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Old Apr 6, 2007, 1:09 PM   #1
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Hello everyone,

I'm looking for an ultra-compact camera for vacations, the inside of dark bars/clubs, and for ebay auctions. I'd prefer a strong flash for the latter two purposes - and though I might be mistaken about my assumption, I'm guessing that low-light performance isn't a concern since I'll be using the flash. Won't be making large prints, so amount of megapixels isn't a concern. I'd like to stay at or under one inch in depth since I will want to slip it into my sportcoat pocket on occasion. I'd also like to stay under $250, though that figure is malleable if the suggested camera is just THAT much better than the rest.

I currently have (and plan on returning) a Nikon S5 that I bought less than a month ago. I don't yet know its performance outside of taking pictures for ebay auctions. Suffice to it say I'm VERY dissatisfied with its performance for that - the pictures come up quite underexposed. The camera I sold to buy the Nikon was a Canon A80. I sold it so I could buy an ultra-compact, but I suppose I didn't realize how much of a performance drop there would be. I was very happy with the A80, especially in bars/clubs. So those are my frames of reference.

Any guidance is much appreciated! Thanks!
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Old Apr 6, 2007, 1:17 PM   #2
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Have you read Steve's reviews for compact cameras?
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Old Apr 6, 2007, 1:19 PM   #3
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More than I can count. I'm enough of a novice that I'm unable to discern good flash performance from bad upon reading most of the reviews.
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Old Apr 6, 2007, 2:12 PM   #4
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Look at a camera's specifications page. You'll typically see flash range for the wide angle zoom setting (least apparent magnification), and flash range for the telephoto zoom setting (most apparent magnification).

Most lenses lose light as you zoom in more. So, flash range decreases as you zoom in more, too.

Also, pay attention to the Conclusion Section of each review. That's the "meat" of a review and flash is normally discussed.

For example, Steve noted this in the last paragrapth of the Nikon S5 Conclusion Section:

Quote:
But it suffers from low flash output and sometimes selects a low shutter speed that results in images blurred by camera shake. At a street price of around $300, The S5 a fairly good value if you can live with its limited flash range.


http://www.steves-digicams.com/2006_reviews/s5_pg5.html

If you check it's specs, you'll see how weak it is (down to only about 4 1/2 feet on the telephoto end of the zoom range):

http://www.steves-digicams.com/2006_.../s5.html#specs

A good place to start your search is the Best Cameras List where you'll find models that are deemed to be a good value within their market niche. You'll find an Ultra-Compact/Pocketable category.


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Old Apr 7, 2007, 10:00 AM   #5
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Jim, thanks a lot for the informative response and advice. Though I may now be overemphasizing it, I've started to look at the flash range on each camera as a starting point. I think I have my choices narrowed down to four, though I'm all ears as to suggestions for others.

Thus, I'm soliciting opinions on any of the following: Fuji F470, Sony W50 or W30, and Canon SD 700 IS. I think it's plain to see that the Canon is head and shoulders above the others, but would I really need all that camera for my simple purposes? Further, does image stabilization have that profound of an effect for this class of camera (I've glanced at the DSLR thread about this, so just wanted to make the distinction!)?
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Old Apr 7, 2007, 4:16 PM   #6
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One thing you have to look for is the ISO the flash is rated at. A flash with a 10 foot range at ISO 100 is more powerful than one rated at 12 feet at ISO 200.

If a camera doesn't give the ISO the flash is rated at in the specs you can probably assume it is rated at a higher ISO. Most review sites don't test the ISO the flash defaults to or what the actual power is. So it is pretty hard to determine a flash power.

Fujis with the small 1/2.5 sensor don't seem to be any better at noise than the small Sony and Canon cameras. I think they still rate the flash at very high ISO, so I wouldn't readily believe the F470 really has that strong a flash. The F20 or F30 also rates the flash at a high ISO, but the camera is capable of taking good shots at those settings. They might be a little bulky for a pocket camera, but you get excellent flash range. The 470 is an entry level camera with a relatively low resolution LCD and no optical viewfinder.

I think the SD700 is probably worth the extra money. Optical stabilization lets you take photos in much lower light without flash as long as you aren't trying to capture action. Independent of the stabilization I think the SD700 is one of the best small point and shoot cameras available.

The W50 is also a nice little camera. Nothing special, but it takes good photos. The LCD isn't as nice as the SD700 and you lack the stabilization. The W30 with a two inch 85k LCD isn't up to current standards for in-camera viewing IMO.

Some people don't care about having a viewfinder, but they are handy in direct sunlight and for quickly acquiring and following action when zoomed. The SD700 and W50 both have optical finders and unfortunately might be a dying breed.


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Old Apr 7, 2007, 4:56 PM   #7
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If you can stand to go another $50, take a look at the Fuji F40FD. It has the largest sensor of the group (1/1.6"), the highest flash range (up to 21.3' wide angle, and 11.5' telephoto - probably rated at maximum ISO), the highest resolution LCD (230,000 pixels), face detection, and it's 0.9" thick, so it should fit in your pocket.

I haven't seen any reviews on it yet, but if its low light performance is anything like the F30, it should be a real winner.

the Hun

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Old Apr 8, 2007, 10:42 PM   #8
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slipe wrote:
Quote:
One thing you have to look for is the ISO the flash is rated at. A flash with a 10 foot range at ISO 100 is more powerful than one rated at 12 feet at ISO 200.

If a camera doesn't give the ISO the flash is rated at in the specs you can probably assume it is rated at a higher ISO. Most review sites don't test the ISO the flash defaults to or what the actual power is. So it is pretty hard to determine a flash power.

Fujis with the small 1/2.5 sensor don't seem to be any better at noise than the small Sony and Canon cameras. I think they still rate the flash at very high ISO, so I wouldn't readily believe the F470 really has that strong a flash. The F20 or F30 also rates the flash at a high ISO, but the camera is capable of taking good shots at those settings. They might be a little bulky for a pocket camera, but you get excellent flash range. The 470 is an entry level camera with a relatively low resolution LCD and no optical viewfinder.

I think the SD700 is probably worth the extra money. Optical stabilization lets you take photos in much lower light without flash as long as you aren't trying to capture action. Independent of the stabilization I think the SD700 is one of the best small point and shoot cameras available.

The W50 is also a nice little camera. Nothing special, but it takes good photos. The LCD isn't as nice as the SD700 and you lack the stabilization. The W30 with a two inch 85k LCD isn't up to current standards for in-camera viewing IMO.

Some people don't care about having a viewfinder, but they are handy in direct sunlight and for quickly acquiring and following action when zoomed. The SD700 and W50 both have optical finders and unfortunately might be a dying breed
Thanks for the reply - what you have to say about the flash range ratings intuitively makes sense to me. Does this effectively mean that I probably shouldn't bother putting much stock in these ratings (since, as I recall, most did not specify the ISO level it was rated at) unless there is a sizable disparity in range?

I got to play around with my friend's new SD700 all weekend. I was definitely more than impressed. However, I'm still unsure that I should be concerned about low-light performance since I can't say I've ever minded using a flash. How crucial is stabilization outside of low-light situations?

As I've alluded to, I'm certainly not a photographer, so my experience with picture-taking is quite limited. What I can say is that I'd be thrilled with any compact camera that performed at a level nearly matching that of my dear old A80. I came away with no significant difference in opinion of the F470 and the W50 after reading Steve's reviews. If either of these would fit the bill, I'd be satisfied with that. However if not, I may then have to step up to the SD700.

Thanks again, your post was quite helpful.
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