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February 21, 2004

The Time has Come to (finally) get a Digital Camera

It's finally time to get a digital camera. have resisted for the longest time, I think primarily because I'm entrenched in the SLR world and can't let go. Did some photography, developing and printing (in school and friend's darkroom) in high school and appreciate the mechanics and chemistry of exposing the silver halides to light through the camera lense and shutter. Not so attached to the development and printing process anymore. I supposed it's a bit like the person who continues to love records.

We're not getting rid of the SLR, but have decided that if we get a digital camera that is small and light it will fill a different role, being able to come along at times when the larger SLR isn't desirable. Small size is most important, image quality second.

I've done casual research over the past year just to be aware of options and prices. I recently went into a camera store to get my hands on some of them and came away thinking that the two finalist will be the Canon s400 and the Pentax Optio S4. So much about these cameras is the same . . . but there are a few differences.

Pros for the Optio S4:
- close focus (2.4 inches)
- larger CCD (1/2.5)

Cons for Optio S4:
- longest shutter speed is 4 seconds

Pros for s400:
- longest shutter speed is 15 seconds

Cons for s400:
- less focus range (closest is 4 inches)
- smaller CCD (1/1.8)
- LCD is 1.5"

I notice that Pentax recently announced the Optio S4i, which is due in April. Hmmm . . . I doubt it will be worth the wait.

I'm hoping to have the camera ordered in a week so I'll have it for some trips coming up in March and April.

Update
In response to Pete's comment I found an excellent site with detailed timing on camera functions.

The s400 takes 2.1 seconds to boot up and be ready for a photo and .7 - 1.4 seconds to focus depending on position of lense and if 5-point autofocus is on (faster with single point auto focus). Once the camera has focused it takes .1 seconds or less for the shutter to fire. The review hints at using the pre-shot focus by pressing the shutter release halfway down prior to wanting to take the shot, shaving the focus time off the shot. The shot-to-shot time is 1.5 seconds, apparently Canon's buffering is done pretty well so you can take another photo before the last one is written to disk. The time to get the camera on and a shot taken is at fastest 3.5 seconds. These tests were run while the camera was set to Super-Fine mode (2272x1704).

The Optio S takes 2.3 seconds to boot up and .5 to 1 second to focus (same dependancies as s400). As with the s400 it takes .1 second to take the photo once in focus. The shot-to-shot time is 2.8 to 4.4 seconds depending on image quality setting. A bit slower than the s400.

The reviews have a good selection of photos taken by each camera. It seems that the Canon takes a better picture. Better color and cleaner.

I notice now on the Canon site that there is an s410 and s500 . . . there are some minor enhancements, but can't see how it's worth the extra money (and there isn't a comprehensive review yet).

Posted by mike at February 21, 2004 10:59 PM