Digital and disposable


Issue: "Nuclear threat in Korea," Aug. 16, 2003

Imagine a throwaway digital camera as cheap as its 35mm cousins. The technology is inexpensive enough that one company now sells a disposable digital camera for $10.99.

Pure Digital Technologies started selling the Dakota Digital Single-Use Camera late last month. As with the analog disposable camera, a user must take the whole camera back to the store for processing. He must then pay for developing to get the prints on a CD-ROM and 4 x 6 prints.

Affordability is the advantage of these cameras. If a user misplaces one, nothing valuable is lost except the 25 pictures that the camera can store. Disposability also gives people an opportunity to try digital cameras without making a big initial investment.

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The Dakota Digital arrives as the cost of a decent regular model has dropped into double digits. While cameras with a lot of features can run $300-$500, discount 1-megapixel webcams can be found for $100 or less. Low-resolution digital cameras are also a popular feature on new cell phones; while not good enough for wedding photos, they are decent enough for quick snapshots.

The advent of cameras like these also means more ubiquitous snapshots. State Farm has experimented with sending digital cameras to auto insurance customers to use in case of accidents. In Asia, millions of cell-phone cameras have sold-and are now blamed for everything from voyeurism to industrial espionage. The technology may have social consequences that most wouldn't have predicted.


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