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View Poll Results: Which is the best ultra compact camera?
Pentax S4 0 0%
Pentax S4i 1 33.33%
Nikon 3700 1 33.33%
Casio EXz4u 0 0%
Canon A80 1 33.33%
Olympus Stylus 400 0 0%
Canon Powershot S400 0 0%
Voters: 3. You may not vote on this poll

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Old Mar 18, 2004, 12:36 PM   #1
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Default Nikon 3700 vs Pentax S4i (lense quality)

Hi everybody.

I'm a newbie, so you'll have to be patient with me.

I've been reading so many reviews that my head is spinning. Few of them seem to agree on the "best" for the compact type of digi cam.

I want to buy something ultra portable, but great picture quality is still #1 for me. I have heard things regarding the durability of Pentax S, S4, S4i products. Namely that the way the lense retracts is not "normal". Because of the thin size, I was told (by a salesman at Japan Camera -- a large camera franchise in Canada) that when the lense moves into the camera, it moves in and to the side, creating a sort of upside "V" with all the lense parts and then when the camera is turned on the lense parts essentially take turns reassembling themselves to move out. Again, I was told that this system, within 2 years, would cause the lenses to misalign -- creating terrible pictures. Unlike the Nikon which is a bit bigger, and lower MP, but has a lense that retracts in and out "normally" (doesn't move off to the side and disassemble itself). So that the lense would be more durable and provide better pictures especially in the future. Can anyone confirm this?

Also, I was told that in general, even though the Pentax has 4 MP as opposed to Nikon's 3.2, it still doesn't provide better picture quality? Again, has anyone been able to compare the two or would recommend maybe a different ultra compact camera to me? Maybe the small Casio EXZ4u model? I'd appreciate the input a lot.
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Old Mar 18, 2004, 2:50 PM   #2
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I can only speak for the S4 of the cameras you listed.

I havenít had mine long enough to make a long term lens retraction reliability judgement, but the S(3) has been out for almost 2 years and there doesnít seem to be a rash of problems.

Image quality on the S4 has surprised me. It has a true SHQ JPG compression. Compare the image sizes of other 4Mp cameras like the S400. You will see that the file size in Mb is much larger meaning a higher quality compression. Comparing the sample photos Steve took with the S400 and S4 I find the S4 images to be a little better. Even though some of Steveís scenes are of the same subject the lighting and season arenít the same, so it is hard to make such a snap judgement and not find the next set I look at are different. But if you look at the S4 sample photos I think they are very good.

The S4 is a little soft in the corners. Some early models were a little soft on one side or softer in one corner, but they seem to have corrected that. The corner softness is often hard to pick out because you usually have sky or concrete in the corners. I havenít taken a picture yet that I thought the corner softness did anything to degrade the image.

It also vignettes slightly at wide angle. You can see it if there is sky in the image. Old pros spent time in the darkroom to darken and soften the corners a little to improve the overall impression of the photo. I havenít found the corner softness or vignetting at wide angle to be if any consequence. Otherwise the images are very nice.

Keep in mind that the S4, S400 and 3700 show only 80-82% of the image in the viewfinder, so the corners arenít in what you are framing unless you shoot with the LCD.

The Z4 has the same Pentax lens as the S4. It is a little larger but has a much larger LCD, which is nice in a little camera that you make all of the settings in the LCD. The S4 LCD is slightly larger than the S400 or 3700 and the S4i LCD is considerably larger Ė although not as large as the Z4. I donít think the Z4 has manual focus like the S4.

What the S400 and 3700 have that the S4 doesnít is a manual exposure mode. They donít have aperture and shutter priority, but things like sports and portrait modes cover that in a little camera without a hot shoe IMO. If you are into panoramas that can be significant. Panorama mode in the S4 doesnít lock the exposure to the first shot like my Oly does, so you have to use stitching software like Panorama Factory to even out the exposure differences. Manual mode would give better panoramas. I use manual mode often in my large cameras but donít tend to use it for anything but panoramas and an occasional macro shot with a pocket camera.

Shutter lag is lower on the S4 than on the S400 but the cycle times arenít as fast. The 3700 has about the same shutter lag as the S4 with full autofocus but the S4 is faster with pre-focus. The 3700 has the same 2 shot buffer limit but you go to 7 seconds on the 3700 rather than 4.5 on the S4 for subsequent shots after filling the buffer. The 3700 has faster cycle times for the first two shots. Since best quality images from the S4 are at least 2.5X larger in Mb than the 3700 images, the S4 isnít doing a bad job of buffering.

The 3700 takes much better movies than the others. With the current cost of memory Iím surprised everyone hasnít gone to 640 X 480 movies at 30fps. I know it isnít a movie camera, but it is often all you have with you.

The A80 is a larger camera but more competent all round than the others except for the movie mode. The Minolta Stylus 400 is too much of a point and shoot for my preferences but you can take pictures standing in a heavy rain and not worry about the camera.

