Photograghy News,Reviews

Monday, October 31, 2005

Canon PowerShot SD550

Cnet Reviews Canon PowerShot SD550 digital camera and says:

A slightly more expensive version of the PowerShot SD500, which remains in Canon's product lineup, the Canon PowerShot SD550 comes with a larger 2.5-inch LCD and a new finish. Like its sibling, it has an exterior design that combines form and function more elegantly than any point-and-shoot we've ever tested. A Digic II-powered image-processing system enables the PowerShot SD550 to snap a limitless stream of 7-megapixel photos at a respectable clip, its start-up time is tops in its class, and it delivers decent photos when compared to its competition.

Just to get it out there: as far as we're concerned, this should be the way point-and-shoot cameras look and feel for the foreseeable future. In other words, forget about Sony's form-over-function DSC-T1 and its many stylistic imitators. We love the Canon PowerShot SD550's external design; it's small without being unwieldy, feels solid without being heavy (the camera weighs 6.7 ounces with battery and media installed), and is, overall, a joy to hold and shoot. Though prone to the occasional scratch, its silver-metallic exterior is a marked aesthetic improvement over the more plastic-looking SD300 and SD400.

In practice, the SD550 is small enough to fit in your pants pocket without looking like you've sprouted a renegade thigh but substantial enough that you can shoot without worrying that your fingers will block the lens, the flash, or the optical viewfinder. And on that subject: After increasing the LCD to 2.5 inches, Canon had to shrink the optical viewfinder we liked so much in the SD500. Though small, it still gives you decent coverage, allowing you to see close to 90 percent of your shot. In a camera this size, that's an achievement--not to take anything away from the SD550's LCD screen, which is bright and clearly visible both indoors and out. In some cases, you'll have to zoom in a bit to ensure your picture doesn't blur, but otherwise, we didn't miss the larger screens found on some competing cameras.

All of the SD550's rear controls are located to the right of the LCD screen, well within the reach of your thumb. Canon made the intelligent decision to place the camera's four-way selector and function button at the center of its rear control area. The function menu itself remains largely unchanged, granting easy access to such settings as white balance, ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, image size, and compression level. There are also three separate rear buttons: one to toggle the LCD on and off, another to bring up the camera's setup menu, and a third to enable direct printer connectivity. The rear dial lets you choose from Review, Automatic Exposure, Manual Exposure, Scene, and Movie modes. The dial itself is responsive, and once we got used to the camera, it was easy to switch from mode to mode simply by remembering how many clicks it took to get from one to the other.

Here's an important question to ask yourself before you read any further: do you want your next digital camera to have manual features, such as shutter- and aperture-priority modes? If your answer is yes, then the Canon PowerShot SD550 is not the camera for you. The SD550's Digic II image-processing system is capable of some impressive things, but in this camera, control over your exposure settings is not one of them.

Now, you might not want or need to bother with manual photography, or you might already have a digital SLR in your photographic arsenal and are looking for a pocket snapshot camera for more discreet shooting. To the SD550's credit, though we're used to tweaking the exposure settings, after a while we didn't even notice that the SD500 lacked them. Admittedly, these weren't high-pressure artistic situations, and the camera is somewhat prone to blurring shots when your arms aren't perfectly still, but it's worth noting that, by and large, the SD550 managed to overcome our initial, manual-born skepticism.

The SD550 sports a 3X optical zoom lens with a 37mm-to-111mm (35mm equivalent) focal-length range. The 37mm widest-angle focal length is still somewhat narrow, though not uncommonly so for a pocket camera. The lens aperture can range from f/2.8 to f/4.9, but due to the camera's lack of manual controls, the aperture setting you get from shot to shot will be determined by the camera. There's no manual focus, which can be a problem if you're having trouble with blurred shots or want to have tighter control over your focus in the SD550's otherwise effective macro mode. Movie clips are available in VGA (640x480) resolutions at 30fps, with durations limited only by the capacity of your media. One novel feature offered by Digic II is the 320x240 video setting that captures clips at a brisk 60fps, useful for anyone who wants to take a frame-by-frame look at their golf or baseball swings.

A few largely superfluous shooting functions lie buried in the SD550's function menu. There's a Digital Macro mode--a digital zoom, really--for more closely composing your close-ups in-camera, as well as a My Colors mode that simulates a variety of color filters. There are also nine preset scene modes available on the Scene dial setting, ranging from such standards as Portrait and Indoor to more specialized choices as Underwater and Fireworks. The camera's maximum photo resolution comes in at 3,072x2,304, stepping all the way down to a Web-friendly 640x480; if you're looking for wider in-camera composition, it also offers a 1,600x1,200 Postcard setting.

Looking at the Canon PowerShot SD550's performance scores, it's clear that the company's Digic II processor has a lot to offer, though there's also room for improvement. The SD550 remains one of the champions of point-and-shoot-camera start-up time, going from power-on to first shot in a mere 1.6 seconds. The SD550 also posted some decent scores in the shutter-lag department, logging a delay of 0.7 second under optimal light and 0.8 second under dim conditions. With the flash disabled, shot-to-shot times averaged a little less than 2 seconds, placing it in the top third of compact snapshot cameras; enabling the flash slowed things down significantly, upping the time to a more middling 3.4 seconds. The camera's burst mode captured 10 full-resolution shots before flagging at a pace of 2fps, while dropping the resolution and upping the compression increased the number of shots we could snap to somewhere beyond 50 but slowed down to to 1.8fps.

