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Subject: Digital Camera Advice? rss

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Dave Lartigue
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I'm looking to replace my Pentax Optio 330 that's a few years old now and developing dead pixels. I'd like to replace it with something good, but inexpensive. I'm not a professional photographer, nor do I play one on TV, so something that will take the usual types of photos (and also good closeup shots of game components) is what I'm looking for.

I was at my in-laws this weekend, and an issue of Consumer Reports they had listed two models as "Best Buys":

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W5 ($220)
Canon PowerShot A520 ($170)

I did some looking around and saw people claiming the Sony wasn't very good.

Anyone have any experiences, good or ill, with either one of these, or an alternate model in this approximate price range they'd recommend? I'll tip some geekgold to whoever can steer me towards a fine purchase. Thanks!
 
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Marc B.
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For years I was a die hard Olympus user. Went through like 5 generations of their digital cameras. Last Christmas I was looking for a new camera for my wife. We were always just the point and click types most of the time but she was interested in doing a little more. So we went shopping. Now let me preface this with the issues we had shopping.

My wife had her right wrist basically crushed in an auto accident 5 years ago. The wierd angles required to hold most of the digital cameras was nearly impossible for her. We had been all over the place and were not having much luck. We stopped by Staples for an unrelated item and I noticed they had a digital camera section. Never noticed it before. We wandered over.

Well, turns out the guy who came over was actually quite knowledgable about the cameras and started showing some to my wife. He ended up suggesting the Kodak Z740 (http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=6547&pq...) and she held it and it was the first one to be comfortable for her. The guy told us that she could take it and use it and if it caused her problems, bring it back for full refund. Cool!
Then he points out the printer/charger base for it. COOL! They had a package deal at the time and with her teacher discount and some other coupon codes he gave us we got the camera and printer and a 512M memory card for about $10 less than the price of the camera itself.

We have used the heck out of this camera. I havent pulled out any of the Olympus' all year. Outside, inside, dark, bright, macro (closeup), sunsets, fast motion, you name it, we have had great results with it. It comes with shade and filters. additional lenses can be bought.

The printer is not necessary but we found it great for get togethers with friends. We can take a group shot and right there print out copies for everybody who wants one. no forgotten promises of emailing pictures anymore. :-)

I see they have a new model the Z710 that looks like the same but with 7Mp (740 is 5).

The Z740 msrp is $349 alone and $449 with printer bundle but I often see the camera on sale for under $240 and have seen the bundle on sale for $299.

Give it a look. Steve's Digicam site give a great review on it:
http://www.steves-digicams.com/2005_reviews/z740.html

Marc
 
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Matthew Wills
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Legomancer wrote:
I'm looking to replace my Pentax Optio 330 that's a few years old now and developing dead pixels. I'd like to replace it with something good, but inexpensive. I'm not a professional photographer, nor do I play one on TV, so something that will take the usual types of photos (and also good closeup shots of game components) is what I'm looking for.

I was at my in-laws this weekend, and an issue of Consumer Reports they had listed two models as "Best Buys":

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W5 ($220)
Canon PowerShot A520 ($170)

I did some looking around and saw people claiming the Sony wasn't very good.

Anyone have any experiences, good or ill, with either one of these, or an alternate model in this approximate price range they'd recommend? I'll tip some geekgold to whoever can steer me towards a fine purchase. Thanks!


The Canon A-series have always represented excellent quality for the price. You won't go far wrong with them.

I find Dave's Picks (http://www.imaging-resource.com/WB/WB.HTM) helpful in deciding a model to buy. You may too.

http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A520/A52A.HTM suggests the A520 is a fairly old model.

You may want to consider:

A710 (new model - with image stabiliser) - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A710/A710DAT.HTM

A540 - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/A540/A540A.HTM

Note that many digital compacts (such as Canon's line) take a photo with a 4:3 aspect ratio. This is annoying if you do most of your printing 4x6 inch (ie standard photo size). One advantage of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W5 (and many Kodak and Sony models) is that it supports both 3:4 and 2:3 aspect ratio (so you don't need to crop photos if you print standard size). It does the 2:3 aspect ratio by cropping automatically as you take the photo (so you can see exactly what it will look like if printed 4x6 inch). It is the one feature that I wish the Canon's had...
 
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Dave Lartigue
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We haven't been printing any of our digital shots, but we may in the future, so I'll keep that in mind. Someone else suggested this:

http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001340.php

The Canon one was also thumbsupped bya friend except he says the memory sticks are stupid expensive and proprietary.

