7-Megapixel Compacts Shoot-out
We took eleven top high-res compacts and put 'em to the test
WHICH ONE IS FOR YOU?
By Conrad H. Blickenstorfer
Just two or three years ago this comparison feature would have been
impossible because there weren,t any affordable 7 megapixel cameras
(and only a couple of unaffordable ones). Today, almost every major
maker of digital cameras has one or more offerings in this category,
and they usually don,t even represent the high end of their lines.
7 megapixel has become sort of a new standard. It used to be 3.2
megapixel, then 5 megapixel. Will it ever end? We don,t know, but
the good news is that you now have your choice of very high resolution
would you want a 7 megapixel camera when a lowly 3.2 megapixel is
enough to print out perfectly good 8x10 enlargements? How often
do you run monster-sized prints? How many inkjet printers can even
do that? The answer is ,not often and not many. 0/00 But that would
be like saying why bother buying a new computer with the latest
processor when all you want to do is wordprocessing and email. Time
and technology move on. Everything gets better and better, and you
can get it for less to boot. Yes, the 7 megapixel cameras in this
roundup each cost roughly half as much as what their much less powerful
predecessors of circa 2003 went for. Compare that with prices for
new cars where you get a bit more performance and luxury for a lot
more money! Bottomline is that the current sweet-spot~the performance
and technology level where you get an awful lot for your money~is
in the 7-megapixel range. So why not go for it?
are other reasons why you,d want one of these beauties. They generally
have more features and better technology than the lesser models
in a manufacturer,s lineup. That can make all the difference. A
large, bright LCD can make a digital camera a pleasure to use whereas
a small, murky one can make it nearly useless. Same goes for speed.
If you have to wait forever for a camera to boot up, switch from
record to view mode, or get ready for the next picture, the hundred
dollars saved by buying a lesser camera may quickly look like a
for the 7 megapixel resolution, I can,t say enough for having that
many pixels available, all the time, for every shot. It means that
you never have to worry about cropping a shot~there are always plenty
enough pixels left even after you trim off unnecessary background.
It also means you can digitally zoom in and enlarge an important
detail without ending up with a pixilated print. And in some cameras
it even means you can use the much maligned digital zoom to get
results comparable to those from optical zooms.
what can you expect from a 7 megapixel camera and which one should
you get? Here it gets tricky because 7 megapixel cameras come in
many shapes and sizes. Some are large and bulky and full of features,
others are small and light and designed to neatly fit into your
pocket. Some cater to buyers who seek special features like, for
example, a powerful optical zoom or extensive manual control. About
the only thing all the cameras in this roundup have in common is
that they all have a maximum resolution of jut over 7 megapixel
(with the exception of the Konica Minolta DiMAGE A200 which has
8). The purpose of this feature is to show you what,s out there,
describe all the products, give you all the specs, tell you how
they perform, and then rate them in all the areas that matter in
rating part is actually not as easy as it sounds and we,ve given
it much thought. Comparing a large, heavy camera with tons of features
with one that is designed to pack as much power as possible into
the smallest possible body is truly comparing apples with oranges
(or melons with strawberries as far as size goes). So what we did
is rate the cameras for three different types of users with different
kinds of priorities. We then designed a weighted rating system specific
to those different users. For example, an advanced user probably
cares about having a camera capable of saving images in various
formats and at various levels of compression, so in the ,advanced
user 0/00 rating scale, the number of different formats carries a high
value. On the other hand, in the ,for snapshots 0/00 category, qualities
such as small size and weight rate are important, and so it is those
specs that contribute to the camera,s rating. Finally, we weighted
the ratings and presented them on a 1-10 scale. Here are the types
of users and uses we identified and rated for:
user: This is a person who is familiar with cameras and
takes photography seriously. S/he knows all about shutter speeds,
aperture settings, lighting, white balance, metering systems, auto
focus technologies and all the numerous other factors that can separate
great pictures from mere snapshots. Such a user will value manual
control, image quality, features, image formats and so on. Size,
ease of use, gimmicks, coolness factor and even price probably matter
This ratings profile is for those who don,t know much about photography
and simply want a good camera that lets them take great pictures
without a whole lot of learning and studying. That doesn,t mean
that ,beginners 0/00 don,t care about their pictures, so this profile
assumes not a total beginner, but someone who is interested enough
to spend good money on a 7 megapixel camera rather than got for
a $99 point & shooter from a drugstore. So priorities here are ease
of use, popular features (such as movies, voice, easy to get batteries
and storage cards, and so on.
snapshots: Many people want two cameras, one for ,serious 0/00
photography and one to carry around just in case they want to take
a few quick snapshots. There are also occasions where it,s simply
not feasible to carry a large, bulky camera, so these ,second 0/00 cameras
do need to be as powerful abd feature-laden. The emphasis clearly
lies on small size and weight, good speed and battery life, quality
Casio Exilim EP-Z750
Casio Exilim EX-Z750 is the smallest, thinnest (by a good margin),
and lightest camera in this roundup. At first sight it hardly seems
possible that such a little thing should be a full 7 megapixel camera,
and yet it is. It would also seem impossible for it to have very
many features, and yet it has enough to keep you entertained and
exploring for weeks. And you might expect a tiny little LCD and
not much battery life, and you,d again be wrong on both counts.
