Saturday 24 August 2002

My kingdom for a 2-megapixel miniature camera

My search for a small, fast (i.e. minimal shutter lag) digital camera continues. I went to the city to buy Mocha Coffee Tim Tams and check out the Casio EX-S1 which, contrary to my expectations, was very comfortable to use (given that it’s hardly bigger than a credit card).

Minolta Dimage X digital cameraAs soon as the salesman realized I was a serious buyer, he switched into upsell mode and showed me Minolta Dimage X, a 2-megapixel model with a 3x optical zoom (the 1-megapixel Casio has a fixed focus 5.6mm wide angle lens).

About 50% more expensive than the Casio, the Dimage X makes a great first impression. The shutter lag isn’t appreciable, I can imagine taking it with me everywhere, and the 2-megapixel resolution is a lot more appealing. But the reviews all had a consistent theme: innovative design, marvellously compact for its feature set, disappointing image quality. Worse still, the camera doesn’t the memorize flash mode after power off, a major disadvantage for someone who never, ever takes pictures with flash.

Sony DSC-U10 digital cameraIt’s clear that the demand for itty-bitty digital cameras is strong. Sony has just announced their DSC-U10, another 1-megapixel camera about the size of a tiny mobile phone. Although there’s no optical viewfinder, it uses AAA batteries and memory sticks (of which I already have three). It might be worth a look when it ships.

If the Casio had a resolution of two megapixels instead of one, I’d buy it immediately. I guess I’ll have to keep looking—though the features I’m after may just be too idiosyncratic.

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Comments

If you're looking for super-short shutter lag in a compact digicam, Ricoh has a new camera coming out: the Caplio RR30. I read about it on Steve's Digicams ( http://www.steves-digicams.com/diginews.html ). There's information at Ceid Corporation ( http://www.ceid.com/ ), an electronics importer in Canada.

It looks like this camera has a 3 megapixel sensor and some other interesting features.

The ultra-short shutter lag seems to be one of the key selling points.

Posted by: Tommy Williams on 26 August 2002 at 02:36 PM

Tommy, thanks for the heads up. I checked out both Steve's news item and the specs at Ceid Corporation. It's certainly an interesting looking camera, though perhaps a bit bigger than I wanted. I'll definitely check it out when it ships. The great thing is that this camera offers evidence that manufacturers are starting to address the problem of shutter lag.

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour on 26 August 2002 at 03:44 PM

Jonathon, have you tried the Canon Digital IXUS (latest one in Oz is called the V2)? I've got one, so I am biased, and I cannot speak highly enough of its charms. It is compact and bijou, has a 2.1 megapixel ccd and a 2.5 times optical zoom. You can carry it anywhere and its a snip to use.

Posted by: Andy Todd on 30 August 2002 at 01:10 AM

Oh, and for the most detailed and useful reviews of digital cameras I cannot recommend Digital Photography Review (http://www.dpreview.com/) highly enough. It is pure photo geek heaven.

Posted by: Andy Todd on 30 August 2002 at 06:56 PM

Andy, I did look at the Canon Digital IXUS and, although it's a fine camera, it's probably more camera than I need for the purpose I have in mind. I'd be interested in your perception of this camera's shutter lag, since that's my primary criterion. I want minimal shutter lag.

Thanks also for the heads up on DPReview. I visit the site every day -- you're right, it's pure photo geek heaven.

Well, game over. I just checked DPReview and discovered that Casio have released a 2-megapixel version of the Exilim: the EX-S2. I didn't expect to see such a camera for another six months but I'll buy one as soon as they land in Australia.

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour on 30 August 2002 at 09:59 PM

Fair enough, sounds like you have found the horse for your course. There is a noticeable shutter lag on the IXUS, because of its auto focus and white balancing (and probably other trickery that I'm not aware of) so that would probably not make it ideal for your purposes.

Mind you, I don't really notice it myself. I was only reminded that it was there when I lent my camera to a friend recently and he managed to get some spectacularly out of focus shots by not hanging around and waiting for the camera to sort itself out before taking the shot.

Posted by: Andy Todd on 1 September 2002 at 01:52 AM

I am most interested in this discussion, since so far I have refused to purchase a digital camera entirely because of the shutter lag. I can get better results of moving subjects just as quietly from almost as small a camera as this new Casio using emulsion film. It's a 20-year-old Olympus XA (electronic shutter, manual rangefinder focus) and the 6-element Zuiko 2.8 on it delivers rather enlargeable results! It fits in a pocket, whereas when I borrowed a friend's short-lag digital camera, a Canon D30 with all the gear, my shoulders were aching after 40 minutes. If I want that I'll use my old Rolleiflex (mechanical shutter, twin lens ground glass focus), the quality of which will blast anything digital out of the water.

However the convenience of not having to scan the slides is tempting, even at only 2 or 3 Mp. So this is to thank everyone for their contributions, now and in the future. Clearly the digital photo industry has woken up to its biggest problem.

Incidentally, what happens when you pan a digital camera?

Posted by: Jeffrey Long on 5 September 2002 at 05:22 AM

Jeffrey, I know the Olympus XA -- it was a particularly fine camera. I confess to lusting after the Voigtlander Bessa R2 which, although it's not pocketable, is an inexpensive Leica M-series substitute with extremely sharp Cosina lenses. But I just can't bear the thought of waiting for the film to be processed then scanning the slides or negatives.

Downloading the pictures straight to the hard drive is a luxury I can't give up (I spent much of my eighteen years as a photographer in the darkroom.)

And what does happen when you pan a digital camera? (Is it a riddle?)

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour on 5 September 2002 at 11:50 PM

Jonathon - I'm looking for exactly the same type digital you were (or are) in regard to shutter lag ... Did you ever get one of the new Casio's (QV-R3 or QV-R4) 3 or 4 megapixel cams - I'm looking for someone that may have already purchased one of them that can tell me about the advertised short shutter lag.

Hope to hear from you.

Bill Titus

Posted by: Bill Titus on 28 November 2002 at 07:43 AM

Bill, for some reason, I missed the announcement of the Casio cameras at DPReview -- http://www.dpreview.com/news/0206/02062401casioqvr4.asp

Although I think Casio's cameras are underrated, I don't really want a camera with a zoom lens. I'm also skeptical that they can make a camera with those specifications and have such a short shutter lag. And, perhaps irrationally, I have a deep aversion to the Pentax brand.

I'm hanging out for the Sony DSC-F77, a compact 4-megapixel camera with a fixed 37mm (equiv) Zeiss lens -- http://www.dpreview.com/news/0209/02090502sonydscf77.asp

I already have a Sony DSC-S70 so I'd be able to use my Memory Sticks with this new one. It's shipping in Japan but hasn't arrived in Australia yet.

Posted by: Jonathon Delacour on 28 November 2002 at 08:10 PM

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2002-2003 Jonathon Delacour