The expansion of the internet has inspired many spin-offs in the area of consumer software and hardware. Lately, the hot ticket has been digital still cameras and it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. One of the latest entrees into this increasingly competitive market is the Epson Photo PC. The unit promises point and shoot simplicity with a list price of about US$4000. It is aimed also at people who want to take photographs for immediate printing out of an Epson colour inkjet printer. The unit itself will look and feel close to a point-and-shoot 35mm cameras. Although it is quite a bit larger than most compact 35s, the controls and layout are stock point and shoot, with a simple liquid crystal display on top that allows the user to change the flash mode and activate the self timer. It also allows you to erase single frames.The erase feature will not allow you to pick and choose which frames you want to delete, users must erase the last frame shot first and then second to the last and so on. However, it will at least allow you to save storage space by killing a frame if you know you do not want it. The camera has a built in capacity of 32 images which can be expanded to 160 with memory cards. Our test unit had a two-megabyte card which popped easily into a small slot on the side of the camera and expanded the capacity to 96. In the field, the camera's shutter-less design was a real joy. There was not the usual sound one expects with a camera. The only sound that the camera emitted was a gentle beep to let you know that a frame had been exposed. What happened after the beep, however, was a problem. It took 12 seconds for the camera to save the image in its memory. Although the camera is quiet, it is certainly not unobtrusive. The camera has a focus free lens rather than an auto focus lens. Although these lenses are cheap to manufacture, they don't allow very much light to enter the camera and I found that the flash went off when photographing anything that was not illuminated by direct sunlight, even in well lit areas outdoors. Back in the office, a simple serial connection was all that was needed to attach the camera to a computer (the Photo PC is not yet available in a Macintosh compatible configuration). The Epson is TWAIN compliant and images can be acquired through the use of PhotoShop's TWAIN acquire, or Epson's own image editing software. Epson's software was simple and intuitive to use. The program first provided a grid of thumbnail previews. By selecting a thumbnail or group of thumbnails and clicking on a download button, a full resolution image could then be moved from the camera to the computer for cropping, colour correction and storage. Downloading an image took about 12 seconds and the features provided by the software were adequate for most users. The only thing absent from the software features was a more complete range of image formats. The software allows users to save images as compressed JPEG files and bitmapped files. There was no option, however, for more conventional formats such as TIFF or EPS. The 640X480 pixel images produced by the Photo PC showed good colour accuracy with few artifacts, particularly within solid fields of colour. The overall image quality, however, left something to be desired. The focus free lens once again proved to be the unit's downfall. Not only was there an overall lack of sharpness, but the images showed very noticeable distortion at the outside edges of the frame. The lens' poor sharpness also caused some colour channels to be poorly aligned within the images. All in all, the Epson's image sensors and ease of use put the Photo PC up with the best in amateur digital still cameras with a price tag of less than $7,000.