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Old Dec 21, 2009, 7:14 AM   #1
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Default Simple camera for family point & shoot with near-zero shutter lag

I'm a parent of a 4-year-old. Looking for a digital camera upgrade to take good, convenient family pictures.

Desired features (in order of priority):
- near-zero shutter lag so I don't miss the "magic moment" when I'm trying to take a picture of the kid running around
- automatic mode that works, don't want to "think" about the right setup for the right situation, just point-and-shoot. I would use it for indoor family pics, and for kid running around indoors/outdoors when playing with friends. Also, my family is very tech savvy so normally complexity wouldn't be an issue. But for something as important to us as family pictures, we don't want to be fumbling/configuring, etc.
- quality to take an occasional 8x10 that I could frame and place in the living room, although 95% of pics will just be posted to facebook
- the more compact the better, ideally I like something as small as my 5-year-old canon elf, but I can't seem to find one that meets the above. Big is tolerable if it does the above well
- price is mostly unimportant, I don't want to waste money on features I won't use, but if a camera can meet most of the above at any price, I'd be interested
- anything else would be secondary, although if there's a cool new feature (that's useful to my situation) please feel free to recommend. eg: I saw a sony with auto-smile-detection that seemed useful

Last edited by mvl; Dec 21, 2009 at 7:22 AM.
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 8:24 PM   #2
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21 December 2009


Welcome to the Forum. We are very pleased that you dropped by.

Digital cameras have improved a great deal in the last few years in terms of reducing shutter lag. Shutter lag is defined as the ime after which you press the shutter release and until the photograph is actually taken by the camera.

Just as when you go to your car each workday, to head for work, unfortunately a few details, quite like you putting your car keys into the ignition switch and turning the key to start the engine, also has to happen in your camera. It cannot, due the complexity of your car or your camera be an instant operation.

Just like your computer has to "boot-up" before you can use it, so too, your digital camera has to also "boot-up." In the last four years or so, the "boot-up" or "start-up" time of your digital camera has also been reduced measurably along with shutter lag. If the camera you are using is three to four years old, I would guess that you would be rather surprised at how fast today's digital cameras start up and snap photos.

Let's take your example and follow in step by step fashion what has to take place in your digital camera so you can take a photo of your little boy or girl running down a hallway in your home. Even is the camera is already turned on, the battery save feature will have probably come into play and your camera is no longer fully on, but instead in a standby mode, to save battery power.

At the first touch of any of the camera's controls, the camera begins the approximate 2 second "readiness cycle" where power begins to once again flow through the camera and vital components are rechecked and made ready to take a photo. When the user then has to bring the camera to their eye, or to a position where framing the phot can take place, that "framin the photo" cycle takes about 1 to 2 seconds. Then the user pushes half way down on the shutter release, the camera has to analyze the lighting of the photo environment, set the exposure, decide whether a flash from the built-in flash unit is required for the photo and also focus the photo. That step actually occurs in less than 1 second, under normal lighting conditions (normal lighting conditions are generally defined as outdoor photos taken under sunlit conditions). If the lighting in the photo environment is less than the so called norm, added time is required, due to the reduced lighting conditions, to acquire focus, set the exposure, and decide on using the flash.

At that point the camera is ready to deploy the shutter and to record the photo. However, as you can easily see, that just like getting your car started, backed out of the garage, and headed down the road to work, there are a series of steps that must be accomplished, one after the other, to ready the camera to take the photo.

Some cameras are better than others in certain performance aspects. You mentioned automatic mode for photo taking. The camera with the best automatic mode in it class is the Sony H-20 followed rather closely by the Canon S-90, SX-200, and SX-120 models. The camera with the best built-in flash unit, providing an amazing flash range of over 20 feet is once again, the Sony H-20. Flash range is defined as the distance frtom camera to subject, measured in feet. Once again as well, the H-20 is closely trailed by the Canon SX-200 and SX-120. The Canon S-90 has the least powerful built-in flash.

A lot of users today also want to be able to record HD video with their digital camera, and to be able to zoom while filming, the Sony H-20 can also do that, followed closely by the Canon SX-200 which can also does HD video and newer versions of the SX-200 can now also zoom while filming, I have recently read. The Canon SX-120, and S-90 will shoot video, but not of the HD category.

When it comes to wide angle photos, the Canon S-90, followed by the Canon SX-200 beats, the other cameras easily, as neither the Sony H-20 nor the Canon SX-120 have a wide angle capability.

When it comes to the zoom feature (bringing the subject closer to the camera position by using the magnifying power of the camera's lens) it is the Sony H-20's 10X optical zoom, the Canon SX-200's, 12X optical zoom, and the Canon SX-120's, 10X optical zoom, that soundly beat the Canon S-90 with its only 3.8 optical zoom.

Camera size is currently a rather large issue among most photo snap shooters. It appears that the ideal camera is a camera that can be easily carried in the typical jeans pocket. However, space is required within the camera's body to house and accommodate all the features that you have carefully specified. So, the result is this: yes, very small cameras can be produced that are very small in size such as the Canon SD 780, and SD-1200 models but usually the radical smallness comes at the price of some of your desired features. The smallest camera of the group we have been discussing is the Canon S-90. The smallness is achieved due to the reduced zoom capability in the S-90. The Sony H-20 is as small as it can get, and still provide, all those features and the 3.0 inch LCD screen on which the user will frame their photos and the HD video capability. Some folks perceive the Sony H-20 as too thick, from front to back, but features require space to operate within the camera body.

So, your digital camera is quite like your car, body size is dictated by the features of the machine and the need for comfort. We often times loose track of the fact or the realization of how well our bodies, our mind, and our eyes actually work. Our eyes, our minds and our bodies a classic examples of beautiful, precise engineering in action. We have progressively done a better, and better job of perfecting and re-packaging our digital cameras in to smaller and more efficient physical formats. However, the user wants as much smallness, efficiency, and instant action from these photo snap shot cameras, all for a price under $(US) 400.00. That is a difficult and exacting challenge for today's mass production.

No doubt, MVL, I have probably not answered your question completely. But hopefully, I have made you a more aware camera user, as I attempted to describe the step by step actions your digital camera is required to take, to get that one perfect photo for you as quickly as possible.

There are obviously quite a few other camera that trail these four cameras with lesser degrees of performance, but for the sake of brevity in this post, I have not mentioned them in fine detail.

Have a great day and a Merry Christmas.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 21, 2009, 8:35 PM   #3
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I think the s90 is a great one to look at considering the emphasis placed on responsiveness. as the s90 is the most responsive compact camera made right now. it is also quite compact. while it lacks the high output flash of a larger model, it does offer quite useable higher ISO's which can help you make the most of the flash it does offer and can be used in lower light situations without flash than most compacts. it does however come at a rather steep pricetag.

the panasonic zr1 is also compact and with panasonic's newest processors, it is quick to start up and responsive as well. it cannot match the s90 in low-light performance though as it doesnt handle high-iso's quite as well, nor gain up to make use of the flash. still its one of the more solidly performing digicams, and is priced quite reasonably ~250USD.

sarah covered the larger compact superzooms, so i won't elaborate further on the h20/sx120/sx200
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