No other camera here has a larger screen than the Casio,s gorgeous
2.5-inch LCD, and Casio somehow managed to stow away a large enough
battery to officially last for 325 pictures. Add to that stunningly
good looks, a clean overall design, masterful use of various different
metallic surface treatment and that ,milled from a solid block of
metal 0/00 feel, and you have a product that will definitely attract
attention. Whip it out and everyone wants to take a look at the
little marvel. But can the tiny Casio deliver on all that promise?
sure tries. Where most cameras have half a dozen or so scene modes,
the Z750 has 30. Each of them has an information screen with a sample
picture and a description of the mode. Scene mode #10, for example,
is named ,Natural Green. 0/00 It shows a forest and describes, ,Hard
sharpness and high saturation enhance green hues. 0/00 If 30 is not
enough, you can also register you own, including your own shot.
This wealth of scene modes, however, doesn,t mean the Casio is only
a point & shoot. It actually has a full manual mode or you can set
it to Aperture or Shutter priority. There is also voice recording
and an audio snap mode.
so many functions, is the Z750 difficult to operate, with half the
functions deeply buried under menu layers? Not at all. Casio,s clever
and intuitive menu system is nicely complemented with more manual
controls than you,d expect on a camera this small, and especially
one where most of the real estate is taken up by the large display.
There is a little bit of a learning curve with all the little buttons,
but they are logically arranged and you quickly get the hang of
it. You also need to learn how to hold the little thing. There are
no power bulges here, and no matter how you hold it your thumb probably
ends up sitting on top of a button or control wheel, but that,s
no big deal either. Some functions have been farmed out to the cradle
that comes with the camera. It acts as a charger and also as the
USB conduit to a computer. The Casio is not a speed demon, but it
starts up reasonably quickly and you rarely wait for the shutter.
The flash, on the other hand, takes a bit long to recharge. The
tiny flash is also the only part of this camera whose performance
is in relation to its size. It is barely adequate.
quality is amazingly good. We detected very little purple fringing,
macro shots came out well, and most pictures you take with the Z750
come out much better than you,d expect from something this small.
They also tend to be quite vibrant, sometimes perhaps a bit too
all this praise, is the Exilim EX-Z750 perfect? Not entirely. There
are some areas where Casio cut a corner or two. For example, while
the LCD is very large and nicely viewable outdoors, its 115k pixel
resolution is pretty marginal and the display doesn,t have very
wide viewing angles. The optical viewfinder is tiny and has, of
course, no diopter adjustment. And we already mentioned the flash.
the Exilim EX-Z750 is a winner.
* Almost impossibly thin and light
* Tons of features
* Very good image quality
* Large LCD display is too low-res
* Weak flash even for a camera this small
* Only average speed
Canon PowerShot S70
perhaps more that any other company took full advantage of the wholesale
move from film to digital cameras by consistently offering a large
selection of state-of-the-art products. You can,t go wrong by picking
a Canon, and that certainly applies to the 7.1 megapixel PowerShot
S70~with some exceptions.
first sight you might not be overly impressed with the S70. In this
field it is middle-of-the-road in terms of size and weight~not big
and bulky but definitely too large and heavy to slip into a pocket.
Despite its classy looking dark gray finish the S70 is more workmanlike
than beautiful. It looks and feels like a tool for a job~purposeful
and very well made. Quality will never be an issue with this camera.
camera,s feature set seems remarkably in tune with its appearance:
it is more utilitarian and functional than flashy and spectacular.
The 28-100 mm zoom, for example, is a bit wider than usual, and
the 3.6X magnification offers more flexibility than the common 3X
opticals. Canon also gave the S70 a very powerful Li-Ion battery
rated at a full 550 images (which heats up the metal body quite
a bit). The popular Compact Flash card format appeals to people
who have plenty of them lying around. And the camera feels so solid
and trust-inspiring that you never feel like you need to baby it.
So there is much to like.
the other hand, the S70 also has its share of fairly ordinary features
that may limit its appeal to some potential customers. In a camera
this size, a tiny 1.8-inch LCD is simply not enough, even if it
is nicely readable outdoors. Those who like to shoot movie clips
will be disappointed at the very brief 30 second maximum length
in the 640 x 480 format, and even more so at the very slow 10 frames
per second speed in VGA resolution. The S70 also isn,t terribly
fast on start-up or cycle time between pictures. And the extensive
menus are in very small print and a bit confusing. When the camera
tries to be fancy, as in the manual focus that magnifies a small
part of the picture so you can focus, it doesn,t do too well (you
can,t see if something is in focus on a small part of a small screen).
Flashiness is just not its game.
you,re starting to think we didn,t like the S70 very much you,d
be wrong. True, this is not a thrilling, exciting camera, but not
everyone needs or wants flashy whistles and bells. The S70 is a
tool for the job and that job is taking pictures, and the compact
Canon does this very well. Thanks to its large battery and no-nonsense
approach you can shoot away day-in, day-out, anywhere. And like
any good tool, the S70 helps you do your job. If you shoot raw,
you can get a JPEG preview images saved at the same time. There
is full manual control, of course, and the shutter and aperture
priority settings have a ,Safety Shift 0/00 feature so the camera can
override inappropriate settings. There is noise reduction for long
exposure pics, auto exposure bracketing, a playback histogram that
shows overexposure. The S70 is a good companion.
software in the S70 box consists of ArcSoft,s very good PhotoStudio
and VideoImpression. There are different versions for PC and Macintosh,
and both work very well.
all is said and done, the PowerShot S70 is a camera that provides
you with all the tools to shoot good pictures, but it also expects
you to know what you,re doing, else you might be a bit disappointed
in the picture quality and the significant purple fringing that
we didn,t expect in a camera of this caliber. The excellent wide-angle
lens will be appreciated by many, but advanced users~who this camera
is really made for~may be disappointed by some unexpected weaknesses
in macro mode, focusing speed, and even the feature set. Overall,
the S70 is not among our favorite Canons.