The SD550's proprietary lithium-ion battery performed very well, giving the camera enough power to get through nearly 1,300 shots before it sputtered and died. There are six stops along the camera's 3X optical-zoom range; since there's no onscreen indicator of where you are along the continuum, you'll either have to guess or zoom all the way out to orient yourself. Zooming action is a bit noisy, but unless you're engaging in some serious covert ops, the sound won't impede the camera's overall functionality.

DCRP Review, Reviews Canon PowerShot SD550 digital camera and says:

With the PowerShot SD550 Digital ELPH, Canon has taken a great camera and made it even better. While current SD500 owners need not rush out and buy it, those of you looking for a compact and very capable point-and-shoot camera should take a close look at the SD550.

The PowerShot SD550 (also known as the IXUS 750) is a compact (but not tiny) and very stylish metal camera. Its perpetual curve design and large LCD display will catch the eyes of those around you. That large LCD display (2.5") is one of the new features on the camera, and while it's big in size, the resolution could be better. One nice thing about it is that it works very well in low light situations, unlike most screens. And, unlike most of the competition, Canon has managed to keep an optical viewfinder on the camera. The SD550 has a pretty standard 3X zoom lens, and it doesn't support any conversion lenses, nor would I expect it to.

The SD550 packs quite a few features in its compact body, though it's a bit short on manual controls (the only ones are for white balance and slow shutter speeds). On the front of the camera you'll find a very powerful flash and an AF-assist lamp, which gives the camera good low light focusing performance. Inside the camera you'll find a snappy and easy-to-use interface with features like "My Colors", which lets you swap or highlight colors, among other things. Other features included an unlimited continuous shooting mode and the ability to record movies at 640 x 480 at 30 frames/second. The only problem with the movie mode is that the 1GB file size limit is reached in just eight minutes -- perhaps it's time for Canon to consider another codec so movies can be longer?

Camera performance is excellent in almost all areas. The camera starts up quickly and shoots and plays back your photos almost instantly. Autofocus speeds aren't as fast as, say, the Panasonic FX9, but it's still good. The SD550 supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast transferring of photos to your Mac or PC. One area in which the camera falls short is in terms of battery life: while it's not terrible, the SD550 is quickly being passed by the competition.

Photo quality is very good on the SD550. Images are sharp, with accurate color and low purple fringing. Noise levels are a bit above average (given that this is a 7 Megapixel camera with a tiny sensor) and can be quite nasty at high ISOs. As is the case with most cameras, redeye is a problem on the SD550.

There really isn't much else to complain about. About the only thing I can come up with is the fact that you can't swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod. Overall though, the SD550 is a heck of a compact point-and-shoot, and it gets my recommendation.

What I liked:

* Excellent photo quality (though see issues below)
* Compact and very stylish metal body
* Large 2.5" LCD display (though see issues below)
* Blazing performance
* Powerful flash for a compact camera
* Very good movie and continuous shooting modes
* Unique My Colors feature
* LCD visible in low light (and it's about time)
* AF-assist lamp; good low light focusing
* USB 2.0 High Speed support
* Optional underwater case and external slave flash

What I didn't care for:

* Some corner softness; noisy images at high ISO settings
* Redeye is a problem
* LCD resolution on the low side
* Can only record about 8 minutes of VGA video due to 1GB file size limit
* Battery life could be better
* Can't swap memory cards while camera is on a tripod
* More manual controls would be nice

Some other cameras in this class worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SD450 (thinner, 5MP version of the SD550), Casio Exilim EZ-Z750, Fuji FinePix F10 and Z1, HP Photosmart R817, Kodak EasyShare V550, Konica Minolta DiMAGE X1, NIkon Coolpix S3, Olympus Stylus 600 and 800, Pentax Optio S6, Samsung Digimax i5, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T5.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the PowerShot SD550 and its competitors before you buy!

Fuji FinePix S9000

DCRP Reviews Fuji FinePix S9000 and says:

The Fuji FinePix S9000 ($699) is a full-featured, high resolution ultra zoom 9 Megapixel camera. The S9000 (also known as the S9500) uses Fuji's 5th generation SuperCCD sensor, with the most noticeable change since the previous generation sensor being the lack of an interpolated mode. The sensor is nine Megapixel and so are the resulting images. (For the technically included, the sensor still does interpolate to a higher resolution before downsizing to your selected size.)

The S9000 uses Fuji's Real Photo Technology which allows for lower noise at high ISOs than comparable cameras, fast performance, and good battery life. Fuji says that the camera's good high ISO performance allows the S9000 to take sharp pictures without the need for image stabilization (we'll see how well it performs in a bit).

The other big feature on the S9000 is its 10.7X zoom lens. While most ultra zoom lenses are 38 - 380 mm (or similar), the S9000's lens starts at 28 mm for some good wide-angle action.

There's much more to talk about, so let's just move into the review now.

What's in the Box?

