August 20, 2003

tiny camera lust

I've become less and less satisfied with my Chameleon low-rez micro camera. Like all things, it has pros and cons:


  • small so can carry all the time
  • cheap so don't have to worry about losing or breaking it
  • super-low power consumption so batteries last months
  • decent macro mode


  • 640x480 max resolution
  • fixed focus
  • lens quality you'd expect from a cheap camera
  • no lcd, so can't review images
  • control beeps can't be disabled
  • requires custom software on desktop to download pictures (and no removable media so a card reader won't solve this)
  • flash is worthless

The indispensible Digital Photography Review reviewed three different 3-megapixel ultra-compact digital cameras back in May. They are:

Drool drool drool!

They all have some features in common:

  • approximate size of a pack of smokes
  • $380 street price (ouch!)
  • lcd display with rich user interface
  • 3-megapixel resolution
  • good quality optical zoom lenses
  • limited, but decent flashes
  • lithium rechargeable batteries with 2.5 hour run time (pretty good, really)

This size forces some tradeoffs too, and they all have some different ones.

The Canon has a 2x optical zoom (35-70mm) compared to the 3x (35-105mm) on the Casio and the Pentax (which have the same lens system). (This brings up my big gripe with all the snapshot cameras I've looked at (digital and film), they never go wider angle than 35mm. I'd love to have 28mm!) The Canon also has the worst macro performance of the three.

The Pentax seems to have some weaknesses in the controls that would probably drive me nuts (power button where shutter should be, fiddly navigation control for menus).

The Casio doesn't have USB output, but instead relies on a computer-connected cradle which also serves as charging stand. There's no A/V output even from the cradle.

Of course it's not like I'm actually going to spend the money right now, but... I guess I'd lean towards the Pentax, but I'd need to play with the controls on one first to see if they'd bug me or not. Please comment if you have an opinion. Please send email if you have $400 you want to give me ;-)

Update: For another $50, there's the Canon PowerShot S400 with 4 megapixel resolution, and a 36-108mm zoom in basically the same form factor as the SD100 (the S400 is 4mm thicker). Hmm.

Posted by jeffy at August 20, 2003 07:13 PM

Pentax. It has features that I can't live
without: playback zoom, manual focus, time
lapse movies, and good close macro.

It has features that I can think of uses for
right now: remote control, voice recorder mode,
image histogram.

Downside is the plastic tripod mount, instead of
metal, and no apparent time exposure mode (I think
this is an omission of the reviewer).

Great camera review site, by the way.

Posted by: Dan L at August 25, 2003 01:22 PM

Unfortunately, it looks like the "Night Scene Mode" allows "long exposures of up to 1 second" which is pretty short if you ask me.

Posted by: jeffy at August 26, 2003 12:30 AM