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Here’s My Digital Photography Research for IT Show 2008!

February 24th, 2008 by Wai Loong (59 Comments)

IT Show 2008 - 6th to 9th March @ Suntec City Exhibition Center Levels 3, 4 and 6

Many smart and savvy Singaporean by now should be very much anticipating the coming IT Show 2008 (6th to 9th March @ Suntec City Exhibition Center Levels 3, 4 and 6) after having missed Sitex 2007 last year at Expo Singapore.

Incidentally, I’m looking to celebrate my birthday this coming month by indulging in some expensive hobbies call digital photography. I know, professionals will certainly disagree with me on that… and I wasn’t sure about myself if I were to play a fool with digital photography! In fact, I thought it’s a great idea to exploit the upcoming IT show to save some money by grabbing some nice offers – if any.

But wait! To properly evaluate and make sound choices, I have to do quite a bit of serious study on the various digital cameras available on the market right now. This looks a bit tough for me; after all I’m very much a newbie to digital cameras and terminologies that are used by professionals.

If you’re in the same boat, then I hope I can put together something that may be useful for you! If you’re a professional, kindly leave your comments or tips on my selection!

I began by listing the most popular brands out in the market:

  • Canon
  • Sony
  • Casio
  • Epson
  • Fuji
  • HP
  • Kodak
  • Kyocera
  • Leica
  • Nikon
  • Olympus
  • Panasonic
  • Pentax
  • Ricoh
  • Samsung
  • Sigma
  • Toshiba
  • Agfa

The best marketed brand out in the Singapore is Canon, Sony and Nikon.

I did a small study based on the following criteria listed below.

Note: Your criterias most likely will be different from mine but do feel free to read on:

  • Good Battery Stamina (at least 300 shots without flash ON).
    This feature may be compensated by spare batteries
  • Must have Image Stabilization
    I deleted many shots in the past because my existing camera does not have this feature that must work when you have an unsteady hand!
  • Good Optical Zoom (> 3x).
    Digital zoom is useless to me.
  • Capable of taking pictures in Low Lighting Conditions
    This may be an important feature because my camera does not handle that well. Well… that’s almost impossible if you combine that with a shaking hand.
  • Light weight
    I’ve listed this so that it does not become a burden as I bring it around on oversea trips.
  • Low Cost; all other features are just a bonus
    My budget is to keep it below USD$400 or SGD$600. That’s a general guideline, but not necessary.

After a few days of scanning, sorting out facts, design specifications, looking at real pictures taken by cameras on review sites, and trying out real cameras in Funan Center and Sony Gallery, I’ve shortlisted the following models; all of them fulfilling all or partial of my above requirements.

If you’re like me, unfamiliar with digital camera technologies and terminologies, please orientate and educate yourself with this quick and good glossary on dpReview.com.

It turns out that several common camera specifications are often misunderstood on discussion forums, and it may be useful for you to review it here:

  • Sensitivity (ISO): Comes in ranges of 50, 80, to as high as 3,200
    For shooting good lighting scenes, use ISO no greater than 400 for crisp clear shots. Higher ISO are set to increase the sensitivity of the camera lens to light.
  • Optical Image Stabilization: Most digital cameras are built in with this technology to help steady image projected back into the camera by the use of “floating” optical elements such as gyroscope or by moving the CCD sensors. This technology helps to compensate for hand shake vibrations during picture taking.

#1: Sony CyberShot DSC-H3

Sony DSC-H3/B Front View
Sony DSC-H3/B Back View
This camera wasn’t on my target when I set out to do my research because I wasn’t considering compact camera models. My idea was to filter out all other information than the ultra compact ones.