The FinePix S9000 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

* The 9.0 effective Megapixel FinePix S9000 camera
* 16MB xD Picture Card
* Four AA alkaline batteries
* Lens cap w/retaining strap
* Lens hood
* Shoulder strap
* A/V cable
* USB cable
* CD-ROM featuring FinePix CX software
* 143 page camera manual (printed)

The S9000 comes with a tiny 16MB xD Picture Card, which holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. That makes a larger memory card a requirement, and I'd suggest 512MB or even 1GB as good starter sizes. One of the nice features of the S9000 is its dual memory card slots, support both xD and CompactFlash cards. The CF slot supports Type II cards, including the Microdrive. Since CompactFlash cards are cheaper and generally faster than xD cards, I'd recommend sticking with those. The S9000 takes advantage of high speed CompactFlash cards, and probably the "M-type" fast xD cards as well.

Something else you're going to be needing are some rechargeable batteries and a charger, since the camera doesn't come with either (kind of disappointing given the price of the camera). Instead you'll get four alkaline AAs, which will die after about 140 photos. For better battery life pick up two sets of NiMH batteries, 2300 mAh or better. Here's how the S9000 compares to some other cameras in its class when you've got good batteries in it:

With the most powerful NiMH batteries installed the S9000 performs pretty well, though not quite as good as the D-SLRs.

I am a big fan of cameras that use AA batteries. For one, NiMH batteries cost way less than their proprietary counterparts. Second, if your rechargeables die you can always buy some alkalines to get you through the day.

The FinePix S9000 has an impressive 10.7X optical zoom lens. Where most ultra zooms start at 36 or even 38 mm, the S9000's lens starts at 28 mm, so you get wide-angle capability without the need for conversion lenses. The exact focal range of the lens is 6.2 - 66.7 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 300 mm. The lens is threaded for 58 mm filters.

The lens isn't quite as "fast" (in terms of aperture) as some of the competition, though: the maximum aperture is F2.8 - F4.9. The Canon PowerShot S2 (F2.7-3.5), Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 (F2.8-3.7), and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H1 (F2.8-3.7) all have faster lenses. What this means in real world is that near the telephoto end of the lens those other lenses let in more light, which allows for faster shutter speeds, and thus less camera shake.

One thing you won't find on the S9000 is an optical image stabilization system. Instead, Fuji is relying on their Real Photo Technology (which boosts the ISO sensitivity and therefore the shutter speed) to keep images sharp. We'll see how well it works later in the review.

Directly above the lens is the camera's pop-up flash. The flash, which is released manually, has a decent working range of 0.3 - 5.6 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 3.0 m at telephoto (at Auto ISO). If you need more flash power then you can take advantage of the hot shoe on the top of the camera or the flash sync terminal that's to the lower-left of the lens. Just remove the plastic cover, plug in your flash via a PC sync cable, and you're set.

To the upper-left of the lens are two components of the S9000's autofocus system. The round thing is the AF-assist lamp (which doubles as the self-timer countdown light), while the item to the left is the external AF sensor. The external AF sensor helps the camera focus quickly in all situations, and when it's dark the AF-assist lamp kicks in for some additional help.

Dp Review Reviews Fuji FinePix S9000 and says:

Fujifilm today announces the launch of the FinePix S9000 Zoom, a new model that marks the point where compact digital cameras and digital SLRs meet. Aimed at amateur and enthusiast photographers, the FinePix S9000 Zoom features resolution good enough to challenge entry-level digital SLRs. It combines this with a range of features that enable a level of photographic flexibility more often associated with compact digital cameras.

The FinePix S9000 Zoom features Fujifilm’s brand new 5th generation Super CCD sensor, and offers an image size of nine megapixels. Recognising that image quality is determined by more than just pixel count, the inclusion of Fujifilm’s Real Photo Technology gives the FinePix S9000 Zoom a true advantage. It has a class-leading sensitivity range of ISO 80 - ISO 1600, which reduces the need for reliance on image stabilisation. The ISO range means that sharp, focused images can be achieved in all light conditions – from bright sunny days to night-time shots – without the use of a flash. Fast shutter speeds not only lessen the effect of blurring from camera shake, but subject movement, too.

The camera incorporates a 28-300mm (equivalent on a 35mm camera) Fujinon zoom lens with twist-barrel zoom control. This is a zoom range that encompasses all the major focal lengths, and the manual zoom control enables the photographer to make precision adjustments. Furthermore, because the lens and body on the FinePix S9000 Zoom are built as a closed unit, it eliminates the possibility of dust on the lens and CCD – a serious problem when removing lenses on a digital SLR.

A new tilting LCD screen on the camera means that it is possible to view images at awkward angles, such as close to the ground or above the head. Unlike digital SLRs, the LCD can also be used to compose images, which means even more convenience for the photographer.

In addition, the camera features a 30-frames-per-second movie mode with manual zoom capability, giving high quality moving images with sound – a function that cannot be integrated into traditional digital SLRs due to the physical design of the cameras.

