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Old May 27, 2005, 6:46 PM   #1
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I'm looking to buy a new digital camera. My primary considerations are size and price. I'd like to keep it in the (sub if possible) $300 range. It is also important that my camera be "pocketable," but I do have large pockets. My parents have a Cannon Powershot A75, which is small enough, but I don't want to go much bigger than that.
I would like to have at LEAST 3X optical zoom, and at LEAST 4 megapixels, but I would say picture quality is much more important to me than pixel count. I'd like it to be pretty fast taking a picture - the A75 is definitely slower than I'd like (from the time I turn it on to the time I can actually get a picture taken, I've often lost the shot I wanted). I would also like to have some manual controls because even though I don't know how to use them now, I would really like to learn.
Other considerations? Oh, I want it all, but I'd like it to take an SD or CF card because they're much cheaper than XD or Memory Stick. I'd like it to take AA batteries because I know that Li-ion batteries don't last forever, they're expensive, and you can't usually go to a gas station down the block and buy one if you're on the road and out of juice. Not to mention I happen to already have a bunch of NiMH AAs sitting around.

Although it is a bit big, I've been looking at the Panasonic Lumix LZ2. It looks really nice with 5 MP and 6X zoom, but I've seen mixed reviews about the image quality. The review on this site calls the picture quality "average," but I'm still not quite sure what this is relative to. I've seen other places rate it very favorably compared to a Cannon.
Speaking of Cannon, I am also considering the Powershot SD300. It does only have 4MP and 3X zoom, but it is much smaller. It also has an optical viewfinder, which I think is a big plus because no matter how many people tell me an LCD is viewable in direct sunlight, it just isn't true. I took the A75 to Arizona and would have a lot fewer pictures if not for the optical viewfinder.

Anyway, I don't by any means want to limit myself to just the two above, I'm just trying to give examples. I know I won't get everything I'm asking for, but it sure would be nice. Anyone got any advice?
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Old May 27, 2005, 10:20 PM   #2
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What you want in a camera is very similar to what I wanted 1-2 months ago when I was looking for my new digicam. I narrowed it down to the Canon A95 and the Fuji e550. I finally went with the fuji, as I greatly prefered it's menu interface, manual controls, low light capability (dispite it's lack of infrared asistance), great video capabilities, speed, and excellent photo quality. I haven't looked back. It took me forever to decide, and I now look at reviews on both cameras as well as many others, and I have no regrets. I honestly love it.

As far as your criteria, I'll go through piece by piece as to why the e550 should be good for you:

It isn't as small as the A75, but is easily pocketable.
It does 4x zoom w/6MP, and at wide angle, it is 32.5 in 35mm equivalent. Picture quality is excellent. Technical review sites have shown that the color is very accurate, and noise levels are much lower than it's compeditors. According to digitalcamerainfo.com, the e550 has less noise at all ISOs than the Canon A95, the Sony W1, and the Panasonic LZ2 with only 1 exception; the Sony has a less noisy ISO400. And the e550 is the only one of the bunch that goes up to ISO800. Manual features are pleantiful and fairly easy to use compared to other compacts. It is fairly intuitive, and shouldn't take you long to become used to the controls. It does only accept xD chips, which you said you didn't want, but the price difference is very low now. The faster chip also allows the Fuji to capture video at [email protected] without stopping until the chip is full, where as many other compacts and other flash types cannot do this. As far as price, on buydig.com where I got my camera and chip, 512MB xD and 512MB CF are the same price, $70. The 1GB xD came out recently, and should be usable with the e550. For speed, the e550 is renound for that. Startup time is about 1 sec, and shutter lag is neglegable. making changes is fast, shot to shot is quick, viewing, everything. The only time you'll be waiting is between shots with a flash, which can take up to 5 seconds, or longer if you batteries are low. This is due to the fact that it only uses 2 AAs. Using Ni-MH is the best idea.

I would take a look at these cameras on steve's reviws as well as digitalcamerainfo.com, which will give a lot of technical ratings, such as noise graphs and color charts.

Here are the 4 cameras I talked about. There are more out their, so don't limit yourself, but this should be a good start. I'll list them in the order I'd reccomend them for you.

Fuji e550
Sony W1
Canon A95
Panasonic LZ2
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Old May 28, 2005, 1:37 AM   #3
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Yeah, I had looked at this Fuji. The thing about this one, as I'm sure you know, was the whole thing about the "Super CCD HR" and how the only way you can avoid agressive jpeg image compression is to turn it on, but I don't think I want to.
Also, with memory, I got a 512mb CF card for $30 at best buy. I understand that an XD card is a better card, but it's quite a bit more expensive.

So I probably should have listed this one among my options. I think the big question is if you have any problems with compression. If the default level is good enough, I think this one looks really nice, even factoring in the cost of memory.
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Old May 30, 2005, 1:32 AM   #4
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This was also a big concern of mine. The canon A95 I was looking at had adjustable compression at all resolutions, but here is what sold me:
When I compared pictures, the aggressively compressed 6MP images which average 1.5MB appeared much better quality to me than the Canon A95's 5MB 2.5MB at the finest compression setting.

Now, I only use the camera at 6MP, and I rarely have situations where I feel that less compression would have made a significant difference. If you think a picture will be affected by the aggressive compression, bring the ISO down to 80, and the noise will be very low. Even with it's higher compression, the e550 has been proven to have less average noise when compared to it's compeditors.

Personally, I don't really like the 12MP interpolation. It is a good interpolation system compared to many others, as it can add real resolution, as shown in line tests, but they end up being noisier, even with less compression. The file on the fine setting ends up being over 4MB, and isn't any better than the 1.5MB 6MP picture. So think of the aggressive compression not as quality reduction, but space saving, becuase it's picure quailty is outstanding for its class.
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Old Jun 4, 2005, 11:19 PM   #5
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Well, thanks Carskick for you very knowledgeable advice. I really am liking what I'm seeing from this Fuji.
BUT, I am having second thoughts about how much this is going to cost. I'm estimating $360 from newegg.com. Can anyone recommend something perhaps a little cheaper? I think the e550 really is a very good camera for the money, but 6 MP may be overkill for my needs. I might still get it, but I'd like to hear from at least one more person.
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Old Jun 29, 2005, 11:03 AM   #6
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Well, just FYI (in case anyone cares) I went ahead at got the E550. Man, I am blown away. This is a really great camera. The first time I turned it on and the barrel extended I almost jumped it was so fast. It's just such an improvement over the cannon. I never feel like I have to wait to take a picture anymore (except when using the flash, but that was to be expected.)

The picture quality is just great, it's fast and the menus are easy to use. I agree, now that I see the pictures, that JPG compression really doesn't seem to be an issue. Plus, with the 512mb card I got, I can afford to store them at 12mp/fine (if I ever wanted to). I love it! I would definitely recommend this camera to anyone who wants something similar to what I wanted.

One complaint: The beeping is kind of annoying - every time you press a button it beeps. So I turned the beeps off. Now it isn't annoying. So I guess that hardly counts as a complaint.
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