What digital still camera to buy?

16 replies [Last post]
tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

OK guys and galls, this Saturday is digital stll camera buying day. The top whack is £600 so does this inspire you to write in and say "look at the Superpix DCM3600"? Your thoughts and recommendations would be appreciated. I have the PC Pro multi-camera test from the December 2001 issue, but the interveening 7 months must surely have changed the market somewhat.

Is there a clear head and shoulders leader out there? I'm looking at a Minolta Dimage 5 and a Finepix 601 but I'm a bit new to all this. I quite like the idea of an SLR but do I get more mega-pixels in my chips if I opt for a bloggo viewfinder?

tom.

Stuart B-M
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Joined: Apr 6 2001

Dear Tom,

If it is definately a Digital Still camera that you are looking for, at £600 or less, IMHO i would recommend the new Fuji S602,
www.internetcamerasdirect.co.uk £568 inc vat and delivery.

Forgot to add that, the price includes next day delivery free mini tripod+extra,s http://www.internetcamerasdirect.co.uk/digital-camera-brands-Fuji&fcat=1.htm

reviews...

http://www.steves-digicams.com/2002_reviews/fuji_s602z.html
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/fujis602z/

Kindest regards.

[This message has been edited by Stuart B-M (edited 11 July 2002).]

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Many thanks Stuart, just the sort of info I need. I've seen the 601 - is the 602 much different/any better?

buckers
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Joined: Nov 10 2000

I've had a Fuji2400Z for well over a year - a fantastic little camera.

I'm now in the market for a new one and the 602 is probably where I'm heading. There are rumours of a 603 (Code fuji3800) likely around Sep, and with digital camera competition hotting up I may wait until the christmas frenzy.

Adam

Stuart B-M
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Joined: Apr 6 2001

Dear Tom,

IMHO the 602, is by far a better camera, in a different league to the 601.

It has manual focus, a x6 lens apposed to the 601,s x3,
It also has lens adapters for wide angle, and telephoto,

I have posted links to fujifilm UK site for both for you to have a run through the spec's yourself.

http://www.fujifilm.co.uk/fujidc/fp601/index.html
http://www.fujifilm.co.uk/fujidc/fp602/index.html

In all honesty the 6million pixel claim is far fetched, (for either) its really 3.3 + interpolorization.. The camera "second guesses" and the pixels mapped around interpretations of the real image.. but reviews carried out by photographers that have probably forgotten more than i will ever learn, say that it does a very good job,
And is probably as good as a "real" 4/4.5 mega pixel camera... all for around £550.

I personally think the 602 is an absolute stunning piece of kit for the money.

Kindest regards and good luck with whatever you choose.

Julian Barnes
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Joined: Jan 13 2002

Tom,
I have had the Fuji 6900 since last Sept (previous model).
Well made solid camera.
Easy to use, handling good.
Manual focus not as precise as SLR cameras.
Battery life on lithium good, although always buy spare.
Pop up flash useful in some sits,although setting available for external unit.
Smartmedia cheap - seen it for £17.(also useful for data transfer)
Both my sons have borrowed the camera for holidays and found it easy to operate.
Batteries have to be charged in camera.
Regards
Julian

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RayL
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Joined: Mar 31 1999

Tom

Haven't you just bought a VX2000? With a memory stick and reader included? That was the logic that led me to the Sony DSC-P1 (3.3 Megapixels, little MPEG movies, macro facility, AV output, etc).

It depends what you are looking for in a digital still camera but amongst the bonuses is the ability to use my camera to transport any sort of computer file (up to 128Mb with suitable memory stick) from computer to computer using USB.

I think the DSC-P1 has been superceded by a later model but the features are the same.

Ray Liffen

John Vickers
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Joined: Mar 9 2002

Hi Tom,

Look at http://www.dpreview.com/reviews

I think the reviews there are quite excellent. Thorough and analytical.
If only there were such a site for camcorders. Unlike any of the camcorder magazine reviews, I'd be quite happy to buy a camera on the basis of the reviews there.

