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Old Mar 8, 2008, 7:45 PM   #1
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I am often misunderstood, and wind up talking way too much. I'll try to highlight important words to facilitate skimming.

I would have posted the customary introduction first, but you don't seem to do that in this forum...Straight to business: After my very frustrating Gateway DC-m42 died, I thought that was it. When I found myself with a surplus of spending money, I began my research. While I could technically afford more, I don't want to go over $350, $280 preferably (in online prices) as I want to have some money left for practical uses around the house.

I have been doing a lot of reading about digital cameras in general, as well as about various SLR-like and DSLR cameras, and the information is often very conflicting from one source to another. Coming from an entry level PoS -- umm... -- P&S camera that had shortcomings and quirks that were very frustrating to work, my expectations in a new camera are low. However, with lots of tricks and trials, it could produce nice pictures, so my expectations are high as well -- At least, they seem to be high compared to reviews that say all non-SLR photography is crappy. In fact some reviews/forums showed horrible quality pictures and said that was the best you could expect. *shock* *confusion* I know I would not get shots like my 35mm Canon AE-1, but I'd expect pictures at least as good as a cheap P&S with 200ISO/400ISO film.


What I hated in the DC-m42:
  • Power button to ready would take 3-8 seconds (minor)
    [/*]
  • Shutter lag (non-consecutive) went from ~0.7s to 3s (annoying when > 1.2s)
    [/*]
  • Shutter not going off, getting stuck in pre-focus, and taking several presses (shutter release button) before it would return to normal and try taking the picture again. (EXTREMELY annoying)
    [/*]
  • Extremely short battery life without flash; 20-60 pics (annoying when it was closer to 20)
    [/*]
  • Autofocus powered by the Anti-Christ processor. It seemed to deliberately focus on everything but what I intended it to. No manual focus or focus modes. Sometimes, despite using pre-focus, it would still change focus just before exposure. Multiple exposures (2-8s recycle w/o flash) were not just good measure, they were mandatory. (Extremely Annoying!!)
    [/*]
  • Zoom was slow and noisy. (minor)
    [/*]
  • The 3x optical was negated by the extremely wide angle of the camera. I often felt like the camera was 6-15ft behind where I was standing. (very annoying)
    [/*]
  • Macro? HAHAHA. With trick angles, pre-focus, and multiple attempts the closest I could get a usable shot was +8in, usually no less than 18in. (very disappointing)
    [/*]
  • Lowlight (as in anything less than full sunshine at noon) was hit and miss. In auto, night, or various manual settings, the exposure was NEVER what the LCD preview showed. With extreme toil I actually took lowlight aquarium shots (1 usable in 30), but the average quick shot in a bright room was usually all wrong. (see next as well) (Very disappointing, and frustrating)
    [/*]
  • Manual settings seemed to only be semi-manual. Changing ISO, EV, saturation, etc seemed to affect the preview screen more than it did the actual exposure.
    [/*]
  • Flash was REALLY slow to recycle (5-15s), drained batteries horribly (2500mAh could handle 5-10 flashes), and usually did too much or too little. Red eye was frequent, but easily fixed PP. (pretty annoying when used)
    [/*]
Despite those shortcomings I would occasionally get nice picture from it (even in lowlight), and even at ISO400 I never noticed too much noise in anything that was bright enough to be properly exposed. My profile at flickr only has a small fraction of what I took when I first got my camera; I had taken many good pictures since then.


What I'd like to use my camera for:
  • Macro. Insects, flowers, aquarium (entirely different problems there, I know).
    [/*]
  • Zoom. Besides birds, reptiles, and mammals being hard to sneak up on, the nature trails around here have the most interesting stuff (foliage and animal tracks) quite a distance from where you can walk.
    [/*]
  • Family album quality indoor shots. I'm not expecting jaw dropping results from quick shots, but enough that people and objects can be seen clearly.
    [/*]
  • It would be nice, if with the right set up (tripod, extra lighting in the room, etc) that I could do informal/novice portraits for family and friends. I did so once or twice with my 35mm Canon AE-1. Not really important.
    [/*]
  • Night scenery. I was really disappointed that I could not take pictures of the beautiful night scenery (skylines, architecture, streetlamps on a street, etc) Only once did I manage to capture a well lit sidewalk/storefront, but the other 5 shots proved the good one was a fluke.
    [/*]
  • If the camera provides inexpensive opportunities to expand, change, or otherwise fiddle with it, that is a very big plus, but still not important. (Such as the hacks for Canon cameras)
    [/*]
  • Carry it with me on most days. Since I never tuck in my polo shirts, a slightly larger camera pouch on my belt won't stand out too much.
    [/*]

