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Old Mar 4, 2004, 8:27 AM   #1
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Default Don't tell me what to buy, help me interpret some numbers

I'd like some help in how I should go about researching for the right camera. I'm looking for a 4 megapixel (3 may do) camera for the following:
Family shots
print quality 5x7 pics
crop and/or zoom and print 5x7 pics

I'm tired of losing out on a smiling or action pic of our toddler while waiting for the camera.

What specific numbers do I look at and compare to find a camera (or at least narrow my search) that is quick between pictures and starts up relatively quickly? I'm guessing there's different shutter numbers? How much of a factor is the media?
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Old Mar 4, 2004, 9:20 AM   #2
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There is a feature called continuous focus that is great for rugrats. It focuses all the way to shutter release. You can pre-focus and it continues to update the focus when the subject moves rather than have to release the button and pre-focus again.

Pre-focus should be your standard shooting technique. Most newer cameras are down to a tenth of a second for shutter lag with pre-focus where .7 seconds for regular shutter delay gets rave reviews.

Imaging Resources has a page like this for all the cameras they review: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/OPTS4/S4DATA.HTM The multi-page reviews have a separate timing page and the single page reviews put it under “picky details”. http://www.imaging-resource.com/MFR1.HTM

The S4 has some nice shutter delay times with a hundredth of a second pre-focused, but I don’t think it has continuous focus – probably because of the limited battery. Continuous focus takes more battery. I now have two cameras with continuous focus and two without. It really does work for keeping rugrats in focus at the expense of a little battery life.
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Old Mar 4, 2004, 9:29 AM   #3
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Most/all cameras have buffers that store the picture before writing to the media. So the speed of the media shouldn't be effecting the times it takes to take a fast picture.

The problem with taking a fast picture is a combination of multiple things. How fast the autofocus works and how fast the shutter works.

I believe the AF system on most of the cheaper digicams isn't that fast. It gets there in the end, but not quickly.

There are two.. no, three ways to solve that problem.

Obvously buy something with a faster AF system (which is what you're asking.) I can't tell you which are better than others, sorry.

Prefocus. If you see the kid doing something that might lead to a picture, get ready for it. Focus ahead of time and wait for the moment. That will help a lot. 1/2 pressing the shutter speed should do everything but take the picture, then you can keep it 1/2 pressed or not. If you keep it pressed, it will take the picture fairly quickly. If not, it will try to AF again (which should be quick, it always was) and re-meter, usually also quick, and take the picture. This is helpful because the light could change between when you set it up and when you actually take the picture.

The 3rd answer is manual focus. Most digicams do not have very good manual focus, but they have it. If you get good at it (and the controls are good) you can MF as fast as AF can. But to do that, you really need a mechanical manual focus, like film and digital SLRs have.... and a few higher end digicams. The Minolta 7 (7, 7i, 7Hi) series has a manual focus ring, I believe. Others might too.

I hope that helps.

I know of no review site that measures the shutter lag scientifically and lists it. I wish they did, as I feel it's important. (Maybe I missed it? I feel it's important as resolution for most people.)

I would do some searching on this site about what MP gives what good print sizes. 5x7 should be easy with 4MB, I believe, but others know more. This question has been answered many times, I just don't recall.

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Old Mar 4, 2004, 9:31 AM   #4
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A 4 megapixel camera will fit the bill and allow you to crop some and still get great looking 5x7 prints. As for stuff to look for:

* fast start up times
* short shutter lag lag
* fast lens - the lower the f/ number, the faster: ie. f/2.8 is faster than f/4
* how well it focuses in low light situations, whether it has a AF illuminator - essentially a little built-in flashlight
* look for fast shot to shot speed and/or a burst mode

The type of media shouldn't be the deciding factor, but I would suggest media that imo have more future than the rest: compactflash (which includes type I and II as well as microdrives), SD and Memorystick Pro.
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