Thursday, 12 February 2009

The pocket photocopier

OK, here's another on the theme: useful uses of the computer.

I have a little camera that I take with me pretty much everywhere: it's smaller than a cigarette packet, and fits in my pocket. I do this because I'm interested in photography, and a great believer in the view that the best camera to have is the one that's in your hand ready when the shot becomes possible. Not the great big black one that you left at home.

It's also a photocopier. If you have a digital camera that can capture an image at 5 megapixels or more (and most of them can, nowadays) then you can photograph an A4 page, upload it to your computer, and print it out at 300 dots per inch (dpi) which is the resolution of a photocopier. If you use one of the excellent monochrome laser printers that the University provides for us, with free toner and paper, then what you have is a free-of-charge photocopier that fits in your pocket. I use this a lot...

And, of course, you don't have to print it out. Computer storage is very cheap, and anything stored away in it is powerfully filed and easily found. And you can use (and should be using) the brilliant, and free, Picasa to edit and store and catalogue your photos. Yes, it's another Google product. Two days ago a student asked me if I was getting paid by Google, I recommend their products so much. If only...

And, once they're in Picasa, it's a snap, as they say, to upload your photos to Picasa Web Albums. Why would you want to do this? Because you can then selectively share them with your students. Or, of course, friends, family, or whatever.

What a world we live in, that has such gadgets in it.


  1. OK, here's my first question: how do you make sure it's all in focus, and well-lit etc? In other words, how do you make up for the fact that you're not using a flat-bed scanner, but a hand-held-in-the-air-with-imperfect-light one?

  2. Yes, you wouldn't think it would work, would you? But it does: try it. I use a macro setting, otherwise everything is auto. Digital cameras are really clever nowadays. Natural light, with flash switched off. I usually adjust contrast and fill light in Picasa / Lightroom, but it works without that. I've been doing it since I first got a digital camera, years ago, but now it's coming to be a common practice: rare book rooms in America have policies to cover the practice. Like, don't use flash.

  3. Fabulous idea - and I agree absolutely about being prepared for the good shot when it arises (although I'm very much a click and shooter). I've also used mine for timetables at bus stops for later use and when I had a poorly ear and nobody to look at it, I took a pic and saw that it wasn't as bad as it felt!

    Made me laugh about the google products jibe - I'm also conscious of that charge, but it's just such good, user-friendly stuff. Wouldn't use it other...

  4. I use my camera phone quite a lot for this, at 5mp it quite easily takes a clear shot of an a4 page. Comes in handy quite a lot in waiting rooms (interesting recipes).

    It's also useful when comparing prices of products; take a photo of the model number and price.

    I set it to macro mode with flash off, and if light is a little dim, just up the ISO a little.

    Much easier than carrying my slr around everywhere.

  5. Lol you and Bilus really are similar - google, gtd, alice in wonderland... (I am a former Web 2.0 pupil and am interested in how the new course progresses..!)

  6. I am convinced Bilus is employed by Google :-)