Saturday Shout: The Perfect Pocket Camera

December 10, 2005 | Mark Goldstein | Saturday Shout | 28 Comments |

Saturday ShoutThis week’s Saturday Shout is a plea for help from PhotographyBLOG reader Alan, who’s looking for the perfect pocket digital camera that offers full manual controls. Alan wants a camera that he can carry at all times without noticing, and which offers advanced shooting modes like Aperture and Shutter Priority. It should also produce images with negligible amounts of noise, and be quick enough to capture those treasured family moments. Things like a big zoom range, RAW mode and good movie options are nice-to-have features, but not essential. So what would you recommend to Alan as the best camera for the job? Shout out now…



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#1 Pavel K.

I have the same problem. After long searching and reading tons of reviews I think I found the best camera for this job.. It's Casio EX-Z750, which is unexpectedly fast and with tons of features not often seen in this class of camera (e.g. A/S priority, manual and flash compensation!). Another plus is a great battery life (over 650 shots reported per single charge!).

Of course, there are also downsides.. The biggest problem seems to be often reported "lens error" error message, which can lead to non-working state and need of visiting the casio service.

Personally, I missed ISO 800-1600 and better macro mode + lens thread or anything like that. But you can always make an home-made adapter, like this.. ;)
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1015&message=15181147

I did not purchased my Z750 yet, because I'm a bit scared about "lens error" and I still want a pocket camera ISO800-1600 (and full manual..not like Fuji F11, which has excellent high ISO, but lacking essential features), and which we can expect from Z750 successor. There is a big chance we will see a successor in February ;)

BTW, here you can find an excelent Z750 review..
http://www.kenrockwell.com/casio/exz750.htm

5:17 pm - Saturday, December 10, 2005

#2 Paul Riismandel

I've really liked my Olympus Stylus 800, which I've owned for three months. It's got a great macro mode, is fast if you prefocus, and does both A/S priority manual shooting. Test reports have complained about noise at ISO 400 and up, but in real-world experience I don't find it problematic.

I really like the anti-shake and ISO 800 and 1600 modes. You take a hit in resolution (only 3.3 mp) and the camera's noise reduction is overly aggressive. But, in exchange, you get low-light pics without flash that you'd never get with a pocket camera except for the Fuji F10, which doesn't have manual modes.

7:19 pm - Saturday, December 10, 2005

#3 GARY POGODA

If you are looking for an ultra-compact having both full manual controls
AND a low noise CCD, the Fujifilm FinePix E900 and Canon PowerShot
S80 (or S70 with its RAW mode) come the closest. The only drawback
with these cameras is that they are only "near" ultra-compacts, and are
not quite as pocketable as a "true" ultra-compact.

If you absolutely need a true ultra-compact, with low noise, then I would
wait for the next wave of 1/2.5" CCD cameras to hit the market. By then
their noise problems should be resolved.

8:58 pm - Saturday, December 10, 2005

#4 Al Jareau

So basically you are looking for a Panasonic LX-1/Leica D-Lux 2 with a decent sensor (noise wise). Well, doesn't exist. Apart from noise, the Panaleica is pretty close to perfect.

My advise: learn to live with the noise, for the moment it does not get any better than this.

My camera of choice is the Sony V3 with a very decent lens (f8 needs sharpening in PS), good speed and comparatively little noise. It's still not perfect, it does not have an image stabilizer that would help a little with longer exposures.

I am looking for the same camera as you, but as long as Panasonic doesn't get the noise under control (colours are beautiful by the way) and Sony and Canon do not upgrade their V3 and G6 cameras respectively, well, the Panaleica fits the bill best.

The Fuji F11, to not leave that out, is a nice camera, however, it indeed does lack some features. Probably the most important one is buttons: you have to do almost anything through the menus. By the time you're done, the shot's gone.

Hope I could help. Should you indeed find your dream camera, please leave a note here or, better yet, order me one too...

9:01 pm - Saturday, December 10, 2005

#5 phule

Fuji F11. It's the wonderful F10 but with manual controls.

