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Old Mar 23, 2005, 6:23 AM   #1
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Some of you know me.. :-)

I'm looking to get a better camera for my wife. She's not a keen photographer and frankly has no interest in the equipment side of things.

Having said that however she has an astonishing natural talent for visual imagery. She's a film editor by trade and I guess years of cutting images by some really excellent DOPs has left its mark. Though back when she was a student studying media and journalism her few forays into photography were met with suggestions that a career in photojournalism would be a good idea - it just never appealed to her; she wanted to be in movies.

She frequently simply picks up a camera takes a shot and puts it down. My ratio of "keepers" is maybe 1 in 30 on a good day and 1 in 100 on a bad day. For her practically every shot she takes is a keeper.

That's why I figured the best thing for her would be something like a rangefinder with a 35mm or 40mm lens (in 35mm terms). But I am a huge digital fan, so I'd like it to be digital if at all possible for a reasonable price.

The only two cameras I've currently been able to find that seem to suit the bill are the Leica Digilux 2 (£1250) and the Epson RD1 (£2000 ex lens) and even a Voigtlander will add another £300 to that and a 2nd-hand Leica lens will probably run to £1000 with a new one at up to £2000.

I was wondering whether anyone had any other suggestions. Have I overlooked anything? A lower price point than the Digilux would be nice too.

Is there anything out there with:
1. A fast lens perhaps at around the f2.8 mark and reasonable ISO performance at up to 400. (Of course I'd happily trade that for decent ISO200 and an f2 lens.)
2. Zoom is unimportant, possibly even a hindrance if it adds to startup time, and could easily be omitted if the fixed focal length were in the 35mm-50mm range (equiv.)
3. 4 Megapixels would be the minimum really, anything more would be nice.
4. A decent optical viewfinder - LCD would only be necessary for playback. I don't want something where the LCD is the only way of framing the shot.
5. Low lag - it's no good her putting the camera to her eye and pushing the shutter only for the camara to take a second to capture the shot. Think rangefinder here.
6. Smaller is better - we already have a Canon 20D but she'd never keep something that big in her handbag.

There we are - that should be simple enough to find. :-)
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Old Mar 23, 2005, 8:07 AM   #2
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peripatetic wrote:
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I'm looking to get a better camera for my wife. She's not a keen photographer and frankly has no interest in the equipment side of things.
Quote:
[snip]
Quote:
She frequently simply picks up a camera takes a shot and puts it down. My ratio of "keepers" is maybe 1 in 30 on a good day and 1 in 100 on a bad day. For her practically every shot she takes is a keeper.
That sounds likemy wife... She recently went through boxes of photos after a major move, and then started filing them.... To my surprise, she had many thousands of prints that she had never bothered to show me (I knew our money must have been going somewhere - ;-)), andvirtually all of them appear to be keepers.

Yet, she knows absolutely nothing about cameras -- only that she likes the Nikon she's currently using, which is an older N4004s I let her "borrow" - LOL.

Unfortunately, I have yet to convince her to try any other camera. But, that could soon change... Her favorite lens just developed a problem (nasty grinding noises when focusing). So, I should take this opportunity to convince her to go digital (for the sake of our bank account, if nothing else). ;-)

Quote:
Is there anything out there with:

1. A fast lens perhaps at around the f2.8 mark and reasonable ISO performance at up to 400. (Of course I'd happily trade that for decent ISO200 and an f2 lens.)
It depends on how you interpret "reasonable". LOL Although, sometimes sample photos look "OK"using ISO 400 at reasonable viewing sizes in tests, in "real world" environments, the noise is often much worse that you would expect from smaller sensored models (skin tonesare usually impacted a lot by noise, you see more underexposed areas in real world scenarios, etc.).

The viewing/print sizes youwant are a big factor in judging what is "reasonable" when higher ISO speeds are needed.

[snip]
Quote:
4. A decent optical viewfinder - LCD would only be necessary for playback. I don't want something where the LCD is the only way of framing the shot.
That Leica you're looking at uses an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). I'd strongly suggest trying one out to see if it's performance is acceptable or not (many users don't like them due to their inherent screen refresh delay, difficulty judging focus, etc.).

