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Digit Democracy

March 24, 2003



Quality of digital cameras has already reached the level when one can easily replace a film compact auto camera with a memory-card one. Moreover, digital compact cameras from famous manufacturers can't be considered simply cheap auto cameras. They are entry-level reflex cameras with unremovable optical systems or very good compact cameras with very good optics. 1.5-2 Mp models allow for a decent 10*15 shot while 3 Mp devices have good reserves to make up for errors in exposure of white balance. In comparison with 1.5-2 Mp cameras, they have a more powerful zoom allowing to frame a shot's central part. However, the price is still higher than $150-200 (a price of a good compact zoomed camera), but the efforts of noname companies will soon bring it to this level.

What are the minimal requirements for a consumer camera? 2-3x zoom-lens, well working automatic exposure and focusing, auto (and manual) white balance which is advantage of digital gadgets, built-in auto flash, auto release. These features are usually supplemented with such functions as video shooting and sound recording, displaying photo and video on TV, DPOF printing setting right in shots, several program modes, exposure correction, 50 - 400 ISO, software for PC data transfer, editing, creation of a digital album and printing. 

Certainly, companies also care about the design and other minor stuff like Li batteries, straps and eyelets, bags, audio welcoming messages and others.

We have compared three cameras in the equal conditions: Pentax Optio 330 RS, Canon Digital IXUS v3, Nikon Coolpix 3500. Each of them has a junior sibling (2Mp, with almost the same capabilities sufficient for 10*15 cm, at a lower price) and a more feature-laden model.


Pentax Canon Nikon Pentax Canon Nikon

Pentax Canon Nikon

As you can see, the companies stick to the pocket-size and cigarette-pack-size design. Only Nikon looks inferior but its swiveling lens is the latest thing in fashion. Although many would prefer the classic style of Pentax and Canon, you should take a closer look at Nikon because its lenses are hidden and the mechanical parts can't be damaged by careless touching.
 

Camera Nikon Coolpix 3500 Pentax Optio 330 RS Canon Digital IXUS v3
Lens Zoom-Nikkor 5.6-16.8 mm (for 35mm film: 37-111 mm); f/2,7-4.8; 7 elements in 6 groups 7.6 - 22.8 mm (for 35mm film: 37-111 mm) 7 elements in 6 groups, 2 aspherical elements 5.4 -10.8 mm (for 35mm film: 35-70 mm) f/2.8 -4.0, 7 elements in 5 groups, 3 aspherical elements
Sensor 1/2.7", 3.34 Mp, 3.2 eff., 2048 x 1536  1/1.8", 3.34 Mp, 3.24 eff., 2048 x 1536  1/2.7", 3.3 Mp, 3.2 eff., 2048 x 1536
ISO 100-400 (auto) 125, 250, auto 50, 100, 200, 400, auto
exposure 1/3000-2 sec 1/2000-15 sec 1/1500 - 15 sec
exposure metering 256-segment, matrix multisegment, center-weighted, spot evaluative / spot
exposure modes auto, auto & exposure compensation, programs auto, long exposures, exposure compensation auto, long exposures, exposure compensation
programs Portrait, Party, Night Portrait, Beach/Snow, Landscape, Sunset, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks, Macro shooting, Copying, Back Lighting Color mode, B&W, Sepia, Color Filters Live colors / Neutral / Blurring / Sepia / B&W
focusing auto 5 focusing areas, from 30 cm auto 7 focusing areas, infinity, manual focusing, from 40 cm 9-spot TTL AiAF / AF with one central spot, landscape, from 47 cm
macro mode, focus from 4 cm, lens fixed position from 15 cm from 10 cm (W) / 27 cm (T) 
white balance auto, 5 settings, white target auto, 4 settings, white target auto, 5 settings, white target
flash 0.4-3 m (W), 0.4-1.7 m (T) 0.14-3.1 m (W iso 125), 0.4-1.8 m (T iso 125) 0.47-3.0 m (W iso 100), 0.57-2 m (T iso 100)
flash modes auto, off, RedEye reduction, fill, slow sync
video 35 s 320*240 15 fps 30 s 320*240 AVI 15 fps 15 fps Motion JPEG 160*120 118 s, 320*240 44 s, 640*480 14 s, 
display 1.5" TFT 110000 1.6" TFT 80000, viewfinder 1.5" TFT, 120000, viewfinder
sound record no no mono
shooting modes continuous and 16 shots in one, timer series mode, in intervals, video with large intervals between shots, timer, remote control approx. 2 fps (for first 12 shots), timer, panorama
file formats JPEG (Exif 2.2), DPOF
removable memory CF I CF I and built-in memory of 11 MB CF I
interfaces USB USB, IR RC USB, TV
power supply EN-EL2 3.7 V 1000 mAh Li battery D-LI 2 3.7 V 1035 mAh Li battery NB1-LH 3.7 V 840 mAh Li battery
dimensions, mm  114*59.9*31.5 92*59*32  87* 57* 26.7
weight, g 175 without battery 200 without battery 180 without battery
additional features One-Touch upload to computer or Internet, small picture for email attachment 3D mode - stereo, histograms, alarm clock and world time, framing after shooting direct printing on Canon CP-10 / CP-100 / S820D / S830D / S530D, Intelligent Orientation Sensor - auto rotation, 'in camera' video editing

