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Archive for 2007

2007.12.31

Fuji Finepix F480One of the rare ultra-compact digital cameras with a wide-angle lens, the Fuji Finepix F480, has just been reviewed at Neocamera. This is an 8 megapixels point-and-shoot camera with a 4X optical zoom lens, equivalent to 28-112mm in 35mm terms, measuring 0.9″ thick (22mm).

While the market for ultra-compact cameras is truly crowded with some excellent entries from several manufacturers, Fuji which dominates this category in terms of image quality, has only a single such camera with a wide-angle lens. There are also a few wide-angle entries from Canon and Panasonic. The Canon Powershot SD800 IS which we have already seen is an excellent camera among this category. There is now the Canon Powershot SD870 IS which appears quite similar but we have not reviewed it yet. Panasonic also has several wide-angle models in its FX-series, but as we have seen from the review of the FX-30, image quality is not their strong point and the LCD which is not exposure-priority can be a serious problem.

All these digital cameras have lenses which starts at 28mm in 35mm terms. Considering that most ultra-compact cameras have lenses starting between 35mm and 38mm, this gives you a good 25% more field of view at its widest. For photography in tight places or of large buildings, this is incredibly useful. There are several large cameras that also feature such wide-angle lenses and a few existed with even wider angle lenses, such as the Nikon Coolpix 8400 and Kodak Easyshare P880. The Fuji Finepix F480 is clearly not as sophisticated as these other models but it is currently the most affordable wide-angle digital camera.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium.

2007.12.29

Recent statistics suggest that most digital camera buyers bought their second or third camera this year. Choosing an extra camera is somewhat different than buying a replacement camera. While a replacement camera is chosen as the best match to your photographic needs, a second camera can be chosen to complement another digital camera.

Previous digital camera buyers have an advantage over first-time buyers, because they usually already know what they like and do not like about their previous camera. How to choose a complementary camera mostly depends on the already owned cameras and its inconveniences.

Digital SLR CompanionsSony Alpha A700

Digital SLR owners probably have it the easiest: They already have one of the highest quality cameras available, one that is fast and flexible. This can be complemented by a lightweight and portable camera or by a backup DSLR.

There are 3 options for a backup DSLR: One that is identical to the primary, one of the same brand, or a completely different one. These options are typically used by professional photographers who rely on having a high-quality backup with them. In such case, it is important for them to continue with their assignment as quickly as possible and with the same quality as they intended.

  • The most sensible choice is to buy an identical one. After all, you already know how to use it well, have compatible lenses, extra batteries and other accessories. Familiarity with your camera is a great asset, so keeping an identical backup means that as soon as your primary camera is broken/lost/stolen, you can pick up the backup and be just as proficient with it.
  • Buying a digital SLR from the same brand is also a great option. Chances are that ergonomics are quite similar, plus you can usually reuse all your lenses which is normally the most (or second most) expensive part of a DSLR system. At the same time, you can upgrade to newer capabilities such as faster-shooting, deeper buffering, weather-proofing, etc. Alternately, the can get a lower-cost and lighter version. For example, a Pentax K100D Super is an excellent complement to a Pentax K10D and vice-versa. The same goes for a Nikon D80 and Nikon D300.
  • A completely different DSLR is also a possibility, but it can get both costly and cumbersome. The primary reason to consider this is to get access to some capability that is not offered by any camera similar to your current DSLR. For example, only Canon and Nikon have full-frame sensor cameras and there are certain lenses which are only available for a particular lens mount. If portability is an issue, the Olympus Evolt E410 is currently, by a good margin, the smallest DSLR available. Olympus lenses are also generally smaller because their cameras use smaller sensors with a crop factor of 2X.

Fixed-Lens Companions

Fuji Finepix F40A more common complement for a DSLR is a compact digital camera. This is often purchased to overcome DSLR cameras’ biggest problem, their size. Basically, a person got a DSLR to get high quality images, speed or versatility but ends up leaving it often at home because it is too cumbersome to carry. Or perhaps one person in a family enjoys the DSLR, but another family member takes too few pictures because they find it too big or too complicated.

