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Old Dec 5, 2003, 12:18 AM   #11
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Savannah, GA (USA)
Posts: 22,378

Personally, if I were buying a 3MP model, I'd avoid the Fuji S5000, Oly 740, and the Minolta Z1 (unless I really wanted/needed the extra zoom). Ditto for any other models using sensors this small.

These models all use smaller, denser sensors compared to some of the older model 3 Megapixel Models like the Nikon 990 or 995 (or many of the models that competed with them).

As a result, you'll have a little more noise (similiar to film grain). Although image processing algorithms have improved, and can reduce it, detail and dynamic range can suffer.

If you go with a 4MP instead, I'd go with one using the Sony 1/1.8" (.556") CCD. It appears to have a much better noise profile (and better dynamic range) compared to cameras using the smaller 1/2.5" (.4") CCD's. You can see the CCD size in each camera's specifications in the reviews here.

I recently spent a couple of hours working on a 4MP image from a camera using a 1/2.5" CCD for someone, trying to reduce the noise so that it would be useable at much larger print sizes. So unless you really need a very small camera (or a "super zoom") camera, I'd buy one using the larger 1/1.8" sensor instead.

The current trend is for manufacturers to use smaller, denser CCD's. This allows for smaller cameras. It's also why you're seeing so many new "Super Zoom" models coming out. The smaller sensors allow for a smaller lens, to achieve the same focal range. However, the tradeoff is usually increased noise, and lower dynamic range.

Although, in good light, it will be hard to see the difference. In poor light, the advantages of a larger sensor become more obvious (although to be fair, signal to noise ratio has improved some in smaller sensors, but I still see complaints from users of newer 3MP cameras about noise, even at lower ISO speeds -- especially indoors in lower light).

Another way to get an idea of how prints will compare, is to download the original size images from camera review sites (like this one). Then, print them yourself and compare the quality.

You can also find albums taken with many cameras at a photo sharing web site like pbase.com. To download images, select the "original size" (from a menu under a photo), then right click with most browsers to see available options.

You'll see a "save as" choice, allowing you to download the image file to your loca hard disk drive. However, bear in mind that the photographers skill (and the lighting conditions) have more to do with good quality photos than anything else.

Here's the link to their camera database:


However, to be frank, you probably won't notice a lot of difference at 8x10" print sizes, unless you are specifically looking for problems like noise, in most lighting conditions.
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