Digital Camera Questions

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Digital Camera Questions

Post by disphenoidal » Thu May 17, 2007 6:31 pm

I used to be into 35mm photography, with a Canon SLR and slide film as my weapons of choice. But recently the latch holding the film back closed on my camera broke, and the increasing difficulty and cost of having film processed got me thinking about going digital.

I can't afford a good digital SLR right now, and am thinking something lighter and more compact might be better anyway. SLRs might take better pictures, but not when you leave them home because they're too bulky. So I'm looking for a digital, point-and-shoot style camera.

However, since old habits die hard, I want something that will still give me the speed and control I'm used to having in an SLR. In particular, a lot of the digital cameras I've used are just plain slow. Slow to focus, slow to take a picture, slow to save it. It also seems like there's a significant delay when viewing a moving subject on the screen. Changes in the subject seem to take a fraction of a second to appear on the screen, and I don't like that. I also want some amount of manual control over settings like exposure and focus.

Are there any cameras out there that satisfy these requirements? I'm reading about some of the Nikon Coolpix models, are there any others you guys would recommend? Thanks in advance.
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Post by alleycat » Thu May 17, 2007 7:26 pm

I've had a Coolpix 4200 for a few years but I find the photos are kind of "soft". It's caused by the type of JPEG compression it uses, apparently, and it seems like a lot of the Coolpix models have the same problem. Something like the Canon A570IS might be worth looking at, as it's not expensive and has full manual control.

If you want the magic of slide film, you'd need to find a camera capable of storing images in RAW format, but these are usually SLRs. Compression tends to crush the "life" out of the images, from what I've seen.

For reviews, I tend to rely on this site.

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Canon A540

Post by vanhelmont » Thu May 17, 2007 8:31 pm

I have an Alpa 35 mm (Japanese, not Swiss, but still has a nice macro lens, and a couple of Zeiss-Jena lenses, but haven't even used it for several years. You are right, it doesn't take great pictures in the closet.

We had a coolpix which always drove me crazy it was so slow. New ones are probably much faster. We just got a Canon A550 which I love. It's got a great 4x zoom lens, and when you press the button it takes pictures with no noticeable delay. Good macro capability. My wife does most of the photography, and tends to do everything automatic, but it has several exposure modes. I was concerned because it doesn't have manual focus or aperture, but even macro pictures of flowers come out properly focused.

Here's a review
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A550/A550A.HTM
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Post by Max Slowik » Thu May 17, 2007 9:29 pm

Another good review site, actually, probably the best camera review site, is

http://www.dpreview.com/

Incidentally, a good, inexpensive DSLR that you might already have lenses for is the Pentax K100 and K110 (the 100 has image stabilization, where the 110 does not) and is considered one of the best bang:buck DSLRs.

If they're still out of range, you can pick up a ist*DS for just a little more than some film bodies.

Anyway, it's a great review site, and it will fill your head with all the dreams of owning equipment that you can never afford. Well, at least I can't afford it.
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Post by josephclemente » Thu May 17, 2007 9:55 pm

Max Slowik wrote:Another good review site, actually, probably the best camera review site, is

http://www.dpreview.com/
I like dpreview too... I just recently bought a FujiFilm FinePix F31fd based on their review and am very happy with it.
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Post by jbw » Fri May 18, 2007 6:11 am

I recenly went through the same deal. I had an old Canon SLR kit and the zoom lens was having serious problems.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, there are two types of non-SLR digital cameras: ones that will fit into your pocket and ones that won't.

I have two of them that will fit into my pocket. They're no good, generally. Unless you get lucky (which I have many times), they will not take decent photos because their tiny lenses just don't let in enough light to shoot anything indoors without the flash. And their flashes usually cannot be dialed down so everything you shoot up-close will be washed out and, more importantly, maxed out on the histogram so you can't correct in photoshop.

The other type are the bigger, fixed-lens digital cameras. These are a) almost as big as SLRs and b) almost as expensive.

If you already have Canon lenses and are used to carrying an SLR, may I suggest looking for a Digital Rebel or Digital Rebel XT body (both are "old models," having been replaced by the XTi). I'm sure they can be had for $450 somewhere or gently used on eBay, etc.