No other camera offers such options to the end user.

10:53 pm - Saturday, December 10, 2005

#6 David Kaminsky

I'm very pleased with my Casio EX-Z750.

Regarding the lens error thing, just turn the selector dial to the voice record (microphone) icon when you turn if off. If you accidentally turn the camera on in this mode the lens does not extend.

1:26 am - Sunday, December 11, 2005

#7 Ade

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt:
Big Bubbles

10:20 am - Sunday, December 11, 2005

#8 GARY POGODA

I did not include the Fuji FinePix F11 because, according to its specs
at DPReview (which I presume are accurate) it does not have manual
focus, which is a very important consideration for someone who wants
"full" manual controls. If lack of manual focus, optical viewfinder, wide
lens, and extended zoom are outweighed by "true" ultra-compact size,
then yes, I would definitely include the F11.

I did not include the Casio Exilim EX-Z750 due to of its underpowered
flash. If the lack of a powerful flash, wide lens, and extended zoom are
outweighed by its "true" ultra-compact size, then yes, I would definitely
include the EX-Z750.

I did not include the Bubbles recommended Canon PowerShot 610 due
to its larger than "near" ultra-compact size. If lack of near ultra-compact
size and wide lens are outweighed by its "full" manual controls, extended
zoom, and optical viewfinder, then yes, I would definitely include the 610
(or for that matter, the 620, as well).

It all depends on what compromises you are willing to make, or better yet,
how long you are willing to wait. :)

8:25 pm - Sunday, December 11, 2005

#9 Charles Bandes

The Fuji F10/F11 is as close to a "perfect pocket camera" as I've come across so far. Sure, I'd prefer to have more manual options, but that's what my DSLRs are for - for something to carry everywhere all the time, the F10 does what I need - fast, accurate AF, no shutter lag, super-low noise even at 1600, and an adequate zoom range (I almost only use it at the wide end tho) I do wish it had manual focus and an optical viewfinder - but perfection is tough to attain.

The F10/F11 are the only point-n-shoots I would even consider right now. One day something better will come along, but for now even with their shortcomings these two are pretty amazing.

10:03 pm - Sunday, December 11, 2005

#10 Freeman

I have to say Fuji F10/11 also. Yes, F10 missing the manual control, but like Bandes said, if I very need to be that picky, I'll just take my 20D w/ me instead. F10 is a truth point and shoot digicam that offer the image quality closest to the dSLR that any other P&S digicam. After 2-3 weeks of research, I came to the conclusion that if I want a P&S digicam, it better be a point and shoot, not point, fiddling through the menu, hit 3 more buttons and shoot. Image quality is the key, and everybody I know agree that F10 is much better than any other digicam in that aspect.

12:44 am - Monday, December 12, 2005

#11 Fredy Ross

There just isn't a perfect pocket camera but none of them are bad. I have the SD500 and carry it everywhere but for serious shooting take my 20D. I miss the raw and IS on the SD500. Perfect day photos though but needs a tripod in low light.

6:43 am - Monday, December 12, 2005

#12 GARY POGODA

Alan, I have found the perfect camera for you. It is a low noise, high
zoom, full manual control, ultra-compact. It uses a new Sony CMOS
Image Sensor to achieve 10 megapixels resolution on a 1/2.75" chip,
with noise characteristics which rival many DSLRs, providing usable
ISOs up to 6400. With this small sized sensor, in combination with a
newly developed triple-retracting lens from Leica, the camera is able
to pack a 15x zoom, super-fast lens into a 1" thick body. It also uses
a newly developed proprietary high-speed microprocessor to achieve
blazingly fast continuous and shot-to-shot times, with virtually instant
startup and no shutter lag. It is capable of shooting stills in 4:3, 3:2,
and 16:9, and movies in 4:3 and 16:9, with a 3.0" wide-format LCD.
The camera is scheduled for release in April.