Thing is, I don't know enough ABOUT cameras to know what I'm looking for.
 
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Matthew Wills
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Legomancer wrote:
The Canon one was also thumbsupped bya friend except he says the memory sticks are stupid expensive and proprietary.


The memory stick comment was probably about the Sony rather than the Canon. Sony uses their own storage system - which is overpriced.
 
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Tim Franklin
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Legomancer wrote:

The Canon one was also thumbsupped bya friend except he says the memory sticks are stupid expensive and proprietary.


I've been very happy with my Canon Powershot A70, which I've had for a few years now, and it looks like the A540 is pretty much a refinement of the same.

It's very versatile - the 'auto' mode gets you good 'snaps' results from just pointing and pressing the button, and there's a variety of other modes giving you increasing levels of control over techie photography-type things.

Canon's 'Digic' technology - the image-processing gubbins that takes the light coming through the lens onto the sensor and spits a JPEG out the other end - seems to squeeze the most out of the raw megapixel capacity of the sensor. Certainly I'd say the quality of my 3.2mp shots is comparable to a number of other 5mp cameras I've seen.

Again, for proofing against future photography experience / needs, it's possible by way of an adaptor ring to attach telephoto or wide-angle lenses and standard 52mm filters. (Physically you can attach any standard lens, but I don't know well this meshes with the built-in ones). I have the telephoto lens to get me up to just over 7x optical zoom, and while it makes things very prone to shake, it's great for longer-distance wildlife photography.

Macro mode, at around 3-5cm focus, is very sharp.

The memory sticks are standard - my A70 takes CardFlash (CF), which I slightly prefer, the A540 takes Secure Digital (SD), which is to my mind smaller, fiddlier and less robust, but still not expensive or proprietary. (I'm sure that's Sony your friend is thinking of - everything Sony insists on Memory Stick Pro Duo Plus Variant-of-the-month).
 
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John Burt
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I prefer the Canons as well. My wife and I own an A85 and we are very happy with it. When I did my research one of the things I looked for was "ease of getting more memory", and the Canon has been great for that, and for taking pictures.
 
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Marc B.
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The Kodak uses standard SD cards for memory. It has 32M built in just in case you happen to forget to bring any memory for some reason (like leaving the card in the reader in your pc.
It has easy modes that auto focus, flash adjust etc. and also several modes that allow you to manually control all the functions.

Just another .02. to address some concerns.

arrrh
 
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Matthew Wills
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Xlyce wrote:
I prefer the Canons as well. My wife and I own an A85 and we are very happy with it. When I did my research one of the things I looked for was "ease of getting more memory", and the Canon has been great for that, and for taking pictures.


I own an Canon A80 - it is an amazing camera, even by today's standards.
 
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Jeff Yeackle
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This is pretty much the guide I use for my customers and family/friends:

Most major brands are fine, and in most cases aren't too different in what they offer. It boils down (in my opinion) to the following:

First, set yourself a budget. Then within that budget compare cameras and look for the following:

Look & Feel: Weight, where the buttons are located, etc. This is mostly a personal choice. Some people love tiny cameras, others prefer meatier ones.

Optical Zoom, NOT digital zoom. When it comes to digital zoom just pretend it doesn't exist. So a 12x (4x Opt, 8x Dig) zoom camera wouldn't be as nice as a 6x optical camera. This is if zoom is important. If you shoot mostly close items, 4x optical is fine. But the more the better of course.

Storage Media Max: How big of a memory card can the camera take. Some people buy a camera and then later find out it can't use for example a 1GB card (usually after they bought it).

Storage Media Type: Not really a major point. If you use a memory card already for something else, might not hurt to standardize. Some media though is more expensive and harder to find when on vacation so going with a more standard MiniSD, SD, Compact Flash, etc might be better than say the XD type Olympus uses.

Data Xfer: Can the camera sync to your computer without needing a card reader.

Connection Type: Does it use a standard 4pin or 5pin USB cable or something funky. Only matters if you lose/damage your cable and need a new one. If it uses a standard one, much easier (and cheaper) to replace.

Image quality: Most will be JPG these days, which is fine. But if you can find one that supports TIF, great. But only if you think you'll want the advantages of shooting a TIF vs. JPG. (usually, if you don't already know the difference, then it's probably a moot point).