With a 0.8 second start-up time, and just 0.01 second shutter lag, the FinePix S9000 Zoom will give users a near-instant response so that spontaneous shots and unexpected action need never be missed. The camera also incorporates RAW mode, for uncompressed and unprocessed image quality. A hotshoe attachment and PC sync terminal for external flash make it a camera that’s as happy in the studio as it is out and about.

FinePix S9000 Zoom features at a glance:

  • New Fujifilm Super CCD sensor with 9.0 million effective pixels
  • New 28-300mm (10.7x) Fujinon zoom lens with manual twist-barrel zoom control
  • Class-leading sensitivity setting of ISO 1600 for photography in low light conditions
  • Low sensitivity of ISO 80 for ultra-high quality photography
  • 1.8” tilting LCD screen for easy high and low angle shooting
  • Ultra-fast response times (0.01 second shutter lag and 0.8 second start-up)
  • Real-time histogram to assist exposure settings before shooting
  • Highlight Warning feature for displaying highlight areas in playback
  • VGA movie capture of 30 frames per second with zoom capability and sound
  • Closed unit design to eliminate dust accumulation on the CCD
  • Hotshoe and PC sync terminal
  • RAW format shooting for uncompressed and unprocessed images
  • xD-Picture Card™ providing large storage capacity, lower power consumption and fast write speeds (16MB to 1GB capacities currently available)

Adrian Clarke, Director of Photo Products, Fujifilm, said, “Enthusiast photographers are drawn towards digital SLRs because of the image quality they offer. Certainly, a digital SLR is the definitive tool for professional photographers wishing to take stills photography. However, as DSLRs are specialist cameras, they inevitably offer less flexibility when it comes to everyday photography. We’ve introduced the FinePix S9000 Zoom to add a credible alternative for consumers considering an entry-level DSLR.

“Photography enthusiasts will be delighted by the image quality produced by the new Fujifilm-designed sensor and the 10.7x zoom capability. Usually, with an optical range like this, you’d also be dealing with detachable lenses and the problem of dust, which is incredibly tricky to deal with. The FinePix S9000 Zoom’s closed unit eliminates this problem.

“At the same time, the camera offers a freedom of functions more usually associated with a compact digital camera, such as a tilting LCD screen that can be used to compose images, and a high quality movie mode. Our aim was to design a camera that gives the best of both worlds, and the S9000 Zoom truly delivers.”

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Canon Powershot A80 Digital Camera

Cnet Reviews Canon Powershot A80 Digital Camera and says:

Though it's not the cheapest of Canon's A-series PowerShot models, the 4-megapixel A80 delivers the best combination of features, image quality, performance, and price that we've seen in any recent camera. The A80 improves on the A70 in almost every way while maintaining a great balance between snapshot ease and room-to-grow sophistication. Just don't let the myriad options scare you away.

Though it's shaped the same as its lower-resolution brothers, the PowerShot A60 and A70, the A80 adds to its allure with a couple of design improvements: the flip-out LCD and two options for custom settings accessible via the mode dial. The plastic body, which comes in two-tone champagne, weighs 12.8 ounces with a CompactFlash card and four nickel-metal-hydride AA batteries. Though the camera is no lightweight, it feels solid and well made.

The A80 offers an expansive feature set for the money. This 4-megapixel camera covers a reasonable 3X zoom range of 38mm to 114mm (the 35mm-film equivalent), and you can broaden your scope with optional lens adapters. The ISO setting can go as low as 50 (better than usual for a low-priced model) and as high as 400, but the f/2.8 maximum aperture is just average.

Across the board, the A80 delivers better than average performance. It's ready to shoot within 4 seconds of powering on, and shot-to-shot time is typically about 2 seconds. That increases to a mere 2.7 seconds with the flash. This speed is partly due to the relatively short--though perceptible--shutter lag, which lies somewhere between 1 and 1.5 seconds, depending upon scene illumination and contrast. The memory buffer isn't large enough for stellar continuous shooting, but aside from the space on the CompactFlash card, nothing limits the number of photos the A80 can snap. We clocked the camera cantering along at rates between 1.3 and 1.9 frames per second.

We can't complain about the A80's photos. They were well exposed, had pleasantly saturated colors, and displayed little noise at ISO 50 and 100. Automatic white balance returned bad results under indoor lights, as is typical with Canon's digital cameras, but otherwise, the white balance worked relatively well. The A80's propensity to blow out highlights became a nuisance when we were taking test shots in the midday sun, but the tonal range through the shadows and the midtones was excellent.

DC Recource Reviews Canon Powershot A80 Digital Camera and says:

The PowerShot A80 has a good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 (effective) Mpixel Canon PowerShot A80 camera
  • 32MB CompactFlash card
  • Four AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and ArcSoft Camera Suite
  • 215 page camera manual + add'l software manual (both printed)

Canon includes a 32MB CompactFlash card with the camera, a g

ood starting point. Even so, you'll definitely want a larger card right away. You can use any Type I CompactFlash card (I recommend sticking with name brands), which are available in capacities of up to 1GB.

Something else you'll want to buy is a set of batteries and a fast charger, since Canon includes alkaline batteries in the box. I highly recommend buying at least two sets (of four) NiMH rechargeables, 2000 mAh or better. Canon estimates that you'll be able to take 675 pictures (with 50% LCD use), or spend 280 minutes in playback using their 1600 mAh rechargeable batteries, so you'll do even better than that with higher capacity cells. Either way, the battery life on the A80 is quite good. And, if you're ever in a jam, you can always pop in alkaline batteries to get through the day.