* Quality design and execution
* Some advanced features
* Good software suite
* Small LCD, limited movie mode
* Busy controls and menus
* Excessive purple fringing
Canon PowerShot G6
Canon PowerShot is a large, heavy prosumer class camera with a storied
history and superb reputation. Weighing almost a pound and sporting
a SLR-size power bulge, the G6 will never be mistaken for anything
that even remotely fits into a pocket. This is a serious camera
for people who are serious about photography. Everything about the
G6 is designed to be of maximum possible usefulness for the job
at hand. The large matte silver body feels a bit plasticky, but
it is certainly designed to comfortably fit into even the largest
hand. The Li-Ion battery is massive, almost camcorder style. In
addition to the LCD, there is a large SLR-style information display
on top of the camera. Those used to be common in digital cameras
but have almost disappeared, much to the chagrin of serious photographers
who want to see settings at all times. The 4X optical zoom covers
the 35-140 millimeter equivalent. The lens is very high quality
and very fast (f/2.0), the fastest, in fact, in this entire lineup.
The anti-reflective LCD measures 2 inches diagonally~large enough
for a digital camera but we,d like it even larger in a camera this
size. The LCD is of the flip/rotate variety, which adds a lot of
flexibility to picture taking. The anti-reflective coating makes
the otherwise marginal LCD fairly viewable outdoors, but in case
you need to use the optical viewfinder, it is one of the most pleasant
to use thanks to good diopter adjustment and a round lens sitting
in front of it that makes it bright and easy to find. Though the
camera has a powerful internal flash, it also has a standard shoe
(and a metal tripod thread).
the buzzword department, Canon,s DIGIC image processor crunches
through pictures faster, improves autofocus, and reduces noise.
Something called iSAPS uses a large internal image database to recognize
scenery and apply the best possible exposure and white balance.
A 9-point autofocus allows you to keep off-center subjects perfectly
sharp. There is also a way to manually move a small rectangle around
the display. That is what the camera will focus on. And, as you,d
expect from a camera of this caliber, there is ample opportunity
to exert manual control for those who like to do it the old fashioned
of this requires a good number of dials, levers, wheels and buttons,
as well as extensive menus. No matter what surface of the G6 you
peruse, it,ll be littered with controls. Despite cryptic icons,
most are fairly self-explanatory, but it definitely pays to spend
some quality time with the user manuals. I use the plural because
Canon provides several, the 207-page User Guide, the 102-page Software
Starter Guide, and the 35-page Direct Print User Guide. And that,s
in addition to a very extensive Quick Start Guide. So prepare to
hit the books! We like the software: ArcSoft PhotoStudio and VideoImpressions
plus a Solution Disk with ImageBrowser, PhotoStitch, PhotoRecord,
the G6 with the more compact PowerShot S70, both share inherent
goodness and Canon technology. Both are workmanlike rather than
flashy. The G6 is much larger and has many more controls to get
the most out of the camera. Unfortunately, the two share a weak
movie with a 30 second limitation and a slow 10 fps speed in its
highest (640 x 480) resolution. This may not matter to the G6,s
target audience, but it is a weakness nevertheless.
you get with the Canon PowerShot G6 is a large, conventional camera
that provides all the tools to take the best pictures possible.
However, this camera does best with knowledgeable use of its manual
controls. In automatic mode, macro shots can be sub-optimal and
other shots grainy. So hit those manuals.
* Excellent image quality when used right
* Extensive manual controls
* LCD status display in addition to swivel LCD
* Large, aging overall design
* Weak movie mode
* Fairly steep learning curve
Minolta DiMAGE A200
Konica Minolta DiMAGE A200 represents the high-end in this group.
It stands out both in size and weight as well as in features, power,
performance, and image quality. It is also the only camera in the
lineup that exceeds the 7 megapixel range. With the A200 you get
a full 8.0 megapixel from a 2/3-inch interlaced primary color CCD.
We included the A200 because Konica Minolta doesn,t have a 7 megapixel
camera but its 5 megapixel Z5 is so good that we really wanted to
have a camera from this highly regarded maker, and also because
despite its power and features, the A20 is surprisingly affordable
and fits into this price category.
you get with the A200 is any budget-minded photography enthusiast,s
dream. 8-megapixel. A massive 7X optical zoom. A LCD that folds
out and twists so that you can easily hold the camera overhead,
shoot from the hip, or take the ever-popular self-portraits. The
A200 is also full of features and technology. One example is Konica
Minolta,s Anti-Shake system that detects movement and shifts the
CCD accordingly. The result is sharper zoom and low-light pictures.
That comes in handy when you tackle difficult shooting conditions
without tripod (needless to say, the A200 has a metal tripod mount).
