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Old Sep 8, 2005, 5:44 PM   #1
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I currently own a Kodak Easy Share digital camera. Model DX6440. It's 4mp and does a decent job of taking pictures in ideal conditions (good lighting, close distance, etc.) Where the camera lacks strongly is in lower light conditions both indoors and out. I usually leave the camera on the Auto setting, but have also tried the Night setting to not much better results.

For example, ifI take a picture of friends directly across the table from me in a low lit bar, the picture will come out pretty well with the flash. However, if we want to take a group shot of the entire table from approximately 10 feet away, the picture will come out extremely dark and cannot be saved via editing afterwards in most cases without it becomingvery pixilated. It's as if the flash range is too inadequate for this type of shot.

I'm looking for a new digital camera that willtake the best pictures in this type of scenario. Below are the features of the camera I currently have. Maybe I'm not using the settings correctly?


DX6440 Zoom Features:

4.1 megapixel CCD for prints up to 20 x 30"

4X Schneider zoom 33 - 132 mm (35mm equivalent)

3.8X Advanced Digital Zoom

High-speed precision, low light auto-focus

TTL Multi-pattern, center weighted, center spot metering

ISO equivalent of 100, 200, 400 or automatic

White balance settings for automatic, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent

Color modes for black and white, sepia, color

Exposure modes: Auto, sport, portrait, night, landscape, close-up, program (aperture priority, shutter priority)

Burst mode captures up to 6 pictures at 3 fps

320x240 movies w/sound up to 80 minutes in length

1.8 in. TFT color LCD, indoor/outdoor type

16MB internal memory, SD/MMC card slot

Powered by 2 AA size lithium, NiMH or CRV3 lithium

Audio-Video Out (NTSC or PAL selectable)



I'm looking to spend under $500 and would like to go no lower than 5mp if possible. I've read good things about the Fuji F-10, Olympus Stylus 800 & Fuji S-5200. Any recommendations?



Any input is much appreciated. Thanks.
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Old Sep 8, 2005, 6:08 PM   #2
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827-

Low light level photo performance is directly related to two things. (A) Increase light (more flash) or (B)Increased ISO settings, allowing you to take good photos under less light.

You mentioned taking photos in auto. Have you ever incrteased the ISO settings to ISO 400? If you have increased your ISO setting to 400, has this improved your digital photos?

Would adding a slave flash (an additional external flash unit) be possible for you? If so, you could solve yor problem for $40 to $50 (US) and continue to use the Kodak DX-6440.

If you opt to go to a new digital camera, please give some consideration to the Fuji F-10 (selling for less than $300 US) which has a high ISO capability. The same would be true for the soon to be introduced Fuji S-5200 which would also give you a 10X optical zoom capability as well. Keep in mind that the F-10 has just 3X optical zoom and has no optical viewfinder, which some folks find troublesome.

Here is a sample photo demonstrating how a slave flash can add a great deal of increased flash range to your digital camera.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Sep 8, 2005, 6:38 PM   #3
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Sarah - Being a relative newbie to digital cameras (the Kodak is my first) I really had no idea what ISO was until today. So, I'm not sure whatISOmy camera is set at. I will look tonight and set it to 400 if it isn't already and then give that a shot to see if that helps.

Seeing as though I really have trouble takingpictures with the zoom in low light, should I be looking at flash ranges of cameras in Telescopic if changing the ISO on my current camera doesn't work?

According to my research online of telescopic flash ranges...

My Kodak DX6440 goes up to 8.5ft.

The Fuji F-10 & Fuji S5100flash ranges are up to 13.1ft.

The Olympus Stylus 800 is 11.5ft (23.6ft. @ ISO1600)

These are obviously much more than my Kodak and I'm assuming would be better for my situation.

Thanks muchfor the help.


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Old Sep 8, 2005, 9:08 PM   #4
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827-

Well, the low cost situation would be to get the 6440 operating to your satisfaction. Learn to use that ISO setting and consider adding a slave flash, if necessary, that would be the cheapest solution.

Yes, the Fuji F-10 or the S-5200 will give you more ISO capabilities, but you have to learn to use your ISO, or you will have the very same problems with a new camera.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Sep 9, 2005, 10:25 AM   #5
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Sarah -

I messed around with my camera last night and I believe that it will be much better taking low light pictures. I changed the ISO to 400 (the default is 100/200) and I also increased a few other settings that let more light in. The test pics I took around my house seemed much better and the flash was noticably brighter. I really looked over my camera last night and re-read the manual as well. Onething I noticed is that from time to time I have a tendency to slightly cover up the flash with one of my free fingers while taking pics. This obviously can't help much either! :angry: So, I need to keep that in mind. I'm going to download the pictures tonight to see if picture "noise" increased much. They looked OK on the LCD screen, but I'd like to view them on my computer screen.

Once again, thanks for your input. I think you may have saved me a few hundred bucks. :-)
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Old Sep 9, 2005, 11:57 AM   #6
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Don't be too discouraged if noise is higher than expected.

There are some very good tools to reduce it's appearance.

My favorites are Neat Image and Noiseware

They are almost magical in their ability to reduce the apperance of noise, while preserving as much detail possible.

Also, when comparing flash range, not all manufacturers report it in the same way. Some report it using Auto ISO, some report it at ISO 100, etc.

Each time you double the ISO speed, the flash range increases by 1.4x

As you've already seen from the specs, you have much lower flash range when using zoom with most models, too. So, try to stay closer to the wide angle position with your camera, using your feet for zoom instead.

When I'm out taking photos with a compact model, I rarely go much above the full wide angle lens position. Not only does this enhance flash range, but it helps the camera "see" to focus better, and it lets more ambient light into your images (so the backgrounds are not quite as dark).

More than twice as much light reaches the sensor through the lens at it's wide angle setting with your model, compared to it's full zoom setting. This is typical for a compact digital camera (although your lens is actually a bit brighter than most at it's wide angle setting).


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Old Sep 9, 2005, 1:11 PM   #7
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Jim - Thanks for the reply and great information. I will definitely check out those two products you mentioned. I currently use Photoshop Elements 2.0 to edit my pics.
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Old Sep 9, 2005, 1:14 PM   #8
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Noiseware has a free "community edition" that works well as a stand alone, and also has more sophisticated versions that can work as PS plugins (and you can download trial versions of these).

Neat Image also has a demo version (that doesn't expire).

The free versions do strip out the EXIF (information about the camera settings stored in your images), so be aware of that "quirk" when you use them. The non-free versions retain this information.

I don't blame them (if they gave you everything the versions you pay for have for free, nobody would ever buy the others). :-)


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Old Sep 9, 2005, 2:12 PM   #9
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Well, I tried both noise editing products and I gotta say that I think Neat Image did a better job on the one picture I tested than Noiseware. I just wish their Photoshop plug in version was a bit cheaper because that would be more convenient for me to use. But free is free!
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Old Sep 9, 2005, 2:20 PM   #10
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Both are pretty darn good products. The newer versions of Neat Image are impressive (these guys sometimes leapfrog each other, since when Noiseware was first introduced, I personally thought it was better than Neat Image on most images). Since then, Neat Image has come out with some newer versions.

Also, you can "fine tune" a lot of the parameters for processing noise. So, play with the settings for the desired results (removing the noise, without destroying as much detail). Also, play with the built in sharpening settings. You may be surprised at how well they can work (I was with Noiseware), but make sure not to apply too much.




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