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Old Jul 6, 2005, 12:04 PM   #1
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Background:

In 1996, I purchased an Epson PhotoPC digital camera. I used the heck out of that camera, and knew that my next unit should have some form of removeable memory (my PhotoPC was 'upgraded' to a massive 5MB), and a screen to preview photos.

In Fall 2000, I researched and then bought a Sony DSC-70. This camera was fantastic for what I was using it for, though I had to travel with three batteries to get me through a day of theme park photo taking. It was also very slow to start up, and very slow between photos. When it looked like I would be needing to buy more memory and new batteries, I decided to upgrade to a new camera.

In 2004, based on reviews, I bought the amazing Casio EX-4. It had fantastic battery time, was lightning fast, and took totally acceptable pictures for what I was doing (I'm not a 'real' photographer, but I have well over 45,000 photos on my websites taken at theme parks and renaissance festivals around the area).

BUT ... after taking this camera with me to Disneyland, it was AWFUL indoors. It made BRIGHT but blurry photos as soon as dusk settled, and was useless taking pics inside the Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the Caribbean. My Sony DSC-70 had no problem in those, but the pics were darker (still totally viewable).

So, before my next trip, I read reviews and bought a Sony DSC-W1. It "seemed" to do well in tests in the darkened breakroom at CompUSA, but once I used it at the parks, it, too, suffered the same blurry problem in low light -- just like the Casio. Toggling manual settings helped, some, but the image got too dark by the time I set it fast enough to not blur.

Again, the Sony DSC-70 never had this issue.

So now I am trying to find a modern camera that can take low-light photos at least as well as my old Sony DSC-70. I see comments about new "anti-shake" tech in Konica Minolta units, and in a new Casio EX-S500 coming out, but surely there are cameras made in 2005 that can do as well as one from five years ago.

Or am I wrong?

My requirements are: 1) fast (no 7 second startup like the DSC-70), 2) long battery life (I'm spoiled by 300-400 photos per set of batteries), and 3) low-light. Optical viewfinder is also required, to save battery life.

Any thoughts/clues/suggestions? I'm going on a trip on July 14th, and plan to pick up "yet another camera" -- perhaps trying out the Z5 (if I can find one), but it's really large and bulky compared to what I am used to.

Help?

-- Allen / http://www.disneyfans.com & http://www.atthefaire.com


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Old Jul 6, 2005, 12:44 PM   #2
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I'd love to suggest the Fuji F10 for the purposes you're talking about. It has a long battery life (about 500 shots per battery), is great in low light because it has an ISO of up to 1600, is a nice small camera and is pretty darn quick. It also has a nice strong flash for when the natural light wont do.
It however, does not have a optical viewfinder. This doesn't change the battery life, as tests would be taken with the LCD on. Also, the LCD has a high and low button, which you could toggle if needed.
I think it'd definately be worth a look for your purposes.
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Old Jul 6, 2005, 2:04 PM   #3
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The F10 -- is that the one currently being shown in FujiFilm's TV ad? They had one, showing two models (and a website for more info), that caught my attention a week ago, but I went to the website and there was some reason I didn't like it. Maybe it was the lack of optical... But, in real low-light areas, optical is sometimes not good since I can't see things (or, like one of the cameras I had, there was an LED right next to it, which blinded the user . Thanks -- let me go research it.
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Old Jul 6, 2005, 2:21 PM   #4
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But, in real low-light areas, optical is sometimes not good since I can't see things (or, like one of the cameras I had, there was an LED right next to it, which blinded the user . Thanks -- let me go research it.
I have no problems with optical finders in low light. But my Casio Z750 has the light you refer to that is very irritating. I keep a little piece of black tape on the bottom of the camera to put over the light at night. Not having a switch to set the light for dark conditions was one of the few oversights on an otherwise well designed camera.

I think the stabilization you refer to on the S500 is digital. It isn't a substitute for real mechanical stabilization or the high ISO on the F10.

I would recommend the FZ5 over the Z5. It is faster at full zoom, which gives it better low light capability. The Canon S2 is another good choice. The FZ20 keeps f2.8 all the way to 12X, but I'm sure that would be too large for you.


