Review posted for the Konica Minolta DiMAGE A200!
The recent (and still current) Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 was easily a Dave's Pick, capitalizing on fast shutter-lag, excellent exposure and creative control options, and an excellent image stabilization system. Though the Konica Minolta A200 is a slightly pared-down version of the A2, I see many of the same excellent features that I praised on the A2, such as fine-tuned creative adjustments for contrast, saturation, and hue; a full range of exposure control modes for any experience level; a high-resolution 8.0-megapixel CCD; and a sharp 7x optical zoom lens. The result is a camera with a really compelling set of features and capabilities, but at a "street" price fully $150-200 less than that of the A2. You do give up the super-high resolution EVF of the A2, along with a noticeable amount of shooting speed and the top end of the A2's shutter speed range, but the bottom line is that the Konica Minolta A200 is an 8-megapixel, 7x zoom, anti-shake-equipped digital camera that sells for a lot less than any competing model with the same attributes. All in all, a fine digital camera, and another Dave's Pick for Konica Minolta. Read our Konica Minolta DiMAGE A200 review for all the details!
Fuji FinePix A340 review posted.
Fuji FinePix digital cameras have always been associated with good image quality and color, with solid performance even at the lower-end of the line. With a 4.0-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom lens, the Fuji A340 offers the same point-and-shoot convenience as Fuji's earlier entry-level models, but with greater flexibility thanks to its four preset scene mode and longer maximum exposure time, as well as more resolution from its larger sensor. Its color is very bright and highly saturated, likely to be appealing to many consumers, even though it's not technically "accurate". Overall, it's a good entry-level digital camera, offering good resolution and an optical zoom lens at a very low price. (As I write this in mid-December 2004, it holds the distinction of being the least expensive 4-megapixel digital camera with a zoom lens on the market, based on current "street" prices.) Its combination of image quality and low price made it a Dave's pick as one of the best digital cameras in its entry-level price/performance bracket. Read our Fuji A340 review for all the details!
Full review posted for Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20!
FINALLY! This has to be one of the most requested reviews of the year... We've just posted our review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20, the 5-megapixel, 12x zoom, image-stabilized top of Panasonic's digital camera line. No surprises really, the camera is virtually identical to the FZ15 that we reviewed earlier. The FZ20 adds a hot shoe for use with external flash units and sound recording, but operation is otherwise very similar. Noise levels are slightly higher, doubtless due to the slightly smaller pixels in the FZ20's sensor, and shot to shot cycle times are also slightly slower, the result of the increased amount of data that needs to be processed for each frame. The camera's overall color bias was also a little different, the FZ20 tending toward slight yellow casts, where the FZ15 tended toward slight pink ones. Overall, the Panasonic FZ20 has an attractive case, a nice "feel" in the hand, an excellent image-stabilized lens, great versatility, and very good image quality. If you avoid its 9-area autofocus mode, it has reasonably fast shutter response for a long-zoom digicam, and its shot to shot cycle times are excellent. Bottom line, the DMC-FZ20 is a very capable camera that conveys a distinct sense of pro quality in a high-end consumer digicam, with an excellent 12x zoom lens, and optical image stabilization to boot. With a full range of exposure control modes, including a full manual setting and no less than nine preset "Scene" modes, the DMC-FZ20 is an approachable camera for both novices and more experienced users alike. Recommended, and yet another Dave's Pick (as one of the best digital cameras on the market) for Panasonic in the long-zoom category. Read our Panasonic DMC-FZ20 review for all the details!.
Nikon Coolpix 8400 review updated to full production status!
Now that we've had a chance to fully test a final production model, our earlier impressions of the Nikon Coolpix 8400 have been pretty well borne out. Image quality was generally excellent, with loads of resolution, in-camera sharpening that struck a good balance between perceived sharpness and minimal artifacts, good (if somewhat bright) color, and a lens that kept chromatic aberration largely in check yet maintained good sharpness in the corners of the frame. The two standout features of the Nikon 8400 are its fast shutter response (among the best we've seen in a prosumer camera), and its super-wide 24-85mm equivalent zoom lens. A Nikkor add-on wide-angle adapter pushes the wide end of the lens's range to an incredible 18mm, unheard of in prosumer digicams, other than "fisheye" adapters. If you need to shoot at wide angle, the Nikon 8400 will be a no-brainer decision. (For Realtors, this is the camera to get.) Likewise, if fast-breaking action is important, the 8400 has the speed to capture it.
Pentax Optio S5i Review posted!