Advanced photographers will appreciate that. They will also appreciate
the fact that the 7X zoom lens is manually operated, just like in
a SLR camera. And it,s even clearly marked in 35 millimeter equivalent
terms, from 28 to 200. Like other Konica Minolta offerings, the
A200 is a ,Single Lens View 0/00 camera, meaning that it addition to
the LCD it has an electronic instead of an optical viewfinder. Advantages
are that you see what the camera sees, plus you have access to all
the same menu functions onscreen, and there is even an excellent
diopter adjustment. Disadvantages are that even at a rather good
235k resolution, the picture looks a bit course. The LCD also has
good resolution, though it is too small for our taste~only 1.8 inches
diagonal. However, it uses transflective screen technology so it
remains perfectly visible outdoors. Konica Minolta also spoils A200
users with plenty of other features. It,s the only camera in this
lineup that can take full SVGA 800x600 movies. That slows the frame
rate to 15 fps as opposed to the 30 fps you get with the lower res
modes, but it is still a big plus. There is an innovative ,Flex
Digital Multiplier 0/00 that lets you enlarge any part of a screen image
to see if you,re really in focus. For those who like the RAW format
but not the extra processing required for every shot, you can save
in RAW and JPEG at the same time. And if the powerful (manual) pop-up
flash isn,t strong enough, there is a flash shoe that can accommodate
Maxxum/Program flashes and also an adapter for standard external
flashes. The A200 has complete manual control, but you can also
pick from a number of scenes, color modes, digital effects and bracketing.
You even get a remote control usable for both shooting and playback.
On the software side you get the DiMAGE Image Viewer for Mac and
PC, and also Ulead VideoStudio 8 SE (PC only).
camera with this much power and functionality cannot be small, and
the A200 isn,t. It weighs over a pound, and with its big lens and
full-size body it won,t fit into any pocket. This is a camera that
you take with you when you want to shoot some serious pictures.
Operating the A200 isn,t entirely simple. While Konica Minolta has
done an excellent job making things as self-explanatory as possible,
and while ergonomics, for the most part, are quite good, prepare
to spend some time learning the operation of this camera and everything
it has to offer. All in all, features galore in a large, powerful
package with uniformly excellent picture quality.
* Tons of features, giant zoom
* Excellent quality, both camera and images
* Powerful professional-style features
* Big and heavy
* Small LCD
* Mediocre battery life and macro mode
Nikon Coolpix 7900
upon a time Nikon was primarily known for its high quality film
SLR cameras. When digital came along, Nikon was among the first
to jump on the bandwagon with its Coolpix cameras. Initially those
were high end models, but then Nikon decided to offer less expensive
consumer cameras as well, and these days they cover the entire spectrum
though the trend seems to be more upmarket again. Oh, and if you,re
a digital camera expert and are puzzled by Nikon,s frequent changes
in design and direction, you,re not the only one. Here at Digital
Camera Magazine we used to loudly lament the passing of a particularly
interesting Nikon digicam or style. We,re used to it now and simply
look forward to what interesting things they,ll do next.
for the 7900, former low end Nikons had low numbers in their names,
so I expected the Coolpix 7900 to be a big camera. It even looks
big in pictures. That, however, is deceptive. The Coolpix 7900 is
the second-smallest and second-lightest camera in this entire lineup.
It measures just 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches and weighs 5.3 ounces, which
makes it about as pocketable as it gets in the 7 megapixel category.
Fans of tiny ultraslim cameras should note, however, that the Coolpix
7900 doesn,t quite fall into that category. For that it is too thick,
and when you power it up the zoom lens motors out another three
quarters of an inch. What this camera is is really a shrunken version
of a more conventional larger camera. It has a ,power bulge 0/00 on
the right size, which makes it easy to hold despite its small size.
do you get with the Coolpix 7900? That would be a small, handsome
7.1 megapixel camera, beautifully designed and finished in a black
and silver aluminum housing.
is nothing revolutionary, or even out of the ordinary, but that,s
not necessarily a bad thing. The 7900 has a 3X optical Zoom Nikkor
lens, a large 2-inch LCD that is perfectly visible outdoors, a fairly
large battery good for hundreds of pictures, a decent flash, 640
x 480 movies at a full 30 frames per second, and some of those cool
features camera manufacturers come up with to get an edge. One such
feature is Nikon,s ,Face-Priority 0/00 autofocus which will automatically
detect the face in a portrait and focus on it. Then there,s ,D-Lighting 0/00
that lightens areas that are too dark during playback. There,s also
in-camera redeye fix that can eliminate most instances of that dreaded
syndrome before the pictures are even uploaded into your PC. When
taking movies, there is a vibration reduction feature. All very
terms of operation, the 7900 is somewhere in between a simple point
& shoot and a more advanced camera. It doesn,t have full manual
control or even shutter/aperture priority modes. Instead, there
are scene modes for just about any situation, even underwater, and
there are plenty of settings to tweak and play with. The menus are
clear (you can even set them to display as text or mainly as icons)
as are all the controls. The mode dial is a bit busy, but other
than that, it shouldn,t take long to be up and running with this
camera. On the software side you get Nikon PictureProject, a simple,
intuitive application to organize, edit and design on both Windows
and the Mac.
Coolpix 7900,s picture quality is far above what you,d expect from
such a small camera. In fact, it was among the top three in this
lineup of excellent, powerful cameras.
for the Nikon Coolpix 7900: a very small and handy little camera
that is both powerful and easy to use. Consider it a de-luxe point
& shooter and, given its pedigree and features, a bargain at just
$399. If you can live with the lack of full manual control, this
is a perfect beginner,s camera. It is also a near perfect second
camera to take along for snapshots on trips or to events.