BTW, I have noticed this model heavily discounted recently in the U.S. (it is pretty pricey for a non-DSLR camera with a 2/3" sensor).

Quote:
5. Low lag - it's no good her putting the camera to her eye and pushing the shutter only for the camara to take a second to capture the shot. Think rangefinder here.
That's going to be norm (camera taking a second after pressing the shutter button) withmany non-DSLR models (including that Leica you're looking at). Although Autofocus performance is getting better, most models will have more lag than your wife is accustomed to.

For example, test results I've seen for the Leica Digilux 2 indicate that it's AF usually takes about 1 second at the wide angle end of the lens (and longer atthe telephoto end of the lens).

It's also not would I would consider to be a small model for a non-DSLR camera (which is something you're looking for).

[snip]

Quote:
6. Smaller is better - we already have a Canon 20D but she'd never keep something that big in her handbag.
You may want to look at some of the newer (and smaller) DSLR models (i.e, Pentax *ist DS, Canon EOS-350D). From looking at the dimensions and weight, these appear to be around the same size/weight as the Leica you're looking at (which is probably still a little large for handbag carry). Of course, lens selection will be critical to keep it manageable.

If these are too big, then you will probably have to compromise somewhere....

Some of the newer models using the 7MP 1/1.8" CCD are not too bad from a noise perspective (at least compared to the 5MP 1/1.8" models they replaced). But, then you'll need to worry about AF performance, etc., too (which is getting better withmany newermodels).

Before spending a lot of money on a model that she may not even like (and I consider that RD1 to be pretty pricey for a beginning photographer), I'd be inclined to let her try one of the lower priced consumer models first.

That way, she'd have a better idea of what to expect, and you'd be able to better judge her true needs before spending a lot of money.

Of course, be aware that there are some tradeoffs. For example, you'll have far greater depth of field at any given aperture and 35mm equivalent focal length with a small sensored non-DSLR model. This can be a good thing to many users (but can be a bad thing if you want to use larger apertures to help your subjects stand out from distracting backgrounds).


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Old Mar 23, 2005, 11:21 AM   #3
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Hi

Have you checked out the Panasonic LC1?
Take a look at Steve's review, this camera is the twin to the Leica and is slightly cheaper.

Cheers Ian
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Old Mar 23, 2005, 12:30 PM   #4
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I agree with JimC that you might want to consider a regular consumer type camera. For a medium sized camera you might want to look at the Canon G6 or Sony V3. The Pentax 750Z and Olympus 7000 have a 5X zoom in a smaller camera. Both are good cameras but I personally prefer the 750Z. The Oly 7000 and Sony V3 have lower shutter lag though.
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Old Mar 23, 2005, 5:08 PM   #5
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I don't want to give the impression that she doesn't know what she's doing with a camera. Her first job after leaving university was as a journalist and she ended up taking lots of photos that were published in the local newspaper that she worked for. We've also had a film SLR for most of the last 15 years and the 20D for nearly 6 months now.

We do have a Konica 500 DZ or something like that and frankly the built-in flash is simply dreadful and neither of us like the telescoping zoom, which is of course common to most small digital cameras. The biggest problem is that from the time you want to take a picture till the time the image is captured is just toooooo long.

I'm looking for something that she can pick up and shoot with. Heck she doesn't even need autofocus; I sometimes see her focusing the SLR manually because she finds it faster and easier than the camera AF.

Thanks for the heads-up on the Digilux2, after reading a few more reviews I think I'll give it a skip. But I did see with great interest that there are rumours of a Leica digital rangefinder which would share the technology of their new Digital R back. Now that would really be something! 10mp and 1.4x crop! Add in a Summicron f2 28mm and we're probably talking £5k but boy would I be tempted! Better start saving I guess. :-)

Browsing around I have noticed a couple of small cameras that look interesting - the newer models coming out seem to be much better with start-up times and shutter lag.

The new Contax i4R and U4R look quite good. Both start in <1s and have low shutter lag. Neither has a telescoping zoom. Both quite small and sexy. 4mp. Zeiss lenses. f2.8 fixed and f2.8 at the wide end respectively. Only real downside is the lack of optical viewfinder.