Alan, I think you will be very happy with this one. :)

Here are its specs:

- 10 megapixel, 1/2.75" CMOS Image Sensor (Sony)
- 15x optical zoom (24 mm - 360 mm) triple-retracting lens (Leica)
- F2.0 (W) - F2.4 (T)
- ISO 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
- Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, Custom, Manual
- JPEG (Normal, Fine, Super), TIFF, RAW, RAW + JPEG (N, F, S)
- 4:3 (10 mp), 3:2 (9 mp), 16:9 (8 mp)
- 1024 x 768, 640 x 480 (4:3), 1920 x 1080 (16:9) @ 30/60 fps w/ audio
- 3" TFT LCD (wide-format, 300k pixels resolution)
- Optical Viewfinder (100% coverage)
- OIS 1 and 2 (still), OIS 3 (movie)
- Auto Focus (TTL, 10 focus points) + Manual Focus
- 15 cm Normal focus, 0.5 cm Macro
- 3 fps continuous JPEG, 2.5 fps RAW or RAW + JPEG, 2 fps TIFF
- 64 segment, Center Weighted, Spot metering
- AF Assist Lamp
- Pop-up Flash
- Hot-shoe
- 1GB internal + 1GB dedicated thumbnail + 2 SD/CF card slots
- 20 Scene + 5 Custom Modes
- In-camera Red-eye Fix, Contrast Compensation, Panorama Stitch Assist
- AAA NiMH (2) batteries
- 1000 shot capacity (CIPA)
- 95 (w) x 26 (d) x 60 (h) mm
- 270 g
- US release date: 4/1/2006
- $TBA

10:10 am - Monday, December 12, 2005

#13 Mike Stead

Wow Gary, will be watching out for that Sony. Wide angle, AAA btys and 1GB internal.

But - pop-up flash? Whatever were Sony thinking? We had one on our ancient Finepix 4700, and it was such a pain for anotherwise great camera. Unless Sony make it auto-pop up - now that would be a feat in an ultra-compact.

In the meantime, I guess it's the R3 for me.

Mike

4:22 pm - Thursday, December 15, 2005

#14 Mike Stead

Hang on...just re-read Gary's post. Now I feel either suspicious, gullible or both!

4:24 pm - Thursday, December 15, 2005

#15 Eric Licatovich

The cameras release date is April Fool's Day!!! How big would a lens have to be to be F2.4 at 15x telephoto? You could probably eat dinner off that lens. Maybe in the Jetson's era would such a thing be possible, and even then that's a big maybe!
EricL

2:40 am - Saturday, December 17, 2005

#16 GARY POGODA

Guilty as charged. :)

One thing though, that 15x zoom would be possible if the camera's
image sensor could be scaled way down, something which is not all
that far away.

2:09 pm - Saturday, December 17, 2005

#17 S. Papa

There is no perfect camera. You will have to figure out what you want to sacrifice in a digicam. I was searching for one and settled for the Fuji F11.

Things I sacrificed (that would have made the F11 perfect):
- manual focus
- panorama assist mode (yes I like taking panarama shots!!)
- RAW image files
- contrast and brigtness control
- full manual mode

Why I got the camera:
- very low noise
- high ISO capabilities (800 and 1600)
- very sharp lens (for a compact)
- fast startup and operation (I don't worry about missing shots in full auto mode)
- aperature and shutter priority (good enough alternative instead of a full manual mode for me)
- pocketable size
- very good 6 megapixel image quality (color is very good, image detail rivals 7 / 8 megapixel compacts)
- 500 shot battery life

Honestly, on my wishlist for the F11, I probably miss the panorama mode the most. I hardly used the RAW files and full manual controls, relying mostly on the aperature and shutter priority modes.

2:07 am - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

#18 GARY POGODA

I am posting this comment to several PhotographyBLOG threads, the
ones where I have spent considerable time over the last few months.

