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Old Mar 23, 2005, 9:59 PM   #1
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Near to pulling the trigger but need your input before I jump.
My"wants " (in order) are:

1. SIZE: need smaller, more convenient cam for trips, hiking, everyday use. CMy Nikon 5700 and Minolta A2 too big/cumbersome for this!

2. IMAGE QUALITY: Need relatively high quality images

3.EASE of USE: found Minolta A2 mucheasier to use than Nikon 5700-8700. Want this to be also.


4.Image Stabilization would be a big PLUS !

Have initially narrowed it down to the Sony P200 and Panasonic FX7 but hearing some good things now about the Canon S and SD series, MinoltaX-50, and Casio EX. That's my wish list above!What's your opinion on best choice?? Thanks. Jerry

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Old Mar 24, 2005, 12:49 PM   #2
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Many of the cameras you mentioned are point and shoot. The S500 series and SDs have no manual exposure modes. If you have no need for manual exposure modes in a small camera the SD500 looks like a dynamite camera. It is a little larger than the other SDs because of the larger sensor. But that is an excellent sensor and the camera is still small. http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/ca...ew/index.shtml The biggest weakness I see in the SD series is the lack of an action mode combined with no control over shutter speed or aperture. The S60 is an all-round great camera but might be a tad large for you.

The Sony P200 has it all in a small package. It has the great 7Mp sensor combined with manual exposure and even some manual focus pre-sets. My take is that the SD500 would be slightly sharper in the center but with more edge softness and purple fringing. I don't find that a little edge softness affects photos at all unless you are copying documents. The Sony has the better battery life. You are stuck with Memory Stick though unless you have other Sony equipment.

The only stabilized camera in your list is the FX7. Phil at dpreview thought the stabilization just about made up for the clumsy hold without an optical finder. Panasonic hasn't figured out yet how to gain up the viewfinder in low light, so it would be a pain to frame in low light. I wouldn't personally own a camera without an optical finder.

The small Casios all have Pentax lenses. The Pentax equivalents are usually a tad smaller and would be my choice. As with any really tiny zoom cameras you seem to get a little edge softness and even some very slight vignetting at wide angle. Nothing that really detracts from the photos though.

For a really tiny P&S I would slightly prefer the Pentax S5i to the X50.

An A2 is a tough act to follow for usability, and you aren't going to find that kind of controls in a small camera. IMO the A2 is the best designed camera on the market. Not necessarily the best in overall quality – especially when compared to DSLRs. But there is nothing I've seen as well designed for overall control setup except maybe the A200 with its fully articulated LCD. But the A2 is a better camera than the A200.

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Old Mar 27, 2005, 9:37 AM   #3
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Slipe, thanx for deatailed input. I'm getting closer. Still, the BIG issue of all w all these smaller cams is IMAGE QUALITY! Which in your opinion (s) is the best??Thanks, guys! This helps much!
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Old Mar 27, 2005, 11:52 AM   #4
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The only recent camera I've seen that I would say the image quality is less that very good is the Casio EX-S100 with the transparent ceramic element in the lens. Steve mentioned twice in his conclusion that the lens wasn't very sharp – which is really rare for him.

Set your browser to not resize the images so you have to scroll around to view them. This is the low end of quality and it still looks pretty good: http://www.steves-digicams.com/2004_...0_samples.html You have to blow the images up and compare them to other 3Mp cameras to see the slight difference. If the S100 had features I wanted that other cameras didn't have I could live with the images.

Image quality is dependent more on the photographer than the camera unless the camera is really crappy – and none of those cameras are crappy. Do you hold the camera very steady? Put it on a tripod when there isn't enough light to get sharp available light handheld shots? Does the camera focus well in low light, and if it doesn't can you work around the limitation? Does the camera have full white balance control and do you know how to use it in difficult lighting? Does it have continuous focus so you can use pre-focus in dynamic situations to get nearly zero shutter lag? Do you use fill flash for outdoor portraits? Do you use spot metering when needed? How does the camera handle higher ISO when you need more shutter speed? Etc, etc,etc.

Some of the really tiny cameras have soft corners. I have an S4 and the soft corners haven't distracted from a photo yet. It is something for people to look for and be scandalized when they find it – but it doesn't affect photos unless you use it to copy something like a document. The Canons seem more prone to purple fringing, but it doesn't show in most photos.

You can get crappy photos from any camera. One of the biggies is people who think indoor light is plenty bright for handheld use without a flash and can't figure out why their pictures are blurry. All of the cameras you listed would have about the same limitation in that case except for the stabilized FX7, and that has holding stability problems and low light framing limitations.

What I'm trying to say is that image quality is a Trojan Horse. All of those cameras take excellent pictures if you understand the limitations. I think I might end up with a little higher probability of a good shot in difficult situations with the P200 because of the preset focus points and manual exposure controls – but not very often. The extra flash range of the SD500 is exceptional for a small camera and would give you much better group pictures and such.

Different cameras have default color settings that appeal to different people. You can usually adjust that with settings if you like brighter or more subdued colors.

Look at Steve's sample photos for any camera you are interested in. If you see big image quality differences your eye is better than mine. Keep in mind when looking at them that you can modify the color output if you like the colors on one more than another.


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Old Mar 27, 2005, 6:25 PM   #5
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I too was looking for an ultracompact last month. At least you're not buying oa camera a couple weeks before PMA - stupid me!

I ended up with a Canon SD300, which I'm very happy with (other than I see Dell now has it on sale for $269 shipped!). Easy to use (for the wife), quick in start-up and shot to shot. So far picture quality seems good. It also has been getting a lot of good reviews lately. The S series seems highly regarded with their larger sensors, but I really wanted at least a 2" lcd and the quicker speeds the SD series offered.

The Sony P200 was coming when I bought, and it was under consideration. As mentioned, seems to have great battery life, quick, but the dreaded memory stick.

I really wanted the Panasonic FX7 - I enjoy my FZ1 - but seems like it would have required some additional user intervention to get the most out of it - which is not realistic when my wife is using it. The sexy black one has a hold on me! It also has dropped in price recently (and B&H and J&R I believe).

The Casios and Minoltas just don't seem to do as well in all the evaluations I read in regards to image quality. I considered both.

The SD400/500 have come out since I bought, but honestly I don't have a real need for more than 4Mpixels - it would have to be other features (quality, speed, etc) that get me to move up.

I've no regrets - amazingly! But if buying today I'd again be studying the SD series, FX7, and P200.
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Old Mar 27, 2005, 7:35 PM   #6
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I have the FX7, and it is a great camera if you need something that can go everywhere. Few blurred shots, due to the OIS, and there are a lot of nice features if you don't need aperture/shutter/manual focus controls. Huge LCD in back, I have never had a camera witihouit an optical viewfinder, but I don't miss it. It also has a nice WOW factor when showing it off.
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Old Mar 28, 2005, 9:43 PM   #7
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Per your advice/input I'm honing in on the FX7 and the P200 and a long shot look @ the Canon SD500. Plan to touch/feel/use all 3 of these in the next 2-3 days. I'll let you know. Anything I should look for? Thanks for your thoughts so far..
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Old Apr 1, 2005, 9:47 AM   #8
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Ended up w Oly C7000. Too good to ignore: 7mp, 5x optical etc plus $100 rebate, etc. Loved the FX7 and IS but missed the viewfinder in final analysis. Still like the Canon SDs 300 and 500 and the P200 is always a contender. Going to use/test the C7000 and evaluate. Thanks MUCH for your insight/advice!!
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