The thing about the Fuji cameras is they have the beyer pattern turned through 45 degrees.
They then claim headline megapixels double the number of cells on the CCD. Hmm.

It depends what you want. If you must have a big zoom, there's not much choice at £600.
For £600 you're not going to get an SLR. So manual focus is not really going to work too well.
Does that budget include memory ?
I'd go for a camera that takes Microdrive. CF Flash tends to be cheaper in the large capacities too.
Sony obviously only support memory stick, which for me would rule out things like the S85 and F707.

I'd still buy a canon G2, which has very low noise at low ISO setting, good dynnamic range, neutral
colours, excelent battery life even with Microdrive, and a 10-bit lossless "RAW" image format that doesn't take a lot more space than a low-comprtession JPEG.
The RAW format allows white balance (and a few other things) to be adjusted after the fact (and before conversion to TIFF or JPEG).
RAW also gives a little bit more resolution then JPEG.
The ISO50 may sound a bit slow, but Canon seem to claim relatively slow speeds. The Canon ISO settings are all about 2/3EV slow, on the basis
of the exposures it chooses itself, so the G2's ISO 50 is faster than some ISO 100s.

Review at: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canong2/

A feature not mentioned in the manual or the reviews is: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1010&message=1925261
Which was first mentioned in: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1010&message=1562633

It seems to perform better than some of the higher megapixel models that have come after it, e.g: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikoncp5000/page21.asp

It, and the microdrive, seem fairly tough. I carry it in my pocket. Other peoples tastes in clothing may make this impractical...

So what's wrong with it, then ?

As with it's competitors, mamual focus using the (very good) viewscreen is essentially impossible. There just isn't enough resolution on the little screen for that.

It reports (consistently) incorrect focus distances at wide. Auto focus is fine
(I checked mine with resolution charts) but except for infinity, manual focus by
distance (dead rekoning) is out. That is, it focusses OK, but when you hit focus lock,
which switches to manual focus, the distance it says it's focussed at is different from
the distance it really is focussed at.

This bug seems to be shared with it's cousin the S40.

It's important to pay attention to the green focus confirmation display.

What's missing from the RAW conversion software is the ability to adjust the exposure (shift the gamma curve).

It doesn't tell you what ISO it's set to without going into the menus.

For less money, you could get the same image quality, and most of the features, from the (smaller) Canon S40, which is much more designed to fit in a jacket pocket. You lose the fast G2 lens,
some battery capacity, the hot-shoe, the IR remote, and a couple other things: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canons40/

S40 wouldn't be much use to me, since I want to be able to photograph people indoors with ambient light (no flash),
but for some people G2 is too big.

Other stuff:

Copying 1GByte of pictures off a Microdrive is tedious. A firewire CF reader is several times quicker.

I tend to use G2 with a -2/3EV exposure adjustement, take a picture in Aperture priority
or "Programmed auto exposure", look at the histogram, and then switch to manual
exposure control for further photographs of the same scene.

John.

John Vickers
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Joined: Mar 9 2002

Oh yes, appart from the solid basic performance, there's the tilt-and-swivel screen.

Can you imagine using the sidescreen on a camcorder which only worked when the screen was vertical relative to the camcorder ?

There's a lot of shot's I wouldn't or couldn't have taken if the screen didn't swivel.

Regards,

John.

Alan Roberts at work
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Joined: May 6 1999

Back to the topic

I'm still delighted with my Olympus C3030, and would buy it's replacement model if I lost/broke it. I've recently been looking at some of its output on a big bright projector (QXGA, 2048x1536, same as the camera), and it holds up rather well. There's visible blooming where highly overexposed areas effectively bleed charge into neighbouring pixels and it looks like misregistration or chromatic aberration but isn't.

Beware of the numbers game. My camera says 3.34Mpixels on the front of it. I think that means the actual (single) sensor is 2048x1536 pixels (i.e. 3,145,728) plus a few round the edges for various nefarious reasons. But that has to contain RGB or equivalent filters to get a coloured picture. From a little inside knowledge into these things ( ) I'd guess that about 60% of the pixels are clear or green , 25% red and 15% blue. So the RGB images are interpolated to get them back to "full resolution". This happens in all single ccd devices, whether video or stills. The tradec off works because we don't need such full resolution in colouring as we do in luminance. And cameras tend to save JPEG files, which are YUV coded just like video anyway so need only 50% or less colour bandwidth.