* Small and handy
* Excellent picture quality
* Simple to use, but has many features
* Very little manual control
* Busy mode dial
Olympus C-7000 Zoom
despite its excellent overall record in the digital camera field,
has been known to suffer from a hit-or-miss syndrome in the styling
and design department. We,re happy to report that the C-7000 Zoom
sits squarely in the ,hit 0/00 category as far a looks and implementation
go. This is an exceptionally attractive and well designed camera
that also feels like it,s been crafted from a solid block of some
precious high-tech metal (it,s actually aluminum). It also has superior
ergonomics, with some lines and curves crafted so cleverly that
you,d swear Olympus has secretly taken a gypsum mold of your hand
and designed the thing just for you. Most interestingly, they did
all this while maintaining a family resemblance going back to the
very first Olympus digital cameras. It,s like looking at a BMW automobile~the
latest model is infinitely more advanced, but it shares styling
elements with automotive DNA with its distant predecessors. To me,
that is the mark of a confident manufacturer with a superior handle
on its products (most of the time, anyway).
this field of 7 megapixel cameras, the C-7000 is on the compact
side of the spectrum and you might even be able to squeeze it into
a pocket, though it,ll be a tight fit that,s neither to the benefit
of you or the camera. Why does Olympus add the ,Zoom 0/00 descriptive
to the C-7000,s name? Because it,s a 5X optical going from 39 to
190 mm, and not just the garden variety 3X. Multiply that with a
perfectly workable 6X digital zoom, and you can stretch magnification
to a gratifying 30X. The news is also good on the LCD front. The
C-7000,s has a 2-inch ,semi-transmissive 0/00 display that excels outdoors.
It is not only a good deal more readable outdoors than most, but
also has very wide viewing angles.
tiny pop-up flash is fairly powerful, but requires manual activation.
This means you can miss shots when you need the flash, but haven,t
popped it up. Not a good solution. There are other little problems.
While having the zoom ring around the shutter is a fairly common
solution I don,t like it because it means you first zoom, and then
put your finger on the shutter. I like to have my finger on the
shutter while I zoom. And while the large mode dial is clearly marked
and devoid of the clutter of tiny icons so often found on digicams,
some of the other buttons do rely on tiny icons and color coding.
The otherwise impeccable body is marred by a plastic tripod mount,
and Olympus uses the xD-Picture card~a nice enough format, but one
that means buying new cards and new adapters for most. And though
I use an Olympus as my daily driver, I,ve never been particularly
fond of Olympus, menu systems that rely on a mix of text and icons
and also use the ,OK 0/00 button sometimes to select a setting, sometimes
to escape out of a menu. On the plus side, the menus are large and
the buzzword and features department, Olympus is relatively modest.
We have the TruePic TURBO image processor for fast operation and
good detail. The C-7000 is quick and takes very good pictures, so
the TURBO works. There,s also a red eye removal feature so you don,t
have to do that dirty work on the PC, handy direct printing to PictBridge-compatible
printers, and 12 shooting modes (including manual control) that
are not always obvious to access. The movie mode records at full
30 fps, but you can only do 20 second clips. Despite the fairly
user-friendly nature of the C-7000, a quick stroll through the manual
is definitely recommended, and that requires perusing a pdf file
on the documentation CD. The printed manual only contains the very
basics in six languages. It,s a big world out there, but English
is a fairly common language, so can,t we just have English manuals?
In the software department you get Olympus Master, the successor
to Olympus Camedia. It,s an odd mix of very basic file management
and rather complex RAW processing. It is not an optimal solution
and we wish Olympus would revamp its software offerings.
the end, the C-7000 is an attractive compact camera with a good
deal of power. We were a bit disappointed in the quality of macro
shots, but it did everything else well. Like most Olympus cameras
it has its little quirks, and like with most Olympus cameras, you
need to work its simple and yet at times confusing user interface
to get to all the features of this very appealing product.
* Great looks and design quality feel
* Excellent 5X optical zoom
* Superb ergonomics
* Confusing menus and controls
* Only 20-second movie clips
* marginal software and manuals
Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom
first thing you think when you see the Olympus Wide Zoom C-7070
is, ,Man, that,s a big camera. 0/00 And it is. We,re talking almost
a pound of big, solid black camera body. That,s roughly twice the
size and weight of the Olympus C-7000 Zoom. Both are 7-megapixel
cameras, both have large optical zooms, but the C-7070 definitely
looks like it belongs into an entirely different class of cameras,
one that offers more. And the C-7070 does offer more.
is, for example, one of those ever-useful flip-up-and-twist LCDs
that lets you take pictures while holding the camera up high, down
low, or even sideways. One disadvantage of the flip-up LCDs is that
they tend to be a bit smaller. The one in the C-7070 measures just
1.8 inches diagonally. It partially makes up for that with a semi-transmissive
design and wide viewing angles that provide good visibility even
outdoors. The LCD is supplemented by a good optical real image viewfinder
with diopter adjustment. There is also a secondary status LCD sitting
on top of the camera. There is a built-in flash and also a flash
hot shoe. The tripod mount at the bottom is metal. The Li-Ion battery
is massive and the most powerful in the entire lineup. Open the
storage card cover on the right side and you,ll find two slots,
one for xD-Cards and one for the more popular CF Cards. Quite obviously,
Olympus has thought about everything, and you get an awful lot for
your money when you buy this camera. Especially since, despite its
many features, it costs no more than the C-7000 Zoom, and you might
even find it for less. This makes the C-7070 Wide Zoom a bargain
for anyone in the market for a large, powerful camera. The C-7070
, though, will never slip into a pocket and it,ll never go unnoticed.
Carry it around and you know you have a camera with you, and everyone
around you will notice as well.
