, and joining us in cheering.
A few hours later, we started receiving e-mail from Jack. He sent eight digital photos of the weekend's games.
My daughter Bonnie was surprised and happy when she saw the photos of her team.
And her response showed me the anti-camera phase in my family is finally over:
"Dad, how come you never bring our camera to the games?"