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Electronic Photography

The Digital Still Camera, Applications, Video Cameras, Other Methods For Electronic Photography

Like all other forms of information, photographs and images have entered the electronic age. In 1981, the Sony Corporation unveiled its filmless, electronic camera (termed a still video camera) the Mavica. Mavica is an acronym for Magnetic Video Camera; it uses a still video system to record 50 analog images on a diskette. Although they are recorded on a diskette, they are not digital images. The images are played back on a monitor and can be printed out by standard black-and-white or color computer printers on regular paper or on photographic paper. Use of high-resolution equipment produces a printed photograph that is almost identical to a traditional photo print.

In 1986, Canon was the first company to introduce a professional electronic camera on a major, commercial scale. Two years later, in 1988, Sony released the Pro-Mavica for use in professional and industrial applications. The ProMavica is compatible with a set of standards agreed on by 43 potential still video manufacturers also in 1988 called the Hi-band standard. This agreement established international guidelines for still video photography much like the VHS standards for video tape recordings. The Hi-band standard includes industry standards for resolution (400 horizontal lines per image) and image quality. By 1990, Nikon, Minolta, and a number of other makers had joined Sony and Canon in producing still video cameras for both professionals and amateurs.

The still video camera records the images it sees as analog electrical signals on the magnetic layer of a diskette. It scans the image one line at a time so a recognizable pattern is established for storing and reproducing the electronic signals. Resolution is carried by one signal, and two others carry color (much like hue and saturation on a television image). Liquid crystal display (LCD) screens may soon be added to still video cameras so the photographer can see the electronic image; but, by the late 1990s, electronic cameras used viewfinders much like film-based cameras. Diskettes are also a limitation and may be replaced by data storage on compact discs, which can already be used as a photographic storage method but not directly from the camera.

Advantages of the still video camera are that processing is not needed (and processing chemicals are eliminated), images can be viewed or printed instantly, diskettes are erasable and can be re-recorded, and captured images can be manipulated and transmitted via e-mail and other methods using computer software that is relatively inexpensive.

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