If you want to make a total switch and get the lightest and smallest dSLR, find a Nikon D40 kit (has been replaced by the D40x which cranks the megapixels to 10--totally unnecessary IMO). That's what I did--I bought the D40 and I love it. It does have some drawbacks though--read its reviews on the internet.

As Max S mentioned, the Pentax dSLRs are a good value as well. Anything that will take your lenses.


Oh and if all of the foregoing has been totally irrelevant to you, I'd recommend getting a Canon point-and-shoot. They're very well-made and they have an extensive line, and some of the older models with fewer megapixels (e.g., 6) are very cheap. But all that being said, the only way to see how fast they are is to try them. Go to any large electronics store and test them.

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Post by Max Slowik » Fri May 18, 2007 7:40 am

Yeah, Canon A-series FTW. Pretty damn good point-n-shoot. Also, very rugged. I know a couple of dual-sport motorcyclists who swear by them.

Here are the shots I took at the AMD event in Tunis:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/26999530@N00/page3/

I was playing around with exposure length, so some of them have some blur, to good or ill effect.
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Post by disphenoidal » Fri May 18, 2007 8:49 am

The Canon A570IS seems like a pretty good fit for me. I'm going to try to look at one today or tomorrow and see how fast and ergonomic it is. Thanks for the advice so far. I looked at the Pentax, Nikon D40, and Digital Rebels, but I'm thinking of going the point and shoot route for portability/convenience. I only have a couple lenses, and pretty much use the same one all the time, so I'm not too worried about reusing my lenses. I would miss using my polarizers, but supposedly you can attach filters to the A570 with an adapter.
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Post by Max Slowik » Fri May 18, 2007 9:11 am

My A80 came with a 52mm filter attachment. I've seen them on plenty of other As, too, and I'm pretty sure they're stock.
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Post by disphenoidal » Fri May 18, 2007 2:32 pm

I tried the A570IS today. I liked it. I don't know if it was quite as fast as an SLR, but not slow enough to be problematic. I liked that you could switch modes using the knob on top, rather than having to page through software menus. There are a few dedicated buttons, such as exposure compensation, while less often adjusted settings had to be accessed using software. I was hoping to look at a Nikon S500, but all they had was an S50. The S50 gives you a lot less control; it doesn't have manual or aperture/shutter priority modes. It also has fewer dedicated controls, so you have to do more in software, and felt somewhat slower than the A570IS. I think most people would be happier with the Nikon, as it looks and feels better, and the scroll wheel provides a nice interface. The Canon doesn't feel as solid, but is a better choice for someone who has used an SLR.

I looked a little at a Rebel XT, but they were going for almost twice as much as the A570IS. I still intend to have my 35mm SLR repaired sometime (it was quoted as a $50-100 job) so I don't think a second SLR would be wise, at least not now.

Thanks for all the advice and links, everyone! I'll let you know what I end up getting and how it works out.
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Post by peteamer » Sun May 20, 2007 1:51 am

In case it's of any use to anybody browsing this thread, www.trustedreviews.com do some godd reviews as well.

Me?... I'm off to buy a Fuji S9600 due to this thread.
I've been itching for a 'proper' camera for a while now, I originally wanted an EOS350 but bulked at the price, then the 400 came out and I 'needed' that :D did some browsing and decided that the S9600 has all the quality I need if not more, has a good range 28-300 that doesn't distort at the ends of the zoom and shouldn't suffer from dust due to not changing lenses.

Just need to decide on XD or CF cards now.....


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Post by psiu » Mon May 21, 2007 6:27 pm

I've got an older Fuji Finepix A205, simple little 2MP/3x optical zoom job, took some very nice pics with it over the years. Ended up moving up to a Canon S2 IS, ~5MP/12X optical zoom. All the features I need, should last for awhile.

A couple other *VERY* nice review sites are:

http://www.steves-digicams.com
http://www.imaging-resource.com

I would personally put them just ahead of dpreview.com in my personal rankings, but all 3 are top-notch and give a different take on cameras. Imaging Resource has a nice camera finder thingy too--the more information you enter the more precise the recommendations will be. Nice way to narrow things down for yourself.

