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Old Nov 9, 2007, 2:49 PM   #1
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I'm looking for a camera that will excel at taking photos of a fast-moving toddler and do a good job in the video/movie mode to take the place of a camcorder.

I've presently got a Pentax Optio 555, which is a great camera for taking on a vacation, but it has a pretty slow start-up time, somewhat slow focus time and fairly slow shot-to-shot speeds, not to mention a primitive 320x240 video mode. I've also got a two year-old who does dozens of cute and memorable things every week that I'd like to capture on film or on video, but I frequently miss the oportunities becausemyPentaxtakes too long to start up or won't focus quickly enough or is too slow to shoot the next shot. I've also got a Samsung mini-DV camcorder thatis pretty slow starting up,has pretty crappy video quality unless you are shooting outside on a bright day, andis obviously rather inconvenient to download onto a computer, given the nature of playback of the mini-DV tapes.

Size or type ofcamera isn't important. As for thelens, well it would be nice to have a wider range than the typical 3x point-and-shoot from both ends of the spectrum, but I can live with almost anything. I would prefer it to have A, S, and M controls, but it's not essential. I would also prefer it to use SD cards, as I already have plenty of those, but if the perfect camera uses a different format, I suppose flash cards have dropped enough in price that it wouldn't be insurmountable to switch formats. I want to stay at or under $250.

I bought a Samsung S850 8mp on salefor only $149,which on paper is the perfect camera - it has full manual controls, two higher definition movie modes (800x586 and 720x480 but at only 20fps, which is kind of jerky) that records highly compressed in MPEG-4/DVIX so you get a lot of recording time per gb of card. It's got an excellent all-metal construction and a nice handgrip, but will still fit into a shirt or pants pocket.However, it seems to be pretty darn inadequate in a number of important ways. First, battery life is attrocious, especially in movie mode. Taking maybe 20 photos, half with flash, and 7-10 minutes of video results in the camera flashing "LOW BATTERY" and then shutting down, and this is with a freshly charged pair of Energizer 2500mAh NiMH rechargeables.I read someplace that the new low discharge rechargeables are the solution to the Samsung battery consumption problem, so I bought some of the Kodak 2100 mAh low discharge batteries and really have not noticed any difference. Start-up, focus and shot-to-shot speeds are only a bit faster than my Pentax. Plus, the camera decides, even in its ASR mode, that what I need for indoor shooting, with or without flash,is a shutter speed of between 1/2 and 1 second, leaving most of my indoor shots a blur. I read some place that 2800+mAh batteries will cure the Sasmsung's battery problem and I'm giving some thought to picking up a pack and experimenting more with the settings for the indoor photography, but I suspect I'll be returning this one.

From what I've seen from a few hours of research, the only cameras that really fit my criteria are the Casio EX-V7 and EX-V8, which are fast performing and have 848x480 @30fps in the video mode, with some sort of compression so they don't eat memory cards like a Canon would. They have full manual controls, a 7x interal zoom lens and are zoomable during movie mode.I can get an EX-V7 for a bit over $200 and the V8 model is going to go for around $50 more, but in addition to the extra megapixel adds an internal shock absorbtion system to avoid the breakages that are not uncommon with the V7. I've played around with a few V7's and V8's in stores and while they are quite nicely built, I don't like the ergonomics. They are hard to hold one-handed and the tiny little verticle zoom toggle is awkward to use.

Kodak recently introduced two new 12mp cameras with full 1280x720 HDTV movie resolution, but I believe both have extremely slow performance.

Any ideas for something thatbetter fits my criteria than either the Samsung or the Casios? Thanks.


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Old Nov 14, 2007, 5:01 PM   #2
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Wow, five days and no replies. I think I would have obtained more responses if I posted the 750th "Help me pick a camera" title in this forum and stated in the body "I want it to be able to take good pictures of people and things."

Anyway, after playing around with the Samsung, I got a big improvement on battery life just by switching the LCD screen to "Dim" mode. After playing with a few dozen cameras in stores in the past week, I decided that the start up time wasn't awful - pretty average, as was the initial flash recharge time.However, after the second flash shot, it started taking up to 10 seconds to recharge the shot. The continuous/burst mode also worked quite well, although it isn't blazingly fast. Since it is actually a present for my wife, I asked her to really test it out and tell me what she thought. She vetoed it on the slow flash recharge times and I returned it yesterday.

