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Old Feb 25, 2006, 10:51 AM   #1
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I like to go on long bike trips, some with groups, some solo. I like to be able to take "grab shots" from the bike as well as more composed shots when stopped.

I'm looking for an ultracompact that is fast, easy to use, and durable. Budget is $300-350. I'm not a prosumer but have some training and knowledge of photography (used to develop my own film, had a small darkroom many years ago). Nowadays I'm more casual, I'm not looking to blow up beyond 8 x 10, but I do like to crop and enlarge portions of a photo. Some manual controls would be nice but not critical to have.

I have an Olympus C5050, very happy with the photo quality and the features but it is too big to fit in a bike jersey pocket. Also the wheel that selects the mode (macro, distance, movie etc) is very easily bumped. I have taken a lot of movies inadvertently, using up the memory temporarily until I notice the goof.

We had a Konica/Minolta Dimage g500 (if I remember the model correctly), it had a lot of problems with picture quality, but it fit nicely in a pocket!

I'm going to be riding in an organized ride March 11, would like to have the camera by then.

I've been considering the Pentax Optio wpi and the Casio Exilim Z750. Someone posted a similar question in August 2005, they were considering the Fuji Finepix E550, the Canon Powershot SD500, and the same Casio Z750. They were advised to consider the Kodak DX-7440 and DX-7630.

I almost bought the Casio Z750, it has uniformly great reviews, but it also seems to be quite fragile. It has been prone to "lens error" due to accidentally turning the camera on in a pocket or case, or if the lens is touched or bumped while it is extending or extended. There is a somewhat kludgy workaround of keeping the camera in audio record mode when stored and disabling some buttons, but since my wife would also use this camera on vacation, that seems cumbersome. Is this still a problem with this model? The Optio has more lukewarm reviews but has the "waterproof" feature, handy to have since I live and mostly ride in the soggy Pacific NW. The Kodaks recommended in August have decidedly lukewarm reviews.

So I'm asking for an advice update... what do folks recommend now, 6 months later?

Thanks and sorry this was so long.
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Old Feb 25, 2006, 12:53 PM   #2
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Someone who said they were from Casio told us a few months back that they were beefing up the gearing on the Z750. It seems to have worked as I haven't seen the lens error problems reported in recent releases. Otherwise the camera seems quite sturdy. Prices should drop a little now that Casio has announced the Z850. Unfortunately that won't likely be available for your bike trip.

I've had my Z750 since it was first released and still wouldn't trade it for anything currently on the market. But I like having an optical viewfinder and some manual controls. I do find myself using the movie mode where I never did with other digital cameras. The combination of the past movie mode and MPEG4 lets me take almost pre-edited movies that don't take a lot of space. I also like being able to make custom user modes that show you a photo to remind you of what the mode is for.

For me, having 5 selection levels for contrast, sharpening and saturation is more necessary than manual controls. I like to shoot with minimum sharpening and contrast to minimize artifacts and get the maximum dynamic range. And I really like the control setup on the camera.

If you wear glasses for distant vision the Z750 optical viewfinder might not be the greatest. It is fine for me, but they made it quite small to fit onto a tiny camera with a large LCD and you have to get your eye pretty close.

You mention the Casio SD500. The current model is the SD550 and the LCD is less prone to cracking. It has the advantage of a very strong flash and excellent lens – about equal to the Z750 lens and a stronger flash. The camera is point and shoot, but combining EV shift with the live histogram or using spot metering can get around most difficult lighting. It is larger and heavier than the Z750.

The E550 is in a different size category altogether. If you are carrying something that large there are other cameras with more capabilities IMO.

I notice everything you mention has an optical viewfinder. I personally prefer having one as well. You get a steadier hold in limited light and it is much easier to easily acquire and follow moving targets when zoomed. And none of the LCDs are really great in direct sunlight. But there are some very nice cameras without optical viewfinders with things like true optical stabilization and high ISO capability with reasonable noise.

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Old Feb 25, 2006, 1:22 PM   #3
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Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Any other cameras I should think about? The Olympus Stylus line? Pros and cons of the Optio?

I do like a viewfinder, but could live without it. I like the swiveling LCD on the Oly C5050. Too bad there's not room for one of those on an ultracompact.

When does the Z850 come out? I could borrow a camera for this upcoming trip if it is going to be definitely worth the wait.

Thanks a bunch

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