Being a computer and photographic geek living in Hong Kong, two questions get thrown my way fairly regularly: 'What's going to happen to Hong Kong after 97?' and, 'What about these digital cameras, are they going to change the world?' On the first question I'm afraid I'm not qualified to answer. As to the second, growth in the digital camera market is as inevitable as the handover of Hong Kong. Already, several newspapers in Canada no longer use film in their daily news coverage. The Associated Press covered both the Super Bowl and President Clinton's State of the Union address using nothing but digital stills. The savings in time and materials easily offsets the high cost of these film-less cameras. It is only recently that the digital still camera and a bed scanner for the home or business user have been available with high enough quality and low enough cost to make them a sensible alternative to a traditional film camera . QuickTake 150 is the latest digital camera from Apple. Although it is considerably larger than most point-and-shoot film cameras, the QuickTake offers the same PHD (Push Here Dummy) ease expected in a modern camera. The CCD produces a 640 by 480 pixel image with 24-bit colour. On high quality setting it will hold 16 images or 32 images on standard quality. The camera can be fitted to both Apple and PC computers, although it comes with a connection kit for only one platform. A connection kit for a second platform can be purchased separately. Kodak's latest entry into the consumer digital still camera market is the DC50 Digital Science camera - also both Mac and PC compatible. It offers more features than the QuickTake, including a 3X zoom lens, three levels of 24-bit image quality at a resolution of 756 X 504 pixels and PCMCIA slot which means the user is not restricted to image capacity of the on-board memory. Of course, this also means the price tag features numbers that are quite a bit larger than those found on the QuickTake. Apple is a newcomer to the field of camera design, and the QuickTake seemed a bit rough around the edges. The slick, rounded body looks nice, but it is not easy to hold and could do with some rubber coating. The eye cup on the view finder is fairly large and cannot be folded back or removed. Great, if you have good vision or wear contacts, but those with glasses will find it difficult to see the entire image in the view finder. The sliding lens cover was not very well designed either. It was secure when closed, but the easiest and most obvious way to open the cover was by using the finger-sized lens hole as a grip and, of course, making a greasy fingerprint on the lens. Kodak is one of the most active companies in the field of professional digital imaging products and an old hand when it comes to producing cameras. The DC50 was comfortable to hold and use, the layout well thought out and the chassis well constructed. The image quality of both cameras is not going to be equal to a negative from a 35mm unit. Only the most expensive digital cameras can do that. But when looking at a 3R print from a compact camera, the quality of either one of these cameras is quite comparable. Although the Kodak's images had a slightly more 'digital' look, they were sharper and more detailed than those from the Apple. The Apple also seemed to suffer from a maximum shutter speed of only 1/175 of a second. Pictures in subdued light or taken with flash were better than those taken a bright sunlight. The Kodak also captured a greater range of tones and did not have the blown out highlights that occurred with the Apple. Getting images into a computer was easy with both. The Apple connects by a serial cable and is treated like an external hard drive by the computer. Files are stored in a PICT format and can be opened easily using the provided PhotoFlash software, or any other software that can handle PICT. The software also will allow you to convert the images to TIFF, JPEG or EPS formats. The Kodak can be connected by a serial cable or images can be accessed by popping the optional PC into a standard PCMCIA slot on a notebook or desktop computer. Transfers by PC card are about twice as fast as those by serial cable. Unlike the QuickTake, the Kodak uses a proprietary format which is one of the reasons for its superior image quality. This does mean that the images can only be accessed through Kodak's PhotoEnhancer software. Once opened, the images can be converted to PICT, TIFF, JPEG, BMP, or EPSF formats. The main attraction of the Kodak DC50 is its versatility. The 3X zoom lens and the removable PC card offer users a practical a versatile alternative to a 35mm camera when it comes to desktop publishing, reports and internet web page design. The image quality easily matched a good, well-scanned 3R print. This versatility comes at a premium however. At $8,200 the DC50 is quite a bit more expensive than the QuickTake and with a capacity of only seven images at the highest quality setting, most users will want the optional $2,000 PCMCIA card. The camera will hold 11 shots on the better setting and 22 on the good setting. The Apple QuickTake still has a few kinks to work out. The image capacity is fixed and, for all practical purposes, limited to 16 images. Photos taken on the lower quality setting were rather Renoir-esque and I don't think they will be usable in most situations. However, at $5,200 the camera has a much more accessible price.