I was really thinking about the Canon A570IS, but while it did have a very quick start up time, it had a very long flash recharge time. Additionally, thelack of any sort of useful in-camera file compression on the video meant I'd have to stock up on 4gb cards if I wanted to do anything with the video mode beyond a few snippets here and there - plain VGA mode shouldn't be burning through nearly 2mb/second like the Canons do.

Last night I picked up a pair of Kodaks at my local Wally-World since they don't have the restocking fee that BB or CC have and actually had quite good prices. I got the M753, a little copper-colored 7mp ultracompact that has only a 3x lens, VGA video mode and limited control options.TheM753 was second by a small fraction of a second only to the Casios on start-up times and was hands down the fastest at shot to shot using flash - I think I can get three flash shots in about four seconds, although then it slows down to process and it's another five seconds or so until I can fire off the next shot. Some of the initial photos I took appear very nice, some quite grainy (which is the most common complaint among the owner reviews I've read). Flash on this little thing was outstanding - easily useful indoors out beyond 20 feet.

The second camera is the Z1275, a 12mp with 5x lens, and true HD video mode (1280x720), which wasn't anywhere near as quick as the M753, but a lot quicker than what various owner reviews had led me to believe, coming in at least average on initial startup and a bit faster than average on flash recharge times, giving maybe 3 seconds in between flash shots. The video mode seems really good and even though the videos have triple the resolution of VGA, still seem to have smaller file sizes than the Canons. Kodak really seems to have dropped the ball on the controls on this, though. While it does have full manual modes, instead of having the customary separate P, A, S and M settings on the mode dial, there's just a single one for all four modes, labelled "P/M". Quite frankly, I'm not even sure it has a typical P mode (auto shutter and aperture but can change EV, WB, ISO settings) or individual A and S modes, since neither the menus nor the cursory printed manual are clear on this. A lot of my photos last night with the auto mode appeared to have been done with ISO settings of 800 or 1600, they were so grainy.I achieved much the same results with the digital shake reduction mode and surprisingly, even in manual mode with the ISO set to 64 or 100.I took a few outdoor photos today at lunch and while they were much better as far as lack of graininess or noise, there was nonetheless very noticeable aliasing, with very visible jaggies on tree branches. The screen on the Z1275 is poor, very low resolution compared to the Samsung's screen.

[EDIT 11/15/07: I tried out the video on the two Kodaks last night in my moderately dim family room. The video recorded on the M753'swas so dark I could not seemuch more than an outline of people in it. In contrast, the Z1275's low light sensitivity was so good the video appeared roughly the same as real lifeandhadexcellent image quality. I figured out how to use the various settings and it does indeed have P, A, S and M modes. Maybe instructions for using these were on the full digital manual on the CD that came with the camera, but they weren't in the very short "getting started" style manual. I've readseveral reviews of Kodaks thatuse this system that really liked how Kodak has implemented these settings butI'll have to use them a bit more tosee how I like them. I read a review of the Z1275 on trustedreviews.com that panned the camera for extremely slow performance that was much slower than Kodak's published figures (or what I've observed with the one I bought) and then complained that the camera was locking-up repeatedly. This less-than-rocket-scientist reviewer was apparently incapable offiguring outthat he/she got a defective camera (which all manufacturers occasionally make) and instead just gave the camera really poor ratings. ]



The Fujifilm F40fd is supposed to take very nice low light pictures, but have slow performance. The F31fd seems like it would solve many of my problems except that I'd have to invest in an entirely new format for memory cards and the few F31fd's thatare still availalble are selling for more than typical store prices when they first came out 9 or 12 months ago, even on eBay. My cousin has a Fujifilm E900 that takes outstanding photos, very good quality VGA video, has full manual controls and since I believe it has the same sensor as the F31FD, very good low light performance. Those are still available from a few stores for around $220 and I've given half a thought to just buying one of those and hitting up some stores early on Black Friday for some XD card bargains.