Steves Digicams Reviews Canon Powershot A80 Digital Camera and says:

Canon's rugged four-megapixel PowerShot A80 Digital Camera combines brilliant image quality, crisp Canon optics, and advanced features including a 3X optical zoom and a Vari-Angle LCD Monitor in an affordable and easy-to-use package. The PowerShot A80 is the new flagship of the PowerShot A-series line-up, which also includes the A60, A70, and A300. The A80 is the first PowerShot "A" series camera to support PictBridge*, the new standard for high-quality direct printing.

Housed in a compact metal body, the PowerShot A80 digital camera is solidly built yet light weight at 8.8 ounces. The camera features a 1/1.8 inch, 4.0 megapixel CCD sensor that captures images up to 2272 x 1704 pixels with exceptional detail and color fidelity. Canon's exclusive DIGIC processor improves image quality and increases camera responsiveness and image processing speeds compared to general purpose CPUs found in other comparable digital cameras.

Canon's proprietary image processor, called DIGIC, was developed specifically for use with its line of digital cameras and combines the jobs of image processing and camera function control into one chip. It handles nearly every digital camera function including JPEG compression/expansion; memory card control; LCD/Video control and processing; gain control (control of CCD signal amplification); Auto Exposure; Auto Focus; Auto White Balance control and most other functions of the camera. The result is a camera that offers faster and more powerful AF, faster image processing, longer battery life, and the ability to record 3 minutes of 320x240 or 160x120 resolution full motion video with sound.

Over the past 68 years, Canon has accumulated a vast amount of photographic data and know-how and used it to create some of the most innovative camera products in the marketplace. Now, using that same data and know-how, Canon has developed an exclusive technology called iSAPS (Intelligent Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space) that can predict certain camera settings such as focusing distance, exposure and optimum white balance based on zoom focal length, overall light level and tonal distribution data. Canon refers to this collective data as "Photographic Space." By incorporating iSAPS technology into its PowerShot line, the cameras can analyze a scene just before the image is made and in doing so, increase the speed and precision of the camera's autofocus, auto exposure and auto white balance.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Olympus EVOLT E-500

Steve Digicams Reviews Olympus EVOLT E-500 and writes:

The Olympus EVOLT E-500 is a full-featured, 8-megapixel digital SLR camera that was designed to be used easily by photographers of any skill level. The E-500 is compact (approx. 5 x 3.7 x 2.6 inches), lightweight (15.3 oz.), durable and packed with Olympus innovations like an exclusive Dust Reduction System for spot-free photos, a TruePic TURBO Image Processor for fast response time, and a large 2.5-inch HyperCrystal LCD. Compatible with a wide range of Olympus Zuiko Digital Specific Lenses, the E-500 delivers the versatility and power that are the hallmarks of a performance SLR, but at an affordable $799USD price.

The E-500 uses a high-performance KODAK KAF-8300CE CCD imager for an impressive 8 million pixels of detail. With this amount of resolution photographers have the flexibility to make large prints with today's wide-carriage printers, or crop into an image to print only the part that is important to them. Moreover, the E-500's image sensor delivers improved dynamic range, low noise to capture fine image details in the highlight and shadow areas, as well as excellent color fidelity for brilliant colors. Additionally the anti-blooming technology on each pixel and the exclusive Olympus TruePic TURBO Image Processor helps to eliminate undesirable artifacts, stepping or jaggies, purple fringing or moiré in an image.

The E-500 has a big and bright 2.5-inch HyperCrystal LCD that offers many times the contrast of conventional LCD monitors, so captured images can be beautifully displayed in vivid color on the screen with exceptional clarity. Because photos are for sharing, this LCD features a wide, 160° viewing angle on the vertical and horizontal axis, ensuring excellent visibility and beautiful image quality even when everyone huddles around the camera to see what you’ve created. The larger LCD also means the icons and text on the camera’s menu display are enlarged for easier viewing.

The versatility of the Olympus E-System comes from delivering the largest selection of “Designed-for-Digital” lenses –more than any other manufacturer to date. Most other digital SLR cameras still use many traditional 35mm film lenses on digital bodies. But since those lenses are based on designs for film and not for pixels, they deliver insufficient light at the edges of a digital camera’s image sensor. This can result in reduced sharpness and color definition, particularly when shooting with large apertures and wide-angle lenses. The E-500 does not have this problem, because it accommodates the full line of interchangeable Zuiko Digital Lenses. The E-500 outfit includes a compact, Zuiko Digital 14 – 45mm Zoom Lens (equivalent to 28mm – 90mm in 35mm photography). Its 3.2x zoom covers the range most frequently used in ordinary photography and weighs just 10 ounces (285 grams) offering users an extremely dynamic, portable everyday-use zoom. Close-ups as near as 15 inches (38cm) are possible throughout the zoom range.