C-7070 is called ,Wide Zoom 0/00 because its 4X optical covers the 27-110
millimeter range. The Konica Minolta A200 also goes down to 28 mm
(and has a 7X optical that goes all the way up to 200 mm), but the
big Konica can,t match the C-7070,s on the other end of the spectrum~macro
mode~where you can get as close as an inch. This Super Macro definitely
adds utility to the big Olympus.
camera also has some tricks, like a ,predictive 0/00 autofocus that
keeps objects moving towards you in focus, and a target function
that lets you focus on any part of the picture. The movie mode allows
30 frame per second 640 x 480 pixel recording with sound until the
card is full. Print manuals (full manual is on CD) and software
are marginal, but anyone interested in such a full-function camera
will likely use advanced imaging software anyway.
far as operation goes, the C-7070 is ergonomically designed and
perfectly fits into the palm of your hand. Controls are where you
expect them. I don,t like the way Olympus combines zoom control
and shutter, but it,s actually one of the best implementations of
that design solution. The rest of the controls and menus are all
Olympus-style, which means buttons spread out all over the place
and marked with a combination of words, letters, icons and colors.
That tradition of mixing metaphors and styles carries over to the
menu system which you,ll either love or hate. Those familiar with
Olympus digicams will feel right at home. Anyone else will have
to get used to it, and also every one of the many controls. Once
you do, there is little the C-7070 can,t do. It offers superb manual
control over all aspects of the camera, but you can also use it
as a point & shooter. The C-7070 produced good to very good image
quality, but suffered from purple fringing.
* Great wide-angle zoom, great super macro
* Lots of features and full manual control
* Excellent ergonomics
* Smallish LCD
* Large and heavy
* Marginal audio capabilities
Samsung Digimax V700
many it may come as a surprise to find a Samsung in this lineup
of powerful 7 megapixel cameras. That,s because despite of an impressive
lineup of digital cameras and and even more impressive product catalog
of cellphones with built-in digital cameras, Samsung is not exactly
a household name as a camera company. The Korean giant is on a steep
upward trend, and so we,ll probably see more and more of it. After
all, Hyundai didn,t make much of an impression with its first cars,
and look where they are now with their excellent, yet affordable
for now, the Samsung Digimax V700 doesn,t quite look like it belongs
in this lineup. It,s a smallish device with a silvery metal body
and a rounded soap-bar design that,s pleasant enough but also looks
non-descript and unexceptional. If you tell people you picked it
up for $39.95 at a local drugstore, no one would disbelieve you.
Quite obviously, Samsung still has a thing or two to learn about
bringing design into sync with perceived quality and status of a
a closer look, though, and you see that those first impressions
are wrong. There,s much more to the V700 than meets the eye. The
lens is a Schneider-Kreuznach multi-coated affair, which means the
technology used to develop it comes from the Jos. Schneider Optische
Werke GmbH in Germany, superb optical specialists with a history
going back to before the First World War. And all the features you,d
expect in this class are there, and then some.
terms of basics, there,s the excellent lens, with its 3X optical
zoom complemented by a 10X digital magnification that, thanks to
anti-shake technology, actually produces perfectly usable 30X pictures.
The display is large (2 inches) and bright, and it remains somewhat
readable outdoors. There is a 640 x 480 MPEG-4 movie mode that records,
with sound, at a full 30 frames per second pace until the SD card
is full. Should you so desire, you can record voice memos up to
a full hour. None of the others can do that.
the V700 certainly looks like a simple point & shoot, it can do
much more than that. There is full manual control as well as shutter
and aperture priority. There are all the usual adjustments, and
the important ones~such as exposure compensation~can be manipulated
either through menu or external controls. Very clever but also a
bit confusing at times. For example, an Olympus-style lever ring
around the shutter is actually used to control aperture and shutter
speed settings, and not the zoom. The menu interface is very well
designed and never gets confusing. Most of the major digital camera
manufacturers could learn a thing from Samsung. The V700,s simple
operation is complemented by an excellent 135 page manual. With
a camera as straight-forward as this one, you almost don,t need
it. With the exception of excessive purple fringing, picture quality
was very good, much better than expected.
of this makes the Samsung Digimax V700 a pleasant camera to take
along just about anywhere. It,s small and light and you can stick
it in any pocket. It,s well made and looks like it can take a beating.
If you want to keep it all new and shiny, put it in its attractive
protective mesh case. The software is entertaining (it even has
OCR), but Windows only.
you turn on the camera via a recessed button, it springs to life
instantly, but taking this snappy startup as a promise of overall
speed leads to disappointment. There is significant shutter lag
here, the kind you don,t except today. It,s not a deal breaker,
but it is one of the less pleasant aspects of the V700.
summary, the Samsung Digimax V700 is a camera that,s much more powerful
and competent than it looks. It also works well in almost all other
respects and you can probably get it for almost a hundred dollars
less than most of the others. The only problem is that it looks
like it should be two hundred dollars less. We,re sure Samsung is
working on that.
