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Old Dec 3, 2004, 3:39 PM   #1
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I have been using an SLR for years, and began touching in digital photography recently with a crappy Fuji that I am now ready to replace. I was initially interested in the Canon SD200 largely due to its size, but it doesn't have the manual control that I want. Cameras like the A75 start to have more manual controls, but they are also significantly larger. What camera, in a similar price range, combines small size with a lot of manual control? Any help I can get on this would be much appreciated. Thanks!
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 3:51 PM   #2
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I haven't compared prices, but if you can stretch to the Canon S70 it is a great piece of work. Wide angle and a reasonable zoom, 7mp, and full manual, shutter priority and aperture priority control. Pocket size, but full size spec.
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Old Dec 3, 2004, 9:44 PM   #3
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The small Sonys (P100, P120, P150) have manual controls, as do the "Medium" Sony W1, Fuji E510/550, and yes, the slightly larger A75/80/85/95. The P100 and P150 are quite tiny, I'd recommend checking those out.

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Old Dec 3, 2004, 11:14 PM   #4
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It's hard to find a very small camera with a lot of manual control.

It depends on what you're looking for. For example, the smaller DSC-P1xx series Sony models, and the Sony W1 don't have aperture or shutter priority (only full manual exposure, where you set both the aperture and the shutter speed).

In addition, these Sony models only have two aperture choices available at any given focal length (with the values changing based on the amount of zoom used). So, manual exposure with these models can be cumbersome to use in conditions where the light and subjects are not constant.

You'll probably need to go a little bit larger than these to get aperture priority, shutter priority, and finer control of aperture settings in manual exposure mode.

The Fuji models that DigiCamFan mentioned do have these modes, as do the Canon models mentioned by both cameranserai and DigiCamFam.

A word of caution though... You will not have the same ability to control depth of field via aperture that you do with your SLR using a compact digital camera.

This is because depth of field is computed using the actual (versus 35mm equivalent) focal length of the lens.

Since the sensors on non-DSLR digital cameras are very small, you can use a much shorter focal length lens to get any given 35mm equivalent focal length. For example, the DSC-S70 mentioned has a lens that is only 5.8-27.8mm (to give you a 35mm equivalent focal range of 28-100mm).

So, shooting wide open at f/2.8 with the S70 is like being stopped down to around f/13.5 on a 35mm model.

So, for any given 35mm equivalent focal length and aperture, you'll have dramatically more depth of field with a consumer digital camera.

This can be good or bad (depending on your perspective). If you're trying to shoot a scene where you want the entire image in focus, it's a good thing. But, if you are trying to shoot a subject that you want to make stand out from distracting backgrounds by using a larger aperture, the increased depth of field can be a bad thing.

Personally, I've found that finer control of aperture with subcompact digital cameras is really only useful for a couple of scenarios (at least for the way I use a camera). One is for closeups/macros. Since depth of field is shallower as you get closer to your subject, a smaller aperture is useful for macros.

If you shoot outdoor sports (or need a faster shutter speed in good light than the camera would normally use), being able to select a larger aperture in aperture priority mode can be useful to get faster shutter speeds. But, this feature is missing on most subcompact models.

So, often the "work around" to getting faster shutter speeds in good light with models missing aperture priority is to use higher ISO speeds (even though a larger aperture choice may be available, yet the camera isn't selecting it). Of course higher ISO speeds also increase noise.

Yes, you *can* go full manual exposure on models like the Sony DSC-P100 and P150. But, it can be cumbersome to use unless you have constant lighting and a stationary subject (otherwide, you'd need to constantly change settings buried in menus to get proper exposure).

In lower light, Aperture Priority is not that useful. This is because the autoexposure algorithms in most models are going to select a larger aperture anyway when light is lower for the fastest available shutter speeds (and you've got pretty decent Depth of Field in a subcompact model, even shooting with wide open apertures).

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Old Dec 4, 2004, 12:29 AM   #5
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My experience is different from Jim's. I have carried an Oly C50 everywhere for two years. I use manual exposure often but have yet to find a use for either aperture or shutter priority, which the camera has. Sports mode gives you the fastest shutter speed for the available light and portrait mode opens the aperture all the way. I have never had reason to suspect the camera isn't doing those jobs right and want to intervene. An automatic exposure mode like aperture priority for macro might be a little easier for depth of field, but I don't find manual a hassle – little things don't move very far very fast. My Mode on the mode dial gives manual without going to the menu, so manual is easier to get to. I'm not a big bug shooter – AP might be better for that.

I do use aperture priority on my larger cameras with hot shoes. Automatic units are cheaper than dedicated units and aperture priority is the easy way to set them. Manual works almost as quickly though and you can eliminate the ghosts better with faster shutter speeds than aperture priority would choose.

