Barack Obama's election to US president has already brought a string of firsts, and on Wednesday there came another. The official presidential portrait was shot on a digital camera for the first time.

The picture was taken by the White House's new official photographer, Pete Souza, and issued by The Office of the President Elect through its Web site. It was taken on Tuesday evening at 5:38 pm using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, according to the metadata embedded in the image file.


The switch to digital isn't a surprise. In the eight years since George W. Bush became US president, the digital camera market has progressed in leaps and bounds.

In early 2001, Nikon's D1 was typical of the digital SLR cameras professionals were using. The 2.6-megapixel camera debuted in 1999 and cost about US$5,000 for the body alone. In contrast, the EOS 5D used for Obama's portrait has a 12.8-megapixel resolution and costs about $2,000.

Consumer-class digital cameras have progressed at a similar pace, with competition so intense among vendors that low-end digital SLRs are now within the grasp of many shoppers.