What I've been looking at
:
  • Cannon Powershot S3 IS ($259 new). While all reviews paint it as being great features with mediocre performance (some reviews calling it abysmal), there seem to be a plethora of amazing photos on flickr that have been taken by S3's (even S1's). The idea of coding scripts for the camera (using the hack) makes me giddy like a kid in a candy shop (I fiddle around with PERL, JavaScript, C, Delphi, etc). The idea that the USB cable can be interacted with in a script makes my mind wander with possibilities (had some college classes for electronics, but haven't started building things yet). The long zoom, the macro, manual settings are all good. But the reported noise, distortions, lousy lowlight performance, and blurry shots have me hesitant. Also some user review reported that Canon's have a high incidence of breaking after a year or two (motor failure).
    [/*]
  • Various Fujifilms +6x optical and <$320. I hear there lowlight performance is great. I worry about that some claim their normal lighting performance is quite distorted.
    [/*]
  • Various Panasonic Lumix models of +6x optical and under $320(online prices). In particular the 6x opticals under $200. If what many professional reviewers say is true, that anything less than a $1000 SLR setup would leave me disappointed, then I might as well pay as little as possible for that disappointment.
    [/*]
Things that many sites and forums have said, that don't equate with my DC-m42 experience or with pics on Flickr:
  • All non-SLR cameras will have very noticeable noise unless in bright sunlight.
    [/*]
  • With non-SLR, excessive zooming causes pictures to degrade to webcam quality. (on flickr, some of the best animal pics from an s3/5 are at full zoom)
    [/*]
  • All non-SLR are horrible at night time photography, even scenery; with superzooms being the worst. (Again: crisp, "bright", evenly exposed pictures exist from many non-SLR, even the superzooms)
    [/*]
  • With the exception of a couple old ones, non-SLR can not do decent IR photography. (While most pics on Flickr are mediocre at best, some carefully selected scenes are impressive)
    [/*]
If the pro-SLR reviewers and forum users are right, I won't find anything much better than what I already have (I can not afford to go SLR and get a zoom lens, even if I wanted to) and therefore I should just get the cheapest camera I can find since they will all be a disappointment.

After just reading even more reviews and forums (other places), I'm thinking maybe I should abandon photography. I used to think that I had lots of nice photos in the photos that I never shared online, but looking over them there were only a few decent ones; Another reason I'm considering. In a long bout of depression, I had also ignored my camera for nearly a year. Maybe its just irrational thoughts of depression -- I won't decide now.


Thank you for reading/skimming my post.
DJ
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Old Mar 8, 2008, 8:31 PM   #2
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I read slowly, so I should be finished digesting your post around Tuesday (LOL). If my skimming is accurate, it would appear that you are looking for a camera that takes good pictures in all kinds of light conditions, with a high power zoom lens, not a DSLR, but with comparable image quality, and you would prefer to spend no more than $280 - is that correct?

You seem to have several misconceptions about today's non-DSLR digicams - they don't all stink...although you may be handcuffing yourself by restricting your budget to less than $300. Your implied solution, "...and therefore I should just get the cheapest camera I can find since they will all be a disappointment.", is probably the reason you have been turned off by digital photography - a bad camera - do you really want another one?

In order to properly enjoy wildlife pics, you should be considering one of the mega-zoom cameras, with a top end around 300-400mm. As far as the low light performance, many of the non-DSLR cameras are poor, at best. Some are better than others, and those are not necessarily worse than the others in bright sunlight - that is a rumor started by those who own cameras that behave badly in low light situations.

Start your research (ignoring price for the time being) around a particular type of camera, and concentrate on those whose performance is what you're looking for. When you find what you're looking for, it may be time to reevaluate your price limitations. If not, then you will have to make concessions. Whatever you decide, don't buy a bottom rung camera - it will sit on the shelf collecting dust.

Good luck with your search.

the Hun

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Old Mar 9, 2008, 1:32 PM   #3
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Take a look at the Canon SX-100. At about $(US)225to 240 it is within your budget and it produces very good photos.

Sarah Joyce (in Australia today)
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Old Mar 10, 2008, 2:09 AM   #4
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I personally only know the quality of the Gateway DC-m42's pictures. A few photos of my first 40 or so pics are on my flickr account; they are experimentation photos. Being that the camera faught me the whole time, I never did leave experimentation during those 6 months of regular use. I may post some more old ones soon. But you can see some of what I got from my DC-m42; I'd expect at least that quality or better. Some forums/reviews say the old 3/4MP took better pictures than the newer 8/10MP cameras (excluding DSLR).

Due to development costs (a roll is not bad, but multiple rolls of experimentation shots would be "a waste" of money that was very tight) and awkwardness (fill the roll first) I never used my SLR (Canon AE-1) much, and never left experimentation.

I was worried about the unsupported E18 failures of the Canon, but learned that it happens to all brands of digicams. Shortly after giving up on digicams, I then noticed there were several pages that give steps for repairing the most common causes -- one page has step-by-step instructions (complete with detailed photos) for completely disassembling the camera (down to the subparts of the lens) to complete clean and check for jams.

I have been doing more research on digicams (I've read nearly 100 pages of reviews/forums for various cameras) I'm going to sleep on it, but I think I will buy the Powershot S3 for $259. I wish I knew about the retailers discontinuing them last month! $144 at some places!

Thanks.


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