Recommendations for compact camera (~$300) please...

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by usenet, Apr 11, 2005.

  1. usenet

    usenet Guest

    Hi guys,

    I'm looking around for a new digital camera and could use some advice.
    Currently I have a Epson PhotoPC 800, which makes me believe that most
    modern cameras will get me very excited. I consider myself to be a
    vacation/special occasion photo shooter, with a lingering ambition to
    become maybe a bit more sophisticated. Anyway, what I have on my mind
    is roughly this (in order of importance)

    * my current camera has no optical zoom, and that's very annoying.
    Having at least a 3x zoom would seem very desirable. I have been
    wondering in which situation more would be helpful, but except for
    some scenery shots (mountains?) I didn't come up with much. Is
    that a fair assumption? And for zoom beyond 3x, how important is
    image stabilization?

    * the PhotoPC also sucks indoors or in low light conditions. I don't
    take many photos there, but knowing that the shots would look
    poor if I did is a problem. So, at least a reasonable performance
    at low light is a must.

    * typically, I get about ~120 shots using the optical view-finder, and
    a lot less with the LCD screen. I want to see improvement here.
    My current camera uses AA batteries, and once or twice I ran my
    rechargables dry and was glad that I could just get a pack of AAs at
    the convenience store round the next corner.

    * I usually don't create large prints of my photos, and I'm not
    really dissatisfied with 8x10 prints of 2 MP shots. I do see the
    limitations, but it just doesn't bother me too much. This makes me
    think that 4 MP (seems to be the low end these days) is enough of
    resolution for me.

    * I'm still in the habit of using the optical view finder. My
    current camera drains the batteries too fast otherwise. I don't
    know if I'll eventually switch to using the LCD with a new camera,
    but I might want to keep using an optical view-finder.

    * the PhotoPC 800 uses CF cards, and I have 4 (8, 24, 96, 128 MB).
    It would be nice to be able to keep the 2 bigger ones; just to save
    a few bucks. Not that it really makes a big difference. Related:
    I don't care about RAW or TIFF export.

    * about size: I find myself content with a compact sized camera, even
    though ultra compacts look slick and have a certain appeal to me.
    But all things considered, I would keep this at the low end of the
    priorities list.

    * usually I download the photos to my Linux box, which means that the
    software that comes along with the camera does not really matter.

    I am willing to about $300 (US) for a new camera, and a bit more for
    necessary accessories (batteries, charger, memory card). So far I've
    been thinking about the Canon A95, Sony DSC-W1, Canon S500, Canon SD300
    and Pentax Optio S50, roughly in that order. Of course, if something
    cheaper will fit my bill, I won't have a problem with that either.

    Anyone up for some recommendations of hints? Any comments welcome!

    usenet, Apr 11, 2005
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  2. usenet

    David Chien Guest

    been thinking about the Canon A95, Sony DSC-W1, Canon S500, Canon SD300
    Sony DSC-P150 - been blowing out for ~$300 on sales. See
    Sony DSC-T1, same $300 clearance.

    (Normally, you can still buy the excellent DSC-P150 7.2MP for ~$350 -
    an excellent price knowing that you won't be worry about megapixels for
    a long time:


    Both of the above are very good choices, have built-in AF lamps (a
    MUST for low-light conditions), and operate very snappy (quick AF, quick
    on/off, quick zoom).


    Keep in mind: if you have MORE megapixels, you can use DIGITAL ZOOM
    and still maintain excellent 4x6" print quality!
    Thus, that 7.2MP Sony DSC-P150 will allow you to add digital zoom to
    the 3x optical zoom, and you'll easily be able to utilize a full 10x+
    zoom range and make excellent 4x6" prints - in a compact, small package!
    For your uses, perfect! Best of both worlds - short zoom & long zoom
    - in one package for your limited long zoom needs, and more important
    smaller compact size wants.

    Not a single review of the DSC-P150 below a very good ranking:


    Only things in a compact package with longer zoom in a tiny camera
    are the FujiFilm F440/F450 digicams with 4x optical zooms (out to about
    135mm instead of 105mm). But low-light isn't as good due to lack of AF
    lamp. The newer Z1/F10 series for about the same $300 range is better
    at low-light situations due to more sensitive sensor, but still grainy.
    (Here, bigger, longer reaching flash would be better on any digicam in
    low-light situations to light up the entire room.)

