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Old Jan 11, 2009, 6:34 PM   #1
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I have been looking to replace my old Nikon L1 6MP compact. That camera ran on 2 AA and was a 6MP. It had a 5x optical zoom. It took excellent pictures. Its main fault in my view was the lack of an optical viewfinder. The screen was very difficult to use in sunlight, as most are. It supported SD but not SDHC cards which meant bringing a bunch of 2GB cards on trips. Last summer, the LCD got damaged in a trip to Europe. In the winter, I visited vietnam, and I gave away the camera to my boyfriends' brother over there. I used my trusty Pentax K200D DSLR for all the vietnam pictures.

Now, that K200D is a bit heavy to lug around with its lenses, so I am still looking to have a compact digital camera as secondary camera, one that I could fit in my jeans pocket. I wanted one with an optical viewfinder, since the L1 did not have one. I dislike proprietary batteries and I don't want to carry extra chargers. My K200D DSLR uses 4 AA, as does the external flash I bought for it. The Sanyo eneloop batteries do an excellent job. I also like the SD & microSD format. I have 8 GB class 6 and 16 GB class 4 SD cards for my K200D. As well as an 8GB microSD for my gPhone (t-mobile G1). Price wasn't the biggest issue - up to $300 would be OK, though of course the lower the better.

I did a fair amount of research over the last two weeks. I came down to 2 cameras - the Canon A1000 IS and the Nikon P60. The main compromise is that they only have 4x zoom vs the 5x zoom of my older Nikon L1. But they do both feature an optical viewfinder that the L1 did not have, and they both support SDHC.

I bought the A1000IS at Microcenter on thursday night.
Unfortunately, I was extremely disappointed with it. The optical viewfinder is way too small, and the view through it is blurry. Also, all the images are very grainy, even at ISO 80. And even though they are somewhat in focus, the images themselves are not sharp at all. The pictures from that camera are worse than those from my first digital camera, an Olympus C3000 3 megapixels back in 2001. I boxed it and I will return the camera tonight.

Last night I was at Ritz camera looking for a tripod for my K200D. I stopped at Ritz camera. I bought an excellent one. I was also looking at cameras. They had the Fuji finepix E900. It takes 2 AA. It has an optical viewfinder. It was a bit larger than what I was looking for, but could still fit in my pocket. And it took xD instead of SD. But I thought I could always buy a bigger card than the measly 16 MB (!) that comes with it. They had a great deal on it for $170, and two free printers (after rebate). So I bought it and took it home along with the tripod. I also bought a 1 GB xD card for $15.

Despite being a 3 year old model, this camera takes sharper pictures than the more recent Canon A1000IS. The optical viewfinder is larger and more usable than the A1000. But it only has 77% coverage, and at wide angle you can see the lens through it ! The picture quality is not perfect and certainly no DSLR, but the IQ is acceptable. Unfortunately, I found out that they don't make xD cards above 2 GB, and this seems to be a dead card format . And one of the two card readers I own doesn't do xD - the one built in to my computer. I have to connect my external reader. So if I keep this camera I have to buy one more xD adapter. So, I think I will have to return this camera as well, along with all the 2 freebie printers

I haven't found the Nikon P60 locally. I may try that next.

Are there any other choices on the market that I should look at that are compact, have an optical viewfinder, AA support, SDHC support, and a decent zoom (not the basic 3x) ? It seems that the optical viewfinder requirement eliminates 99% of cameras - even entire brands (Samsung doesn't have a single compact with a viewfinder for example!). So this research is very difficult. Any help would be appreciated.

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Old Jan 11, 2009, 6:54 PM   #2
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Looks like Panasonic is completely out of the running too - no optical viewfinders on any of their current compacts. Same for Fujifilm . Sigh

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Old Jan 11, 2009, 8:27 PM   #3
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Perhaps you can still find a Canon A720 IS. I found some on Amazon through the New/Used link for the camera. It has a 6x optical zoom. If not that, then consider the A590 IS, but it only has a 4x optical zoom. Both have good reputations for image quality, given their sizes.