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Old Jul 6, 2005, 9:44 PM   #5
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I took a look at the Fuji tonight at a local Best Buy (after reading tons of reviews). We took the camera into their TV area (about as well lit as my livingroom) and used Natural Light mode, but it still produced images about as blurry as my current Sony.It's odd.* Check out this pic from my Sony DSC-70:...*http://disneyfans.com/a/dca_sonydsc70.jpg ...That's hand held, no flash -- real nice and clear. Then here is one with my Casio EX-4():... http://disneyfans.com/a/dca_casio.jpg ...VERY blurry, same situations.* I have another from my Sony W1, but by then I had learned the only way I could take pics was to prop the camera up against a wall or trash can -- meaning nice shots, but very awkward.So, why was the five year old Sony so much better than my new cameras?
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Old Jul 7, 2005, 4:08 AM   #6
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allenhuffman wrote:
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.....So, why was the five year old Sony so much better than my new cameras?
I don't know whether your 5-yr old Sony wrote EXIF data embeddedwith its image files, but your newer cameras certainly will. If you acquire an EXIF reader (e.g., 'Exifer', freefrom www.exifer.friedemann.info ), you'll be able to inspect the aperture and shutter settings for each shot, and see what the newer cameras are doing wrong. Also take a look at the 'ISO' settings. That's a third variable, which simulates loading a faster film, achieved by turning up the gain on the CCD's signal. Maybe the new cameras don't automatically bother with that.

On the other hand, it may just be that all modern point&shoots lazily assume that you'll use a flash if it's dark, and don't bother trying to maintain a fast shutter speed.

Good luck!
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Old Jul 7, 2005, 8:00 AM   #7
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Sony is the only one of all the dig-cam-manufacturers that uses AutoFocus IR assist . This is an excellent system for taking photos in low-light or even total-darkness. The camera sends out an IR-grid-hologram so the camera can focus in low-light and total-darkness. I just dont understand why the other manufacturers doesnt implement this in their cameras to, a mystery for me.

There are few cameras that have any AF-assist at all, but some have AF-assist-lamp, but I dont think thats as good as Sonys IR-assist. I dont like it cause if you for example want to take a photo of a person in low-light, then the lamp start to light and the person knows that your taking a photo. I think the best photos you take of people is when they dont know they being photographed.

Well, here are 2 Sony models with their excellent "NightFraming and NightShooting" technology:

DSC-F828 - 8MP, 7x optical Zoom, EVF, a little big.
DSC-V3 - 7.2MP, 4x optical Zoom, optical Viewfinder.






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Old Jul 7, 2005, 9:25 AM   #8
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It's your shutter speeds. You're getting blur from camera shake.

The Sony DSC-S70 has a lens that is twice as bright as most newer models.

It starts out at f/2.0 at it's wide angle lens position, and most compact cameras don't start out until aroundf/2.8 at their wide angle lens position. f/2.0 is twice as bright as f/2.8, allowing shutter speeds twice as fast for any given lighting condition and ISO speed. To see how aperture, lighting and ISO speed impact the shutter speed needed for proper exposure, see this online exposure calculator. ISO speed (setting on digital cameras) is represented by Film Speed with this calculator.

http://www.robert-barrett.com/photo/...alculator.html

One of the photos you took with your Sony was using a shutter speed of 1/30 second at f/2.0. I can't see the ISO speed,but it was probably selecting ISO 400.

This (1/30 second) is really about the *minimum* shutter speed you'll want at the wide angle zoom position with most compact cameras to prevent blur from camera shake. The "rule of thumb" is that shutter speeds need to be 1/focal length toreduce the chance ofblur from camera shake.

This is only a rule of thumb, since some users can hold a camera steadier than others (and learn to squeeze the shutter button smoothly), and other usersmake require even faster shutter speeds to prevent blur.

For example, if you're shooting at a 35mm equivalent focal length of 35mm (nearer to the wide angle end of the lens on most compact models), you'll want shutter speeds 1/35 second or faster. If you're shootingat a 100mmfocal length (closer to the long end of theoptical zoomwith most compact models), you'll want shutter speeds of 1/100 second or faster toreduce blur from camera shake (shake is magnified using more zoom).