For the ultimate in portability, ultra-compact cameras are small enough to fit in a pocket. Image quality and features are obviously compromised. For image quality, DSLR owners should not worry because they can bring their DSLR camera as often as they choose. Features are rather limited with very few ultra-compacts having manual controls. Some exceptions are the HP Photosmart R967 with its full-manual controls and the Fujifilm Finepix F50fd with semi-automatic exposure. For those who do not use their DSLR’s manual controls, this will not be an issue though..

Still easy to carry are compact cameras. They will not fit in typical pant pockets but maybe in cargos or large jackets. Many compact cameras have full-manual controls, a decent hand-grip and long battery life. There are also more lens choices here with between 3X and 10X zooms currently available. One of the best values compact is the Canon PowerShot A570 IS with full manual controls and a stabilized 4X optical zoom lens. There is also the 6X optical zoom version , the Canon PowerShot A720 IS. Because of their small sensors, higher megapixels compact cameras generally produce less usable images than their lower-resolution counterparts. Nevertheless, there are compact cameras up to 12 megapixels in resolution. Most importantly, small cameras get slower as their resolution is increased because they have bigger files to write using relatively slow processors.

The final type of fixed-lens camera to consider as a companion to a digital SLR is the ultra-zoom camera. These cameras are usually very sophisticated with quite a few features and lenses which up to 18X optical zoom. Considering that some ultra-zooms are larger than some DSLR cameras, space-saving is not necessarily the primary concern anymore. Well, if the zoom-range is important, that could be an issue but most DSLR manufacturers have a compact 18-250mm lens which is equivalent to a 14X optical zoom. Because of their larger feature set and more capable lenses, ultra-zoom cameras can be more easily used as a backup to a DSLR than ultra-compact cameras. The difference between a backup and a companion camera lies in its intended usage. The former is only used when the DSLR fails, while the latter is intended to be used when it is more convenient than a DSLR.

To be continued…

In part 2, we will cover what to consider when choosing a second camera to complement a fixed-lens one, be it an ultra-compact, compact or an ultra-zoom.

Neocamera Blog Neocamera.com © Cybernium.

2007.12.25

If the camera does not matter, then would you mind if your camera:

  • Did not directly show you how the image focus will turn out?
  • What the final composition will be?
  • Precisely what would be in focus?
  • Had a completely illogical menu system?
  • Had a unpredictable white-balance?

If you are the proud owner of a Leica M8, then probably not. You see, a recent editorial on Luminous Landscape, points out exactly those problems with the M8. Here are some quotes from that article:

  • I just didn’t see the point of looking through one window, focusing, then composing with little lines and then shooting through a lens that is probably not near the composition you intended.
  • What I thought was in focus was not, what I thought I had framed perfectly was off,
  • 50% of everything I shoot with it is not in real tack focus, 50% has too much noise, 50% has surprise framing, but no camera I have ever used has touched me so deeply.
  • I can honestly say that focusing the Leica is similar to riding a skateboard down a hill and trying to eat ice cream.
  • The menu is a mess and it’s functions make no logical sense,
  • The auto white balance is a riot, as you never know what color it’s going to produce,

What is interesting to know is that the article in question praises the Leica M8 without any obvious argument for it. So, as Sherlock Holmes would certainly point out, there must be non-obvious reasons for praising the M8 which leaves us with an interesting mystery.

Lets skip any speculations that the author is being bribed by Leica, that would simply make the story boring. Its too simple. Then, how could someone enjoy a camera which is difficult to focus with, produces unpredictable colors and makes framing a surprise?

It may come down to riding a skateboard down a hill and trying to eat ice cream. It sounds difficult. It probably is, but I am sure more than one person did it. Why? Precisely because it is difficult. It is a challenge. It comes down to why you take photographs. Perhaps seeing clearly what will appear in the final picture is too easy or seems boring. Now, if you have to imagine what the camera will produce then the challenge is to master photography and the camera!

