Full review posted for Casio EX-P600
In recent years, Casio has concentrated more on the "consumer" market than on the needs of "enthusiast" shooters. With the EX-P600, Casio has decided to again focus on the needs of more advanced users, while still maintaining excellent ease of use with their extensive "BestShot" modes. Based on my use and testing of the P600, it appears that they've been thoroughly successful in that goal. Besides having good image quality and pretty much every control and adjustment a serious photographer could desire, the EX-P600 is one of the fastest digicams on the market, with blazing shutter lag numbers and very good continuous-mode cycle times as well. The P600's viability as a true enthusiast camera is also aided by the excellent Canon-built 4x zoom lens, which shows excellent resolving power and low chromatic aberration. With its combination of compact size, rich feature set, good image quality, fast shooting, and attractive, rugged case design, the Exilim EX-P600 very much brings Casio back into the "enthusiast" market. If you're looking for an excellent high-resolution camera with all the bells and whistles, you definitely need to add the P600 to your "short list" of serious candidates. Highly recommended, and a strong contender as a "Dave's Pick."
Review posted for Nikon Coolpix 5200
Nikon has been very successful at designing high-end point & shoot digicams, that are easy to use, yet flexible enough to handle a wide variety of shooting conditions. Their Coolpix 4300 has consistently been one of the most popular cameras on the IR site, and the updated 5-megapixel Coolpix 5200 seems posed to take over from it, adding a sleek metal case in addition to the higher-resolution sensor. In my testing, I found the usual mix of pros and cons, but more of the former than the latter. Read my review for all the details, but here's an excerpt from my summary that encapsulates what I found: "Bottom line, the Coolpix 5200 is a nice, compact point & shoot digicam, a good choice for anyone who wants an easy to use camera that delivers good-looking pictures with pleasing color and plenty of resolution. For those willing to delve just slightly deeper than "just push the button" its extensive scene modes and unique framing-assist options greatly extend the camera's capabilities, making it easy to bring back good-looking shots of what might otherwise be difficult subjects. All in all, a good choice for the point & shoot user looking for an easy to use, compact digicam with a surprising range of capabilities." Check it out!
Software Review: Optipix 3 by Reindeer Graphics
They brought 16-bit channels to the ordinary digicam, then beat Adobe to 16-bit editing tools in Photoshop. Now Reindeer Graphics has released the third version of its little image engine that could with four exciting new tools. Harnessed in Photoshop actions they're one great way to run a railroad. We resize an image using the new Interactive Interpolation plug-in that let's you see the effect of your settings before you resize. Then we deblur an image taken in low light using the new Hubble-powered Refocus plug-in. We try out the JPEG Cleaner plug-in and play around with the Grain Maker plug-in, too. Our conclusion? Optipix just keeps getting better. Read the review for the whole story.
Review posted for Pentax Optio 43WR!
It's sadly often the case that the vacation moments you most want to preserve in photos are the very moments when you leave your camera home, fearing the digicam-deadly effects of water, mud, or dust. The Pentax Optio 43WR breaks free of conventional digicam limitations though, with a rugged, resilient case and water resistance to a depth of 1 meter. That's more than enough to withstand vigorous splashing and even shallow dunking of the sort that tends to happen whenever people, water, and/or boats intersect, and even a torrential downpour while hiking is no big deal. (Read my "shooters report" at the end of the review, I can personally attest to its water resistance!) While its images aren't quite up to the quality levels of the best full-sized 4-megapixel models on the market, they're not bad, with decent color, plenty of detail, and a surprising collection of features that can handle a range of shooting conditions. If you need a camera that can "take a licking and keep on clicking", the Optio 43WR belongs in your travel bag. A "Dave's Pick," thanks to its unique combination of features and water resistance. Check it out!
Review posted for Olympus D-540 Zoom!
Reviewing cameras ranging in price from under $200 to $5,000 or more, it's hard sometimes for me to adjust my expectations appropriately based on each camera's price range. In the case of the Olympus D-540 Zoom, I found myself reviewing it in close proximity to Konica Minolta's 8-megapixel DiMAGE A2 uber-camera. Needless to say, the sub-$200 D-540 had a hard time competing in my mind against the roughly $1000 A2. When I stepped back though, took in the roughly $170 street price of the D-540, and looked at what it offered, I realized it's an exceptional bargain. Like many low-end digicams, there's a good bit of softness in the corners of its images, and it's certainly no speed demon. That said though, it offers decent resolution with its 3.3 megapixel CCD, has a nice 3x optical zoom lens, captures sharp, good-looking photos with good color, has an excellent macro mode, does surprisingly well uner low-light conditions, and even handles household incandescent lighting well, if not perfectly. Bottom line, it's a great little camera that's amazingly affordable for all it offers. A great "first" digicam, but equally nice for experienced users looking for a cheap, take-anywhere camera to just drop in their pocket and go. All things considered, an easy Dave's Pick for its price point. Check it out!
Full review posted for the Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2!