    Canon's are decent all around choices and have been selling quite
    well (eg. clearance sales - eg. older models for <$250; posts). Slow AF speeds than Sony's above however.

    Memory cards are now dirt-cheap (eg. 512MB SD card for ~$25 on sale),
    so don't worry about which cards they use.

    Most newer cameras like the Sony above, have far improved battery
    life. Thus, with LCD on, expect 320 shots/160minutes of run time before
    the battery dies. You can easily leave the LCD on all the time nowadays.

    (based on manufacturer's specifications of runtime:


    Of the cameras you noted and mine, the Sony tends to have the longer
    battery runtimes. Also, because they use their InfoLithium battery
    packs, Sony digicams are among the very few digicams made today that
    will tell you down-to-the-last-minute how much remaining runtime you
    have (most digicams simply display full, middle, empty). This is an
    excellent choice for users that want to know how much longer they've got
    in the field!


    Avoid the Pentax unless you want super-small. The optics are
    particularly poor, and soft in the corners. Here, even the Fujifilm
    F440/F450's have better lenses.


    Past 3/4x zoom, image stabilization is a MUST in anything but
    daylight, bright conditions - hand-shake really starts to become
    noticed. Here, something like the Panasonic FZ5 is a good start. But
    they're all bulky.


    AF shutter speed and shot-to-shot speed is very fast and improved in
    the Sony DSC-P150 and DSC-T1 series. You'll be shocked how much faster
    they respond and focus vs. your current digicam. (the other choices you
    noted are much slower in these areas.)


    Of the ones you mentioned, the Sonys are the only ones that'll do a
    full 640x480 TV quality 30fps video mode camcorder-like video until the
    flash card is full.
    You can toss out your camcorder on trips and simply carry one camera
    instead for both! A lot of fun!


    The Sony DSC-P150 has a wide range of manual control (shutter speed,
    EV comp, ap., histogram) as well as a range of accessories for the
    advanced photographer (underwater case, wide/tele lens attachements,
    filters, external flash -

    As for indoor flash, keep in mind that almost all of the current crop
    of digicams have a small flash (ie short range. <15 feet! or less than
    the width of a bedroom! for the ones you noted). Here, those with
    external optional flash units are to be considered - they'll greatly
    extend the flash range and help you get nice, brightly exposed low-light
    flash pictures).
    David Chien, Apr 11, 2005
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  3. usenet

    DHB Guest

    all of your needs considered, I think you will be hard pressed
    to beat either the Canon A95 or S500. The A95 would be my 1st
    recommendation because of it's swivel 1.8" LCD display, "AA" batteries
    (quality, high capacity NiMH rechargeable last a very long time) &
    ease of accepting aux. lenses of filters.

    The down side of the A95 is that it's not pocket size unless
    you have very large pockets, so if pocket size is more important to
    you, then the S500 would be a better choice for you. As your own
    requirements have stated 2MP can be OK of up to 8x10" prints depending
    on several factors including "your" subjectivity/needs.

    In the MP race "more is not always better", much of that
    depends on several factors not the least of which is the actual
    "physical" sensor size used. Since your OK with 2MP for some 8x10"
    prints, than a good 5MP camera will offer you considerable room for
    cropping while still retaining more than enough detail for quality
    8x10" prints.

    For your information I do own & very much like my A95 & a S330
    which is basically a 2MP earlier version of the S500. Yes I am
    pleased with both & use a lot of the feature rich options available on
    both cameras. The A95 has a great feature that many owners sadly
    don't use, it's custom "C" programmable mode. A common problems with
    most any P&S digital cameras compared to a DSLR is focus lag time.
    This article, though written for the Canon A80, clearly illustrated
    how to the A95 can be set to a pre-focused distance range of your

    Won't bother explaining the principle here because the article
    dose a fairly good job of that & there are lot's of sights on the
    Internet for even more information in selecting a hyper focal value
    that will work well for most of "your" expected candid shots.

    Best of luck with whatever you choose.

    Respectfully, DHB

    "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President,
    or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong,
    is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable
    to the American public."--Theodore Roosevelt, May 7, 1918
    DHB, Apr 12, 2005
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