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Post by qviri » Mon May 21, 2007 7:18 pm

peteamer wrote:Just need to decide on XD or CF cards now.....
Going to hijack this thread a little bit... I've been thinking of acquiring a camera in the $200-ish range. My laptop has a CF card slot, so I'd love it if the camera used CF cards for storage as I wouldn't have to lug the USB cable around. Just pop the CF in and copy away. Nothing to lose, nothing to misplace.

However, on a quick glimpse through the point-and-shooters (that name makes me feel like a photography n00b... perhaps deservedly so...), it seems they use SD/MMC almost exclusively.

Can anything think of a model/manufacturer that uses CF on those cheap cameras? I don't insist on omg!newest, as long as it has 5-ish MP I'm happy... or is CF used only by high-end these days?
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Post by josephclemente » Mon May 21, 2007 7:55 pm

qviri wrote:Can anything think of a model/manufacturer that uses CF on those cheap cameras? I don't insist on omg!newest, as long as it has 5-ish MP I'm happy... or is CF used only by high-end these days?
I'm not aware of any current cameras with CF in that price range... I was hoping to find a Camera I liked with Compact Flash or any of the other formats my Dell 2407WFP monitor has built in support for.

The camera I decided on turned out to use xD, the one format my monitor doesn't support. So all those card slots are useless to me. Plus xD is known to be slower and more expensive than other formats. But the quality, size and price of the camera was worth the card format.

There should be Compact Flash adapters out there though, to convert one format to another... May be better than carrying a USB cable around but it is still something extra that can get lost...
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Post by continuum » Mon May 21, 2007 9:40 pm

www.dcresource.com is good as well. Canon A-series is pretty good for a P&S with manual controls, as are the Panasonic LX and FX series.

Most P&S cameras aside from Olympus and Fuji use SD memory now.

Keep in mind high ISO performance is going to suck on any P&S camera; the Fuji F-series is the only thing remotely acceptable above ISO400, and even they show very noticeable inferiority compared to a dSLR.

http://www.dpreview.com/articles/compactcamerahighiso/

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Post by alleycat » Mon May 21, 2007 11:34 pm

qviri, there are SD->CF adapters around, but I use an SD->USB adapter which I find very handy, as it works on any computer with a USB port. It's about the size of a USB flash drive; you can get them for a few dollars on ebay. Or you could get something like this.

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Post by disphenoidal » Wed May 23, 2007 7:28 pm

I got my A570IS tonight and went out this evening to try it out

What I like so far:
Optical viewfinder in addition to LCD screen.
Image stabilization! Lets me use handhold much longer exposures.
Easy to change settings, most are 1-2 clicks away.
Lots of adjustments, like focus, flash over/underexposure, etc.

What I don't like:
Image noise at ISO 200 or higher.
Not many aperture settings available.
Long recharge time for flash

So far I like it. And I enjoy the other advantages of digital, like being able to take an essentially unlimited number of pictures (1 GB) and review them immediately. Definitely glad I purchased this model. Thanks again for all the help.
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Post by alleycat » Wed May 23, 2007 8:31 pm

Good to hear that you settled on something you're happy with, and your feedback is helpful, as I am considering buying an A570IS for my parents. I think that image noise is a problem with most P&S cameras due to the small sensor. Haven't tried it myself, but there's a program called neatimage that's supposed to be good at cleaning up noise. Slow flash recharge is a bit of a disappointment. Seems like a good value camera though; I'm yet to see one that is both cheap and "perfect"!

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Post by disphenoidal » Thu May 24, 2007 12:41 pm

The flash recharge isn't terribly slow, maybe 5-10 seconds? I normally don't use a flash, so I'm not really used to having that delay. It is definitely a good value as well. I don't know if I would get one for my parents; even though it has full auto modes, it still has a lot of buttons and menus that would probably confuse them. But my parents aren't good with these kinds of things. Let me know if you have any more questions about it.
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