Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Camera

I finally broke down and bought a digital camera.

I had been stuck for years in a state of "analysis paralysis" about digital cameras. I wanted something that would produce photos that looked at least as good as my Canon 35mm Photura, which has a great zoom lens and does a wonderful job with auto-focus. The last digital cameras I used to any extent were a Sony Digital Mavica that wrote photos to 3.5-inch floppy discs, and an Apple QuickTake 100 that uploaded photos using a serial cable. So, clearly my impressions were out of date.

I was leaning towards a recent Canon, but there are so many different Canon models that I got very frustrated trying to compare them. I also did not really like the fact that a lot of their designs are, to put it bluntly, ugly.

The design of the Ricoh GR Digital really appeals to me, but it is fairly expensive, and the reviewers found that the image quality has a few issues compared to comparably-priced Canon cameras. The Leica D-Lux 3 also has a really appealing design, but at a rather extreme price.

The design of the Samsung NV series really appealed to me as well, but again the reviews pointed out some flaws in image quality when compared to Canon cameras. I thought I might consider a new Samsung NV-20, but they were not available locally yet.

My hand was forced because I had a project coming up that desperately needed a digital camera. The project was to spend a weekend packing and organizing my mother's personal effects in Erie, PA. I wanted to be able to discuss all these things with my brother and other relatives out-of-state. So, on my way out of town, I decided to just pick up whatever low-end camera looked reasonable at a couple of nearby stores. My only real requirement was that it would shoot reasonably good macro (close-up) images.

I wasted some time in an OfficeMax trying to buy a low-end Canon camera that was displayed on the shelf, only to find that it wasn't in stock, and then a few more minutes only to find that a different Canon also wasn't in stock. Circuit City's web site had told me that certain Samsung models were in stock at the Ann Arbor store, but it lied.

Getting desperate, I wound up purchasing a Samsung S730 for $129, along with couple of SanDisk 2 gigabyte memory cards, and a bunch of batteries.

Since the purpose of these pictures was basically to put together a quick catalog for browsing, not printing, I set the resolution to the lowest available (1024x764).

I found out the hard way that standard alkaline Duracells or similar batteries give terrible results; I got low-battery warnings and shutoff after only eight pictures. I had to run out for more batteries. I wound up buying a pile of Energizer lithium batteries. With a pair of these, I got something like 400 shots before the batteries failed. Duracell "Ultra" or equivalent produced perhaps fifty shots. I did not want to mess with rechargeables for that weekend since I was in a big hurry and it was not clear how they would stack up to the lithium cells. I may wind up buying an AC adapter for "tethered" work of this type.

I was especially impressed that this camera allowed me to take almost every picture without using a flash. The "anti-shake" feature was good enough that I held a lot of the items to photograph in one hand and the camera in another, using just the light that was available, and in most cases it still managed to give me a reasonably crisp image. It crapped out on extreme close-ups of extremely small items, such as thimbles, but this was not terribly surprising.

Besides the shots of artifacts, I took a few breaks to go explore some places in the Erie, PA area that I have not visited in a few years. For these shots I turned up the megapixels and the camera did quite a decent job there, too.

As far as I know there is not an option to shoot RAW, but that's OK for my purposes.

I wound up taking over 1,000 pictures. I was not quite prepared for how many pictures a 2G card would hold -- I've used up only a small fraction of one card.

Samsung seems to be a bit of an underdog in the digital camera market, but I am quite happy with it, and this camera has led me to think that I would probably like the NV-20 even more. For $129 bucks it seems like an excellent deal to me.

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