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Old Sep 26, 2005, 4:55 AM   #1
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Hi,

My trusty Dimage A200 went to the ground and I decided I was better of buying a new camera than paying the shameless repair-price. But should I buy another Dimage A200 or should I go for a Canon PowerShot S2 IS?

Obviously, the A200 has more pixels to offer- but what's most important to me is low-light capability. I was actually quite happy with my A200 in this respect. The S2 IS is tempting because of the high zoom and because it is often described as having a high resolution viewfinder. The A200 has had a lot of bad press because the resolution of the viewfinder has been a step down from the A1. But the A200 actually has a higher resolution viewfinder than the S2 IS! 235.000 vs. 114.000.

Any thoughts on this?
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Old Sep 26, 2005, 10:38 AM   #2
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Sorry to muddy the waters, but have you thought about one of the new fujis (S9500 / S5500)?

I'm not sure which is better for low light - image stabilisation like the two you mentioned, or high ISO capability like the Fujis. The high ISO in the Fujis doesn't look quite as great as I'd been hoping after reading F10 reviews, but still pretty good. Comparable to ISO 400 on the A200 or the S2 IS, perhaps? If so, I guess you could say that would give it a two-stop advantage for low-light stuff, while I've read in dpreview review of the S2 IS,
Quote:
I certainly found it made handheld shots at 3, 4 or even 5 shutter speeds slower than normal perfectly possible.
So, notwithstanding blur as a result of subject movement, image stabilisation seems to be more effective - at least on that Canon. I guess image stabilisation is also more useful if you intend to do any video.

Personally, I'm looking at the S9500 partly because of the wide-angle of the lens; I'm not really willing to seriously consider anything without this, which is frustrating as it really narrows my options.

It may also be worth mentioning that the DSLRs and forthcoming Sony R1 seem to generally have noise at ISO 1600 (or even 3200) comporable to low ISO on any of the cameras mentioned. If you feel really extravagent, you can even get an IS lens for a DSLR. I'm well aware that I've made no referance to price anywhere in this post. Please don't think I've assumed that money is no object!
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Old Sep 26, 2005, 3:23 PM   #3
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Very interesting suggestions. Thank you! I'm particularlykeen onthe S9500 - although I'm a little bothered by it's weight (as compared to the A200), by the lack of some sort of image stabilisation (which seems indispensable for a camera with huge zoom-capabilites) and by the somewhat lower resolution of the LCD-display (as compared the A200). BTW, is the S9500 the same as the S9000?

The Dimage A200 seems like a reasonable choice for you too as it has the same wide-angle capabilites (as does most of the other 8 mp cameras currently available).
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 11:40 AM   #4
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janniklindquist wrote:
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Very interesting suggestions. Thank you! I'm particularlykeen onthe S9500 - although I'm a little bothered by it's weight (as compared to the A200), by the lack of some sort of image stabilisation (which seems indispensable for a camera with huge zoom-capabilites) and by the somewhat lower resolution of the LCD-display (as compared the A200). BTW, is the S9500 the same as the S9000?

The Dimage A200 seems like a reasonable choice for you too as it has the same wide-angle capabilites (as does most of the other 8 mp cameras currently available).
Thanks for pointing out about the wide angle of the A200 - that does change things for me. You are right that there are quite a few others which offer that. Of coarse, all have different compromises. Low light capability is a high priority for me. Big zoom would be nice, but not at the expense of optical quality and wide-angle is more important. I've been researching quite a lot, and I seem to be suffering some kind of data indigestion now. It may be that I've unfairly dismissed a few cameras out of hand.

S9500 and S9000 are the same, in different countries, AFAIK.

I'm not going to be able to afford to buy anything anyway for a little bit, so I'm happy to wait for reviews of some of the newer cameras. I think the main thing putting me off the A200 was the comments on autofocus in dpreview. How did you find this in practice, particularly in low light? Sounds like the S2 might be better, and faster generally. How is the manual focus on the A200? Hands-on control seems to be less good on the canon, another reason I'm not personally all that interested in that camera. It does have a fun looking 'super-macro' mode, though.