Everybody can shoot like a pro with the E-500. Select from one of the 25 Exposure Modes (Easy, Basic and Creative) that make it easy to get the results you want. The 15 pre-programmed Scene Select modes to achieve the optimal results for: Night Scenes, Fireworks, Sunsets, Beach and Snow, Children, Landscape, and more. Every Scene Select mode provides a sample image and a description of what is happening to achieve the desired result. For example, choosing the Landscape setting reveals a sample of a landscape photo, and a text description of what the mode is displayed on the large, easy-to-read 2.5-inch LCD. The Creative Modes allow users to take more control of the E-500 for the ultimate in artistic expression. For example, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual Modes allow users to tweak all of the camera’s settings just the way they want for any situation at hand.

Transferring images to the computer is easy with the Auto-Connect USB, software drivers aren't required (for most computers/operating systems). Images may also be viewed on a television using the video cable. When it comes time to print images just connects the camera's USB cable to any PictBridge-enabled printer, no need for a computer. The Olympus P-11 Digital Photo Printer is a perfect match for the E-500. Simply select the images displayed on the camera’s LCD, press a button and the finished print is in your hand in under a minute.

Dpreviews review Olympus EVOLT E-500 and says:

Classic Design

The Olympus E-500 has been designed with the user in mind. This means menus that make sense and buttons on the body that are easy to understand and operate, adding automatic settings for every imaginable situation and making the LCD big and bright enough so users can easily review all their shots.

A traditional penta-prism shape gives the camera an authentic and professional look and feel, the user-friendly controls and functions are easy to operate and the handgrip has been positioned so that the camera can easily be kept stable when shooting. The E-500 is ideal for numerous photographic situations, from capturing landscape vistas whilst mountaineering to documenting a city’s hustle and bustle.

Direct Button operation enables E-500 users to get to the settings they want without wading through endless menus or pushing arrow buttons excessively. Instead, most custom settings can be set by pressing one of the cameras eight direct key buttons for White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, Flash Mode, Metering Mode, Auto Focus Mode, Auto Focus Frame and Recording Mode, and then turning a dial by thumb to customise the setting as desired. All settings are viewable at once on the camera’s control panel displayed on the LCD.

Skills Development

The E-500 includes 21 pre-defined scene modes, ranging from landscape to sunset to portrait, meaning it can be picked up and used straight away. However, as a photographer’s skills develop, the manual controls come into their own, enabling experimentation only limited by the photographer’s imagination. P/A/S/M modes come as standard.

To radically improve the metering capability a new 49 area AE sensor providing accurate exposure values for ESP metering is included. This uses a newly-developed evaluation algorithm. Conventional centre-weighted average and spot metering, high light and shadow basis spot metering and AE Lock functioning are also available too making the E-500 the ideal choice for any ambitious amateur or creative semi-pro wishing to develop their individual technique and style over time.

Image Quality

The E-500 provides outstanding image quality. An eight megapixel, Full Frame Transfer CCD offers a larger pixel area than an ordinary Interline Transfer CCD and as a result delivers images with a greater exposure latitude, more detail and less noise.

Dust is all around us and when swapping a lens on a digital single-lens reflex camera there’s a chance that a camera’s electro-statically charged image sensor will attract micro dust that can ruin photos. Olympus has developed a way for photographers to enjoy the freedom of using all the lenses of the Olympus E-System in the most challenging, dusty environments without compromising image quality. Every time the camera is turned on Olympus’ Supersonic Wave Filter, a patented ultrasonic technology that shakes at 35,000 vibrations a second to remove dust from in front of the camera sensor is activated. The spot-free photos that are produced liberate users from hours spent retouching photographs at the computer.

The camera is also equipped with a noise filter that can be turned on and off, as the photographer desires to minimise image noise at high ISO values.

Powerful Processor

The E-500 incorporates Olympus’ TruePic TURBO image processor to ensure images pack a punch with lifelike colour, resolution and contrast. TruePic TURBO also adds speed to picture taking. For fast burst rates, the processor uses the dedicated 64MB image buffer for up to 4 TIFF or RAW images at 2.5 frames-per-second. However, when using HQ JPEG images and extreme speed Compact Flash cards the number of frames a user is able to take is only lmited by the card size. For example, when using a SanDisk Extreme III CF card the camera can take around 4 minutes of continuous photography at 2 frames per second ! To further enhance the camera’s capabilities, two memory card slots, one for a CompactFlash and another for an xD memory card, are included.

Viewing The Results

Results can be viewed on the E-500’s 2½ inch, 215,250 pixel HyperCrystal LCD screen that offers many times the contrast of conventional LCD monitors. Views of recorded shots can be enlarged up to 14x to facilitate easy reviewing and the LCD also doubles as the camera’s easy-to-read status panel, giving clear and detailed information of the current settings in use.

Four Thirds

As the only completely digital system, based on the TIPA Award winning Four Thirds Standard, the Olympus E-System series of camera bodies, interchangeable lenses, external flash systems and other accessories provides professionals and serious amateurs alike with the excellence they demand. The new Olympus E-500 offers an affordable entry into the exciting world of SLR photography.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30

Design Technica Reviews Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 and says:

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 is available in black or silver finish; I much prefer the black since it gives a heavy D-SLR vibe. When you snap on the lens hood, only the savviest photographers will know any different. However, I’d put the shade on once to admire the view then return it to the box since you’ll run into vignetting problems when using the flash. The camera does have a very clean look with a minimum amount of keys and dials.

