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Discussion Starter #1
I've got $200 of "Christmas money" to spend, and I'm thinking I should use it to get a digital camera. Can anyone provide some recommendations? 

I don't need anything fancy but I do want high enough resolution for publishing, as I'd like to use it snap pics to accompany "how to" articles. I also want something that will have good depth of field on closeup shots of models.
 

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I absolutely love my Canon Powershot SD1000...but the next generation one, the Canon SD1100 is out now. They're under $200 right now. They are smaller than a pack of cigarettes..fit into pocket easily IF you don't put them in a case...have a macro mode for extreme closeups...and have image stabilization. It's an 8M pixel camera. Unlike most of the little cameras...it also has a viewfinder.

I have the SD1000 which lacks the image stabilization...and a HUGE Nikon (in comparison). These Canon's takes great movies as well...and it's so small, it's easy to put on (or perhaps in) a car to ride around a layout. I've just about stopped using the Nikon as the little Canon is far more convenient to take around...and for me, takes just about the same quality photo.
 

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I have a Olympus 1030SW but they offer the 730 with same abilities but a 36mm wide angle as opposed to the 24mm that the 1030 has. They are also 6' drop rated and also waterproof to 33ft if you ever want to go scuba diving or snorkeling.

My other camera is the Canon 20D but thats not in the budget.
 

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Break break....the Canon SD790 is now under $200...and it's definitely a bump up from the SD1100. I was mistaken (I think) when I said the SD1100 had image stabilization. The SD790 does for sure...and it's a 10M pixel camera. It may be a bit bigger though...so you should check.
 

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I also have a Cannon Power Shot with image stabilization. It does everything I want it to do and does it well.

The image stabilization is great for us folks that are not so stable...



Craig
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Can someone tell me how close you can get with the Canon PowerShot SD790 IS? And how does the macro work? I was looking at one today and couldn't figure it out. I selected Macro, but I still couldn't get any closer to the subject. For that matter, I couldn't get the zoom to work either. And the sales guy was clueless.
 

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Easy....put the camera in macro mode...turn off the flash (it over exposes the shot...so you need external light)...put the camera within several inches of the item...half press the shutter to focus...push all the way to take the photo. Easy.

For telephoto ops...there's a little tab in the ring around the shutter button. Move it right to zoom....move it left to unzoom.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks. Didn't know you have to half-press the shutter button to get the camera to focus. As for the zoom, tried moving the ring both directions, didn't do anything. Had the same problem with a couple other cameras I looked at, so I figure there must be some trick to it that I'm missing. It's kind of hard to figure some of these things out in the store when there's no manual available, and they don't work like a film camera.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Oh, another thing -- I wish the manufacturers (and dealers) would give some info about the non-zoom field of view of the lens. So far, all the digital cameras I've looked at tout the magnification of the zoom (3X, 4X, etc) but I'm more interested in wide angles for closeups.
 

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Well...you can see the photo the camera is going to take by looking at the LCD on the back of the camera. This really simplifies taking macro shots. I'm don't use a lot of the "data output" from tthe camera...regarding exposure or zoom or whatever. If the picture looks good on the LCD...it looks good in the output. The important thing is to prefocus by pushing the shutter button half way down after you have set the zoom to what you want. You'll get a very clear preview of what the photo will look like when you push it all the way down.

It's the LCD that makes it possible...as I'm one who would sit there for minutes looking through the viewfinder of an SLR camera...bent over...and I'd still get a fuzzy shot because it's HARD to focus properly in some lighting conditions. Lastly, putting these little digital cameras on a 6" set of tripod legs really makes taking model photos easy...and those flimsy looking 6" legs really do support these small cameras.

The real downside of these cameras is the autofocus when you are taking model shots. There is no way to manually focus the camera. This is the power of the SLR camera...the ability to manually focus on one spot...called spot focusing. You will find situations where the camera will not focus on the item you want. The solution to this is tricky...and works about half the time in my experience. You center you shot on the item you want in focus and press the shutter button half way down...and then, withiout letting up on pushing the shutter buttom, you reframe the shot to what you want. Then, you push all the way down. By holding the shutter button half way down, you are freezing the pre-focus. Now...this is like patting your belly while rubbing your head...as the zoom and shutter button are part of the same control assemply. This approach works fine IMHO for snapshots...but isn't practical for macro shots. This is when I pull out the Nikon.

On the other hand, my Canon has worked satisfactorily in more than 99% of the situations I've put it in. I carry it with me all the time now. Another thing you might consider is getting an upper end cell phone with a camera. Lately, the cameras in the cell phones have improved sufficiently that they compete well against the little cameras in performance in the snapshot world. I doubt they have the sophistication in the macro world...and I've NOT seen a cell phone with a flash yet.
 

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I have used a couple of high-end digital cameras and several low end (very low end). Nice as the high end cameras are, they still don't work as well as a film SLR.

Digitals do have advantages over the film SLR, especially if they have a big viewing screen... with the digital you KNOW if you have the scene framed properly whereas with the film SLR I still sometimes miss seeing that little framing window in the viewfinder and assume that something is in the frame when it is really just outside of it. Of course, the ability to see the image immediately and delete it if it is no good is wonderful, as is the ability to store hundreds of photos on a memory card and review them on the spot and retake photos if necessary at the time. All those attributes are heads above the ability of a film SLR.