As far as general low light ability goes, the line taken by Fuji seems to be that increasing the sensitivity is more useful than image stabilisation. It seems that high sensitivity would be particularly useful for dealing with low light situations involving people, or other moving targets, while image stabilisation is really more effective for dealing with camera shake both at large focal lengths and while shooting movies. So, it really would be desirable to have both, but that combination doesn't seem to be forthcoming. Also, I've seen a few high ISO images from the S9500, and they are still pretty blotchy and noisy when it comes down to it. In a way, I can't help but wonder if they didn't try to cram so much resolution into the sensor, it might have produced less noisy images. But that doesn't capture the headlines like 9 megapixels.

So far, I haven't considered EVF resolution as a factor at all. I still doubt it will be something that ultimately influences my decision, but I can see that it could make a difference.
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 2:01 PM   #5
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I have the same decision to take...

See post on Fuji S9000 vs its competitors:

http://www.stevesforums.com/forums/v...mp;forum_id=16
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 4:12 PM   #6
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pterrr wrote:
Quote:
janniklindquist wrote:
Quote:
Very interesting suggestions. Thank you! I'm particularlykeen onthe S9500 - although I'm a little bothered by it's weight (as compared to the A200), by the lack of some sort of image stabilisation (which seems indispensable for a camera with huge zoom-capabilites) and by the somewhat lower resolution of the LCD-display (as compared the A200). BTW, is the S9500 the same as the S9000?

The Dimage A200 seems like a reasonable choice for you too as it has the same wide-angle capabilites (as does most of the other 8 mp cameras currently available).
Thanks for pointing out about the wide angle of the A200 - that does change things for me. You are right that there are quite a few others which offer that. Of coarse, all have different compromises. Low light capability is a high priority for me. Big zoom would be nice, but not at the expense of optical quality and wide-angle is more important. I've been researching quite a lot, and I seem to be suffering some kind of data indigestion now. It may be that I've unfairly dismissed a few cameras out of hand.

S9500 and S9000 are the same, in different countries, AFAIK.

I'm not going to be able to afford to buy anything anyway for a little bit, so I'm happy to wait for reviews of some of the newer cameras. I think the main thing putting me off the A200 was the comments on autofocus in dpreview. How did you find this in practice, particularly in low light? Sounds like the S2 might be better, and faster generally. How is the manual focus on the A200? Hands-on control seems to be less good on the canon, another reason I'm not personally all that interested in that camera. It does have a fun looking 'super-macro' mode, though.

As far as general low light ability goes, the line taken by Fuji seems to be that increasing the sensitivity is more useful than image stabilisation. It seems that high sensitivity would be particularly useful for dealing with low light situations involving people, or other moving targets, while image stabilisation is really more effective for dealing with camera shake both at large focal lengths and while shooting movies. So, it really would be desirable to have both, but that combination doesn't seem to be forthcoming. Also, I've seen a few high ISO images from the S9500, and they are still pretty blotchy and noisy when it comes down to it. In a way, I can't help but wonder if they didn't try to cram so much resolution into the sensor, it might have produced less noisy images. But that doesn't capture the headlines like 9 megapixels.

So far, I haven't considered EVF resolution as a factor at all. I still doubt it will be something that ultimately influences my decision, but I can see that it could make a difference.

To start with the end of your post: The "downgrade" of EVF resolution from Dimage A2 to Dimage A200 has been a major target for the A2-fanatics critique of A200. Actually, the A200 has the same EVF resolution as most of the other 8mp cameras.

Regarding low-light performance, I always felt the review at dpreview was very unfair. Have a look at the A200-review here instead: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/KMA200/A2A.HTM. As my last A200was at the shop for repair for a very long time (more than two months) and I have shooting with my PowerShot A80 all that time, I can't remember my exact judgement of low-light shooting with the A200. I bought a new A200 today and I'll try to write something about it - and about the manual focus - in a couple of days. I seem to remember having read about a firmware update that improves auto-focus in low light. I'll install it and report what happens.