The Pentax Optio "S" series digicams have long been favorites of mine, ever since the original Optio S first appeared, nestled in an Altoids(tm) tin. The latest model is the 5-megapixel Pentax Optio S5i, delivering the same level of features and functionality (amazing for a subcompact digital camera model) that have made the line such a huge success. In our testing, the Pentax S5i delivered good (although slightly understated) color and tone, better than average battery life (for a subcompact), and better than average image noise levels relative to much of the competition. Rank beginners will find it trivial to use in full auto mode or one of its many preprogrammed "scene" modes, while more advanced users will love its full exposure control and adjustments for color, contrast, and sharpness. Overall, if you're looking for an ultra-compact camera with a full feature set, the Optio S5i is hard to beat. Excellent for travel and as a "take anywhere" camera, the Pentax Optio S5i arguably packs more photographic capability per cubic inch than anything else on the market. Read our review of the Pentax Optio S5i for all the details!
Software Review: Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0
It's been over two years since Elements has been updated. It wasn't broke, but at that rate, Adobe might be. Still, how could Adobe possibly improve its competent entry-level image editing software famous for its extraordinary HTML Help and Tutorials on image editing? Well, Adobe is not an ordinary company. Sometimes we wonder if it's a company at all. It seems more like a movement. A movement inspired by the Spot and then the Pixel. There's always more to Adobe than meets the eye. For a peek under the hood of this forward-looking release, read our Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 software review.
Buy your dream camera -- A year or two later!
While technology marches relentlessly on, I've always maintained that a digital camera that takes great-looking pictures now will still take the same great-looking pictures 3-5 years later, regardless of what technology is doing in the meantime. Now that digital cameras have been on the market in significant numbers for several years, it's getting easier to find true bargains on former top-end models. You can also score some real bargains on last year's hot models in the form of "refurbished" goods. Industry leader Jon Sienkiewicz has written a very nice article detailing some of the ins and outs of buying used and refurbished cameras. Great reading this time of year, for anyone looking to save some money, but still get a great digicam. Read Jon's Used Digital Camera Buying Guide for the full story!
Review posted for Canon SD200:
The 3-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD200 is the "little brother" to the 4-megapixel SD300 that we reviewed a little while ago. Apart from the difference in sensor size, features and functions are essentially identical between the two cameras, the most visible difference being the SD200's aluminum body, vs the SD300's more solid-feeling stainless steel. If you're willing to accept a slightly less robust feel in your hand, and can live with 3 megapixels rather than 4 (a tiny difference in resolution, if the truth be told), the SD200's $100-lower retail price makes it an excellent bargain. Like the SD300, it's very full-featured for a subcompact point & shoot digital camera, and is very responsive, both in terms of shutter lag and shot to shot cycle times. We also found less softening in the corners of its images than we did with our eval sample of the SD300, further tilting the scales in the SD200's direction. All in all, a very nice little digital camera, and an easy Dave's pick as one of the best digital cameras on the market. Read our detailed Canon Powershot SD200 review for all the details!
"Gallery" photos posted for multiple cameras!
We've lately been supplementing our standardized test photos with "galleries" of more pictorial subjects, so readers can get a better idea of each camera's capabilities in more typical shooting situations. Alas, the Atlanta weather has been pretty uncooperative over the last few months, with the result that our gallery shooting has fallen behind. Editor Shawn Barnett managed to take advantage of a few days of clear weather last week though, with the result that we've just posted a number of new photo galleries for cameras we've recently tested. (Or are currently testing.) Here's a list:
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D (Full production-level review coming in a week or so)
Nikon Coolpix 8400 (Production-level review coming in a couple of days)
Fuji FinePix S5100 Review posted:
The previous Fuji FinePix 2800 and 3800 Zoom cameras were exceptional values for the money, and the updated Fuji FinePix S5100 offers the same great value with the addition of a 4.0-megapixel CCD and a longer 10x zoom lens. The S5100's higher resolution is a welcome improvement, providing great image quality for a budget-priced digital camera, and its 10x optical zoom is excellent for distant subjects. Its color is more accurate than that of most consumer digicams, although that means it's less saturated on bright colors than most consumer cameras. My only real complaint about its images is that they tend to be a little contrasty. But then, most consumers seem to like more contrast than I do personally, so most folks would likely find the S5100 pleasing in this regard. Overall, the Fuji S5100 has just about all an enthusiast user could want in terms of expanded photographic controls, including full Manual exposure mode for ultimate creativity. About all it lacks relative to its competitors in the 10x zoom category is image stabilization. For the price though, that's no surprise. Given its price and its 4-megapixel resolution, its lack of stabilization really can't be counted against it. For everyday shooting indoors or out, under bright or dim lighting, the S5100 does very well and really sets a benchmark for an affordable long-zoom digital camera with enthusiast features. Recommended, and a Dave's Pick as one of the best digital cameras on the market, thanks to its combo of features, image quality, and price. Read our Fuji S5100 review for all the details.
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420