But, I find the Digital to be quite obtuse to change settings... press:

menu, right, right, right, oops, left, down, down, down, select, down, oops, up, up, left, OK, exit, exit, exit...
No that ain't quite right...

menu, right, right, down, down, down, down, select, oops, exit, up, select, down, oops, up, up, left, left, OK, exit, exit, exit...
Oh dear! that made it worse...

menu, right, right, down, down... Hey! Wait, everybody! Come back and pose for just a couple more minutes! I'll get it right this time!
Oh daing the batteries are dead!

The BEST photos I have ever taken were done as experiments with a film SLR that I took only because I am too Scotch to take the film in to be processed with a couple of unused frames on it, but wanted to see the photos "now!". Those experiments were time exposures in very dim lighting where I then 'paint" the scene with a flashlight to illuminate only the things I want to stand out. I have not figured out how to do that with a Digital... for all the controls the camera has, it just doesn't work as easy as: put the camera on a tripod, close the f-stop down to minimum, set the shutter to "Bulb" and shine the flashlight "for a while"... it has always been done on a whim and with absolutely no idea of how long to shine the flashlight or leave the shutter open, but the photos are, in my opinion, pretty good and better than where I use the light meter and set the camera for what it says.

I love to use my old reliable Pentax K-1000, but I have not used it since I bought an Optimus (Radio Shack!) 6 Megapixel digital camera. I can't say that it is a wonderful camera, but the 4-gig memory chip I put in it holds a couple thousand photos and it does decent movies too (better than my miniDV tape movie camera!). It does eat batteries like a kid trapped in a candy shoppe. For a day's outting with the camera I always have at least 10 (freshly charaged!) AA batteries with me, two in the camera and 8 in my pockets!

Sadly, I bet my heirs will get to throw away the Pentax (I probably ought'a take the battery out).


I have seen a cell phone with a flash for the built-in camera, but two flashes meant you could not make a phone call until you recharged the battery!
 

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We use our digital camera all the time, way more than we used the film camera. But the film camera--which was just a cheap canon slr from the 1970s--took better pictures.

In my experience digital photos are sharp and detailed but they handle mixed light really badly. They overexpose the bright parts and underexpose the dark. If you look at our website, you can see a bunch of pictures where this happened. Never happened that way with Kodachrome. I like a lot of things about our camera, which is a Canon powershot s2s, maybe 4 years old now. But if I buy another digital, I'm going to look hard not at "megapixels" or fancy features, but at metering and the "films" range. How doe sit handle extremes of light and shade.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Well, I've been learning quite a bit, not only about digital cameras but also about how to research the darn things online. Anyway, right now I'm still leaning towards the Canon SD790 IS. It's gotten very good reviews, has most of the features I'd like to have, and I can get one plus a 2GB memory card for under $200 on Amazon.

One feature I would like which that camera lacks is some manual controls for occasions when the auto-everything just doesn't cut it. It also lacks a viewfinder to suppliment the large LCD screen -- would be nice to have but I think I could live without it.

One other thing that concerns me is the battery. It uses a special rechargeable lithium-ion battery. My camcorder has lithium-ion batteries and they don't hold a charge very long. I rarely use the camcorder anymore because the batteries don't stay charged between uses.


Some of the other cameras I'm looking at take AA batteries, which is extremely convenient, especially on back-country trips where recharging isn't an option. You can buy AA's anywhere.

So... still researching. But I'll have to make a decision soon or lose out on the Amazon sale.
 

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Check eBay and other photo web sites...just Google sd790 and you'll get a bunch of places selling them. I've seen several for $175 including a 4G card.

As for the battery, I can take hundreds of photos on one battery charge...and it recharges fast too...less than an hour. Also, replacement batteries (on eBay) for the SD790 go for under $20 including shipping.

As for the view finder, my SD1000 has one...and I've grown to NOT use it. I use the LCD instead. I bought that camera BECAUSE it had the viewfinder...whereas many of it's competitors did not. Now, I'm not using it.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks Mike, I'll check out ebay. BTW another camera I'm considering is the Canon PowerShot SD880IS. It's about $50 more expensive and doesn't do video -- but it has a 28mm (equivalent) wide angle, 4X zoom. That wide angle would be great for "ground level" pics on the layout.
 

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Getting used to not holding the camera to my face to look through the non-existant viewfinder has been a difficulty. The thing that tells me to not do it is my not being able to focus my eyes on the screen with the screen against my glasses!


Of course, not holding the camera agaist my head means that I tend to shake the camera a bit more when I press the shutter button.

The other problem I forgot to mention with digital cameras is the length of time to store the photo means you cannot take photos in as quick of a succession as can be done with a film SLR. I used to be able to take photos so fast with my K-1000 that folk accused me of having an autowind on it... and I don't! The "store time" on a digital can sometimes get quite long... part of that is based on the resolution and other "Photo Quality" settings so there is some control over how long it takes, but I think it also can depend on the content of the image itself because it seems to vary between shots. Temperature also seems to have an effect on it (cold outside temps makes it take longer). The brand/type of memory chip in the camera can also effect the store time (newer ones are LOTS faster!)
 

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Yeah....that length of time to store a photo is a function of the amount of internal memory the camera has...and directly relates to price. My Nikon D40 has a three shot mode...and it takes three shots within one second...and then you have to wait a few seconds. My daughter has the new Nikon D90...and that camera will do the three shot mode damn near continuously...and that's what ya get for $1200.

There are times when my Canon SD1000 isn't fast enough...and that is frustrating. You can buy faster SD cards for the camera to make the transfer from the internal memory faster. I haven't bought one, so I don't know what the upward potential is. But, for model shots in macro mode...the speed of the camera doesn't matter much.
 
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