I don't entirely agree with your observations on high ISO vs. IS. I find that the Anti-Shake feature is a quite effective way of improving low-light perfomance. But I certainly agre with you that we can always use more sensitive sensors.
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 7:37 PM   #7
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Give a thought toKodak's new P850 as well.
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Old Sep 27, 2005, 9:20 PM   #8
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janniklindquist wrote:
Quote:
I don't entirely agree with your observations on high ISO vs. IS. I find that the Anti-Shake feature is a quite effective way of improving low-light perfomance. But I certainly agre with you that we can always use more sensitive sensors.
I guess for most situations, even involving people etc, IS is more effective. Having used high ISO film (Fujifilm, come to think of it) a bit in the past, I've often thought of that as the way forward. It's taking a while for the realisation that IS isn't some superflous gimmick to really sink in. I hope you will be happy with your new A200 - I'm sure you will be (definitely get a better impression of that than the S2). I haven't got time just now to read the review you linked to, but I look forward to that and your comments on focussing.

That kodak could be interesting, I guess I'll be watching that too. I'm glad that I'm in no hurry to make any decisions.
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Old Sep 29, 2005, 4:00 PM   #9
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As promised I have jotted down a few notes on low-light performance of and manual focus in the Dimage A200.

Low-light perfomance: It is true that the A200 will sometimes give up finding a focus in some low light situations. So will most other digi cams, AFAIK. As stated in the manual slow autofocus might some times be due to "Full Time Auto Focus" being turned on. This is a feature that will ensure that the viewfinder is always in focus. Turn that of and you will get fast auto-focus in most situations.

The manual explicitely states that one might encounter "difficult focus-situations" and give four examples:

1) Motive is to dark

2) Motive does not contain enough contrast (landscapes is used as an example)

3) Overlap of motives in various distances (bars of a cage in front of an animal is used as an example)

4) Motive close to very light areas

The manual advices toeither focus on something else at the desired distance and then lock the focus or focus manually. You can focus manually either by pressing the exposure-button halfway down and turning the focus-ring (in normal single-frame auto-focus) or by switching entirely to Manual Focus and just turn the focus-ring. In both cases the image is enlarged to enable precise manual focusing (unless you press the exposure-button halfway down in Manul Focus).

Some people think that the resolution of the EVF is to low to make the enlarged image usable for precise focusing. IMO, it's entirely usable in most situations - but, obviously, it would be faster to use if the resolution was higher.

What about the critique of focus in A200 in the review at dpreview then? Here it is:

Quote:
Our biggest gripe, however, was with the A200's auto focus which proved to be just as inconsistent as the A2 before it. There are two problems here - one is the wide area focus has a tendancy to lock onto the nearest thing in the scene even if it occupies only a tiny part of the frame (see examples below). Far worse, however, is the A200's willingness to take a picture that is completely out of focus, often after indicating that focus lock has been achieved. As with the A2, the focus is fast, but I would estimate around 1 in 20 shots is not correctly focused, probably 1 in 10 when shooting indoors at social occasions (i.e zoomed in slightly, low light, subject distances of 1 to 4 meters).

Focus errors
As mentioned above we found the focus system of the A200 to be just as unreliable as the A2 - whether insisting on locking on some tiny piece of foreground detail (a twig at the edge of the frame for example) or simply missing focus altogether, the A200 fails to focus correctly too often for a camera in this class. To be fair, we took around 1000 frames during this test, and the focus problem occured only in about 40 shots, of which nearly all were in low light at longer focal lengths, but it's still something Konica Minolta needs to address in future models.
With my first A200 I did indeed experience the problems described here. I have only had my second A200 fora few days but I have been pushing to the limit and - so far - I have not had any problems. It is tempting to assume that this is because my new A200 has the latest firmware.
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Old Sep 29, 2005, 5:49 PM   #10
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janniklindquist wrote:
Quote:
As promised I have jotted down a few notes on low-light performance of and manual focus in the Dimage A200.

Low-light perfomance: It is true that the A200 will sometimes give up finding a focus in some low light situations. So will most other digi cams, AFAIK. As stated in the manual slow autofocus might some times be due to "Full Time Auto Focus" being turned on. This is a feature that will ensure that the viewfinder is always in focus. Turn that of and you will get fast auto-focus in most situations.