Or, could it be the surprise framing and that you never know what color it’s going to produce? Possibly. Surprise, look what you just shot! Some people like surprises. Will it be a boy or a girl? What’s in that box under the Xmas tree? In digital photography era has greatly reduced the element of surprise. This, we know, has greatly aided in a renewed interest in photography. However, this does not mean that everyone likes to easily predict the outcome of a photograph. It is a matter of taste, but just like some things are statistically less liked than others, this is not the most popular taste.

Is the M8 good or bad then? Based on what we know of our target audience, the Leica M8 is definitely not the camera most of our readers are looking for. This does not mean that it is bad for everyone but to all those who are looking for predictability and control in their photography, nearly every digital camera is better. So, to paraphrase a coworker, while you could work blindfolded with your hands tied behind is back, you do not have to. The same applies to digital photography, just skip the M8 if you want simplicity and predictability.

2007.12.24

The episode is truly about value. Recall, that value and price are two separate things. Value is what you get for a price. Price is simply what you pay for. Good value happens when you pay less for something that is useful than what you could have paid for something that would not be any more useful.

Digital cameras sell across a wide range of prices. What makes some a good value to the buyer, always depends on the buyer’s needs. What happens too often is that people give themselves a budget too low to get something that satisfies their needs. At Neocamera, we frequently get letters from people looking for a digital camera with specific set of features (megapixels, zoom, shutter-lag, etc.) within a specific budget. Well, as we saw with the case of Buying The Right Camera Tripod, buying the wrong camera because of cost is not efficient. What ends up happening is that an unsatisfied buyer then buys something more appropriate (and more expensive) to replace the wrong camera.

Lotus Rear Vent

To find a good value, you must first understand what you really need. That roughly corresponds to Step 2 of Neocamera’s buying guide. Then, look at the cameras that satisfy the needs which you identified. Depending on the particular needs, this may result in numerous digital cameras. No matter what the price range is, there should be one whose price is lower than the others. That digital camera is probably the best value for your needs.

Now, suppose you do not find a suitable camera within a particular budget. Are you being unreasonable? Probably. Can you get around this? Maybe. Obviously, if you have the money, you should raise your budget since that is the easiest way to get a camera that satisfies your needs. If not, one option is to wait. Seriously consider this if you already have a camera that does not satisfy your needs. Otherwise, look at discontinued models. Even though manufacturers stop producing certain models, many of them remain available new from discount retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. The last option is to go with something used or refurbished. Remember, any time you get something that does what you need it to do, you are better off than paying for something that does not!

Looking for a deal right now? Try searching Amazon or the mini-mall bellow.

[eminimall]
2007.12.18

While digital cameras prices have been falling, DSLR prices have been going down faster. So much, that the price gap between entry-level DSLR cameras and high-end fixed-lens cameras has disappeared. Indeed, it is now possible to pay more for a fixed-lens camera than for a DSLR. This removes the price factor which kept many from reaching for a DSLR. Now, the remaining pros and cons make up a tougher dilemma.

While we are talking about the low-end of DSLRs, these cameras are no slouches, with excellent image quality, great speed and good portability for such cameras. Here are the contenders for lowest cost DSLR cameras:

  • Pentax K100D – Excellent image quality, usable ISO up to 3200, built-in stabilization, great ergonomics and the convenient use of AA batteries.
  • Pentax K100D Super – The Super version of the K100D adds dust-reduction and support for ultra-sonic lenses.
  • Canon Digital Rebel XT – A classic light-weight DSLR with minimal features that gives access to Canon’s extensive lens lineup.
  • Nikon D40X – Very fast and responsive, this compact DSLR can use Nikon lenses that have a built-in focus motor.
  • Olympus Evolt E-410 – Smaller than some fixed-lens cameras, the E-410 is the smallest of all DSLRs. Packs a full set of features including built-in dust-reduction.

When you add a decent lens, all these DSLR cameras will exceed the price of even the most expensive compact but, to those who appreciate great image quality, they are worth their price. Plus, DSLRs all have interchangeable lenses so you can start with a medium quality lens and work your way up when budget permits. A reasonable start could be a long zoom by the camera’s manufacturer or a compatible lens from Sigma. Neocamera’s Lens Selection article can help you decide.

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