Reviews Reprinted: Apple QuickTake 100

The following article by Gordon Laing appeared on Personal Computer World UK magazine, September 1994, Volume 17 No. 9, pages 263-64. The magazine is obviously the copyright holder.

Apple QuickTake 100 Digital Camera
— If you need instant images for DTP-produced documents, this digital camera is a good choice. But if it’s image quality you want, Gordon Laing suggests you stick with your SLR. —

quicktake100good.jpg

Digital cameras come in all shapes and sizes. The higher end is catered for by Kodak/Nikon and Hasselblad, offering professional quality, high-resolution units at a cost of several hundred pounds. The other manufacturers are targeting the typical business user end at the lower price of around £500, offering reasonable quality. In the past we’ve had the Canon Ion and the Logitech FotoMan; now it’s the turn of Apple with the QuickTake 100, at around £535.

Digital cameras work along similar lines to conventional cameras, but where the latter store images on light-sensitive photographic film, digital cameras capture the analogue image electronically, then convert to digital for storage on, say, an internal hard disk or Flash EPROM. This information may then be downloaded to a PC at a later date, straight into potential DTP layouts, presentations or plain word documents.

The advantage of digital cameras is the speed at which an image is ready for use on your computer. Simply plug it in and you’re off — no messy developing or scanning. The image, usually in TIFF form, should be immediately usable. Better still is that when you’ve downloaded the images they can be deleted, leaving the camera fresh and ready for action again — no more popping to Boots to buy another film.

It sounds great, but there are downsides. The first thing is image quality, the one thing you’re unlikely to want to compromise on. The £500-ish digital cameras tend to manage resolutions up to 640 x 480 pixels, which is only really reproducible in print as a couple of inches square. Then there’s capacity. Digital cameras have a fixed amount of storage space which doesn’t go too far if you’re capturing colour images. So how does the QuickTake 100 measure up?

The QuickTake 100 is Apple’s début in the digital camera market and comes in two flavours: one available now for Macintosh at £535 and a forthcoming Windows version at £599, which should be around by the time you read this. This review specifically looks at the former, although the differences are expected to be minimal and in software only.

The QuickTake 100 kit for Macintosh comes with the camera, software for image downloading and simple editing, LocalTalk serial cable, three rechargeable batteries with AC charger, neck strap and documentation. It’s shaped a little like a chunky portable CD player with a rounded edge for a grip, and with batteries, it weighs 1 lb. The right-handed grip encourages the index and forefinger to rest on a large shutter release button, but this hasn’t proved a problem for any left-handers I gave the camera to.

The viewfinder and lens are on the smallest sides. Next to the viewfinder is a small square LCD display indicating number of pictures taken, number of pictures left, battery life, flash, self-timer and current resolution. Around it are three small buttons to alter resolution, auto-exposure and self-timer, and a fourth recessed one which wipes the memory.

The QuickTake only takes 24-bit, full-colour images, but these can be reduced in pixel depth or to greyscale within software at a later date. Two resolutions are offered: standard 320 x 240 pixels and high 640 x 480 pixels. An internal 1MB Flash EPROM is capable of storing 32 standard or eight high-resolution images, or a combination of the two. Apple claims the EPROM can store these safely for up to a year, although the longest I tried was for a couple of days.

The combination of the CCD imager and the fitted fixed focal length lens gives a filed of view equivalent to a standard 50mm lens on a 35mm camera: a safe choice, but I would have preferred something a little wider. The QuickTake auto-focuses from four feet to infinity. The built-in auto-exposure system works similarly to any other, picking a combination of aperture from f2.8 to f16 and a shutter speed of 1/30 to 1/175 of a second. If light levels are too low, the built-in flash fires, although this may be over-ridden if required; its range is four to nine feet.

Post photo-shoot, the camera is connected with the supplied LocalTalk serial cable to the Mac printer or modem port. I was surprised that no Chooser modifications had to be made for the supplied software to access the camera. Before I knew it, all my images were on screen and ready to be cropped, rotated and saved in TIFF, PICT or QuickTake formats.

The camera felt solid and fairly dependable in use. The downloading time was fast, with a full load dumped in less than a minute. The idea of 32 pictures over eight is severely tempting, but the resulting low-resolution images are of little use.

The higher ones are useful, but only, I feel, to a very specific area in the market. Take any situation where small Polaroids are taken for administrative or security purposes. Here the issue is not so much of 35mm or medium format quality, but one of high turnover. An ideal application would be to supply small mug-shots of staff for a corporate magazine — in fact, we used the QuickTake for this very purpose in VNU’s own Link 32 company magazine, and the images, reproduced at around 2in x 2in, looked great.

To conclude: digital cameras won’t compete with even advanced 35mm SLRs on price or quality, but this is missing the point. If you only require small images extremely quickly, ready to drop into your electronic document, then digital cameras are the absolute business — and the Apple QuickTake 100 is a perfect example of such a product.

* * * * *

I chose to ‘reprint’ this now 15-year old review mostly to give you an idea of the state of the digital camera market and technical capabilities of digital cameras in 1994. The QuickTake 100 didn’t have removable storage and even if it had been available it would have been quite limited. The only QuickTake camera with a media card would be the 200 (with 2MB or 4MB 5V media cards) introduced in 1997. Note also the limited resolution compared to present devices — today even the worst cellphone takes better pictures. RM

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