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November 24, 2006

DIGITAL CAMERA CARNIVAL, PART TWO: The stuff on these seems to be coming in faster than I can get around to posting it. Maybe I'll do a part three! Maybe not . . . . Here's a link to Part One in case you missed it.

Reader Kelaine Vargas emails:

With info from one of your earlier camera blogs, I bought the Sony DSC-T10 and am thrilled with it. I really wanted one that would fit in my jeans pocket--the images are great, and it has a lot of functional and actually useful options. It also uploads into Picasa on my Dell laptop very easily. But the coolest thing about it was the ingenious waterproof case you can buy for it. It might not take brilliant underwater pictures, but so far on a motorboat, on the beach and in a kayak, it has been indispensable--I've been the only one who could take pictures without worrying about getting wet or sandy!

Those are available for a lot of small digital cameras. So are more sophisticated cases for scuba photography, though I have always just rented underwater cameras myself. Reader Lee Earle emails:

My choice is the Pentax Optio T10. I picked it up overseas when my old Olympus gave up the ghost.

What sold me on it is that there are NO tiny selectors or dials. Everything but the on/off, shutter, and review is touch-screen - as with many video digicams.

For old folks like me, it is superbly easy to use. Tons of features and controls (most of them I'll never use) that are easily accessible via fingertip control. When reviewing shots at increased magnification, it even offers touch-&-drag' - much like Yahoo maps - to move the image within the 'window' to see additional areas and detail.

Sound, movies, and even note taking, right on the photo!

That is pretty cool. With more of the populace getting older and bifocalish, maybe one of my pet peeves regarding electronics -- tiny, low-contrast labels on switches and jacks -- will finally be addressed.

Reader Luke Holder sends this link and writes: "I am a Marine Corps officer, pursuing photography as an hobby, and have only recently started a blog to share my work. My post isn't so much about my camera as it is about my pictures ... but isn't a camera all about the pictures anyway?" Yes, it is.

Reader Kirk Parker writes: "I'm a film-camera old dog just looking at transitioning to digital. (How old? My favorite SLR is the all-mechanical Pentax KX.) I find the possibility of using 'old glass' on a digital camera very interesting. One thing that concerns me is the difference in image area between the digital sensor and the 24x36mm film size in 35mm. How does this translate to 'effective' focal length? I'd love hearing more from some of your readers like Trey Monroe on this subject." This depends on sensor size, but generally there's a significant stepup in effective focal length -- on my Nikon, for example, a 12mm lens is equivalent to an 18mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Reader Jim Martin notes that there are issues to mounting old Nikon lenses on Nikon digital SLR bodies, and sends a link to this report by Nikon blogger Thom Morgan: "The original F-mount appeared in 1959, and lenses that were produced from then until about 1979 are usually referred to as Pre-AI. These lenses are dangerous on current Nikon bodies. With the exception of a modified F5, mounting one of these lenses on your new Nikon will result in damage, so don't even try it. If you find that you have one of these lenses and want to use it on a current camera, you must have the lens converted to AI first. Nikon used to do this, but now it's done by a number of independent companies." There's a handy table of what works and what doesn't, too.

Martin also sends a link to these cool photos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

Here's more thinking on lenses from Alan Digman:

Completely agree with Trey Monroe regarding good glass. I, too, own a D50 DSLR (and have been an avid photographer for about 30 years). The difference between a kit lens and a higher quality 'faster' lens is nothing short of astonishing. While decent gear in general is important, I agree with Ken Rockwell that the most important thing with photography is the hands in which the camera rests. I can't say enough about Ken's excellent, practical advice.

Just remember...Shoot until you can shoot no more....That's the beauty of digital.

Yes, and shooting, and reviewing, lots of pictures will make you a better photographer. And Ken Rockwell is always full of good advice.

Reader James Goneaux writes that he'd really like this 160 megapixel camera, but that he thinks he'll spend the price on something else: "Like my son's college years. All of them."

Tom Grey has an interesting request:

Please advise on a digital camera with video AND with a setting for audio only recording -- so I can take a picture, or a short video, or a long recording without picture. Cameras with the Video, like my Canon Powershot A85, have everything technically there, except a switch to just record audio only. You've already noted how the microphones for video are often pretty good.

An audio recording camera would be excellent for little podcasts for Pajamas Media, possibly with a single still picture -- like so many news shows are now doing.

That would be a nice feature. Of course, most video editing programs -- and many audio editing programs -- will let you extract the audio from a video recording, but you're wasting memory if all you want is audio.

Paul Worthington has a post on wide-angle photography and digital cameras. He likes the Kodak V570 because it supports a wider field of view than most small digital cameras. It's also stylish and attractive.

Robert Finley has a bag-bleg: "I have a D70. I love it, for every reason you could conceivably love a camera. One thing I don't love, however, is my old cam bag that I'm using. It's a leftover from my film SLR. I would love input on a simple, durable bag that is appropriate for a very high activity level (hiking and stuff like that). I've dug around on the web, and have found little in the way of objective reviews."

Aaron Vienot writes to disagree with my preference for cameras that use AA batteries:

IMO, your preference for cameras that use commodity battery types (e.g. AA), brushes past two important points: cost (high) and battery life (low, in my experience).

My previous camera was a cheap 4MP fixed-lens that used two AAAs. A friend still has an older-but-nice 3MP that uses two AAs. Battery consumption rates in both cameras was/is phenomenal. I tried lithium AAAs (cost: about $2.50/cell) in my camera and the life expectancy maybe tripled as compared to alkalines, although the depletion mode was deceptive: the camera would report full battery power until about two minutes before the lithium cells were unusable.

