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Old Nov 21, 2003, 8:24 AM   #1
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Default New guy needs some advice on first digital camera

My lovely wife wants to buy me my first digital camera for Christmas. It won't be to much of a suprise, but she doesn't want to make the mistake of getting me the wrong item!
She wants to spend between $200.00 USD and $300.00 USD. The main requirement is picture quality. It doesn't have to be small or have ease of use. I can always learn how to use it. Most of the pictures will be indoor/outdoor photos of our son Connor and some close-up photography of coins and other items I collect. I understand that additional purchases will have to be made such as memory cards, batteries etc. I can purchase all the accessories on my own.
I've read a few reviews on the Canon PowerShot A70 Digital Camera and the Nikon Coolpix 3100 Digital Camera. They both seem to be nice digital cameras for the price. I wanted to get some expert advice from some of the members here on other quality digital cameras in this price range. Thanks in advance.

BTW very nice forum here!
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Old Nov 21, 2003, 10:13 AM   #2
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Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
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There are pros and cons to both choices.

In this price range, these are probably the top two models I would look at also.

Neither excel in low light focus, but the Nikon (despite it's lack of a focus assist lamp) actually outperforms the Canon A70 at full wide angle (even though the Canon A70 has a focus assist lamp).

At full zoom, the Canon is better, so they are very close in the indoor focus department.

The Canon will use a slightly lower sharpening algorithm by default, compared to the Nikon. So, some users have commented that the Nikon photos can look slightly sharper (but some think it oversharpens. The Canon will probably pick up slightly more real detail, using it's image processing algorithms with less sharpening being applied. They are very close.

The Canon will have slightly more purple fringing, compared to the Nikon, based on tests I've seen. Again, they'll probably be pretty close.

Neither camera is a very good Macro performer. The Nikon can capture a smaller frame area compared to the Canon. However, it's ability to "fill the frame" with a smaller object results in distortion and corner softness at the closer distances. So, they are probably a "wash" -- provided you moved the Nikon back further from the objects, so that it was capturing a larger field of view to match the Canon's.

Overall, I'd probably give the nod to the Canon, if I had to choose between them. If the macro performance isn't good enough, you can also buy accessory lenses for it (lens adapter, closeup lens).

Phil Askey (owner/editor of dpreview.com) reviewed both models. In his A70 review, he has some comparison photographs, too. Here's the link:


Note that most of the comparison shots are highly magnified portions of a much larger image. So, click on the larger image (crayons with watch, etc.) to get a better feel. There really isn't much difference in them. Actually, many people prefer the Nikon look (more contrast, higher sharpening by default).

The Studio Scene (wine bottle, etc.) actually looks a little better from the Nikon to my eyes (looking at the entire image, not the magnified crops). However, I would prefer Canons approach to image processing, if looking to make very large prints (since sharpening halos, and processing artifacts can stand out at larger print sizes).

It's all a matter of personal preference. Nikon uses more sharpening and contrast, Canon uses less by default (which can result in slightly more real detail, but with a softer look overall without post processing). There are pros and cons to either approach.

BTW, the best deal going right now for macros is the 2 Megapixel Nikon Coolpix 2500. Your Local Ritz Camera and Video should have them in stock (call to check). This camera has been discontinued, and they are sold out of new ones. The reconditioned ones are probably not going to last long (if you snooze, you lose, as the old saying goes).

The Nikon Coolpix 2500 does not have an optical viewfinder. However, for macros you'll need to use an LCD for framing anyway (you'll be too close to use the optical viewfinder in a camera).

Your biggest problem will be lighting (you will not be able to use a flash at distances needed to capture fine detail in a coin). You will also need a way to steady the camera, to prevent motion blur indoors. A tripod is strongly recommended.

Although, you may be able to get away with using Nikon's Best Shot Selector. This feature is unique to Nikon. It allows you to press and hold the shutter button down, while the camera snaps off multiple photos. When you release the shutter button, it automatically saves the photo with the most detail. I've used it successfully at capturing 600x photos through a microscope at very slow shutter speeds, holding the lens of a Nikon Coolpix 950, directly to the microscope eyepiece. I usually let the camera snap off 5 or 6 -- usually one (even at very slow shutter speeds) comes out pretty sharp (and it automatically saves the sharpest mage).

The Nikon Coolpix 2500 has an outstanding macro mode. It can "fill the frame" with an object as small as 1.3 inches (3.2 cm) across, with virtually no distortion, since the macro "sweet spot" is at around half zoom. See the macro tests of this model on this review page (scroll down, and you'll see it):


Click on the watch at the dpreview.com macro test for the full size image. You'll get the idea at how much better this camera is compared to others (except, of course, for the Nikon 950, 990, 995, and 4500). The Nikon 3100 or the Canon A70 cannot come anywhere close to the Coolpix 2500 macro performance.

See it for only $119.95 at this link refurbished:


By the way, I've personally purchased a camera reconditioned by Nikon before (the Nikon Coolpix 950 I wanted for some macro work, and I'd previously owned the Coolpix 990, so I knew how good the Nikons are at macros). It arrived in perfect, like new condition. I was unable to tell it from a new camera in any way. Ditto for the packaging, manuals, software, cables, etc.

BTW, PC Magazine tested 10 cameras for under $300.00 in it's Oct. 2002 issue (the price on the Coolpix 2500 had dropped to $299.95 at the time of the review, from it's original retail of $379.95).

These cameras were the Canon Powershot A200, Casio Exilim EX-M1, FujiFilm Finepix 30i, HP Photosmart 620, Kodak EasyShare LS420, Minolta DiMAGE X, Olympus Camedia D-520 Zoom, Sony Cybershot DSC-P51, Toshiba PDR-3300, and Nikon Coolpix 2500.

This camera, the Nikon Coolpix 2500, was the "Editors Choice" at $299.95

Ritz Camera ran out of new Nikon Coolpix 2500's last week. The refurbished 2500's may not last long at current prices (and the battery charger, rechargeable Lithium Ion Battery, USB Cables, Memory Card, etc., are probably worth close to what they are asking for the entire camera package).

So, if you snooze, you'll probably lose.

But, you may not really need macro capability this good anyway, and new models are coming out often. You mentioned photographing coins, so I thought I would mention it's macro performance. It's a real steal IMO at $119.95 (while they last).

BTW, even my new 5 Megapixel Konica Revio KD-510z (a.k.a., Minolta G500) can "fill the frame" with an object a little over 2 inches across (nowhere near as good as the 2 Megapixel Nikon Coolpix 2500 though).

Here's a photo from my new camera (which is available for a little over $300.00 discounted now):


Note: you can change viewing sizes underneath the photo (small, medium, large, original). It's a 5 Megapixel Photo, so it may take a little longer to load at the original size.

I wasn't trying to photograph the coins (someone asked me about how good a macro would be needed for fabric, and I only threw in the coins for perspective).
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Old Nov 22, 2003, 4:49 AM   #3
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JimC, Thank you for the reply. I have read many 'O' thread with your replies and I can see that you have a extensive knowledge of photography and also a true passion for it.

I have a couple of weeks to decide. Time to hit the search function again. Thanks again JimC!!!
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