Fast forward: Flash in the pan?

Digital cameras do away with film and processing - but are they really worth the money? Five readers get snapping

Digital cameras promise quality pictures but without the use of film and and the hassle of processing. You simply take the picture and then have the option of viewing it on a TV screen, printing it out (either yourself or professionally), or downloading it to a computer for storing or e-mailing. The camera can be constantly reused without its memory running out, and you can view pictures immediately after taking them. But are they as good as they appear? Our testers tried out a different camera each, and gave their opinion on the digital future.

Sophy Rickett is an artist more used to using Bronica large-format cameras in her work. She went out and about with the Nikon Coolpix 950

"It looks great, and everyone was interested in it. I tended to use it as a social thing, having a laugh down the pub, taking pictures. I couldn't resist showing everyone the picture I had just taken, which wears down the batteries and makes it give out after 20 shots. I like the fact you can use it to take pictures of yourself by turning the lens round. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities of putting the image on a computer. I prefer the parameters of normal photography. I wouldn't use it professionally - the images are too flat - but it is a great toy." Nikon Coolpix 950. pounds 799. For stockists and information call Nikon on 0800 230 220

Jason Broderick is an account manager for a cosmetics company. The Fuji MX2700 he tested was the first digital camera he has used

"I'm interested in technology. When I opened the box I thought I'd better read the instructions, and then taking pictures was easy. The viewing screen is helpful, but no good at night. Also, if you've got big hands it would be difficult to use this camera. I like the editing features, being able to see mistakes and delete pictures, and the different effects you can use. I think you'd have to be quite computer-literate to use it with a PC, and you would need a colour printer as well. It's not as simple as film and processing. I wouldn't buy one yet; maybe when they are cheaper." Fuji MX2700. pounds 599. For stockists and information call Fuji on 0171-586 1477

Simon O'Hara is a solicitor new to the world of digital photography. He tried out the Toshiba PDR M4

"Technically, I thought the camera was brilliant. The picture quality was excellent, but rather flat, not like glossy prints. It doesn't have the same sentimental value as a normal photo, but I guess you get used to it. It was easy to connect to a computer and play around with the image. The best function is the ability to pan like a video camera and then select your favourite frames for photos. The main problem is that the camera has too many functions and it takes ages to work out how to do something simple. I would definitely like to buy one, but only if someone could take me through it first."Toshiba PDR M4. pounds 550. For stockists and information call Toshiba on 01276 62222

Nikki Lawler is a shoe designer with limited experience of digital cameras. She was given the Canon Powershot A5 to test

"I used a camera before to make prints for T-shirts. This one was straightforward to handle but I didn't have the patience to sit and go through the manual to work out how to use all the functions. It is nice and small to carry around, though the batteries don't last long. If I had the money I would buy one. It would be useful for documenting my work; I could record everything then set up a library on a computer to use as a reference. It would be better than the Polaroid that I use now."

Canon Powershot A5 Zoom. pounds 525. For stockists and information call Canon on 0121 680 8062

Caroline Garnett is a busy working mother with two children who likes easy photos that look good. She tested the Olympus C900 Zoom to see if it met her criteria

"I liked using it, especially the way you don't have have to look through the viewfinder. This means you can keep an eye on what else is happening when you take the picture. I like the fact you can instantly see what you have done, and delete it and do it again if you want. I am not familiar with the technology, so it's a bit like starting from scratch. I would consider buying one, but I like having actual prints that you can show to people." Olympus C900 Zoom. pounds 500. For stockists and information call Olympus on 0171-253 2772

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