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Digital Camera

I don't know if it's coincidence or not, but I find a lot of hackers are also very good amateur photographer (well that includes Joel and Phil Greenspan :)

I am also very interested in this art but I'm just starting.
What kind of digital camera do you guys recommend and what are the most important features in a camera that you think will be important for starters?

For me, the semi-manual / full manual controls are important as in digital you can do a lot of experiments without getting broke buying and processing films, which brings to the second point - the total cost of ownership (flash storage and batteries). Also, if the camera is too bulky (like those high end SLRs) you end up not carry it with you most of the time and you'll practice less and miss a lot of chances for great shots.

Actually I'm considering to buy the Canon A70 - it uses the ubiquitous type I flash (you can have 256mb for under $40) and AA batteries (3 sets of rechargable only costs $40 and you'll not run out of juice for a whole day with camera on and ready for shots). However I don't like the fact that canon is still using USB1.1 (even the highend G5 and SLRs) and I prefer to have 4+ Mpixels. Also I'm not sure if the semi-manual control of the A70 is good enough for practicing the craft.


PS. Joel, what camera you used for all these lovely pictures in the site? All I can tell is that it supports stitching mode :-)


Sunday, July 20, 2003

My wife and I have both been taking photos (mostly scenery and travel photos, as well as the typical family and kids photos over the years) for decades (and we're both programmers). We switched to digital several years ago (early adopters), and we currently have both an SLR (using a Type II compact flash card, allowing for an IBM Microdrive), and a compact point-and-shoot (using the small SD/MMC card) digital camera. I have a separate USB-connected card reader permanently attached to the PC, and don't use the USB port in the cameras for transferring pictures.

If I was buying digital cameras now, my preference would be one each of the following 2 cameras:

SLR: Canon EOS-10D 6.3MP Digital SLR Camera ($US1500, body only) [plus a lens like a 28-300mm zoom]

Compact: Minolta Dimage Xt 3.2MP Digital Camera w/ 3x Optical Zoom ($US400)

Philip Dickerson
Sunday, July 20, 2003

I got a Canon S50 and love it (my former daily use camera was a Minolta 5xi with a bunch of lenses). If I had one complaint, it's that for really good quality pictures it operates as ISO 50. Couple that with the fact that it has an f2.8 lens (unzoomed. f4.9 zoomed) and you have the makings for a camera that needs a flash in all but the brightest situations (and flash pictures almost universally stink. A flash for anything other than fill flash situations is only making the best of a bad situation). That is the cost of having a highly portable camera (which was the impetus for the purchase. I found that I took my film 5xi very few places as it was just too heavyweight. It also conveyed a "I'm a wannabe photographer!" vibe that I just wasn't comfortable with).  If I were more willing to carry something bulkier (I'm not. I love the S50), I'd get the G5 which is basically the same camera with a better lens and swivel LCD.

Dennis Forbes
Sunday, July 20, 2003

Get a techie community together. Give them a forum where you can upload pictures. Ask them to upload pictures taken with their digital cameras. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Sunday, July 20, 2003

I'm delighted with my Canon PowerShot A40.

John Topley (
Sunday, July 20, 2003

I got a Minolta S414 for my birthday and I really like it. It's a 4.1 megapixel camera with 4x optical zoom that is priced very aggressively (Costco - $379 in May, probably less now.)

The features I shopped for were: high image quality; a range of manual adjustments available; cheap, standardized and available flash memory (this meant Compactflash); and cheap, standardized and available batteries, *not* proprietary rechargeable batteries - this means AA's and this disqualifies (for me) some of the Canon compact and high end full size models.

A few tips. Don't bother with an AC adapter for the camera. Get a (cheap!!) compactflash reader for your PC or laptop. The separate card readers are generally much faster than downloading directly from the camera. Keep the camera LCD off most of the time and your batteries will last through hours of camera standby time.

One thing to keep in mind - digital photography can now addordably be done at the level of mid range amateur photography, but you will not wind up with archival/professional quality results unless you get a pro ($$$) digital SLR. Maybe not even then.

