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Old Jul 31, 2007, 5:02 AM   #1
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Hi,
I'm looking for a new camera, and I have certain requirements that my D50 doesn't meet. Namely that:

it's somewhat smaller than an SLR (due to available packing space/weight),
able to withstand the sand and dust of saharan Africa,
suitable for a photographic novice (possibly illiterate).

I suspect an optical viewfinder will be a requirement as I doubt a screen will be visible in African sun.

Use of SD-cards would be good as that's what I already have. It's possible I'll be unable to recharge batteries for two weeks at a time, so it either needs standard batteries or sensibly-priced specific ones. The flash is unlikely to be used much.

I'm swamped by the choice of compact cameras available, and most shops appear clueless when asked about the camera's ruggedness.

Any suggestions of what to try? Budget is around £250/$500 before tax, and while I'm based in Europe I can buy in Europe or the US.
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Old Jul 31, 2007, 11:25 AM   #2
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The desert isn't that brutal an environment for a camera other than during a dust storm. Even then most cameras would do OK if you shielded them from the direct wind. I would get something in silver rather than black. I much prefer black cameras but usually try to find silver here in Florida. If a leave a black camera on the boat seat for just a few minutes it is too hot to pick up.

You could be sure of the camera not getting messed up with dust intrusion with a weatherproof or even waterproof camera. I don't know of one that a DSLR owner would like though. And weatherproof and waterproof usually mean no viewfinder. Most Olympus Stylus cameras are listed as weatherproof and they have some with 5X lenses.

Folded lens cameras like the Sony T series are inherently dust resistant because the lens doesn't extend. Some of the T series had transflective screens that use the sun's light to reflect back through the LCD. With an anti-reflective coating they might be OK. They had a transflective screen on the T50 but I see no mention of it on the T100. Other than better viewability in sunlight a transflective screen also extends the battery life because the sun is lighting the screen and you can turn the backlight off. I've had decent luck with aftermarket lithium batteries in the $20 range and they don't have a self-discharge. You can charge one up and use it a month later with very little loss of power.

If it were me I would just get something capable and relatively inexpensive. The Canon A630 and A570 IS come to mind. If you need more zoom range look at the A710 IS. They will probably survive and are a lot better cameras than any weatherproof/waterproof I know of. They have viewfinders and manual controls.

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Old Aug 1, 2007, 10:11 PM   #3
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Whether a desert is a tough environment or not depends on accommodations and modes of travel. If you're traveling in open vehicles and living in huts/tents go for a weatherproof models (Olympus Stylus series or Pentax Optio W series). I'd avoid those models with folded optics because IQ seems to take a hit with that type of lens.

If travel is by air conditioned bus and overnights are in air conditioned hotels all most anything is suitable if reasonable precautions are taken.Choices can be biased toward photographic qualities rather than survivability.

I manage a fleet of 300 cameras used in desert environments at least a part of each year. Until we started using weatherproof cameras the loss rate from dust was vary high, virtually nil after we switched.
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Old Aug 2, 2007, 2:58 AM   #4
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ac.smith wrote:
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Whether a desert is a tough environment or not depends on accommodations and modes of travel. If you're traveling in open vehicles and living in huts/tents go for a weatherproof models (Olympus Stylus series or Pentax Optio W series).
Thanks. The travel and accomodation is generally between the two extremes you mention, but there will be travel that doesn't involve vehicles at all...

The main concern has been the limited operating conditions of most cameras; most seem to say maximum of 40°C and 95% humidity and we'll be pushing both of those.

Can you tell me which cameras you use?
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Old Aug 2, 2007, 12:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
I'd avoid those models with folded optics because IQ seems to take a hit with that type of lens.
I don't agree with that. I find images from the Sony T series to be generally sharper than anything from a weatherproof or waterproof camera. And they have the advantage of stabilization. Plus they have a better aperture when zoomed, which is where you need it. The T50's transflective screen might actually be useable in bright sunlight if you aren't going to have an optical viewfinder.

If you are going to lend the camera out to people who have no particular interest in taking care of it a bulletproof camera might be a good idea. A good alternative for your own use might be to get something with better photo quality like the Canon A570 IS or A630 that you can pick up inexpensively. They have full auto if you want to hand it to someone else and full controls more suitable for a DSLR owner. For a little more you can get the A710 IS with a 6X zoom and still have a viewfinder.

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Old Aug 2, 2007, 3:59 PM   #6
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slipe wrote:
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Quote:
I'd avoid those models with folded optics because IQ seems to take a hit with that type of lens.
I don't agree with that. I find images from the Sony T series to be generally sharper than anything from a weatherproof or waterproof camera. And they have the advantage of stabilization. Plus they have a better aperture when zoomed, which is where you need it. The T50's transflective screen might actually be useable in bright sunlight if you aren't going to have an optical viewfinder.

If you are going to lend the camera out to people who have no particular interest in taking care of it a bulletproof camera might be a good idea. A good alternative for your own use might be to get something with better photo quality like the Canon A570 IS or A630 that you can pick up inexpensively. They have full auto if you want to hand it to someone else and full controls more suitable for a DSLR owner. For a little more you can get the A710 IS with a 6X zoom and still have a viewfinder.
My comments where really meant to apply to the Olympus Stylus folded lens models so I should have been more explicit. I have looked at Steve's test images for the T-50 at 100% and they do seem pretty good but I looked at his Stylus 710 and 760 (non-folded models) images and they seemed the equal of the T-50. The scenes are different between the tests so it is hard to do direct comparisons.

Our cameras are not "pool" cameras. They're assigned to an individual along with their notebook computer, scanner and printer as part of their "tool" set. We have a long established reputation of issuing an older model replacement if the user has not exercised due care. Some of our users have also taken their personal cameras into the "difficult" environments and had sand/dust intrusion on those cameras while the issued camera is still functional. I have also seen enough "What do I do now?" questions here and at DPReview to know personal ownership does not always result in due care and diligence in sandyenvironments.
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Old Aug 3, 2007, 8:16 AM   #7
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I live in a desert in Chihuahua, Mexico, very hot. My Olympus stylus S800 is just fine, no reaction to the high temperature. It also went very cold in winter (-18 degrees) with snow.

I took this camera to a giant crystals mine. http://pruned.blogspot.com/2007/03/g...-of-naica.html

99 pct of humidity and50 degrees celcius. We could not stay - and were not alowed to stay - more than 10 minutes in order not to have our inside bodybake quickly from the air we were breathing.

The only prob I had with the camera is that when falling on the ground, the camera front protection took a hit and as a result blocked the sliding cap. I unscrewed the cover, unbent it, and then it worked like a charm again.

I would say you can go for that one. Not the sharpest camera I have ever seen, but still quite good. You get all the manual settings like manual speed or manual aperture.


It is not the lightest one neither, but still very small.


Cheers.


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