A defective sample camera contributed to the loong delay in getting this review up on the site. It's finally here though (although I still need to reshoot two of my test subjects), and I think it's worth the wait: The A2 is an excellent entry in the 8-megapixel derby, actually leading the pack in many areas. It's one of only two 8-megapixel models (the other being the Canon PowerShot Pro1) that's usable in RAW mode for anything other than landscapes and still lifes, thanks to buffer memory that works for RAW mode as well as JPEGs. It also has arguably the fastest shutter response and cycle times of the current 8-megapixel field, although its paltry 3-frame buffer depth could be an issue for some users. (It takes advantage of fast memory cards up to the 40x level though, so be sure to buy a good, fast card to go along with it.) Also impressive is its anti-shake system, first seen on last year's A1 model. A subtle feature, but hard to overstate its importance: Shoot some long telephoto shots with and without anti-shake, look closely at the results, and you won't want to live without it. Finally, there's the fine-grained, broad-ranging creative controls for saturation, contrast, and hue adjustment that have been the hallmark of the high end of the DiMAGE line since the original DiMAGE 7. All in all, a powerful photographic tool with many unique capabilities. From my testing, it's clear that each of the current crop of 8-megapixel digicams have their own specific strengths and weaknesses, with none reigning supreme in all areas. That said though, the A2 comes out on top in enough areas that anyone shopping for a high-end digicam should give it a serious look. Check it out!
Reviews posted for Sony DSC-P73, DSC-P93!
Sony's P-series cameras have been perennial favorites on this site for years now, no surprise when you consider their excellent combination of image quality, features, and value pricing. The latest generation is out now, in the form of the four-megapixel DSC-P73 and five-megapixel DSC-P93. There are a host of enhancements over last year's models, including higher-resolution sensors at each price point, expanded "scene" modes, and more control over the images, with contrast and color-saturation adjustments. They also offer unusually fast shutter response, a real boon for shooting any subject that isn't standing still. My one complaint was that both cameras have somewhat over-aggressive anti-noise processing (IMHO, anyway), which limits detail in areas of subtle contrast. Still, they're great "all-around" cameras, good enough to make the grade as "Dave's Picks." Check out the DSC-P73 and DSC-P93 reviews for all the details!
Review posted for Pentax Optio S4i
When I reviewed the Optio S4 (the predecessor to the S4i) last year, I was very impressed by it. I liked its compact design, rugged case, good image quality, and excellent feature set. While it's the same camera in many ways though, I didn't find myself liking this year's S4i model nearly as much, for two reasons. First, while I'm reasonably certain that it's the same lens, photos from the S4i sample I looked at for this review just didn't seem quite as crisp as many of those from the S4 I tested last year. A second issue I had with the S4i is actually related to an "enhancement" relative to the earlier version: Where the S4 was limited to a maximum ISO (light sensitivity) of 200, the S4i goes as high as ISO 400. While this would normally be a good thing, in practice, the S4i's higher maximum ISO means that, when running in Auto mode, it will automatically boost the ISO to that higher level when faced with even slightly dim lighting. The end result is images with very high levels of image noise, in situations where the S4 with its more modest maximum ISO level would have produced acceptable-looking images, albeit with the limitation that the slower shutter speeds would increase the likelihood of blurring from camera shake. While you can always manually set the ISO to a lower value to reduce the image noise, few casual users are likely to do so. The net effect is that the S4i is prone to "surprising" novice users with noisy images, with little warning. That said, how you feel about image noise will depend a lot on how you use your photos: If your primary use is to make prints 5x7 inches or smaller, you likely won't notice it. Overall, the Optio S4i is amazingly full-featured for a subcompact model, delivering good color and tone in an incredibly tiny package. If you're mainly looking for an ultra-compact camera to snap photos under daylight conditions, the Optio S4i is hard to beat. On the other hand, if you anticipate much indoor and after-dark photography (particularly if you're not a more experienced user, willing to control the camera's ISO setting manually), you may want to consider another model. Check it out!
Full review posted for Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom
Olympus was an early innovator in the long-zoom category, and have maintained a commanding presence there for some years now. The C-770 represents the top of their long-zoom line for 2004, offering good value and a very rich feature set in a full, "enthusiast-level" digicam, with four-megapixel resolution and a 10x zoom lens. It continues the flexible exposure control, useful preset Scene modes, and creative image adjustment tools of last year's long-zoom models from Olympus, and image resolution is high enough for sharp 8x10 prints, even with moderate cropping. With its varying levels of exposure control, the C-770 meets the needs of both enthusiasts and novices alike. Overall, the C-770's image quality is very good, my main complaint being the relatively high levels of chromatic aberration that it has in common with most long-zoom models on the market, and somewhat higher than average levels of image noise under nighttime shooting conditions. It improves over its lower-end sibling, the C-765 in a number of areas, but its more powerful processor and deeper buffer memory also contribute to noticeably shorter battery life. Apart from these fairly minor issues (relative to competing long-zoom models, at any rate), it's hard to find much in the C-770 to complain about, and its relatively large buffer memory, extensive movie capability (including MPEG4 format, at 640 x 480 resolution), great flash range and external-flash compatibility make it a standout in many respects. If you're interested in long-zoom digital photography and need its unique capabilities, the C-770 definitely deserves strong consideration. (If you can live without MPEG movies, external flash connection, and deeper buffer memory though, you can save yourself a hundred dollars or so by going with its lower-end sibling the C-765.) Read our review of the Olympus C-770 for all the details!
Software Review: Paint Shop Pro
As we worked with Paint Shop Pro, we couldn't help but recall Space Cowboys, the 2000 film whose tagline was "Boys will be boys." A bunch of old test pilots who never got to be astronauts finally get to fly into space led by Clint Eastwood, who is on a mission to save the world. PSP strikes us as the Clint Eastwood of image editors. It got the job done in 1991 and it does now. Of course, PSP is no Tom Cruise (or Leonardo di Caprio, for that matter). And, yes, there's at least one fatal diagnosis. Still, you want to root for the old bugger and if you don't shed a tear by the end of our review, why, you just ain't paying attention, pardner.
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420