The manual explicitely states that one might encounter "difficult focus-situations" and give four examples:

1) Motive is to dark

2) Motive does not contain enough contrast (landscapes is used as an example)

3) Overlap of motives in various distances (bars of a cage in front of an animal is used as an example)

4) Motive close to very light areas

The manual advices toeither focus on something else at the desired distance and then lock the focus or focus manually. You can focus manually either by pressing the exposure-button halfway down and turning the focus-ring (in normal single-frame auto-focus) or by switching entirely to Manual Focus and just turn the focus-ring. In both cases the image is enlarged to enable precise manual focusing (unless you press the exposure-button halfway down in Manul Focus).

Some people think that the resolution of the EVF is to low to make the enlarged image usable for precise focusing. IMO, it's entirely usable in most situations - but, obviously, it would be faster to use if the resolution was higher.

What about the critique of focus in A200 in the review at dpreview then? Here it is:

Quote:
Our biggest gripe, however, was with the A200's auto focus which proved to be just as inconsistent as the A2 before it. There are two problems here - one is the wide area focus has a tendancy to lock onto the nearest thing in the scene even if it occupies only a tiny part of the frame (see examples below). Far worse, however, is the A200's willingness to take a picture that is completely out of focus, often after indicating that focus lock has been achieved. As with the A2, the focus is fast, but I would estimate around 1 in 20 shots is not correctly focused, probably 1 in 10 when shooting indoors at social occasions (i.e zoomed in slightly, low light, subject distances of 1 to 4 meters).

Focus errors
As mentioned above we found the focus system of the A200 to be just as unreliable as the A2 - whether insisting on locking on some tiny piece of foreground detail (a twig at the edge of the frame for example) or simply missing focus altogether, the A200 fails to focus correctly too often for a camera in this class. To be fair, we took around 1000 frames during this test, and the focus problem occured only in about 40 shots, of which nearly all were in low light at longer focal lengths, but it's still something Konica Minolta needs to address in future models.
With my first A200 I did indeed experience the problems described here. I have only had my second A200 fora few days but I have been pushing to the limit and - so far - I have not had any problems. It is tempting to assume that this is because my new A200 has the latest firmware.
Thanks for reporting back, jannik. It doesn't sound like this is a substantial problem, especially with recent firmware - I read that there were changes to do with focus algorithms. Of course, in considering which camera to go for, I want to be aware of all potential compromises, and sometimes I think it's easy to loose overall perspective. Also, I suffered really badly from problems with AF on an old pentax digicam, which is why I was turned off as soon as I read that stuff on dpreview.

I looked over at the Minolta forums here and at dpreview, and did see some fairly current discussion (http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1024&message=15041991) on the various focus options. My assesment is that I would use it on spot, single shot focus, with occasional manual adjustments (choosing wether to focus on the reflection or the surface of water, for example), which is what I would expect anyway. I wouldn't want to leave the camera on 'full time focus' - quite apart from anything else it would probably drain batteries faster, and it's just not the way I'm used to thinking about setting up a shot ('focus lock, recompose' to the max). A friend of mine used to have an SLR which would actually focus on the point you were looking at in the viewfinder when you half-pressed the shutter; now that was a smooth interface. But I digress. The fact that conversations like the one at dpreview are happening is a little worrying, but no-one seems to have any big problems with the performance.

The Fuji I've been looking at does have an AF assist beam, which I guess is points in it's favour, but I'm less and less enamoured by the hype for that camera's low light performance. IMHO, the ISO 1600 pictures look quite bad - perhaps getting on for as bad as ISO 800 on the A200, which was widely heralded as pretty useless in reviews. So I'm now thinking that for the vast majority of situations the IS would basically be more valuable. I shall try to compare more carefully, and more importantly wait for proper reviews to come in on the S9500.

I really do appreciate hearing that you have been deliberately pushing your A200 to reprodruce the issues I was concerned about, and they haven't surfaced. Sounds like a very encouraging camera!

I think I've ranted long enough.

Cheers,
pete...errr, pterrr
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