The C50 is too large for what you seem to want – and too old. But Canon has several very nice small cameras with manual – no shutter or aperture priority (automatic exposure modes). You said the SD 200 doesn't have the manual controls. It does have the manual exposure. Most really small cameras don't have manual focus. The Pentax S3/4/5 are exceptions, but they don't have manual exposure. I would personally rather have manual exposure if I had to choose.

I used film SLRs for generations and wouldn't be without aperture priority. I just don't find it very useful in a small digital camera. And even with SLRs I never found much use for shutter priority.

Small cameras don't have room for many manual controls. I hate messing with menus with optical finder cameras – especially in bright sunlight. I like having a mode dial with manual exposure and a custom user mode. Between the two I can avoid much menu searching. The Canon S series does have a mode dial with manual exposure as does the Sony P150. Generally very small cameras if they have mode dials at all will have PASM instead of separate settings if they have A&S. Given the choice of having a mode dial setting to get me directly into manual and having the A&S modes I will take direct access. The Sony P150 is about the smallest camera I know of with direct mode dial access to manual mode – a feature I find very desirable. The P100 and S410/500 are a little larger with the same feature. None of those have A or S modes.

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Old Dec 4, 2004, 1:30 AM   #6
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Scene modes like you have in the Oly C50 can be useful to take the place of using Aperture Priority or Manual Exposure. But, some of these models are very limited there, too. For example, the Sports Mode on the Sony P100works the opposite of how you'd expect it to work. It's actually selecting the smaller of the two available apertures. :shock:

I've seen a lot of debate on why Sony did it this way. Some users think it's a bug. Others say it's for better depth of field (doesn't make sense to me since you've got pretty good DOF with a small digicam and shutter speeds are far more important for sports using one). ;-)

It does increase ISO speed, and tries to maintain a faster shutter speed (to a point, since it's limited by the smaller aperture). But, this is at theexpense of noise, thanks to the smaller aperture which will require higher ISO speeds to have any benefit from a shutter speed perspective). It's virtually useless for what I what want in a Sports Mode.

So, given the lack of Aperture Priority or what I would consider to be a good Sports Mode (one that actually selects the largest aperture for faster shutter speeds), I personally don't find the Sony models that appealing from a control perspective compared to other subcompacts (since using Manual Exposure in a Sports setting with changing condtions from a metering perspective could be very cumbersome, unless you have very consistent lighting).

If you wanted faster shutter speeds in low light withthe subcompact Sonys, you're better off just leavingthem in Autoexposure (since thecameras will select a larger aperture anyway in low light), then increase ISO speed manually to get the shutter speeds where you need them. Otherwise, you can end up with slower shutter speeds using the Sports Mode.

I guess it boils down to what the poster really needs in a camera. He may want more control for other reasons, and even models with more manual control may not do what he thinks they will.

That's one of the reasons I wanted to point out that he really wouldn't have the DOF control he had with an SLR in a smaller digicam if that's what he was looking for, due to the much greater DOF you have at any given 35mm equivalent focal length, focus distance and aperture.

As for macros, yes, manual exposure is fine there, and at close ranges being able to select a smaller aperture is desired for greater depth of field -- even with a compact digicam.

That's one area that the subcompact Canons fall short in (being able to select a smaller aperture for closeups). You need to go to one of the larger models (i.e., Sxx or Axx series for that).


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Old Dec 4, 2004, 3:19 AM   #7
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JimC wrote:
Quote:

That's one area that the subcompact Canons fall short in (being able to select a smaller aperture for closeups). You need to go to one of the larger models (i.e., Sxx or Axx series for that).


The SD 200 and 300 both have manual exposure modes. Is there some limitation in macro? I don't understand the LCD display in manual mode in Steve's review – not sure it is a real manual exposure mode.

Something that would be a big help in small cameras is a program shift toggle. That lets you toggle through the available shutter/aperture combinations from the largest to the smallest aperture. I have a large camera with the feature but haven't seen it on small cameras where it is really needed.

I didn't realize sports action mode was backassward in the Sonys. Every camera seems to have their glitches. Pentax doesn't fix the exposure on the first shot for panoramas for instance. That is a real nuisance on the S series with no manual exposure. Most companies let you download the user manual and I always do before buying a camera – and there are still surprises.

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Old Dec 4, 2004, 9:17 AM   #8
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slipe wrote:
Quote:
JimC wrote:
Quote:

That's one area that the subcompact Canons fall short in (being able to select a smaller aperture for closeups). You need to go to one of the larger models (i.e., Sxx or Axx series for that).

