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Old Jul 29, 2004, 10:34 AM   #1
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I intend to use the camera mostly for concert photos & posting to a website. I'm not really concerned with pixel count, since I don't intend to make prints. I do need a model that does well in low light conditions, since I'll be taking pics where I can't, or don't want to, use a flash. Zoom is relatively important, preferably 3x optical or better, but low light capability is first and foremost on my list.

The loaner I'm replacing was an Olympus C2020Z -- I was generally very pleased with its performance, and would like to get something similar without spending too much (<$300).

Any suggestions anyone can throw my way would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Jul 29, 2004, 11:45 AM   #2
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It will be virtually impossible to find a current model camera in your price range, that can perform anywhere near as good as the Olympus C-2020z in low light.

You'll end up with two problems in the conditions you are talkng about without a flash:

1. Motion Blur due to subject Movement

2. Unacceptable Noise levels atHigher ISO speeds.

The Olympus C-2020z had two things going for it in this area. One it's its exceptionally bright lens, and the other is it's less dense CCD sensor.

It's lens is rated at f/2.0 at full wide angle, only stopping down to f/2.8 at full zoom.

Most zoom lens have two numbers listed for aperture. A larger aperture (letting more light through the lens to the camera's sensor) is represented by a smaller f/stop number. The first number is the brightness of the lens at full wide angle, and the second number is the brightness of the lens at full zoom.

The aperture scale (in one stop increments) goes F/1.4, F/2.0, F/2.8, F/4.0, F/5.6, F/8.0, F/11, F/16, F/22... With each one stop move to a smaller aperture (larger F/Stop Number), you will need shutter speeds twice as long for proper exposure.

You'll find that the lens on most current model cameras in your price range have a rating of around f/2.8 - f/4.9. So, the lens on the Olympus C-2020z is twice as bright as most at full wide angle, and around 2 1/2 times as bright at full zoom.

Another factor that impacts low light performance is ISO speed. This is the sensitivity of the sensor to light. Using higher ISO speeds lets you use faster shutter speeds (which is needed indoors to prevent motion blur).

For example, ISO 200 is twice as fast as ISO 100, ISO 400 allows shutter speeds 4 times as ISO 100, etc.

The Olympus C-2020z will have lower noise levels as ISO speeds are increased (it's auto ISO modelprobably boosted ISO speed to around 320 in lower light), compared to newer camera models.

This is because of the size of the photosites for the individual pixels. Because newer models in this price range tend to use smaller CCD sensors (and/or they are packing morephotosites into them because most consumers want higher resolution), they do much worse at higher ISO speeds -- making ISO 400 virtually unusable in low light conditions (although in daylight conditions, ISO 400 is useable from some models, because noise is not as bad when more light is hitting the photosites).

The noise you get from newer models isbecause the smaller photosites in these newer sensors have a smaller surface area. As a result, they can't gather as much light, requiring more amplification of the signal from them to get the equivalent senstivity to light. This amplification increases noise levels.

In contrast,the older Olympus C-2020z could produce perfectly useable photos at the same ISO setting for on screen viewing sizes -- with it's brighter lens being a big help in lower light conditions, too.

I know of no current model camerasin your price with a lens as bright as the C-2020z, and I know of no current models with a CCD sensor that would perform as well at higher ISO speeds in low light conditions. To take photos in these conditions, you really need both (bright lens, and a CCD with good high ISO noise characteristics).

This is one of my "pet peeves". Unfortunately, consumers want more megapixels in smaller and smaller cameras, so manufacturers are obliging them.

As a result, consumers have far less choices now for cameras suitable in low light conditons without a flash -- without going to a larger, more expensive camera model.

My suggestion would try to find something on the used market, to stay within your price range. Another very good model from Olympus would be the C-3040z. It's got an exceptionaly bright f/1.8 - f/2.6 lens (even brighter than the lens on the C-2020z), and is a 3 Megapixel model using a .556" CCD. So, for downsizing pics to web viewing sizes, I think the c-3040z would probaby be a little better (since noise is not as visible when downsizing).

There are a number of other 2 and 3 Megapixel Models you can find on the used market with bright lenses, and CCD's with lower pixel density,too. However, most won't be quite as responsive as these Olympus models.