Once the battery was charged and a high-speed 1GB SanDisk Extreme III card was loaded it was time to set up the camera. Even though the camera has only a 2-inch LCD, quality is so good, it’s a breeze to read (the Sony DSC-H1 has a 2.5-incher). Setting the date and time was simple with the four-way controller. It doesn’t have a “set” or enter key so making adjustments was a bit different than other digicams but it’s not really a big deal. As noted, the camera has a RAW option (as well as TIFF and JPEG). We set the camera to RAW and immediately saw why a 1GB card is critical since it holds approximately 40 images compared to 200-plus JPEGs at best compression (3264 x 2448 pixels). And definitely opt for high-speed to help save the huge files and to get the best video quality (640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps).

After some time in the field, it was time to view the results onscreen and to make some 8.5x11 prints. It was at this time that the DMC-FZ30 versus an 8MP or even a 6MP D-SLR contest came to a screeching halt (the D-SLRs win hands down). Making full bleed prints with no editing or enhancements the amount of noise was very high, so much so that was a bit disconcerting particularly at 200 and 400. There was some purple fringing too but nothing as bothersome as the noise. At 80 and 100 photos were good but not spectacular. Having just shot with a 6MP Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D D-SLR with excellent results, the comparison was all the more jarring. The highly lauded 6MP FujiFilm FinePix F10 for $399 handled noise, much, much better with an ISO reaching 1600. Sure I could make smaller prints but that defeats the purpose of an 8MP camera. I also could spend time with Adobe Photoshop CS2 cleaning up the RAW files but that adds $500 to the total cost, not an insignificant sum in anyone’s universe. On the plus side, the flash was quite good and accurate thanks to the AF Assist lamp (don’t bother with the supplied sunshade). Videos were VHS level and you can use the zoom while recording clips. Again, these are O.K. for short movies but definitely not a replacement for a MiniDV camcorder.

With a camera that had so much going for it—a great 12x Leica lens, optical image stabilization and 8MP resolution—the Lumix DMC-FZ30 should have rung the bell. It didn’t. The price is right too: it costs around $600. By comparison an 8MP D-SLR like the Canon Digital Rebel XT is $800 for the body and an image stabilized 100-400mm zoom would set you back another $1,400! Unfortunately, digital noise is a problem at higher ISOs. Bummer. If tweaking RAW files in PhotoShop CS2 is your style, then this camera is worth a long look. Other shoppers should consider mega zoom cameras from other companies, even though there is no direct competitor.


  • Terrific zoom range
  • Built-in optical image stabilization (2 modes)
  • Great feel with zoom and manual focus
  • Excellent menus
  • High-quality 2-inch LCD screen and EVF


  • Very noisy above 100 ISO
  • No USB Hi-Speed connection
  • Supplied software lacks RAW conversion

Monday, October 24, 2005

Canon PowerShot A620 Digital Camera Review

Canon PowerShot A620 is a low cost/high performance Canon digital camera as Canon says:

"We regard the PowerShot A620 and PowerShot A610 as mini-G cameras – offering G-series performance, but retaining an A-series price," said Mogens Jensen, Head of Canon Consumer Imaging Europe. " With an impressive range of high-end features, these cameras offer photography enthusiasts advanced control and flexibility."

The addition of Canon’s advanced DIGIC II image processor results in faster and more responsive cameras that deliver improved image quality. Focusing time has been cut by around 60%, and shutter lag is negligible at no more than 0.1 seconds. Smooth continuous shooting is now available at approximately 1.9 fps (A620) and approximately 2.4 fps (A610). With DIGIC II’s superior assessment of white balance, colour rendition accuracy is increased.

Cnet Reviews Canon PowerShot A620 Digital Camera and Says:

From the front, other than its battleship-grey body (in contrast with the A95's silver styling), it's unlikely you'll see much difference between the Canon PowerShot A620 and its predecessor. It's about the same size and weight (11.5 with four AA batteries and SD card) and has a nice-size handgrip, which means that those with larger hands will find it more comfortable to hold than the many ultracompact models on the market today.

However, the vari-angle LCD now measures 2 inches, and because of its increased size, Canon has moved some of its buttons. A small mode switch sits horizontally to the upper right of the LCD, so toggling between playback and capture takes little effort. Below, four control buttons surround the four-way controller. One does multiple duties by deleting images during playback, adjusting exposure compensation, and in full manual mode, jumping between aperture and shutter-speed settings. A display button cycles through three LCD options: off, no information, and full information. The Canon PowerShot A620 also has a Menu button and a Print/Share button for transferring images to a computer or a compatible printer.

The Canon PowerShot A620 digital camera has it all: full manual exposure controls; auto, program and scene modes for snapshooting; and a high-quality video mode -- there's something for every photographer and every shooting situation. You can even choose a shooting mode that fits your mood. After all, some days you might just want to point and shoot; other days, you might feel more enthused about manual controls.

While you won't find as many advanced features as on some more sophisticated cameras, the Canon PowerShot A620 digital camera provides enough to keep most control-happy photographers satisfied. They include manual white balance, low sharpening, sepia and black-and-white effects, three metering options and settings for vivid and neutral colour.