The same shot taken with the Casio was at 1/8 second at f/2.6 (so the Sony was using shutter speeds almost 4 times as fast). I also can't see the ISO speed with the Casio. But, it was probably at ISO 200 based on the exposure comparisons with the Sony (and it's unlikely a newer model like the Casio would select ISO 400 due to noise concerns from the smaller, densorsensor).

If you would haveset the Casio to ISO 400, the noise probably would have made the image look pretty ugly, and you still would only get the shutter speeds up to around half what you were able to get with your Sony (since the lens on the Sony is brighter). Each time you double the ISO speed, shutter speeds can be twice as fast for any given lighting condition and aperture setting. But, the Sony DSC-S70lens as a larger (smaller f/stop number) available aperture setting that lets in about twice as much light as most compact models.

With a camera like the Fuji F10, if you set it to ISO 800, it should be able to get shutter speeds about the same as your Sony DSC-S70 at ISO 400 -- provided you stay at the wide angle lens position with the Fuji (as it's lens brightness drops down as you use zoom). It's lens only starts out at f/2.8 (half as bright as your Sony). So, you'll need to shoot at ISO 800 to match your Sony's shutter speeds at ISO 400.

This Fuji model is probably about the only current non-DSLR model you'll find that has a usable ISO 800 setting, and is probably your best bet on the lower cost end of the scale. You'll need ISO 800 on a camera with a lens starting out at f/2.8 to get shutter speeds as fast as your Sony's ISO 400.

Or, simply use a tripod or flash instead. ;-)

Your complaints are not uncommon (someone that upgraded from one of the older 3MP models with a bright lens not able to get existing light photos without blur in the same conditions). This is because the lens was brighter on your Sony, and it's exposure algorithms were increasing ISO speed to a higher value in low light (noise wasn't as bad on the older 3MP 1/1.8" CCD as ISO speeds are increasedcomparedto some of the newer sensors). So, it got faster shutter speeds.

There are very few newer digital cameras with a lens as bright as the lens on your Sony DSC-S70. One to consider would be the Canon G6. It's 7MP 1/1.8" CCD is not too bad from a noise perspective, and it's lens is relatively bright. Like your older DSC-S70, it's lens also starts out at f/2.0.

You could also look into a model with stabilization to help with blur from camera shake (but this won't help blur from subject movement if shutter speeds aren't fast enough for non-stationary subjects).

Another option would be to go with a DSLR. These can shoot at much higher ISO speeds compared tomostnon-DSLR models. But, you'd need to make sure to get a bright lens to go with one.


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Old Jul 7, 2005, 11:11 AM   #9
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JimC and others -- thank you for the phenominal replies. As you can tell, I know zero about photography. Up until I bought a Nikon Coolpix 5400 (specifically to use with a one-shot VR optic), I'd never touched manual controls other than playing with them a bit in my current Sony to try to take pics in low-light, and even then I was just guessing at settings based on what little I read on "What is ISO?" and "What is an F Stop?" FAQs.

I think I understand, but let me restate it to see if I am clear:

1. F2.0 was possible in my old DSC-S70 because of the larger lense. That, combined with the lower resolution, allowed it to capture more light with a faster shutter, creating non-blurry images in low light.

My newer cameras couldn't go down to F2.0, instead lowering at F2.8 which is half the light intake as the old Sony, requiring them to keep the shutter open longer, making blurry images.

(Tripods are never an option when riding a boat through a ride at Disneyland, or in a "Doom Buggy" in the Haunted Mansion).

2. ISO, which goes with light sensativity of film, is simulated in digital cameras. A higher ISO means it can absorb more light in less time, so a 1/30th shutter at ISO100 will be darker than 1/30th shutter at ISO400.

I *might* be able to find a current camera (like the Fuji) and set the shutter to 1/30th, and crank up the ISO to get the images I want.

3. To get what I had with the DSC-S70, my best bet is to find a camera with an F2.0, such as the G6 (which I actually found last night, searching for "F2.0" on various sites). Or the huge F828 from Sony (which I think have the NIghtVision mode, which might be fun).

In the past, some thoughts I had were about the body and lense. Just as it was easier to hold a VHS camcorder steadier than a palm DV camcorder, I figured maybe these tiny cameras (like the Casio, which I loved other than indoor pics) would shake alot more from pushing the button.