All the usual stuff that I rant on about at length any time somebody lets me off the leash.

Gavin Gration
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Joined: Jul 29 1999

Tom,

I've been researching still photography for the last few weeks with a view to buying a Digital SLR or a 35mm SLR.

My current camera, an Olympus C3000 takes good GV's/snapshots & that's about it - I have done some arty stuff & sold pictures to the press - but in doing so I am well aware of the limitatons of the camera.

I think you should try to have a good play with the cameras before you decide. Understand their limits & define your expectations.

If you want quality buy a 35mm SLR with a twon lense bundle - Nikon F80 seems to be the "sweet thing" in your price range. If you need a digi-snapper with a nice zoom etc try the Fuji's.

FWIW My experience of Fuji's cheaper (£300) 2600Z was bad quality especially poor in low light & the flash was hopelessy inadequate.

Gavin

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manchestervideo.com

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Guys, you're wonderful. One quick question brings forth a torrent of user facts, tests, opinions, suggestions and warnings, and I thank you all for the trouble you've gone to in replying to me.

Now to sift through some of the web sites and have a look see. But to clarify (Ray L). Although Saturday is buying day for Tom, I'm buying for friend Steve on his £600 upper limit. I'll be the one using it to photograph his shop though.

I sort of agree with Gavin about 35mm but that's not on the agenda, even though I tried to talk Steve round. I have the Dimage II scanner whic extracts huge files out of 35mm negs. I liked Alan R's 3030 analysis and John V - your reply was a classic post.

Julian, Adam and Stuart all point at Fuji which is interesting as in 35mm days they were a real outsider. (I nearly said has-been) and let Canon, Minolta, Pentax and Nikon control the field. But things have changed I see.

I'll get a few on the counter. I especially like the idea of the swivelling finder John V, and thank you for pointing that out.

I'll let you know who gets the fistful of dollars, OK?

tom.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

OK, Nikon won the day. The Tecno store at Canary Wharf sold a Nikon Coolpix 5000 for £750 which seems an OK price. First impressions are that it's solidly built, very compact indeed and the v/finder has a huge safety margin - quite un-necessarily so. Now to read the book.

tom.

John Vickers
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Joined: Mar 9 2002

Hmm. Weird. Nikon do macro very well.

Well, when the CP5000 was announced it looked like it had the potential to be a big step forward.
It certainly looks the part.

But when it arrived it seemed to have a few shortcomings.

For £750, you could get better images from a Canon S40 with a 1G microdrive, a spare battery, and a case, and still have change for a curry afterwards.

Whatever.

John.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Ah - the Nikon viewfinder. I meant the silly little parallax aflicted viewfinder, not the swivelling LCD screen - which was very useable even in bright light I may say. But this morning I've been out shooting with the Nikon Pronea S APS SLR and its viewfinder is absolutely streets ahead of the digital camera's.

But as you say - at that price there's lots of alternatives but no shop carries them all. But thanks for your thoughts John. Shame I had to forego on the curry.

tom.

Motionwerk
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Joined: Aug 8 1999

You can also get new digital Leica for less than £700.

Stephen Carter
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Joined: Nov 18 1999

I am surprised there are no Sony S85 fans out there. I bought one of these and am delighted. Seriously considered the Fuji 6900 but it was a bit too big. I was looking for a very high performance compact. The mid price 'very compacts' nearly all seem to fall down on lens quality except the Canon Ixus. In the end though I went for the Sony with its Zeiss F2 lens, excellent low light performance 4M pixels and brilliant battery life. The battery charger and memory stick reader are also interchangeable with my VX2000 which is an added bonus.

[This message has been edited by Stephen Carter (edited 16 July 2002).]

Stephen Carter
www.seraphmedia.org.uk