The SD 200 and 300 both have manual exposure modes. Is there some limitation in macro? I don't understand the LCD display in manual mode in Steve's review – not sure it is a real manual exposure mode.
Manual Mode on some models is a little misleading. Often times, they're simply talking about the way you can change White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO speed, etc.

The closest thing thesubcompact Canons (S400/410/500, SD200/SD300) have to "true" manual exposure is a"Long Shutter" mode -- useful for night shots with a tripod.They do not give you any control of aperture

But, depending on how you use a camera, you may not need the control. For macros, it could come in handy for greater depth of field if it let you select a smaller aperture. The opposite is also true, these smaller Canon's don't allow you to set a larger aperture in better light to get a faster shutter speeds than the camera would normally select, if the light is good enough that it's alreadyswitched to a smaller aperture (and there is no Sports Scene Mode with these).

The workaround is to increase ISO speed (although this will be at the expense of noise).

I went through the same struggle last year trying to find a subcompact pocketable model - looking at the Canons, Sonys, etc.

I wanted something small enough to bring with me in a pocket everywhere, and really couldn't find a model with everything that I wanted. I actually bought a Sony at one point, but decided to return it.

I ended up with a little Konica KD-510z as my choice. Like the others in this class, it doesn't have an Aperture Priority Mode. It does have full manual exposure like the Sonys. In fact, it's quite similar in that you are limited to two aperture choices, with the values changing based on your focal length.

In the end, I decided that the pocketability was more important (I didn't want to move up to anything larger like the Canon S50 size models, since they're a little large for pocket carry IMO). My Konica is the largest model I'd attempt to keep in my pocket (and even it's "pushing it" when wearing tighter jeans).

So, the convenience of pocketability won out over having more control.



Quote:
Something that would be a big help in small cameras is a program shift toggle. That lets you toggle through the available shutter/aperture combinations from the largest to the smallest aperture. I have a large camera with the feature but haven't seen it on small cameras where it is really needed.
I think that part of the problem on the very small cameras is that they have a limited aperture design (i.e., only two physical aperture sizes with some, with the values changing depending on focal length).

TheNikons I've ownedhave a good program shift function (i.e, spin a command dial to go through aperture/shutter speed choices in P mode). Many other larger models have a program shift function. But, larger cameras tend to have a true multi-blade aperture iris (missing on the popular subcompacts). So, it makes more sense to have Program Shift functions with these -- and you alsoget finer control of Aperture in Av mode with models having this mode.

Now, there are a few smaller models with Aperture Priority -- the Minolta Fxx series gives you this. But,they're all discontinued, and were not exactly "speed demons" from a performanceperspecitive (autofocus speed/zoom speed, startup time, etc.)

The Konica Minolta G400 also has an aperture priority mode (but it's limited to two aperture choices, with the values changing based on the amount of zoom you use). This camera may be one that he wants to consider (depending on what he's really looking for from a control perspective).Of course, it's got it's downsides, too.

To get finer control, you must go with a little larger model (unless I'm missing one somewhere). Again, many users may not need finer control anyway (since you've got pretty good DOF from these small sensored cameras).

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Old Dec 5, 2004, 12:13 AM   #9
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Why dont I explain my situation a little more, and then maybe I can explain the kind of camera I am looking for a little better. First off, I really appreciate all the responses, any help I can get means a lot! I am currently a student and will be taking a digital photography course in an undergraduate institution. I mentioned to the professor that I was interested in the Canon SD200/300 and she said that camera would work fine, but I should consider one with more manual controls. After thinking about it, I really do want the manual controls associated with an SLR, at least as many as possible on a smaller size camera. I think I would be able to take advantage of features that would allow me to change the aperture and shutter speeds. I have a fair amount of experience with manual cameras in terms of film photography and I would like to translate as many of these skills as possible to digital photography. The reason I dont want to go to the SLR level, besides price, is because of my plans in the spring. In the spring I am going to be studying outside the US, in Africa, and I think that having a pocket sized camera would be quite beneficial. Therefore, I am trying to find an appropriate camera for the photo class and my travel plans. Based on the responses so far, it seems like I am not going to be able to find a small camera with the manual controls I am interested in. If a camera like this does exist, please inform me! Otherwise, are there any problems with the SD200/300 besides the lack of manual controls? Thanks for all your help again!
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Old Dec 5, 2004, 12:42 AM   #10
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Actually, I thought Id take a look at the Minoltas, as suggested, and the G500 is about the same price as the Canon SD200. More megapixels, more manual controls, and the G500 still looks "pocket size". What do you think? Does it have too many focusing issues, or is the G500 a better all around camera than the SD200?
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