* Easy to use, with great controls and menus
* Very good image quality
* Low price
* Bargain basement looks
* Significant shutter lag
* From Samsung we,d expect a better LCD
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3
was a time when the thought of a Sony digital camera brought up
visions of the Mavica, the big square boxes that used floppy disks
for storage. Then came a time when Sony introduced ever smaller
little techno-marvels that fit into a shirt pocket. The Sony Cyber-shot
DSC-V3 is reminiscent more of the former than the latter. This is
a large, conventional looking camera with a fairly subdued black
metal body. The big Sony was one of the first 7 megapixel ,prosumer 0/00
cameras and has been around for over a year. In this fast moving
field, is it still up to date and a viable option? This camera cost
$700 when it first came out, and street prices are still all over
the place, but if you,re intrigued with the V3, you can find a good
price that,s in line with the rest of the cameras here.
you look at the V3, you immediately notice two things. One is a
huge 2.5-inch LCD, the kind that we,d expect in a camera this size.
It,s a fixed design and doesn,t swivel or pop out like the screens
of two other large cameras, the Canon G6 or the Olympus C-7070,
but its size and clarity are definitely a plus. The other thing
is really just a peculiarity: when you look at the V3 from the front
it seems like it,s missing a lens. There,s this big hefty metal
thread-mount ring for optional wide and tele conversion lenses,
but the actual lens is much smaller and hidden behind an automatic
lens cover when the camera is off. It,s a good lens, actually~a
4X optical 34-136 millimeter Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar. Still, somehow
that little lens inside that big ring just didn,t look right, and
I also constantly bumped into it with my fingers when I held the
camera. Small detail, but sometimes it is small details that matter.
most Sony products, the V3 is very thoughtfully designed and finished.
All the controls and buttons are just perfect, and they are all
clearly marked. A printed 150-page manual helps answer any question
about operation. In contrast to the often intricate and confusing
menu systems of some of the competition, Sony,s is simple to the
max. No matter what mode dial function you,re in, hitting the menu
button always brings up a menu bar at the bottom of the large screen.
Each menu item then has a vertical pop-up from which you can select
the desired setting. Everything is clear and simple. All text is
plenty large enough to be easily readable. This is the way it should
always does things Sony-style, so you,d expect the V3 to be somewhat
proprietary. That,s why it was a pleasant surprise to find a Compact
Flash slot sitting next to the Memory Stick slot. And you can use
any old flash on the advanced accessory shoe located on top of the
tiny (and very weak) flip-open flash that opens automatically. I
much prefer that over flashes that need to be opened manually.
far as features go, the V3 is well equipped. It offers complete
manual control in addition to preset scenes. It supports RAW mode
and MPEG movies, yet you can also use it just to point & shoot.
Thanks to its Nightframing/Nightshot feature, you can focus in the
dark or even take (eerie greenish) pics without the flash. And a
special ,smart zoom 0/00 lets you use digital zoom with almost optical
zoom quality. That only works in the lower resolutions because the
camera uses the unused pixels to do this trick. In daily operation,
the V3 is the opposite of the Samsung V700 that starts up blindingly
fast, but then takes forever to go from picture to picture. The
Sony takes quite some time to start up, but once it,s going, it
is blindingly fast.
quality was only average in our tests and there was too much purple
fringing. Still, overall Sony quality and lots of features continue
to make the Cyber-shot V3 a good choice for those in the market
for a full-size camera.
* Large, bright 2.5-inch LCD
* Easy to use, with very clear menu system
* Speedy operation
* Weak internal flash
* Massive lens mount ring gets in the way
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W7 is a small, compact camera that packs a powerful
punch in a boxy, high-tech, metallic body that weighs just south
of seven ounces. ,Small 0/00 is relative, though. This is not a tiny
sliver of a camera such as the Casio Exilim EX-Z750. This Sony has
heft to it, its lens motors out an inch when you turn the camera
on with the push of a button, and while it fits into a pocket, you,ll
definitely feel that it,s there. In fact, the W7 gives you the impression
that it is bigger than a small camera should be. Its size and weight
make the massive 2.5-inch TFT seem not as large as we remember it
from earlier super-compact Sonys like the T1. The screen also doesn,t
seem to have the crispness and sharpness of some of its predecessors.
Maybe that,s because it has slightly fewer pixels than they had,
115k versus 123k, which is also fewer than the Sony P200,s smaller
lens is a standard 3X optical 28-114mm affair, but one of Carl Zeiss
Vario-Tessar quality. Yet, here, too, there is slight disappointment.
After the ,folded 0/00 zoom of the old DSC-T1, you don,t want to go
back to a zoom lens that motors out of a small camera body. It,s
just not as elegant. And with the W7,s size, couldn,t Sony have
made it internal...
you get past these reservations, the W7 is a very nice camera. The
large screen makes selecting and framing pictures easy. There are
other convenience features in this camera. For example, most Sony
products use the Memory Stick which comes in several formats and
is generally more expensive and harder to find than cards in the
more common storage formats. For those times when a Memory Stick
card is full and you don,t have another one handy, Sony gave the
W7 a full 32MB of internal storage. That,s still not a lot in a
7 megapixel camera, but it is about three times what most cameras
with internal storage have.
area where the W7 provides flexibility is in its power pack. While
all other cameras in this lineup come with proprietary Li-Ion batteries
that are expensive to replace, the W7 comes with a couple of simple
rechargeable AA NiMH cells. It can also run on standard alkalines
(not very long, though). This means that the chance that you,ll
find yourself stranded without power are much lower with this camera.
daily use, the W7 is a pleasant companion. Its combination of fairly
small size, very large display, simple controls, very fast startup
and quick recycle time strike a balance that comes in handy for
snapshots and such, and snapshots is what this camera is primarily
about. Primarily, but not exclusively. There is a manual mode that
provides separate control over shutter speed and aperture and even
gives an approximation of what the picture will look like by making
the LCD go brighter and darker. I wouldn,t call it a full manual
mode, but it can come in handy.
other features it,s often hit and miss. There,s a good movie mode,
but in order to use the 640 x 480 mode you must use a Memory Stick
PRO instead of whatever old Memory Sticks you have lying around.