Question: Is it basically impossible for me to have a small camera with an F2.0? The G6 doesn't look that big; I'll have to go check it out.

I will have to read some reviews. As long as the camera starts up relatively fast, and has great battery life, I'm okay with a slightly larger unit.

Thanks much! Feel free to correct my logic. I've learned more from these posts.

-- Allen


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Old Jul 7, 2005, 11:28 AM   #10
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allenhuffman wrote:
Quote:
JimC and others -- thank you for the phenominal replies. As you can tell, I know zero about photography. Up until I bought a Nikon Coolpix 5400 (specifically to use with a one-shot VR optic), I'd never touched manual controls other than playing with them a bit in my current Sony to try to take pics in low-light, and even then I was just guessing at settings based on what little I read on "What is ISO?" and "What is an F Stop?" FAQs.

I think I understand, but let me restate it to see if I am clear:

1. F2.0 was possible in my old DSC-S70 because of the larger lense. That, combined with the lower resolution, allowed it to capture more light with a faster shutter, creating non-blurry images in low light.
Well, don't think larger versus smaller lens. It's possible to have a very large lens that's not very bright. Aperture expressed as f/stop representsthe ratio between thefocal length of the lens and the diameter of the iris opening. So, you could have a longer focal length lens that is quite large and not very bright, if the optics were not up to allowing a larger iris diameter for the aperture opening.

Quote:
My newer cameras couldn't go down to F2.0, instead lowering at F2.8 which is half the light intake as the old Sony, requiring them to keep the shutter open longer, making blurry images.
Right. f/2.0 is twice as bright as f/2.8, allowing shutter speeds twice as fast for any given lighting and ISO speed for the same exposure.

Quote:
2. ISO, which goes with light sensativity of film, is simulated in digital cameras. A higher ISO means it can absorb more light in less time, so a 1/30th shutter at ISO100 will be darker than 1/30th shutter at ISO400.
Dramatically darker, which is why you need to keep the shutter open 4 times as long for the same lighting and aperture for proper exposure at ISO 100 versus ISO 400.

Quote:
I *might* be able to find a current camera (like the Fuji) and set the shutter to 1/30th, and crank up the ISO to get the images I want.
You can't set the shutter manually on it. But, if you stay at the wide angle lens position on a model like the Fuji (where you'll have f/2.8 ), you'll get shutter speeds about the same as your Sony DSC-S70 if you crank up the Fuji's ISO speed to ISO 800. You probably won't be able to use zoom much in lower light though (you'd lose too much light with a model like this using zoom).

Quote:
3. To get what I had with the DSC-S70, my best bet is to find a camera with an F2.0, such as the G6 (which I actually found last night, searching for "F2.0" on various sites). Or the huge F828 from Sony (which I think have the NIghtVision mode, which might be fun).
The Sony 8MP 2/3" CCD is one of the worst sensors on the market from a noise perspective. You'd be much better off going with a DSC-F717 (discontinued, so check the used market). It's 5MP 2/3" CCD is not too bad with noise, and it's lens is pretty bright (f/2.0 at wide angle, only stopping down to f/2.4 at full zoom). I've seen numerous complaints from users that upgraded from the DSC-F717 to the DSC-F828 over blurry existing light photos from camera shake (because the Auto ISO in the newer DSC-F828 is keeping ISO speeds lower to keep the noise down). Setting it higher is going to increase noise more with this sensor.

[/quote]
Quote:
Question: Is it basically impossible for me to have a small camera with an F2.0? The G6 doesn't look that big; I'll have to go check it out.
[/quote]


Yea, they could do it. But, you may need a smaller sensor for shorter actual focal lengths to keep the size down (which would mean higher noise unless technology continues to improve). We're not quite there yet (depending on what you mean by small). The Canon G6 is probably about the smallest current model you're going to find with f/2.0 available with a built in lens. It's no "speed demon" from an AF speedperspective in low light, though.;-)

It's using a Sony 7MP 1/1.8" CCD, which is an improvement from a noise perspective compared to the Sony 5MP 1/1.8" CCD it replaced (but still has higher noise compared to the Fuji F10 for the same ISO speeds, with lower available ISO speeds). The lens on the CanonG6 is much brighter, though. Tradeoffs. ;-).


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