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'Digital zoom adds nothing to the image, so I wouldn't use it, nor would I buy a camera based on it," says Lee Otsubo. "Optical zoom is real. Digital zoom is a marketing ploy." Otsubo, known as the Digital Photo Guy, will be presenting an intermediate-level workshop for digital-camera users on Saturday, April 23. "I come from an engineering background," says Otsubo, "so I'm used to breaking down complex technologies." Part of his workshop includes selecting the right camera for your photography needs. "Don't get carried away with this megapixel race. The kid behind the counter might say you need the biggest, best you can find, but 90 percent of all photos in the U.S. are four by six. For these, you don't need more than two or three megapixels." Pixel is short for picture element, one of the millions of tiny dots of color that compose a digital picture. He explains that more pixels would be necessary for someone who is creating poster-sized images, but even then there is such a thing as "too big."

"At eight [megapixels], there are a lot of technical issues, but not all eights are created equal." Otsubo explains that the more pixels you try to cram onto the sensor chip inside a camera, the more "digital noise," or grain, will appear on the image. To avoid this problem, Otsubo suggests that photographers purchase a semipro camera, which contains a larger sensor chip. But at $1500, these aren't for everyone.

Otsubo will cover the six major parts of a digital camera, stressing that this kind of camera is like a basic PC. He uses computer terms to describe the six parts: input, output, CPU (central processing unit), memory and storage, the human interface (the person operating it), and the power system. "[The digital camera] is a highly specialized, single-purpose computer," he says.

"For anyone who's experienced missed shots because their digital camera is slow, [I tell them to] prefocus," Otsubo says. "Anticipate where the action is going to be and have it ready to go. There is a function or mode called 'burst' or 'continuous mode,' and it allows you to take up to eight shots at once, like a mini-movie. You hold down the shutter release, and it takes several shots. I call it PNS -- not point and shoot, but point and spray."

For the best result, Otsubo describes the three components that are crucial for high print quality. The first is a quality photo-printer, preferably one that uses six colors rather than the standard four (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow). A six-color printer includes light cyan and light magenta. For better black-and-white images, there are eight-color printers that include additional gray inks. The second printing component is compatible paper (compatible to the ink), which is more expensive but, according to Otsubo, worth the cost.

Finally, Otsubo recommends high-quality software. "There's free software that comes with cameras -- it's often poorly written stuff of minimal value. The technical term for it is 'crap,'" he says. "There's a full-featured program, Photoshop Element Three, but it's expensive." This software, which is a simpler version of Photoshop, retails for $90; Photoshop is around $650. "The ones I recommend are shareware programs." Shareware is software that is free to download from the Internet and often includes a suggested monetary contribution to the program's writer(s).

Otsubo prefers shareware because it is "cheap, good, and purpose driven; it does one or two things very well. The downside is that there is a lot of bad stuff out there with viruses. Some of it is outright malicious." He has put together a selection of his 35 most useful programs. "I contacted the authors, got their permission to distribute the software, and sell it all on one CD, including tutorials." The tutorials were created by Otsubo and consist of his giving step-by-step instructions for people who don't want to read the manual.

A fear that consumes many new digital camera users is to lose precious photographs. "I recommend the first thing you do after downloading pictures to your hard drive is to burn them to a CD or DVD," says Otsubo. "Because I try new software all the time, sometimes it doesn't work exactly the way I thought it would."

Otsubo gives hope to those who have suffered the despair of lost digital photographs. There was a woman who, after attending one of Otsubo's workshops, showed up at his next workshop. She told him that after the previous workshop she had gone home, downloaded photos from her camera to her PC, and without checking to see if the transmission was successful, had reformatted the camera's memory. It was only then that she realized the photos had never downloaded to her PC. Otsubo helped the panicking woman download a program called Photo Rescue. "We recovered 500 photos from six memory cards that she had formatted and erased." -- Barbarella

The Digital Photo Guy Intermediate-Level Digital Camera Workshop Saturday, April 23 11 a.m. Oceanside Public Library Mission Branch Community Room 3861-B Mission Avenue Cost: free Info: 760-749-6778 or www.thedigitalphotoguy.com

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