Also the Minolta X50 looks like it's a contender: fast 0.5s start-up. Internal non-telescoping zoom 37-105mm equiv. Very low shutter lag. It has an optical viewfinder! Fairly small. 5mp. Fairly stylish too - though it's no Contax. f2.8 at the wide end, where she'd probably leave it. In fact it nicely meets all of the criteria I listed. Very reasonably priced too. I worry a bit about the flash though, given our current horrid flash on our Konica, and perhaps a tiny bit about the lens quality for that price and in comparison to the Contax.

Thanks everyone for the input, any other thoughts and recommendations would be most welcome.


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Old Mar 23, 2005, 5:37 PM   #6
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Given that you've got 15 years' worth of 35mm negatives and/or slides, maybe you should get a really good scanner instead? Plus a Canon film SLR, of course.
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Old Mar 23, 2005, 6:04 PM   #7
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The thought has crossed my mind recently. We've got a couple of chests full of photos and negatives.

It's just that going forward it would be nice to get away from film processing costs. I may well investigate sending the negs off for digital capture though, but it would probably be cheaper to buy a scanner.

Certainly the cost of a Contax G2 + 45mm lens would still leave enough for a film scanner and a good quantity of film before I approached the cost of the Epson RD1 plus lens.
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Old Mar 24, 2005, 2:40 AM   #8
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The more I look at the new Minolta X50 the better it looks. Meets all my criteria and the one minor one (non-telescoping zoom) that I didn't mention.

I was prepared to spend a up to £1000, but it comes in at a very nice £165. The benefits of the digital revolution I suppose.

There's no desparate rush, so I'll wait to see if I can read a few reviews first. Also head down to the local store and see if I can try out the flash which is the one aspect where our current Konica falls down so badly.

Otherwise I suppose the new Canon Ixus 700 looks very nice - it has the DigicII processor which is the same one they use in the 20D, and I know I like its performance.
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Old Mar 24, 2005, 8:09 AM   #9
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peripatetic wrote:
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The more I look at the new Minolta X50 the better it looks. Meets all my criteria and the one minor one (non-telescoping zoom) that I didn't mention.
You may want to consider going with something a little larger. You're going from one extreme to the other. ;-)

Although they are convenient,cameras like the X50 tend to have a very weak flash, and their tiny 1/2.5" sensors tend to be pretty noisy at anything above the lowest ISO speed setttings.

As long as you'll be taking photos in good light, they're fine.

You may want to consider some of the models that Slipe mentioned using the 7MP 1/1.8" CCD.This CCD has a little lower noise compared to the Sony 5MP 1/1.8" that it replaced (which surprised me, sincethe photosites for each pixel are smaller in the new CCD).

The models like Slipe mentioned also tend to have a little better flash than you'll find in the "ultra compact" size cameras (and some of these models have a hot shoe for an external flash), as well as more creative control (PASM modes) and better lenses.

If you want to try a smaller model, I'd probably go one step up from the very smallest cameras -- keeping in mind that you'll probably give up most creative modes until you get to the next level up (models the size that Slipe mentioned).

Also make sure to check out things like flash range in the specs, keeping in mind that the ultra compact size models will need a flash indoors (since they'll be too noisy at higher ISO speeds without one), and you'll need to stay within the rated flash range.

When reading the reviews here, pay attention to the review conclusion sections. That's where you'll see things like startup time, AF lag, cycle times, etc. mentioned.

You may also want to consider letting her test drive cameras in a store to find one that fits her well (froman ergonomics perspective).


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Old Mar 26, 2005, 5:57 PM   #10
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A nice entry level D-SLR would be more the trick.

The Canon digital rebel is an awesome camera. YOu can leave it in auto mode

and just snap away.The menus are quite simplified in comparison to the upper range D-SLR's.

Plus you have access to some nice Canon lenses that let you autofocus or overried the focus by twisting the focus ring.

It's not all that expensive either. I've seen them on sale in the $600 range with a good standard zoom lens. With the new Digital Rebel 350 coming out soon, the lower level 6meg rebel will probably undergo a price drop, maybe even into the $500 range in the next 6-12 months.
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