I'll keep testing these two Kodaks and see how they work over the next few weeks. My initial inclination is maybe keep the M753 and continue to rely on my Optio 555 for everything but quick snap shots and video. I've not yet seen any of their photos on my computer or printed any up, which obviously is pretty imporant. It seems like there's got to be something better than all of these cameras - millions of camera owners have either small children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews and I cannot imagine that my criteria for a camera are all that uncommon. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

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Old Nov 15, 2007, 2:37 AM   #3
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I've made several DVDs with combined video and stills with the same camera (casio EX-S500 then Sony H-5), but decided to go high definition for my son's wedding. Its way outside your budget, but footage from my new toy, a tiny Panasonic HDC-SD5 camcorder using SD card, is suberb. It has the pre-record feature so you don't miss the vital moments, assuming that the camcorder is already on! Stills are not too bad but not up to modern digicam qualty. Just beware that high definition video editing requires the newest video editing software plus a very powerful PC, particularly if the camera/camcorder uses AVCHD compression. This appears to be the new standard for consumer HD video.

Another possiblity for you might be the one of the Sanyo Xacti HD cameras/camcorders - they are cameras with HD video rather than HD camcorders with stills.


I couldn't resist buying an F31fd when they were cheap, and its picture quality and video is pretty good, but of course not HD. The best camera I have by far is an entry level DSLR (Nikon D40) with add-on flash - for indoor and low light no digicam comes close for picture quality with ease of use. But no video!
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Old Nov 15, 2007, 2:45 AM   #4
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If video is a priority then how about the Canon TX1?

Much better video than the competition and as a P&S stills camera gives perfectly respectable image quality - i.e. about as good as every other P&S camera on the market.
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Old Nov 15, 2007, 4:42 PM   #5
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peripatetic wrote:
Quote:
If video is a priority then how about the Canon TX1?

Much better video than the competition and as a P&S stills camera gives perfectly respectable image quality - i.e. about as good as every other P&S camera on the market.
Thanks for the suggestions, but the TX1 has the following problems for me:

- cheapest street price around $450

- very slow flash recharge times

- poor low-light performance combinedwithan anemic flash

- awkward ergonomics, especially in portrait orientation [edit 11/19: I handled one over the weekend and it is even worse than the reviews describe with its ergonomics - an extremely unfriendly camera to use]

- burns through flash cards at 4.8mb/sec - that's just 7 minutes of video on a 2gb card



The several Sanyo Xactimodels look like they arepriced similarly or even more expensive, and have some of the same issues as the TX1 so I think that rules them out also.
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Old Nov 20, 2007, 12:37 PM   #6
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Hi, I am in a similar quandary. I bought a miniDV Camcorder hoping to extract some nice stills from the video recording. Recorded to the Flash and viewed on the computer. The resolution was abysmal. Reading the manual more attentively revealed a still resolution of 640x480.

So now I am back looking for a device (dont know if it is a digicamcoder that would do what I need) to record and then to extract any stills I like. On the low end of the price range an Aiptek seems promising
Sony HDR-CX7 Still Resolution: 3MP $800-1100

The more I think about it if the video capture on Aiptek is 720x480 then an still extracted from it cannot be 5MP.

Yes, Yes, I admit I am a newbie. Would appreciate recommendations for what I should get. Is any other hardware/software needed to extract stills from video? Thank you.

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Old Nov 20, 2007, 5:15 PM   #7
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The following are the digital cameras that I know of with better than VGA video quality:

Canon G9

Casio EX-V7, EX-V8, EX-Z1050, EX-Z1200

Kodak Z1275, V1233, Z812is

Panasonic DMC-TZ3A, DMC-LZ7S, DMC-LX2S,DMC-FZ50K probably all of their current super zooms

Samsung S850 and S1050

I'm sure there are a few others, but this list contains most of them and it's not a long list.




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Old Nov 23, 2007, 3:36 PM   #8
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Took back the Z1275 - indoor images were just horribly noisy with or without the flash and noticed a lot of aliasing, too. The M753 took better indoor photos, had a better flash, believe it or not, took better closeup-macro shots and was twice as fast with recharging the flash. However, it went back, also.

Instead, we bought a Kodak M883 on sale at Best Buy for $149.99. It's very closely based on the M753/853 cameras and from the front looks almost identical, but for only $20 more than the M753, offers a metal body as opposed to the M753's plastic body, it has a number of user additional definable exposure modes and even a slow-shutter mode where you can change the shutter speed at steps between 1s and 8s (not full shutter priority, though), one extra megapixel of resolution, a handful of extra scene modes, and better video. It's not comparable to the Z1275's 720p video in terms of either resolution or low light performance, but has a significantly smoother VGA video with 30fps vs. 15 with the M753. It retains the M753's lightening fast flash recharge times, though. And, my wife especially likes the bright metallic red finish.


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