As you know, I've been searching for a camera for my wife's birthday
coming at the end of January. I was looking for an ultra-compact with
a high zoom and minimal red-eye. Some of the cameras I considered
were the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX1, the Samsung Digimax L55W, the
HP Photosmart R817, the Nikon Coolpix S4, and the Ricoh Caplio R3.

Unfortunately, all of these cameras were eliminated for one reason or
another, but mostly for their high image noise. It was only at CES that
a camera debuted which caught my eye, the Kodak EasyShare V570.

The V570 is a dual lens, dual CCD, ultra-compact. One lens is a fixed
23mm while the other is a 3x zoom (39 - 117mm), for a 5x total zoom
range. Both lenses are of the folded-optics variety. The V570 also has
two 1/2.5" 5 megapixel CCDs, which do not seem to be plagued by the
excessive noise of similar CCDs. Its in-camera red-eye removal is also
quite good.

If you are interested in reading more about the V570, or about its CCD
noise characteristics (as per a review of the V550 which uses the same
CCD), then check out the links in my comment #20 of the recent "Take
My Wife's Digital Camera" thread (written by yours truly).

http://www.photographyblog.com/index.php/weblog/comments/take_my_wifes_digital_camera/

The camera is not ordered yet, so any feedback you can offer would be
greatly appreciated. I would feel better if the camera had been reviewed
by our own Mark "The Noise Sleuth" Goldstein.

9:05 pm - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

#19 macsuperfly

I've written up a one page discussion identifying the current low noise pocket cameras. Ive done a good amount of research on this going to the point of looking for cameras with lower resolution but (relatively) bigger sensors. Have a look:

http://www.findbesttech.com

4:49 pm - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

#20 GARY POGODA

Lots of good. Please keep us updated when you get a chance to
review the new Fujifilm Finepix F200EXR.

http://tinyurl.com/clo84v

5:52 pm - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

#21 macsuperfly

Thanks, I just posted a short discussion of the f200exr and a link to some pictures from dpreview (some high iso pictures). As before:

http://www.findbesttech.com

10:40 pm - Thursday, February 26, 2009

#22 GARY POGODA

The sample photos look very promising, not only the high iso photos, but also the
high dynamic range photos.

3:02 am - Sunday, March 1, 2009

#23 macsuperfly

ok I've put up a site for the the fujifilm f200exr http://www.f200exr.com , I've found a czech website that has an incredible review with great sample pictures. I also have links to the few well known websites that have sample pictures. I also have links to buy the camera today (I am in no way affiliated with the sellers and as you'll see both sellers are reputable).

4:17 pm - Sunday, March 8, 2009

#24 GARY POGODA

I took a look at the sample photos from your first link (Impress Watch)
and compared the shots of the stuffed rabbit in the high res and the low
noise modes for ISOs 400 and 1600. You can definitely see the reduced
resolution in the low noise mode, but I did not see much noise reduction.

Anyone concur?

3:25 am - Monday, March 9, 2009

#25 Mark Goldstein

We've just got a Fujifilm Finepix F200EXR review sample in for testing...

10:42 am - Monday, March 9, 2009

#26 GARY POGODA

That's great news Mark. I'll be interested to see PhotographyBLOG's
analysis of noise performance in the high res vs low noise mode for
the same subject and camera/lens settings. Similarly, your analysis
of dynamic range for the high res vs high dynamic range mode.

6:57 pm - Monday, March 9, 2009

#27 macsuperfly

Yeah, really great Mark :) I've been waiting to see how the f200exr works out. Did anyone compare the f200exr high iso photo's to the steve's digicams f20 high iso photos? I just bought an f30 on ebay.

11:55 am - Tuesday, March 10, 2009

#28 macsuperfly

Ok, I rounded up a bunch of pictures taken by the f200exr and sorted them by ISO (400,800,1600). My take is that it does not look promising. The f30 does a much better job. Have a look f200exr.com. I've added a bunch of other content as well. I average about 40 viewers per day so its not like I'm doing this for the money (I've made about 2 dollars in the last 6 months hah!).

6:11 am - Wednesday, March 25, 2009