Recently I was reviewing my archive of several thousand 35mm B&W, color and slide stills I took from the early 70s to the mid 1980s. I have scanned some of them with a slide scanner (Minolta Dimage).

Some slides I took in the early 1980s of the Grand Canyon, taken with a "crappy" little  department store Canon rangefinder that we probably paid $70ish for in the 70s, are SO crisp and sharp that I am going to make some 11x14 posters from them for my office and the image detail *will* stand up.

I doubt that digital photography will be at that level of cost effective quality for years.

And one other thing. A digital camera is not exactly a "universal" device. It absolutely sucks to try to use one for candid photos or photos requiring quick reaction. All models have some inherent delay of 1/4 second between shutter press and shutter release, or more. And, many models don't let the picture get taken if they cannot get an autofocus lock, so you can lose many photo opportunities that way too when you squeeze the shutter release and the camera does "nothing".

All in all, digitals are my choice for casual snapshots.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, July 20, 2003

I've heard that the only thing keeping many 1 hour photo development places in business is disposable cameras. NOBODY is taking analog photos anymore...

I happen to prefer analog photos... the physicalness of the act of taking a photo and developing it yourself... but that's just me.

C|Net has some good resources for buying digital cameras... B&H in NY ( ) typically has good prices, and has a very knowledgable staff. A friend of mine bought a digtal camera as recently as a year ago... he's in India now or I'd ask him for the name of the website he found that had camera ratings & prices.
Sunday, July 20, 2003

Some sam
Sunday, July 20, 2003


<quote>Actually I'm considering to buy the Canon A70 - it uses the ubiquitous type I flash (you can have 256mb for under $40) and AA batteries (3 sets of rechargable only costs $40 and you'll not run out of juice for a whole day with camera on and ready for shots). However I don't like the fact that canon is still using USB1.1 (even the highend G5 and SLRs) and I prefer to have 4+ Mpixels. Also I'm not sure if the semi-manual control of the A70 is good enough for practicing the craft.

The Canon A70, S45 / 50 or G3 / G5 seem the obvious choices.

The A70 is the cheapest, and has the option of adaptor lenses (which the S45 / S50 do not) - which is why I would go for it. But if you want 4MP, then the S45 / S50, G3 / G5 are obviously better bets...

The use of USB 1.1 is not a big issue - I would suggest buying a separate USB card-reader which would solve that issue.

Re: the semi manual control - my understanding is that the only difference between the A70 and say the S45 is that the S45 has a custom option which (essentially) allows you to store two separate fully manual settings at all times (MANUAL plus CUSTOM). The A70, on the other hand, only has one (MANUAL). So, I think A70 allows the same level of manual control, just that it only has support for storing one set of fully manual settings at a time (if that makes sense?).


Sunday, July 20, 2003

My 2c.  Summary - digital cameras suck or at least the ones i've tried.  Those are Olympys C720 and Olympus C3020.

The big thing is shatter lag - which is you press the buttton and the camera shoots more than a second later.  By that time yuor kid is out of the picture or no longer looking at the camera with the cute look you wanted to capture.

The other big problem is horrible low light performance.  Auto focus will not work.

Another gripe is that on those 2x1 inch LCD the pciture will look good while when you see it in full size it can be out of focus.

Overall maybe the very expensive ones are worth it but I can't justify such expense.  You can buy a decent 35mm SLR for  $300.  2 sets of 24 rolls 4x6 cost like $4 in BJs.  Plus I tend to show pictures to people in real life not on the web.

Monday, July 21, 2003

I just got back from a trip to Vancouver Island with a friend's Nikon D1.

The D1 is a wonderful camera, but a tad pricey for the casual photographer.

You can see some of the shots I took with it at:

Mark Hoffman
Monday, July 21, 2003

I've come to the conclusion that the only digital SLRs worth buying right now are the really %#% expensive ones with full-frame image sensors.

Why?  Because there's a 1.4x or more multiplier on your lens that turns everything except for a fisheye lens into a telephoto lens.  All of the paramaters of the 35mm lens mount are built around a 35mm image sensor, no bigger, no smaller.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, July 21, 2003

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