Movies have good sound, but there is no sound annotation for images.
The autofocus illuminator light, on the other hand, is very strong
and that can help in iffy lighting conditions.
this field, image quality was only average and pictures often had
too much contrast, but the camera impressed with an almost total
absence of purple fringing. With Sony offering so many models with
similar capabilities, the W7 is for those who value flexibility
and choices most.
* Large outdoor-readable LCD
* 32MB of internal memory~most in group
* Can use standard AA batteries
* Relatively large and heavy for a compact
* Only average image quality
* Tiny optical viewfinder
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P200
Cyber-shot P200, the third 7 megapixel Sony in this lineup, is barely
larger than a flip-phone. It measures approximately 4 x 2 x 1 inches
and weighs just five ounces~making it the second-lightest here,
after the Casio Exilim EX-Z750. Yet, despite its small size, this
is a powerful 7.2 megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar
3X zoom lens, a bright 2-inch outdoor-viewable LCD screen, and a
wealth of all those Sony micro details we,ve come to know and love.
terms of design, the P200 is very different from the boxy DSC-W7
and, of course, the much bigger DSC-V3. It is playfully styled,
with one side square and the other swooping around three bright
concentric circles in the midst of which sits the P200,s zoom lens.
In fact, almost everything on this camera is lusciously rounded
and curved~buttons, lines, inserts, even the tiny little flash window,
and a long concave molding around the left side of the camera which
is probably there so that you can more easily hold the P200 with
the index finger and thumb of your left hand.
as was the case with the many different CLIE PDAs Sony offered in,
and then withdrew from, the US market, it is not entirely clear
why Sony needs so many different lines of very similar digital cameras.
As is, you could say that the Cyber-shot P200 is for people who
like very small cameras and also prefer style and elegance over
angular shapes, but is that enough to justify yet another line?
Only sales figures can tell, and Sony apparently sells enough P-Series
cameras to make it worth their while.
of model line politics, the P200 is certainly a perfect match for
many customers, expectations~a nice, small high-resolution camera
with a quality 3X optical zoom lens and a large-enough 2.0-inch
LCD. You also get 30 frames-per-second 640 x 480 movies with sound
(though that requires a Memory Stick PRO storage card). As long
as Sony made the camera this small and slender, we would have liked
an internal, foldable zoom like the T-Series has instead of one
that moves out an inch when you power up the camera.
daily use, the P200 does almost everything well. It is small enough
to fit into any pocket. The optical zoom can be multiplied by either
a standard 2X digital zoom or Sony,s ,Smart Zoom 0/00 that employs unused
pixels to enlarge an image taken in one of the camera,s lower resolution
modes. A small optical viewfinder helps when the LCD washes out
too much outdoors. The controls are easy to figure out although
I,d suggest a pass through the 100-page manual. You,ll learn all
the tricks the P200 can do, plus gain insight into some of the less
many P200 customers may never venture beyond the automatic point
& shoot mode, the camera also has a P(rogram) mode where it controls
aperture and speed and leaves the rest to you. There is also a M(anual)
mode where you control everything. Items such as macro, flash, or
resolution are easily changed by pushing one of the four directional
controls, which is a good thing as the P200,s onscreen menus are
neither always obvious nor always easily visible.
the P200 is pleasant enough. It doesn,t get in the way, has long
battery life, and takes good, but not great, pictures with almost
no purple fringing. The display offers plenty of information, including
a live histogram. Controls, icons and text are a bit small, and
the P200 is only average in autofocus and recycling speed, but it,s
quick enough. All of this makes the Cyber-shot P200 a good choice
for those who want a small and very reasonably priced high-res camera
with the Sony name and cachet.
* Small and handy
* Long-lasting battery
* A lot of camera for the money
* Only average autofocus and recycling speed
* Not many features compared to competition
* Tiny mode wheel and zoom control
Konica Minolta A200
Sure, the 8 megapixel camera won in this field of 7 megapixel
cameras, but it also would have won with just 7 megapixel. The
Konica Minolta A20 simply offers more than anyone else in this
class. It has a terrific 7X manually controlled optical zoom
that gets you close to the action, it,s the only camera with
a 800x600 movie mode, one of only two with ISO 800, and it has
all the manual controls you want. The macro mode isn,t great
and the rotating LCD is too small, but other than that this
camera has it all.
Nikon Coolpix 7900
If you,re new to digital cameras but want something that lets
you take great pictures without first taking a college course
in photography, the Nikon Coolpix 7900 is for you. The little
Nikon is much smaller than it looks in the picture and you can
take it anywhere. It doesn,t have full manual controls, but
there are plenty of scene settings for just about any situation.
The 7900 also takes great movies. This is a nice camera to get
started with because it is simple to use but also has enough
features to let you experiment and learn.
Casio Exilim EX-P750
you need a second camera to take along on trips or just about
anywhere, the Casio EX-P750 is hard to beat. It is the smallest
and lightest of all the cameras in this lineup, yet it has the
largest screen and its picture quality is right up there with
the best. And while you can point & shoot all day with this
little marvel, the Casio also has more useful (and entertaining)
features than most. The only minor black mark is a wimpy flash
that isn,t always up to the task. So what? Get closer.