MP: 3.2MP is great for normal sized photos. If you ever want to print larger photos, that is the only reason to go with a higher MP. MP is used as a bunk selling point many times (like processor GHz on a computer), because if you're not going to print a 6x10 picture there's really no point getting a 6MP camera (or larger). It's the other parts of the camera that really make it a good buy, not always the MP.

So, that's it (mind you I've had less than 100 hours of sleep over the last 3 weeks so I may have no clue what I'm even typing right now). The more you can pack into your budget the better. So if you *can* get a higher MP or optical zoom (even if you won't use it), then go for it. Hope this helps!
 
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Tim Franklin
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jyeackle wrote:

Data Xfer: Can the camera sync to your computer without needing a card reader.


This is a great way to burn camera batteries. I'd strongly advise a card reader, or a mains adaptor for uploads.
 
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Jeff Yeackle
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tim-pelican wrote:
jyeackle wrote:

Data Xfer: Can the camera sync to your computer without needing a card reader.


This is a great way to burn camera batteries. I'd strongly advise a card reader, or a mains adaptor for uploads.


That reminds me of another biggie: batteries. Get something you can put normal AA or AAA in. Nothing worse than having a funky battery type you need to track down, or worse, can only recharge through the camera.

Tim does bring up a good point. Data xfer through the camera will eat up battery life. How much depends on if you're using USB1.0 or 2.0. 2.0 it won't be a huge deal. If it's somehow only 1.0 still (doubt any new camera would have that though) then for sure get an external reader or a power block for the camera.
 
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Geoff Bohrer
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jyeackle wrote:

That reminds me of another biggie: batteries. Get something you can put normal AA or AAA in. Nothing worse than having a funky battery type you need to track down, or worse, can only recharge through the camera.


This is my number one criterion. Number two is a 10x OPTICAL zoom (more than that is wasted, unless you're going to work from a monopod or tripod), and number 3 is 3.2 MPx or higher.

If you're going to do any real "work" with it,I suggest something that takes interchangeable lenses and has a hot shoe; but for point & shoot, those are chrome.
 
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I own a Canon G3. It's several years old, but I'm completely happy with it. It takes great pictures. Canons are excellent cameras. You could probably save a few dollars and buy last years camera model, or you could keep checking sites such as http://www.fatwallet.com, http://www.techbargains.com, or http://www.pricewatch.com, for coupons or deals. It's amazing how fast they're going down, and you could probably save some cash for more games. You could also wait until January when the brick and mortar stores are liquidating their old stock, and get a clearance price on a good model. You could also buy your camera online from a non taxable jurisdiction out of state and save even more money. Amazon's $25 or more free shipping, or something similar, would be what to look for to save another $10 or $20. Good luck on getting your camera. I hope this helps.

Thanks
 
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Scott Alden
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I'm Canon to the core.

also, check out www.dpreview.com
 
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Scott M
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Yeah, like aldie said dpreview.com is a great resource. www.steves-digicams.com is another one. I recently picked up a Canon Powershot SD700 IS and have been more than happy with my choice.
 
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Dave Lartigue
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Thanks muchly for the advice everyone! I think I've decided on the Canon PowerShot A640.

Next question: What's a good reliable place to buy it from? I see it oonline some places for far less money but whenever I see that, my Spidey-Sense starts tingling.
 
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Jeff Yeackle
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bhphoto.com has always given me *excellent* service and no-hassle great prices (i.e. they don't try to get you to buy more items). Just order from their web site, sit back, and wait for you new little guy to arrive. If you find a lower price, just be cautious (gray market, used, bait-and-switch scam, etc).

I've also ordered from adorama.com which has similar prices but I haven't been as happy with their service (poor email alerts and sometimes sells items they don't have in stock).
 
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Scott M
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You have to go with a mix of reliability and price. There are sites that show best prices and customer reviews.

You can't beat B&H as for as reliability and they are usually decent on price too.

Jus be careful, alot of these places with too low to be good price will sell you a grey market camera, or send just the camera and not the other things that come with it. Mostly they try to upsell you on over priced accessories and if you don't go for it usually transfer you and have someone else tell you the camera is out of stock.
 
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Geoff Bohrer
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've done business with B&H twice and had good results both times.
 
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P. Al Williams
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Dave,

B&H Photo is likely the way to go if you feel they're compettitve in their pricing, which they usually are.

If you are curious about someone else, especially based on price, definitely check www.reselleratings.com before moving ahead.
 
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Dave Lartigue
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At the last minute I zagged and went with the Canon PowerShot SD630. Ordered from B&H. Thank you everyone!

Geekgold all around!
 
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