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Old Sep 22, 2003, 4:46 PM   #1
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Default Choice of camera for new starter

I want to buy my first digital camera after Xmas. It will be used for holiday snaps, birthdays etc. Not serious photography but we like quality pictures to keep in the family albums.
The photographs will not need to be very big ie 4by6 of 5by7 etc.
I have been looking at ebay and have seen some really good prices for Trust, Yakumo, Ezonics and various German makes.
Is there a catch with these cheaper makes that I should be aware of?
What characteristics should I be looking for when searching.
The makes I have mentioned seem to have good specs i.e. 4 or 5 MP resolution with optical resolution of at least 3.1 or so.
I thought that the higher the resolution the better?

Suggestions please.

Bertie
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Old Sep 22, 2003, 5:28 PM   #2
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The resolution of the sensor is only one factor. Also, the type and manufacturer of sensor can make a big difference too. Sometimes, a higher resolution camera can take worse photos than a smaller resolution camera (depending on the CCD Size, Pixel Density, etc.).

For smaller photos, 2 Megapixels is usually plenty (from a good camera).

You also have to consider lens quality, image processing algorithms that impact white balance, metering accuracy that can impct exposure, color accuracy, saturation, contrast, sharpness and more. There can also be signficant differences in processing speed between camera models (autofocus delay, shot to shot times, etc.).

I would stick to a larger, better known manufacturer, and carefull read through reviews, looking at the characterisitics that may be more important for you (flash range, zoom range, camera speed, image quality, etc.).

Some of my favorite resources:


http://www.steves-digicams.com - Steve reviews a lot of cameras. Bear in mind, that he's usually less critical than most reviewers though, so take this into consideration. Steve's reviews are great for new users, because he goes through a cameras menu system in great detail. His conclusion section is very useful in determining a cameras strengths and weaknesses, too. Also, Steve usually includes some of the same subjects in his sample photos section for each camera reviewed. This makes it easy to compare photos from camera models you are considering.

http://www.imaging-resource.com - Dave Etchell's does great reviews. He also offers a feature known as the "comparometer", which lets you compare images from cameras you are considering "side by side" in the same conditions. Dave also has a "picky details" section for each camera he reviews, so you can look at things like Startup times, autofocus lag, shot to shot times, etc. Performance can vary dramatically between camera models.

http://www.dpreview.com - Phil Askey is the most thorough reviewer in the business. Unfortunately, because his reviews are so detailed, he doesn't review as many cameras as some of the other reviewers. Phil also tends to be more critical than other reviewers, so take this into consideration.

http://www.megapixel.net - Denys Bouton offers a unique review style, and I find his information very helpful. He comes out with a new online "issue" monthly (on the 15th of the month).

http://www.dcresource.com - Although his reviews aren't as detailed as those from Phil Askey or Dave Etchells, Jeff Keller (owner/editor of dcresource.com) offers unbiased opinions of the cameras that he reviews. He will tell you what he likes, and doesn't like about the cameras he reviews.

Another good resource is a photo sharing web site like pbase.com


They have a camera database, that let's you look at photo albums from their subscribers, from most cameras on the market. Bear in mind, that the photographers skill, and the lighting conditions have more to do with good photos than anything else. Also, unless photos from the same cameras, are taken of the same subject, in the same conditions, there is no way to say which camera performs better.

However, this does give you a way to see what photos look like, from typical users, and you can browse through the albums to see what photos look like in the conditions that you'll use the cameras in.

Here's the link to the camera database:

http://www.pbase.com/cameras
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Old Sep 22, 2003, 6:08 PM   #3
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Bertie

Based on your description of intended use I will make the following recommendation:

3 mega pixels or more. 3mp will produce excellent photos at 5X7.
3X optical zoom. Do not worry about digital zoom.
I would recommend Canon, Nikon, Fuji, HP, or Olympus. If you can find positive reviews at one of the sites JimC listed then go for an off brand.
Read several reviews and look at several sample picture sets.
Visit a local store and touch the cameras and shoot with them.
Compare prices on the internet to local store prices. I just purchased a camera from one of the sponsors of Steve's site.

Try a friends camera and last but not least pick one and buy it. You should do your homework but do not beat yourself up over the decision.
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Old Sep 22, 2003, 6:50 PM   #4
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The problem with cheaper cameras is they may be misleading on some of the specs. For instance, they may using interpolation for the resolution...they may say 3mp but the actual CCD may be 1mp...it's like when a scanner says 9600x9600 but it's optical resolution is actually 300x600 (saw one like that on the weekend)...you have to pay attention to the actual optical resoltions rather than what it says on the camera.

Personally I'd stick to cameras that have film counterparts like Canon, Olympus, Nikon, etc. I've tried cheaper brands in the past, and the quality has been lousy...don't forget any samples are only their best, and usually the cheaper brands will avoid showing low-light photos as it's toughest to capture.
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Old Sep 23, 2003, 2:42 AM   #5
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Jim C

Many thanks for your most comprehensive and helpful reply. I had not expected to get such a reply so soon.

I will look around after Xmas and make up a shortlist of possibles-I may then come back for some more help before buying.

Is it possible for me to save your reply on this site in some way?

Thanks

Bertie
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Old Sep 23, 2003, 9:07 AM   #6
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You can personally save this reply by doing either a File->Save which will save a copy on your computer (usually in My Documents) or print the page with File->Print (you may have to do it landscape if the page is too wide for your printer).
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Old Sep 23, 2003, 9:42 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bertie
Jim C
I will look around after Xmas and make up a shortlist of possibles-I may then come back for some more help before buying.
Bertie
Bertie:

There are new models being introduced frequently. Digital Cameras change sort of like computers and other high tech products. So, chances are, you'll have even more choices after Christmas, and could see some price drops on existing models.

The longer you wait, the better camera you'll likely find for the money.

The only problem with this tactic, is that if you keep waiting for the the newer products to "hit the shelves", you'll never get around to enjoying a camera.

Good Luck!
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Old Sep 25, 2003, 10:35 PM   #8
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Hi Bertie -- For what you're describing, the 2MP cams offer the best overall value, you can get a teriffic product for around US$200/$230 or so. If you want to spend more then go to a 3MP, $50 to $150 more. For good 5x7s you only need 2MP. See the posts on my Best Bang for the Buck request just updated today. You probably would be happy with Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Kodak, Minolta, Casio. I don't see too many European players. I seem drawn to the Canons, the color rendition there is superb, and they seem to have great lenses. If you over do this with the Megapixels, you will forever be stuck with considerably larger filesize in your computer. How many of us really need 4 or 5 MP resolution? If I am not mistaken, 5MP makes good 20" enlargements. That is a lot of pixel info, do you need that? Good luck, Don
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