They may also be available through Canon's online store;

www.powershot.com

Dennis
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Old Jan 11, 2009, 9:51 PM   #4
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Check out the Canon A590is. My wife has the earlier version, the A570is, which is practically the same thing. The camera has a viewfinder, uses AA batteries and definitely does not take noisy pictures at low ISO's. My wife uses the viewfinder all the time. It's not great but it does the job.

Here's a link to sample pictures taken by the A590is:
http://www.pbase.com/cameras/canon/powershot_a590_is
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Old Jan 11, 2009, 11:08 PM   #5
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Thanks !

I returned the Canon A1000IS to Microcenter. They charged me a restocking fee. But I really couldn't live with the IQ of that camera. I posted a 1 star review of it on Amazon.

I also went back to Ritz to return the Fuji E900 . The salesperson was helpful. When I told him I couldn't stand the xD format with its 2 GB limit, he tried a microSD to xD adapter. Unfortunately, that adapter didn't fit in the E900. So I returned it.

The salesperson at Ritz mentioned he didn't like the A1000 either. He said he thought it was too slow of a camera. But that wasn't the problem for me. He said I might like the A590. High megapixel was not on my list of concerns, so I agree to try the 8 megapixel A590, which he had in stock, for $130. And I still quality for the 2 free printers. I have been playing with the Canon A590IS for about an hour. It was only $130.

I took some shots of the same subjects around the house than I did with the A1000IS, and compared the results on my 2 screens, side by side. The A590IS definitely takes much sharper pictures than the A1000 did. There is still some visible noise at ISO 200 when blowing up on the screen 1:1, but it's not as bad as the A1000 was. I think I will be able to live with the A590, at least until something comes along that has a longer zoom or excellent IQ. I may have been irreversibly spoiled by the image quality of my Pentax K200D DSLR :-(. I think this is a case where fewer megapixels is better. 10 megapixels is too many for a small camera like the A1000IS to produce decent pictures.

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Old Jan 12, 2009, 9:11 AM   #6
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Welcome to the world of point and shoots, and get some good software to take care of noise in your images. I recommend the free Noiseware Community edition.

http://www.imagenomic.com/download.aspx

Dennis
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Old Jan 12, 2009, 6:04 PM   #7
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Dennis,

Thanks, but I am not really looking forward to removing the noise with software from every picture with software. I never had to do that with any of the other digital cameras I had experience with - admittedly not many, the Olympus C3000Z 3 MP, which I used for 5 years, the Nikon L1 6MP for about 2 years, and most recently the Pentax K200D DSLR that I got last year and can foresee using for a very long time to come.

The only digital cameras where the noise level ever bothered me before were cell phone cameras, but of course those are not real cameras.

I guess with the higher megapixel count and ever smaller P&S cameras, the noise level went through the roof. Even the A590IS is still a compromise in my opinion in image quality compared to my older cameras that had lower megapixel counts.

Of course the C3000Z did take 30 seconds to save each 3MP picture in TIFF onto Smartmedia, and you could put all of 7 pictures on one 64 MB card which was the maximum card size I won't miss that part. And the color contrast on the C3000Z was not the best. But still, I never got noisy pictures from it and I got many good prints.

In all seriousness, I would gladly just buy a camera exactly like the Nikon L1 - if it just had an optical viewfinder, and SDHC support. But nobody seems to make any camera like that :-( . I wonder if the Nikon P60 has a larger sensor than the Canon A590. The feature set otherwise seems rather comparable.

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Old Jan 12, 2009, 6:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
I wonder if the Nikon P60 has a larger sensor than the Canon A590. The feature set otherwise seems rather comparable.
No. Both cameras have a 1/2.5 inch eight MP sensor.

Most reviewers judge the A590is to be better in picture quality and to be a better camera overall.
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Old Jan 12, 2009, 6:45 PM   #9
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madbrain,

I never used noise software on my first two digital cameras (Kodak DC4800, Canon A620), but I do use it occasionally on my Canon G9 images. It's the new reality due, as you point out, to the high pixel density sensors. It's not as big a problem with lower ISOs (80 to 100), but begins around ISO 200 and up today, especially for pixel-peepers.

It's a good idea to have noise software available, not so you can apply it to every image, but to those important shots you want to improve. Some like to shoot in B&W and feel the image noise at higher ISOs takes them back to the Tri-X days, which for them was good. I never liked it.

Dennis
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