My initial findings for ultra compact models led me to check out the newer Sony models, such as the Sony DSC-T2/B and Sony DSC-T200 series. Here’s a picture of the Sony DSC-T200 (Red):

Sony DSC-T200 Front View

I was particularly attracted to the sleek looking design, large 3″ LCD screen and impressive 5x Optical zoom. On two separate occasions, I walked in at Sony Gallery stores and checked out its features. Unfortunately, the pictures did not turn up to satisfaction after having its settings tweaked by a professional salesman. At 5x optical zoom, visible pixels start showing up and that hardly look impressive. Macro shots were impressive though, but I can do away with centimeters shots. I’m not diving into further details but you can check it out yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

Back to Sony DSC-H3:

Sony DSC-H3/B Top View
Sony DSC-H3/B Side View

I tried out this model and was impressed with its 10x optical zoom. Even at 10x, pictures taken was clear at auto ISO. At 10x zoom, the camera was able to focus and stabilize in seconds – automatically! The design is very user friendly, having good right hand grip and easy-to-navigate menus. I tried to shake it while snapping a shot and it work like a charm!

Switching OFF/ON is fast, averaging about 4 seconds on several attempts.

Advantages:

  • Light weight even with battery loaded
  • 10x Optical zoom is simply fantastic
  • Display crisp images in all lighting conditions

Disadvantages:

  • 2.5″ LCD screen is small but not the sharpest I’ve seen on this size
  • Not compact enough to drop into pockets of pants. Maybe it’ll fit better in a jacket pocket.
  • Lens cover is bulky. It has to be removed to carry around.
  • Battery cost SGD $89 per piece since it’s proprietary.
  • Memory stick is proprietary. For performance, the Memory Stick Duo Pro is recommended.

I turned to several online reviews and was pleasantly surprised that this model scored very well by professionals. This camera was able to perform in most lighting conditions and pixels are not obvious unlike ultra compact models from Sony. The outdoor shots are crisp clear and it fulfills most of my requirements at a recommended retail price SGD $549.

Sony Cybershot on HardwareZone Singapore:
Sony H3 or Canon SX100?

Sony Cybershot DSC-H3 Reviews:

  1. Cameras.co Reviews
  2. Digital Trends Reviews
  3. Imaging Resource on DSC-H3
  4. PopPhoto Camera Review
  5. Photoreview.com on DSC-H3

#2: Canon PowerShot A720 IS

Canon PowerShot A720 IS Front View
Canon PowerShot A720 IS Back View

I found this model while hanging around shops at Funan center last Saturday. There, I was introduced to the PoweShot A720 IS. The friendly sales guy of South-Asia Computer at Funan IT Mall on level 3 recommended this hot baby to newbie like me, who wants a bit of every advantages of digital camera technologies, while still permitting one to master the basics of photography like a pro.

On the surface, it feels good and is amazingly light weight! Loading batteries and SD card does not make the device feel too heavy with one hand. It’s currently retailing at $499 and it comes with some freebies (only at South-Asia): 2 x 2GB SD memory card, protection case, LCD protection sticker, small tripod and 4 rechargeable NiMH batteries.

I noticed that the LCD display is blur when it was turned ON. Interestingly, the screen becomes sharp and clear when the shutter is half-triggered; that’s when it draws more power as it locks on and focus. I learn quickly from the salesman that this feature alone helps in power conservation, which is why it can operate comfortably on 2x AA batteries. The camera is designed with aperture and shutter control, which means you can practice advanced lighting control! Furthermore, it allows aperture and shutter priority control, which is only common in DSLR cameras.

Advantages:

  • Fast power-up
  • Light weight (200g without batteries and SD card)
  • Excellent 6x Optical Zoom for an entry digital camera
  • Uses 2x AA battery (Recommend 2500+ mAh NiMH).
    No more excuse for low battery problems!
  • Aperture and shutter speed control!
  • Shoots are clear even in near darkness!
  • 17 shooting modes!