Edit/Added:

I did a quick search on Ebay, and there are a few C-3040z's listed now. Of course, you'll need to judge the condition of the cameras, and the reputation of the sellers for yourself:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...78980&rd=1

Amazingly, this one is listed as still being "brand new"(a very rare find):

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...12592&rd=1

Here's another used one:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...sPageName=WDVW


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Old Jul 29, 2004, 1:30 PM   #3
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At amazon.com you can find used ones as well. Prices start at $299, though. Maybe you can commission Amazon to look for one as low as $150. It's highly unlikely, however, somebody would sell it so cheaply.

May the forces of ebay be kind to you!
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Old Jul 29, 2004, 7:06 PM   #4
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Thanks for the input!

I was afraid I won't be able to truly replace the C2020. I had it on loan for a year, and it took some great pics, especially considering I didn't have a manual or any instructions on how to use it. It was great in low light, and got me a lot of undeserved compliments. I just chose the moments... the camera did all the work!

I've checked out ebay, & it may be my best bet. At the moment, I have a (very low) bid in on a refurbished Olympus C-740 -- I won't be surprised if I get outbid, and if I don't, I imagine I'll be happy with that model, given the reviews & stats I could find for it. I'll check out the 3040Z too & see what kind of luck I have.

As for the C2020 that is dead -- I got a repair estimate of $184, and decided not to fix it, figuring I could get something just as good for not much more than that. If newer models are as inferior to it as you say,might I bejust as well off spending that amount to repair the old model?

Thanks again for the replies. I hope I have some luck soon... or at least before I hit the road again following crazy 'rock stars' around the country!
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Old Jul 29, 2004, 8:16 PM   #5
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Frag wrote:
Quote:
At the moment, I have a (very low) bid in on a refurbished Olympus C-740 -- I won't be surprised if I get outbid, and if I don't, I imagine I'll be happy with that model, given the reviews & stats I could find for it.
For most pics, you'd probably like it. I'm afraid it'll be virtually unusable for indoor pics without a flash though. You'll havehigh noise and/or motion blur with it.

Quote:
the C2020 that is dead -- I got a repair estimate of $184, and decided not to fix it, figuring I could get something just as good for not much more than that. If newer models are as inferior to it as you say,might I bejust as well off spending that amount to repair the old model.
I'd check out the C-3040z on Ebay instead. One of them was even new in the box (see the links in my previous post).I think it's a better camera.




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Old Jul 30, 2004, 6:14 PM   #6
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If you can find an Olympus 2100uz for sale, that would be ideal

1. 2 MP

2. Image stabilization

3. 10x OPTICAL zoom

4. Low light illuminator.

Check Ebay or Olympus Ebay site.

There are currently none on Olympus site but there is one on Ebay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...sPageName=WDVW

Disclaimer: I do not know this seller!

Good luck
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Old Aug 2, 2004, 8:43 PM   #7
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Updating my question:

I've checked out a buyers' guide & cruised around both here & on ebay, looking at prices & specs that are in the range I need. One series of models I've run into that seem to have apertures close to the C2020 is the Canon PowerShot Gs -- from the G1 to the G5. I'm currently 'watching' several of them on ebay.

What do you folks think of the Canons? Will they give me the same great low-light results I was getting from the Olympus?
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Old Aug 2, 2004, 9:29 PM   #8
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If you look at some of the reviews of models like the Canon G5 versus the Canon G3, the G5 is criticized for it's noise levels versus the model it replaced (the G3). Ditto for the Olympus C-5050z versus the Olympus C-4040z.

The models using the 5MP Sony 1/1.8" CCD tend to have higher noise levels than models using the 4MP Sony 1/1.8"CCD, as ISO speeds are increased.

Yes, the Canon models will do much better than most current cameras, with their f/2.0-f/3.0 lenses. However, I'd go with the 4MP Canon G3 if making a decision between them.

BTW, there are tools to reduce noise the appearance of noise, when shooting at higher ISO speeds is needed to reduce motion blur (should you find it objectional for your viewing sizes). Here are some good ones:

Neat Image: http://www.neatimage.com

Noise Ninja: http://www.picturecode.com

Noiseware: http://www.imagenomic.com

Note that Noiseware is a free product. It does have some limitations (for example, it strips the EXIF information from the image header). This header keeps information about cameras settings used when taking the shots. However,Noiseware seems to do a very good job of reducing noise, while maintaining pretty good detail.

You can also download trial versions of Neat Image and Noise Ninja, to see which product works best for you.
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