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Old May 6, 2004, 3:47 PM   #1
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Steve:

I appreciated your reviews of both cameras. Reading between the lines, I get the feeling you preferred the S40.

As I look at them, the S40 is a bit bigger, has a smaller monitor, no recharge cradle, but does have a better placed shutter button, a mode dial, and is $50 cheaper.

This will be my only digital, shopping to upgrade my Canon A20. These two are in my top 5 candidates. Towards which of the two would you lean? Thanks very much.

BTW, Costco has dropped this to $289.99, and includes a 64mb card, two rechageablesplus recharger, and their lifetime replace/refund warranty as long as you remain a member.

Dave (Old Rooster)

P.S. Others who are not Steve can respond as well!


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Old May 7, 2004, 10:08 AM   #2
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RUN don't walk away from the S4i - get the S4.

I got the S4i and every picutre has been soft and out of focus just like Steve said. Very dissapointing.
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Old May 7, 2004, 2:46 PM   #3
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The S4 has worse problems - in fact the S4 has a major problem with softeness on the bottom and left side - worse than what I saw in the S4i.
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Old May 8, 2004, 2:04 PM   #4
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Yes, we definitely prefer the S40 to the S4i. It isn't all that much bigger but it is a lot better with its picture quality. To me, the S/S4/S4i they're too small - the S40 is as small as I care to go but that's just me.


We have requested and are getting a 2nd Optio S4i from Pentax to see if the first one was bad or not. And the more closely I look at the S40 pics I am terribly happy with those either, lots of noise and very soft edges.
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Old May 8, 2004, 3:03 PM   #5
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Thanks, Steve: That's been my inclination, as well; and it's good to have it verified by one who has used both. Appreciate your sticking your neck out, and hope those S4i fans aren't all over you!

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Old May 8, 2004, 4:17 PM   #6
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My guess is that Steve got a bad S4i. It was common in the S(3) for occasional cameras to have soft edges. I only read about one such example in the S4 on dpreview. All of the series have a little corner softness which has never bothered me. I couldn't live with the S4i that Steve tested though. Compare them to the S4 sample photos and there is a big difference. Since the camera and lens are basically the same other than a larger LCD and some gee-haw modes, I'm guessing the image quality should be the same and that Steve got a bad sample. We will have to wait for other tests with sample photos to be sure.

If the problem is the same as the previous cameras in the series it isn't firmware but poor assembly. Most people who got cameras like that did OK when they exchanged them for another sample (same firmware).

If I were buying locally I would get the S4i over the S40 and return it if it has the same problem. I have been very happy with my S4 and prefer the size. I would also prefer the larger LCD on the S4i had it been available. You do all of your settings in the LCD and the larger the better as far as I am concerned.

I have no problem with the small size of the S4 – that is why I bought it. Steve seems to prefer the larger size of the S40, but I would like the smaller camera with the larger LCD. The S40 seems to have the same corner softness as the S4. It is hard to notice because there isn't usually anything in the corners you want sharp. Old pros used to slightly darken and soften the corners to give photos more appeal. I have yet to take a shot with my S4 that it detracted at all from the photo.

I would prefer a mode dial if it had a custom mode – which the S40 doesn't. Voice memo is about the only thing that is handier on the mode dial than just going straight to the menu, which you have to do with most of the modes on the dial anyway. My biggest disappointment with the S4 is the panorama mode. It doesn't fix the exposure with the first shot so it is basically useless. There is no manual exposure mode either, so you have to use very time consuming stitching software like Panorama Factory that will even out the exposures for you or mot panoramas look terrible. I assume the S4i/S40 is the same.
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Old May 11, 2004, 3:46 AM   #7
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Something must be wrong with some S4i samples. Pentax stress the S4i to have superiour picture quelity in their marketing, when competing in the small-size class of digicams. This includes the S40.

I will make a series of test pictures with my S4i soon. But it is my only and first digicam, so I have no other to compare with, but I am used to analogue SLR quality pictures with fixed focal lenses, so...

But this is what I have seen so far: the quality in the pics (taken at higest JPEG quality) seems to have variable quality over the pciture. Yes, the edges are softer, and since the lens cannot be stopped down much (only to f4.7 at wide and f7.7 at tele) there is not much to achieve when it comes to resolution, depth-of-field, or less dark corners. My quess is that it is the CCD that has variable quality, from camera to camera, and from picture to picture, the latter being a function of the light conditions.

When the CCD fails, some pixel values becomes either much darker or much lighter than the neighbour pixels. This increases the amount of highfrequency components in the picture. High frequency components are more diificult to compress than low frequency components. The result is that the JPEG compression algorithm smooths out the frequency information, including both the "synthetic" components and the natural high frequency components. This can have a result of parts of picture seem to having sort of "bad focus" in fact.

I have also noticed some dark pictures that I have taken looking preatty good with the cameras LCD screen. However, when transfered to PC, they look way too dark. This makes me wonder if the JPEG decoder inside the camera has some proprietary features a normal JPEG decoder does not have. Or, even worse, the S4i JPEG *encoder*, uses proprietary features that only special JPEG decoders know how to handle. Or, does the camera decoder use automatic adjustment of brightness?

Can it be a sw bug in the JPEG algorithm because of the S4i CCD using 12 bit color components, while the former S-series have been using 10bit? Remember that JPEG has only support of 8-bit color components, so there must be a color transform inside the camera firmware taking care of this part.

Well,a lot of guesses and load thinking..., I will put the little S4i under some work pretty soon.

Arne
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Old May 13, 2004, 9:53 AM   #8
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I've had my S4i for a few weeks and have been eagerly awaiting Steve's review of it - only to read about the softness and focusing issues he was experiencing. I can't say I've noticed any similar problems with the shots I've take already and a few more sample shots I took just now seem fine. In terms of overall image quality, Ithink this camera is great!
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Old May 13, 2004, 10:00 AM   #9
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cdub,

Do you have any possibility to post on the web some of the fine pictures of yours in original resolution *** JPEG and ISO50? Especially fine if some of they contain "flat" parts with strong colors, such as red cars or surf boards or anything. The surfing board test pictures of Steves shows that its only the S4i that have noisy red board, the other (S4, S40, Z40) are having much less noise. It is this noise that makes the pictures soft and "out of focus".

Arne
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Old May 26, 2004, 8:59 PM   #10
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With my S4i on a tripod I took some frames of a flat piece of white graph paper with 1/10 inch square green sub-rulings. Used both macro, super macro, manual focus, zoomed at wide and center. Just eyeballed my tripod to target perpendicularity so this was a crude setup. Used sunlight which made camera use the small aperture for more depth of field. On all images top and bottom sides were slightly less sharp than center and all corners were similarly less sharp. As such would guess this was simply due to limited depth of field. Left and right sides are similar. To further test this, I will obtain a larger 11x17 sheet of graph paper and curve the paper in a concave manner so the edges are approximately equidistant to the lens. As such I expect the results to show everything in good focus. That will eliminate the possibility there is more to it than depth of field.
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