Disadvantages:

  • Blur LCD display until half-shutter focus (can this feature be turned off?)
  • Lower flash recycling when battery is weak, and possibly consuming precious battery power at a faster rate?
  • Night scenes are not fantastic, but that’s alright for a feature rich, budget camera


Canon PowerShot A7210 IS Research Resources:

  1. Concise Review
  2. Design Review
  3. Verdict and Sample Pictures
  4. User Reviews
  5. Other Reviews

#3: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 Black
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 White

This is one of the most excellent compact cameras I’ve seen so far! With a super clear 3″ large 230,000 pixel LCD and 10x optical zoom, it’s really hard to find a competitor in its range of cameras!

One of the most unique feature of this camera is the configurable LCD intensity. It can switch to normal intensity for average use and another mode called High Angle. At High Angle, the camera brightens the LCD screen in such a way that it is completely viewable as you hold it over your head for shooting over the heads of a crowd!

Advantages:

  • Fitted with Leica Lens (track record of excellence in picture quality)
  • Super clean LCD with brightness adjustment for different viewing angle (excellent to shoot in elevated angles).
  • Very fast burst snapping

Disadvantages:

  • Much heavier than the previous three that I’ve evaluated

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 Research Resources:

  1. Concise Review
  2. Design Review
  3. Verdict and Sample Pictures
  4. User Reviews

Conclusion/The Verdict?

Okay, I believe you should come out with yours too but here’s my take after doing extensive study. But before that, let me rank them in an order that I feel comfortable:

#1: Canon PowerShot A720 IS
#2: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
#3: Sony CyberShot DSC-H3

Here’s why…

Canon PowerShot A720 IS runs on 2xAA batteries… and that to me is a big advantage! It is true that flash recycles takes as much as 8 seconds on weak batteries, but that can be offset with NiMH rechargeable ones. I’ve already own some 2500mAh high capacity NiMH batteries and if necessary, I can buy a pair of 2700mAh ones to give them an extra boost.

Furthermore, the A720 IS is built using optical lens stabilization technology, which is technically sound as compared to CCD shifting, and that is quite common on compact/ultra compact cameras. Optical lens stabilization coupled with its built-in DIGIC III imaging processor, ensures great image quality .

The A720 IS is also priced reasonably for an entry camera buyer. It is light weight, although it will not fit into a pocket, it makes perfect sense to keep it in a carrying case or in a jacket as you move around. If you’re adventurous enough, you can even explore aperture and shutter control commonly found on DSLRs. Maybe you can try professional photography when you’ve mastered the basics!

Unfortunately, the A720 IS is not perfect. One disadvantage is the disability to shoot above the heads of a crowd. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 on the other hand, is the only camera that I’ve shortlisted that can do this with its high-angle shooting feature. If you like Canon cameras and is willing to pay a bit more, you can check out the Canon PowerShot S5 IS. It has a 2.5″ variable-angle LCD that allows you to view your shots even as you hold it up against a crowd or shoot while holding it down.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is a very close competitor to A720 IS. It has a fantastic 3″ high resolution and bright LCD screen and is capable of 10x optical zoom. Perhaps, the Leica lens fitted on this device is a major plus above all if you’re serious about digital photography. The DMC-TZ3 shoots particularly sharp pictures after comparing with many other Canon models, rivaling even the DSLRs. The only disadvantage I can think of may be the extra price (SGD$599) and proprietary Li-Ion battery which may cost a bit if power is a concern.

As for the Sony CyberShot DSC-H3, it looks stylish and its 14m flash range is impressive. It is also comparably light in its camera class. Beyond that, it has a smaller and less sharp LCD that may turn you off. It is slightly pricer (SGD $549) than the A720IS and cheaper than the DMC-TZ3.

Integrating all my above considerations, the Canon PowerShot A720 IS appears to be a sound camera that fulfills all my requirements. As a side note, I would love to own the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 – well… only if I have the budget!

That’s it!

I trust I’ve given enough valuable input for you if you’re also shopping for yourself or your loved ones.

And don’t forget to live life with passion!

I’ll see you again next week!