Pentax Optio 330RS

Following the trends of the digital technologies Pentax announced two new models in summer 2002: Optio 330RS and Optio 430RS. These digital 2G cameras of the popular Optio series incorporate all best features of their predecessors. The exterior of the new-comers doesn't differ markedly from the previous generations, they have a compact body made of high-quality stainless steel. The changes are brought only into the insides and functions. (after http://www.pentax.ru/)


Pentax Optio 330 RS

Compact metallic body, conventional design.
Pentax Optio 330 RS

Optical viewfinder with dioptre correction, tripod mount, conventional control. Zoom/Enlargement lever in shooting/Viewing modes, buttons for flash modes, film transport (traditional for Pentax shooting at intervals and time-lapse video shooting), focusing mode buttons (manual, infinity), menu multiselector, menu button and display modes button. Integrated color filters supported: black-and-white (monochrome), sepia, red, rose, yellow, green blue, purple. 
Pentax Optio 330 RS

USB interface and power supply. IR port for remote control. 

Canon Digital IXUS v3

Following the best traditions of IXUS, Digital IXUS v3 has a shining streamline body made of stainless steel and incorporates Canon's latest technologies. 3.2Mp CCD matrix has a higher resolution than previous Digital IXUS v3, and the image is adapted for A4 printing.

Digital IXUS v3 is equipped with the latest super efficient DIGIC processor (DIGital Imaging Core). This innovation combines 6 main elements: CCD matrix control, auto exposure / auto focusing / auto white balance, signal processing, JPEG compression, memory card control and LCD displaying. iSAPS (Intelligent Scene Analysis based on Photographic Space) - this is one more technology used in Digital IXUS v3 which allows for top-quality shots. Canon analyses shots and data on shooting conditions and compares them to the data stored in the Photographic Space Data Library http://www.canon.ru/


Canon Digital IXUS v3

Small and stylish camera with a moderate zoom and a myriad of functions typical of more professional solutions. 
Canon Digital IXUS v3

There is a lack of buttons for shooting settings though they are needed only for special purposes and advanced photography. The menu multiselector also controls an exposure type, focusing, flash and series modes. In addition: operating mode switch (view, video, photo), settings buttons, menu button, display modes and settings (file size and compression etc.), white balance/ exposure correction/ color modes for manual shooting. In the long exposure mode you can choose it from 1 to 15 sec. 
Canon Digital IXUS v3

USB/TV connector (shared).

Nikon Coolpix 3500

The photo camera is meant for those who values style, wants an unsophisticated handy compact digital photo camera ensuring high quality of shots and who desires to get maximum pleasure from making digital photos. (after http://www.nikon.ru/)


Nikon Coolpix 3500

Swiveling lens, small flash and streamline body. Sliding Power/ Record/ Playback switch and release button on top.
Nikon Coolpix 3500

Display with buttons for flash control, programs and data transfer to PC, quick view and thumbnail creation for e-mailing (QUICK), menu multiselector, timer and photo-video-auto-manual settings. Focal length control button on top. Only white balance and exposure correction can be changed manually, BSS mode - best shot selector (from a given series). Memory card and battery are in the same compartment. Tripod mount.
Nikon Coolpix 3500

Only USB, no video-out.

Compare the shots

We took shots in the conditions as close as possible. We tested performance of the automatic system and settings which are most frequently used by users. They are auto shooting outside with the zoom in the extreme positions, auto white balance in artificial illumination and flash operation, macro shooting.
 

Nikon
Lens position - W
Lens position - T

Nikon


Nikon

 
Pentax
Lens position - W
Lens position - T

Pentax


Pentax

 
Canon
Lens position - W
Lens position - T

Canon


Canon

Fragments 1:1 for zoom teleposition (right shots).

Nikon

Nikon


Nikon

Pentax

Pentax


Pentax

Canon

Canon


Canon

The exposure auto system is very similar in all cases. Canon has inferior maximum zoom - 2X, against 3X of Nikon and Pentax. None of the cameras supports depth-of-field control. I noticed no apparent digital and JPEG artifacts when examined the shots 1:1. 

Flash and white balance 

Flash, auto white balance
Incandescent lamp, auto white balance
Nikon

Nikon


Nikon

 
Pentax

Pentax


Pentax

 
Canon

Canon


Canon

The more powerful lens of Nikon and Pentax allow for a less tougher image when shooting with the flash. With the flash and mixed light the auto white balance works well in all cases, but the incandescent light is something that only Nikon is a master in.

Macro

Nikon

Nikon


Nikon

 
Pentax

Pentax

 
Canon

Canon

Macro shooting is not widely popular mode with users. Nikon is the strongest here. 

It's not easy to choose among the three cameras. Nikon processes the automatic modes best of all, but it has the poorest bundle of functions. But if you don't need sound recording, TV connection, long exposures and you are not going to use Macro mode very often, then go with Nikon. Pentax is preferable for those who want to shoot stereo and series of shots with a timer. Canon suits a photographer's image most of all thanks to a wide range of functions, video and sound support and the longest fast series provided by the new processor.  


Sergei Sherbakov  (sherbakovs@ixbt.com)

 

 

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