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Old May 17, 2005, 8:04 AM   #1
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I've been researching cameras for a few weeks now, and really think I'm about to lose it. I've been to Best Buy 5 times in the past week looking at the different cameras and still can't decide.

I'm looking for something 6mp and above as I do tend to crop my pictures often.

Other things of concern.

Best picture quality I can get

Short shot to shot delay (I have a 19mth old son who doesn't sit still long at all)

Good Low light performance (this is one of the downfalls of my current camera)

low noise levels.

Auto and manual controls.

Any suggestions. My price range is around $500 or less. (less is always good).

So far I've looked at the Fuji E550 and the Sony DSC W7. The reviews of the sony seem to indicate alot of blurry pictures, which is not a good thing. I've also read good and bad things about Canon's, but really any brand is an option.

Thank you for your help.

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Old May 17, 2005, 9:05 AM   #2
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snowflake12 wrote:
Quote:
I've been researching cameras for a few weeks now, and really think I'm about to lose it. I've been to Best Buy 5 times in the past week looking at the different cameras and still can't decide.
I don't respond to a lot of what camera should I buy posts (because there are too many similar choices, and it's very difficult to find one model that does everything most users need well).

You've got the right idea (trying them out in stores). But, don't just look at them.... Actually use the demo models available. Check out how well Autofocus Works (speed, reliability) compared to other models. See how long it takes to cycle between photos, etc.

Make sure to take flash recycle times into consideration for your indoor shots (you're going to need the flash indoors with most models to prevent motion blur from subject movement, trying to photograph a moving youngster).

Most models will cycle faster at closer ranges, and take longer at further ranges (because the flash burst duration must be longer as you get further away from your subject). A typical recycle time with flash for a compact model is around 4 seconds (sometimes shorter, sometimes much longer). Models that tend to use smaller battery packs (or 2 AA batteries versus 4 AA batteries) tend to take longer recycling the flash.

Of course, make sure to consider flash range, too (and the ability to use an external flash).

Read the Review conclusion sections here for cameras you consider. That's where you'll see comments on things like Autofocus Speed/Reliability, Cycle times with and without flash, etc.

Quote:
I'm looking for something 6mp and above as I do tend to crop my pictures often.
The resolution you need really depends on the final medium you want for your images, and the size you need them to be. For example, a relatively low resolution image is fine for viewing on screen. After all, many users probably keep their screen resolution set toaround 1024x768 (less than 1 Megapixel). So, an image this size could fill the screen on many user's monitors.

But, if you want to print at an 8x10" size, I'd suggest using an image of around 3 Megapixels or larger (although I have gotten pretty acceptable 8x10" prints from 2 Megapixels). You'll need more resolution for prints to help prevent any pixelation (from pixel density not being high enough).

As for cropping... Well, we all do it from time to time. But, you really can't crop as much as you think and maintain as much resolution in your subjects.

If you crop an image to make it look like you used twice as much optical zoom, you end up with 1/4 the resolution (since like area, resolution is computed by multiplying width x height).

So, there is no substitute for optical zoom if you really need to make larger prints of distant subjects. If you are cropping a lot (from lack of zoom), I'd look at getting a camera with more optical zoom, not more megapixels. If the reason for cropping is poor composition, work on your composition skills.

Quote:
Other things of concern.

Best picture quality I can get
Look at the samples here to get a better idea of how they compare. Most cameras do reasonably well in good light, but not as well in poor light. So, you may want to look through some user albums at a photo sharing web site like pbase.com. They have a camera database that lets you find user albums created with specific camera models at http://www.pbase.com/cameras

But, keep in mind that a user's skill and the lighting conditions has more to do with getting good pictures than anything else when looking at albums. I've seen horrible photos from great cameras, and great photos from horrible cameras. ;-)

For example, you may find a horrible flash photo from a nice camera. But, the reason it may be horrible is because the user is trying to take a photo of a subject 20 feet away, with a camera having flash rated at 7 feet at full zoom.