Article Research Resources:

Useful Digital Photography Resources:
http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/Glossary/
http://www.dpreview.com/gallery/

Singapore Sony DSC-H3:
http://www.sony.com.sg/product/dsc-h3?site=hp_en_SG_i
IT Show 2008:
http://www.itshow.com.sg/index.asp

Posted in Photography

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::Comments::

59 Responses:

1
curious on May 29th, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Have u come across the Canon SX 100 IS? It has 10 times optical zoom and 4 times digital zoom on 8MP.

Comparable to ur Lumix?

2
Wai Loong on May 29th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

You mean Canon PowerShot SX100 IS?

Yes, I’ve tried this one when I was researching the A720IS. It’s a little more expensive but 2x AA batteries powered motorized lens is fast and cool!

This camera is a semi-professional model and it is a great blend between compacts and DSLRs. The 10x optical zoom is a plus but it is a little bulky compared to the Lumix DMC-TZ3.

Overall, it is good camera if you have no intention to slip it in your pockets. Do check out verdicts on dpreviews on the SX100 IS if you want more details.

3
curious on May 30th, 2008 at 11:36 pm

I’ve come across a potential Canon fatality error called “E 18 – lens error” whereby the lens will not retract, i.e it get stuck!

http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,124765-page,1/article.html

But it seems to be a minor problem affecting few ppl. Now I’m leaning more towards the SX 100 IS cos of the higher zoom of 10 times! The size of the camera is not a big issue to me cos i wudn’t feel safe stuffing my camera into my pocket !

4
Wai Loong on June 1st, 2008 at 1:05 pm

That’s a very interesting article! Thanks!

I wonder how many people are in such a hurry to pop their cameras into their pockets while turning it off! 🙂

Anyway, it’s always a good practice NOT TO TURN OFF your digital camera while it’s recording data into the memory card, or while it is switching zoom ranges, or you are trying to remove the battery, or simply trying to switch to a different camera features on the dial.

If you don’t mind, you can always invest in a little Lowepro carrying case like I did. 🙂

5
curious on June 7th, 2008 at 6:07 pm

I’m stil undecided between the A720IS and SX 100IS.. the only reason being the 10 times zoom SX offers. But i read the extra zoom is not really necessary for most normal ppl, wat do u tink ? having an got ultra zoom compact urself? How often u used the extra zoom?

I’ve read many reviews and both are good but there’s a slight better review for the A720IS cos I’ve come across a customer having both models and he said A720IS worked for him at a darker lighting in a setting he was shooting.

6
Wai Loong on June 7th, 2008 at 7:33 pm

I love the higher zoom quality on my LUMIX…

And trust me, if you’re desperate enough, that extra bit of optical zoom comes in pretty handy!

For the Lumix I’m carrying, it can go up to 15x optical zoom by sacrificing detail down to 3 megapixels. The extra 5x zoom may not mean much, but it helps a bit.

In your situation, the extra 4x zoom may not be economically effective. I’ll take the A720IS if I have to choose. Of course, the final decision is really up to you. Choose one that you feel best for both quality and budget. 🙂

Happy digital photographing!

7
Prashant on June 28th, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Hi Wai Long,

thanks for this great research … i am also planning to go for Canon 720Is.

prashant

8
Wai Loong on June 29th, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Hi Prashant! It’s a good choice for me if not for the extra optical zoom on the Lumix. I’m sure you’ll love it! 🙂

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About Insights, Inspirations, Tranquility, Peace and Harmony

Ng Wai Loong

Wai Loong is an electronics engineer by profession. He currently resides in Singapore, a thriving hub at the heart of South-East Asia. When he is not so stress out on the computers or laboratory, he enjoys value reading, jogging at his own pace and blogging in his spare time. Other times, he likes to catch up with some close friends over a cup of latte or teh tarik. As a gift from this friend, you are invited to interact freely with him on his personal blog.

PS: May the person reading this blog transforms his/her businesses, finances, relationships and life for ALL to WIN!