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Old Nov 8, 2003, 8:07 AM   #1
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Default Which of these 3 would you recommend

First off let me say I am very new to the digital camera market and would appreciate any help. I have been reading through a lot of the posts for the last week and think I narrowed down my search to 3 different camera and would like an opinion on which you would purchase.
Nikon CoolPix 3100
Canon Powershopt A70
Fuji FinePix A210

I will be using this basically to photograph my children during all times of the day, sporting events etc. I have never used a digital before so would like something that is fairly easy to operate. I like the fact that the Nikon has a sports mode but am not sure if that should determine my purchase.

I would also like to thank everyone for their help. The responses to all the newbie questions must start to get on the more experienced peoples nerves but let me say they help more than you could know.

valerie s
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Old Nov 8, 2003, 1:47 PM   #2
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ValerieS: As you will appreciate, there are many cameras to look at and you have narrowed down your choices. Nearly every user will recommend their own, so that isn't always helpful. You have the usual 'buy from reliable dealer' question to answer. But if you have got to your choice of 3, why not download some of Steve's test result pics in his review section and compare them or print out the images?

The next thing which you can't do over the net is try the camera for size, weight, ease of use etc. So why not visit a store to do some tests, take your own media card if necessary, shoot as many test pics as possible, indoor flash and in the doorway to outdoors - then look at the pics at home before making a decision? If you go for mail order, can you find a dealer offering no hassle returns? checkout warranty as well. Good luck VOX
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Old Nov 8, 2003, 1:53 PM   #3
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thanks so much I will definately try your suggestion on taking my own memory card and taking pictures with the different cameras and comparing them.
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Old Nov 8, 2003, 2:11 PM   #4
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I want to help set your expectations. There is more to look at, if you want to use a camera for sports.

Unlike 35mm SLR type cameras (which use a very fast Phase Detection Focus System), most Digital Cameras use a much slower Contrast Detection based focus system.

There is usually much more lag time (time it takes for the camera to focus, and set exposure) between when you press the shutter button, and when the camera actually takes the photo with a "consumer" model (non Digital SLR) camera, as compared to a film camera.

Another problem with lower end digital cameras, is the light gathering capability of the lens. Most compact cameras have a maximum aperture of around F2.8 at wide angle, stopping down to around F4.9 at full zoom. The lower the number, the greater the light gathering capability. When using zoom, less light can reach the camera's sensor, so the rating is worse with most models.

The speed of a lens (aperture rating), effects the shutter speed. For example: F2.0 is twice as bright as F2.8, and allows you to shoot with twice as fast of a shutter speed (to help reduce blur due to camera or subject movement).

The other factor is ISO speed.

With a film camera, you can buy faster film (ASA 100, 200, 400, 800) to allow faster shutter speeds to "freeze action". This adds grain to a photo (the higher the ASA rating, the more grain is in a photo.

With a digital camera, you set what is known as ISO speed. Basically, when you use a higher ISO speed, you increase the sensitivity of the camera's sensor. ISO 200 allows you to shoot twice as fast as ISO 100. ISO 400 allows you to shoot 4 times as fast as ISO 100.

The downside, is that you get a lot of noise (similiar to film grain), at higher ISO speeds.

Also, most people find that a 3x Optical Zoom (typical in most cameras) is not enough range for sports. Ignore digital zoom (this degrades photo quality, and you can accomplish the same thing with software).

So, there are 4 main factors that really limit the useability of most inexpensive digital camera for sports:

1. Autofocus Lag (time it takes between pressing the shutter button, and when the camera takes the photo)

2. Light Gathering Capability of the Lens (a fast lens is needed to allow faster shutter speeds)

3. Focal Range (amount of zoom needed)

4. Noise (Digital Cameras under about $1,000.00 or so usually have very high noise levels at higher ISO speeds needed for sports in lower light)

Most pros would spend thousands of dollars for a Digital SLR camera capable of taking good sports photos, with thousands invested in lenses. One fast (better light gathering capability) lens for a Digital SLR, with a good focal length (zoom range) would cost more than your entire budget for a camera.

So, does this mean that you can't use an inexpensive digital camera for sports? No, but I just wanted you to be aware of the limitations.

If most of the photos are in daylight, then it won't be as much of a problem (except for autofocus lag). With practice, you can work around this issue.

For example: if you "prefocus" the camera (by pressing the shutter button half way down), then wait until the right moment before pressing the shutter button the rest of the way down, then most cameras will take the photo very quickly.

You can also use manual focus on some models (to eliminate the autofocus lag time).

Another technique is to "pan with the action", then press the shutter button the rest of the way down, while following your subject with the camera.

At night, "it's a whole other ballgame". You will need to set your camera to a higher ISO speed. Even then, shutter speeds may not be as fast as desired (to prevent blur), and noise may be a big problem in the photos.

Digital SLR's (like the Canon EOS-10D) are able to shoot at much higher ISO speeds without noise, so they are preferred for sports (or low light shots of moving subjects). Unfortunately, this type of camera far exceeds what appears to be your budget.

So, I'd suggest trying to find the camera with the least autofocus/shutter lag available within your budget - picking one with a relatively long zoom range (optical, not digital), unless you will be able to get "close to the action".

There are two reviewers that measure autofocus lag in their camera reviews. One is Dave Etchells (owner/editor of imaging-resource.com). The other is Phil Askey (owner/editor of dpreview.com).

You will also find noise tests in Phil's reviews (showing the amount of noise you can expect at higher ISO speeds).

Dave also has a "pick list" for sports. You'll find it here:


Although, for low light sports (or if you are unable to get close to the action), you may find that the cameras on his list are not acceptable (he doesn't include any SLR's).

BTW, you will see a "picky details" section in Dave's reviews. It will show you autofocus lag, cycle times (how long you need to wait before you can take another photo), etc.

You'll find similiar tests in the reviews that Phil Askey at dpreview.com performs (in each camera's "Timing and Performance" section).

Here is the page for the Canon A70 you're looking at. Notice that Autofocus lag time at full telephoto (where you'll likely be using your camera at sporting events) takes from 1.2 to 1.8 seconds (which is a long time, when trying to "capture" a shot).


Here are Dave Etchells tests for the same camera (he clocked the camera at 1.3 seconds at full zoom):


But, as I mentioned earlier, if you "prefocus" a camera (with a half shutter button press) in advance, most cameras are much faster (only 0.103 seconds for the A70, according to Dave's tests).

I'd also look at a camera with manual focus ability (you may be able to set focus to infinity at many sporting events, to reduce the lag time).

I hope I've helped you, more than I've confused you.

Bottom line: I just wanted to set your expectations for cameras in your price range, and give you some places to look, in order to find the best compromise for what you want to use a camera for -- looking for things like autofocus lag, cycle times, zoom range, and noise levels if you plan on using the camera at sporting events.

Good Luck, and I'm sure others will respond with suggestions, too.

I'm only one user, and everyone will likely have a different opinion about what type of camera is suitable, and what type is not.
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Old Nov 9, 2003, 6:32 PM   #5
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Jim thanks so much for the information it was definately helpful and I will research it more before making a purchase.
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Old Nov 10, 2003, 9:59 AM   #6
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The Canon, after rounding everything, is the best deal of the three, for me that is, although I prefer how the Nikon looks. About the Fuji, that's the only unit out of the three I haven't tested personally, so I wouldn't know what to say about it. ops:
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