I switched to the S4 because I added a Palm Tungsten to my cellphone and camera as carry everywhere devices and my C50 was just too large. I do like the small size of the S4 and have been pleasantly pleased with the pictures, although 4Mp images wonít do a nice 13 X 19 print. 4Mp is even marginal for 11 X 14 if you frame with the optical finder (which I usually do) and have to crop the 20% back off. I wouldnít personally consider 3Mp. The picture quality seems nice on the 3700 even with the very high compression, but I just like having the pixels. You never know what you will do with the images in the future.

Since it is in the same size range as the others consider the Minolta G500 also. It is 5Mp, has manual plus aperture and shutter priority exposure modes and a zone manual focus. It is cheaper than the S400 and a better camera IMO.
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Old Mar 18, 2004, 3:15 PM   #3
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Wow! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience and knowledge with me. I truly appreciate it.

Gonna go research that Minolta S500 now.
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Old Apr 27, 2004, 10:41 AM   #4
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Default Hi whiz!

Just stumbled across your msg.

Have you bought a camera? I'm in the same predicament as you and looking at same cameras.

If you've bought one pls advise which one and why. I was initially looking at Ixus range, then the pentax (apparently flash range is poor) and now I'm consiering either a Minolta model or the Nokia 3700...

Pls respond if you can - [email protected]

cheers
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Old Apr 27, 2004, 8:04 PM   #5
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I purchased a Coolpix 3700 and for the most part I think its a great camera. My past cameras were the Minolta Dimage xt and xg..and the coolpix has some advantages over them but not a terrible amount. They were all $300 or lower and great deals.

SIZE:
The 3700 is larger than the dimages by a cubic inch or so. So its not so transparent in the pocket. It still fits in pockets pretty easy. It is by no means big and its depth makes it easier to hold. The dimages were a little easier to carry around.

IMAGE QUALITY:
I did comparison shots and the Coolpix is slightly sharper and has less of a video capture look. It also has more shadow detail. Both cameras take pictures with good color and make good prints.

FLASH PICTURES:
Coolpix wins by a long shot.. The flash is more powerful and spreads light more evenly. The pictures are much better than the minoltas because of the flash range. My xt had many underexposed flash shots, but not the xg..

SPEED:
The minoltas are just way faster it makes the coolpix seem lethargic. I hate waiting 3 seconds for the 3700 to startup, dimages = 1 sec. The menu's are slower too. Shot to shot time was 1 sec for dimages.. Nikon can vary from 1.2 sec to 7 when flushing the buffer.. My main complaint is the Nikon's lack of speed.

MOVIE CLIPS
The Coolpix 3700 takes the best movie clips of any compact digital out there. This is why I have this camera, it looks like camcorder video and I can show it on my 42" plasma... 640x480 @ 30fps looks great.. Sharper than the sony's dsc-t1. Even the 320x240 video looks much better than the dimages at the same res. I use Panasonic's 512mb SD card and have not had audio sync issues.. not even when I pause..

Thats all for now.. if you have any more questions just ask.
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Old Apr 28, 2004, 2:48 AM   #6
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Default wow - S40 v. S4i v. coolpix 3700.

Thanks heaps for that - nothing better than hearing good stuff from the 'horse's mouth'.

I've done all my reading and reviewing and am down to this:
I recently became a father and need a new camera pronto (my wife is threatening me for not having bought one) so price is an issue, hence wanting to be satisfied.

Do you know anything about the Pentax Optio S40 and S4i cameras? I handled them and love the feel of the S40 - the S4i almost seems too small although has a great LCD screen. The first uses AA's, the other lithium - any comments on battery type etc?

Basically I need some feedback on those cameras because it's either them or the coolpix 3700 (after your comments), then I just need to find a gr8 price.

Thanks for taking the time to help out!!!

Daniel
S.A.
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Old Apr 28, 2004, 2:48 AM   #7
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Default wow - S40 v. S4i v. coolpix 3700.

Thanks heaps for that - nothing better than hearing good stuff from the 'horse's mouth'.

I've done all my reading and reviewing and am down to this:
I recently became a father and need a new camera pronto (my wife is threatening me for not having bought one) so price is an issue, hence wanting to be satisfied.

Do you know anything about the Pentax Optio S40 and S4i cameras? I handled them and love the feel of the S40 - the S4i almost seems too small although has a great LCD screen. The first uses AA's, the other lithium - any comments on battery type etc?

Basically I need some feedback on those cameras because it's either them or the coolpix 3700 (after your comments), then I just need to find a gr8 price.

Thanks for taking the time to help out!!!

Daniel
S.A.
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Old May 3, 2004, 6:02 PM   #8
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well i advise u to just go for coolpix 3700 b/c of great pic quality with accurate colour,great movie mode 30 FPS(for this u need a larger panasonic SD card or sandisk ultra II series ) and nice LCD.well the only drawback u mention is of lithium batteries not the AA ones.well u r right this also bothers me a lot that this camera dont uses the AAs batteries but i decided to buy this camera b/c this coolpix also uses duracell one use lithium battery which u can also use after ur rechargeables dies and the technology also changes after 6 months or one year so dont to worry about lithium battery .just buy it quick.....
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