Quote:
Short shot to shot delay (I have a 19mth old son who doesn't sit still long at all)
Seemy above comments on reading the review conclusion sections here (as well as comparing the cameras yourself in a store).

Quote:
Good Low light performance (this is one of the downfalls of my current camera)
Again, see the review conclusion sections here. That's where you'll see things like Autofocus Speed and Reliabilty discussed.

If you're talking about photos of a non-stationary subject in low light without a flash, that's an entirely different ballgame. A DSLR with a bright lens is better suited for that environment (but this would fall outside of your desired budget).

Quote:
low noise levels.

Each camera/sensor combination will tend to have specific noise characteristics as ISO speeds are increased.

In the non-DSLR category, the models using the Sony 7MP 1/1.8" Sensor seem to be better than models using most other consumer sensors with noise. The 8MP 2/3"
CCD is probably one of the worst sensors for noise (but the larger image size does mask it to some extent at smaller viewing sizes and/or when printing). Noise does tend to vary quite a bit between models, though (so you really need to take each model on a case by case basis).

The smaller sensors used in non-DSLR models have very small photosites for each pixel. As a result of the smaller surface area, it takes more photons to generate a strong enough signal to get above the noise floor.

So, when you turn up the ISO speed in low light, it's like turning up the volume on a weak radio station, only you get image noise versus static and hiss.

One of the trends in cameras is to pack more and more photosites into smaller and smaller sensors. So, it's not unsual to find models that are several years old that outperform some of the current cameras from a noise perspective, because they have less (and larger) photosites for each pixel.

Sensors are starting to improve again. For example, the Sony 7MP 1/1.8" CCD has lower noise than the Sony 5MP 1/1.8" CCD that it replaced (which is suprising, since the Sony 5MP 1/1.8" CCD tended to have much higher noise compared to the Sony 3MP 1/1.8" CCD or 4MP 1/1.8" CCD).

I've recommended older model 3MP cameras (using the Sony 3MP 1/1.8" CCD) to more than one user that was dissapointed in the noise performance from their new [Insert Brand/Model here] higher resolution model. You can find a number ofolder models using this sensor with very bright lenses (f/2.0 and brighter at wider zoom settings), making them good choices for existing light shooting compared to many newer models.

Ebay is a good bet for these (Olympus C-3040z, etc.). But, performance tends to be much poorer (cycle times, etc.) from older models.

That we are starting to see some improvements in noise withsome newer models isprobably a combination of improved sensor design, as well as better in camera image processing from some of the newer cameras. IOW, I think some of it is noise reduction versus strictly sensor improvements.

So, perhaps the trend towards high noise in newer models is starting to reverse now, and we'll see some real image improvements, versus more megapixels (which most users don't really need for the print sizes they use).

Another model that may be worth looking at is the new Fuji F10. It does not have the manual controls you want, but it does seem to handle higher ISO speeds much better than other non-DSLR models, based on the reviews I've read so far.

It's obviously using some in camera noise reduction to achieve the results (which can blur detail). But, the results are suprisingly sharp and clean at ISO 400 and ISO 800 from what I've seen so far. This puts it in a class by itself for higher ISO speeds, since you would normally need to go with a DSLR model (with a much larger sensor) to achieve useable photos at ISO speeds this high.

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Old May 17, 2005, 9:14 AM   #3
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i too would recommend the Fuji F10 if you are looking to get low noise low light pictures in a point n shoot..

but of course, the dslrs are THE best for low noise, fast shot to shot delay, auto and manual controls, but of course this is going to come at a price larger than 500 (lowest is probably the digi rebel w/ kit lens at 800) and at a substantially larger size and weight..

good luck and enjoy, dustin
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Old May 17, 2005, 9:43 AM   #4
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After playing with one recently, I also think that the Fuji F10 would be a better choice than the Fuji E550 or any of the Sony cameras.
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Old May 17, 2005, 4:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
I'm looking for something 6mp and above as I do tend to crop my pictures often.
Get one with a 7Mp sensor. The noise and quality are better than the 6Mp IMO. There are some nice cameras with that sensor.