We particularly like two features: the camera's Flexizone focusing option and the ability to layer a grid over the LCD to line up horizons and other straight edges. The Flexizone option lets you manually move the focus point so that your off-centre subjects come out sharp. Another helpful feature is Safety Shift, which functions in aperture-priority or shutter mode and selects the proper aperture or shutter-speed setting if your choice doesn't quite work out. For instance, if your selected shutter speed requires an aperture wider than the PowerShot A620 can produce, the camera compensates to prevent an underexposed shot. You can also save your settings so that you don't have to dig around the setup menu to prevent the camera from resetting everything when it powers down.

The addition of Canon's Digic II processor kicks the Canon PowerShot A620 up a notch or two from the PowerShot A95, but it's still not the fastest camera on the block. That said, it generally performed well in our tests, with a time to first shot of less than 2 seconds and a shot-to-shot time of about 1.8 seconds. Not surprisingly, using the flash slowed things down, and we had to wait about 3 seconds for the flash to recycle.

At about 1.8fps, the Canon PowerShot A620's continuous-shooting speed at high resolution was faster than the A95's; and even after 60 shots, the camera kept on taking pictures. Low-resolution continuous-shooting speed was down only a fraction of a second from the PowerShot A95's, coming in at 2fps. Again, the A620 seemed to set no limit on the number of images it would capture, but we stopped after 50.

Canon PowerShot A620 Digital Camera Specifications

• 1/1.8" Type CCD
• 7.1 million effective pixels

Movie clips
• 640 x 480, 30/15 fps
• 320 x 240, 60/30/15 fps
• 160 x 120, 15 fps

• 4x optical zoom

LCD monitor
• 2.0 " TFT LCD
• 115,000 pixels

• USB 2.0 Hi-speed (mini-B, PTP)
• A/V out

• SD / MMC card
• 32 MB SD card supplied

Weight (no batt) 2
235 g (8.3 oz)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sony Cyber-shot® DSC-N1 Digital Camera

Sony’s DSC-N1 opens a new world of shooting and sharing, with 8.1 megapixel performance and internal memory that holds up to 500 VGA images for pocket album viewing anywhere, anytime. A huge 3.0"1 LCD Monitor with Clear Photo LCD Plus technology provides touch-screen convenience for controlling camera functions and searching thumbnail images -- and Free Spot AF lets you focus on a subject by just touching it on screen. Also features Slide Show capability, Carl Zeiss® 3X Optical/6X Digital zoom, 26 MB2 internal memory for capturing images in-camera, and high-stamina Lithium Ion rechargeable battery.

• Carry Hundreds of VGA Images in Your Pocket
The DSC-N1 combines compact design, 8.1 megapixel performance and pocket album function for sharing an entire collection of digital photos with family, friends, clients and co-workers.

• 8.1 Megapixel Super HAD™ CCD
Over 8 million pixels provide incredible high-resolution detail and definition -- and Sony’s advanced 1/1.8” Super HAD (Hole Accumulated Diode) CCD design allows more light to pass to each pixel, increasing sensitivity and reducing noise.

• Carl Zeiss® 3X Optical/6X Digital Zoom
3X Optical Zoom helps the DSC-N1 bring distant subjects closer and lets you frame shots for better composition; Sony’s precision 6X Digital Zoom lets you enlarge image areas without jagged edges.

• High-Capacity Internal Memory
You can store and share up to 500 photo images at VGA resolution -- and images can be viewed as thumbnails so you can easily search your photo archive by date/year.

• Slide Show with Music
The DSC-N1 lets you combine images in Slide Show sequence, adding any of 4 transition effects (simple, nostalgic, stylish or active) plus 4 kinds of background music -- or viewing your Slide Show without music.

• Huge 3.0”1 LCD Monitor
A monitor big enough to make all your images come alive, with convenient touch-screen operation of camera functions as well as thumbnail image viewing for searching and editing photos. Sony’s Clear Photo LCD Plus design reduces reflection from the LCD surface for excellent visibility outdoors -- and wide-angle viewing makes it easy to sharing images with a group of friends or family.

• Touch-Screen “Paint” Function
You can easily stamp information and trace letters or drawings over your photo images using the stylus supplied with the DSC-N1 -- and your decorated images will be saved in VGA format without affecting your original photos.

• Free Spot AF
In addition to normal autofocus mode, the DSC-N1 lets you focus on a subject by just touching it on your LCD monitor -- a fast and simple way to adjust focus for complex scenes or moving subjects.

• 26 MB2 Internal Memory
You can capture images in-camera, without using a flash memory card -- or use optional Memory Stick Duo™ media for ultra-compact, high-capacity shooting and recording.

• Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery
A high-stamina NP-BG1 Lithium Ion battery lets the DSC-N1 shoot up to 300 images, giving you plenty of power when traveling or shooting on location.

• Quick Hookup to PC and TV
The optional UC-TNA Cyber-shot Station™ cradle provides USB connector for PC hookup and TV connector for viewing images on large screens -- so when your DSC-N1 comes home, hookup can be quick and simple.


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