That camera failed under warranty and I decided to trade up to a proper zoom lens. I chose a Casio Exilm EX-Z60. It has a huge LCD display, a 3X optical zoom, a 6MP resolution, and a 3.7V Li-Ion battery.

Several months later, I can report that the battery life is excellent. The battery recharges from AC in about two hours; the charging dock is compact enough to travel comfortably in a smaller camera case. A spare battery was also purchased for the camera. I have yet to be stranded, not even during an all-day Fourteener hike in the Colorado Rockies. The spare would have paid for itself in under a year, except that I got in on sale: it has already paid for itself. I want nothing more to do with cameras that require consumable batteries.

On the other hand, reader Pat Slattery emails:

Last night a friend's daughter's Sony digital camera battery caught fire on her dresser and started the room on fire. Fortunately, they extinguished the fire (which was spreading rapidly). This was a new battery she'd just received from Sony. Have you heard of this happening to anyone else, like the problem with the laptop batteries a few months ago? Apparently this thing didn't just smoke, it literally went up in flames large enough to ignite the pictures on the wall, etc. Her daughter's friend happened to be in the room when it ignited and said that it just suddenly started burning.

I searched google news for "sony digital camera battery fire" and didn't find any reports.

Over at DailyPundit, David Gillies posts a review of his Canon Powershot SD600.

Meanwhile, Lynne Kiesling likes her waterproof Pentax Optio W10.

And N.Z. Bear has a review, including photos of his new Canon SD800IS, which he likes a lot.

One interesting thing I've noticed is that people usually love their digital cameras. Part of this is because cameras -- especially digital cameras -- are cool, and they're a kind of creative partner in something we like. I think it's also because (as Lynne kind of notes) they keep getting better even faster than we expect.

Of course, Chester has a blog post that should be entitled "Who needs a digital camera when you've got a RAZR phone?"

And here's a lot of advice from a reader who says (s)he is well positioned to know:

If you use this please do so anonymously. Since I work for a major retailer, and I'm a bit sharp about some of our supplier's products, I'd rather not have my name attached to this one.

I run a photo lab for a major retailer, and see a lot of prints from a lot of cameras. On the side, I do the occasional wedding for a little extra spending money, using a Canon 20D. Because I'm such a camera freak, I keep a small point and shoot with me everywhere I go. Here's my thoughts on what I've seen in your first camera carnival post, and what I've seen on the market so far. YMMV, etc.

Prime lenses are nice, but Image Stabilized or Vibration Reduction zoom lenses are a lot more versatile. In the digital era, one shouldn't be changing lenses any more than necessary, as dust on the sensor is a pain to clean off. My favorite lenses are ones that start at about 28mm equivalent (for the smaller APS "C" class sensors most manufacturers seem to prefer) and end up at 300mm equivalent. Nikon has a nice 18-200mm VR, as do Sigma and Tamron. Canon, as usual, is playing catch up. If you're an enthusiast or a pro with specialized needs, buy primes. Otherwise, don't waste space and weight in your camera bag.

The best point and shoot camera on the market for image quality and versatility, bar none, is the Fuji F30. Yes, it tends to blow out highlights a bit in bright sunlight, nothing that can't be corrected with a -2/3 EV, easily accessible through the EV button the manufacturer thoughtfully provides on the camera body. But this beast really shines indoors, with an ISO range from 100-3200. At ISO 800, the F30 has less digital noise than most cameras at ISO 200. That makes all the difference in the world between getting the shot and not. As if that weren't nough, Fuji's iFlash system really does work wonders, rarely causing red eye, and providing far better illumination than any other camera in it's class. Add to that a 580 shot life for the battery (if you use flash half the time, which you really won't need to), a very sharp, distortion free lens, and you've got a winner.

So what if it's only 6MP? I've got news for the camera manufacturers: Pixel stuffing is killing the industry. There's not a compact or point and shoot camera over 8MP I'd dirty my hands with. I wouldn't even own them for a paperweight, they're that bad. Image quality for compacts peaked at 7MP, and went downhill from there. Too many pixels on the sensor means too little light at each pixel site, which means too much noise in the image.

DSLR's are getting cheaper all the time. At the moment, almost every major lens manufacter out there has a compatible digital body. Given that DSLR sensors are 5 or more times larger than compact camera sensors, the consumer can expect DSLR pictures to be as much as 5 times better, particularly in terms of digital noise.

So what should you buy? If you need a compact, buy something with no more than 8MP, preferably 7MP or less. You know my feelings for Fuji, but they're not the only good manufacturer out there. I bought a Canon A620 for my mother. The Canon A710IS has been very favorably reviewed. Nikon is usually very good, Kodak is easy to use, as is Pentax, and Casio definitely lives up to their motto, "The unexpected extra!". In a good way, I mean.

If you need an ultrazoom, the Fuji S6000FD is on my Christmas list, and almost all of the other manufacturers have decent offerings. The Canon S3IS, Sony H2, and Panasonic FZ7 spring to mind. The Nikon S10 is pretty nifty if you need a small camera in this class.

If you need a digital SLR, buy whatever body matches your lenses, or if you have no lenses, go to a camera shop and try out the different models. In fact, that's good advice, no matter what camera class you plan to purchase. But whatever you do, be skeptical of claims made by salespeople, particularly those who receive commissions.

Indeed.

Over at Brain Fertilizer an ode to the Lumix FZ10.

I'd hoped for more on printers, but over at The Online Photographer, a first look at the new HP 9180 printer -- which looks to be pretty cool indeed.

And, finally -- this came in just as I was posting here -- Brian Frye is photoblogging from Alaska. Lots of cool pix. That's what the cameras are for!