Quote:
Best picture quality I can get.
I might be a Pollyanna, but most cameras from the major brands make very good pictures outdoors where there aren't any challenges. That means they will take good pictures pretty much everywhere if you understand the limitations and controls. The corner softness you find in some very small cameras very seldom affects the photos as there is usually nothing in the corners you want in focus. Overall softness is relative. Most blurry pictures come from exceeding the camera's capabilities in low light or not understanding what it is focusing on.

Quote:
Short shot to shot delay (I have a 19mth old son who doesn't sit still long at all).
Most of the reviews give the cycle time. Make sure to get a fast memory card as the write speed impacts the cycle time. I find shutter lag to be more important for perpetual motion rugrats. A continuous focus mode really helps because it lets you hold a pre-focus and have nearly zero shutter lag. I have two cameras with and one without continuous focus and there is a big difference shooting rugrats. The reviewers take static photos for the tests and probably use their expensive DSLRs for their personal photos. So they don't test or even mention continuous focus. You generally just have to look in the record menus for it and hope it works well.

Quote:
Good Low light performance (this is one of the downfalls of my current camera)
With a small consumer camera in your price range you need to use a flash, tripod or stabilization to get decent indoor photos. Your new camera probably won't be any better than what you already have for indoor photos without using the flash. And neither a tripod nor stabilization will help for subject motion. Get a camera with a decent flash range, focus assist light and good low light focus. Don't expect to take great pictures indoors without a flash unless you put the camera on a tripod or get a camera with stabilization. And with a tripod or stabilization making up for indoor light the subject has to be still.

Quote:
low noise levels.
I think the 7Mp sensor is especially good, but if you have an older camera with a lower density sensor you probably aren't going to be able to do much better. Crank up the ISO and they get noisy.

Quote:
Auto and manual controls.
Good for you. Point and shoot cameras can be quite limited in challenging situations. Keep in mind that manual controls aren't going to give you better low light performance. Auto or program mode has the lens open all the way and gives you the best shutter speed you can generate in limited light. The only thing you can do is crank up the ISO and that generates noise.

Quote:
Any suggestions. My price range is around $500 or less. (less is always good).

So far I've looked at the Fuji E550 and the Sony DSC W7. The reviews of the sony seem to indicate alot of blurry pictures, which is not a good thing. I've also read good and bad things about Canon's, but really any brand is an option.
The Sony P150 or P200 might be worth a look. Small children seem especially prone to redeye and those are the only small cameras I know of with minimal redeye. They have manual exposure and some pre-set focus ranges. The lens seems to be better than the W7 without the corner softness and CA of most small cameras. They use a proprietary battery, but the battery life is impressive. You can probably do fine with just the battery that comes with the camera unless you plan to spend a week in the woods without electricity. Shutter lag and cycle times are very good. Steve put the P150 in his "best cameras" list – he hasn't tested the P200 yet. Dave at Imaging Resource made them both "Dave's picks". The P200 processes the noise better but at the expense of a tad of resolution according to Dave. Neither seem to have a continuous focus mode. But the fast shutter and cycle times somewhat compensate.
http://www.steves-digicams.com/2004_reviews/p150.html
http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/P200/P200A.HTM
http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/so...ew/index.shtml

The Fuji F10 already mentioned has some good features. You can crank the ISO way up for available light. But the lack of an optical viewfinder is a limitation. You need the higher ISO to make up for the unsteady holding stance. Phil at dpreview in his review of the Panasonic FX7 said the 2to3 f-stop advantage of the stabilization just about made up for the extra shake caused by having no optical viewfinder and having to hold the camera out in front of you. The shot you need ISO 400 to handhold in limited light with the F10 could probably be handheld at ISO100 with an eyelevel viewfinder and good technique. And it is a lot harder to find and track your target without an eyelevel finder in dynamic situations – especially when zoomed.

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