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Canon PowerShot S45 vs. Nikon COOLPIX 4300 

March 29, 2003




Canon PowerShot S45 Ŕ  Nikon COOLPIX 4300

Although the cameras are of the same class and price range, they are actually very different.

Manufacturers keep on making every attempt in adding attractiveness for their products for consumers. Attractiveness is a vague concept. As you know, tastes differ, but no one likes to stuff their pockets with extra weight, that is why the tendency toward a compact size is common for all manufactures. Regarding photo cameras, it means to get a minimal size and weight with the frame format and lens focal length remaining unchanged. But when it's impossible to reduce the dimensions further with the same frame size, it gives birth to another class of cameras. Miniaturization can be an endless process, but some models are already so miniature that one has to be a Lilliputian to be able to shoot with them. An excellent example of miniaturization is Novelty Subminiature Hit Camera.

But the main purpose of cameras is taking shots, and such extremes are not frequent. There is no a simple answer to what a compact camera should look like. There are miniature copies of big cameras (Narciss, Zenit-surprize), and there are quite different midgets a number of which follow the design of Minox made in 1936 in Riga. A concept of a classic compact camera is often associated with this solution and the like (Minolta 16, Kiev-Vega, Kiev-30). When choosing a camera, your expectations brought up by fashion and what you saw before are often determining. A camera must be an extension of your hands for proper shooting, which can hardly be expected from a device that you don't know how to hold. So, those who expect a small copy of a big camera should address Nikon, and those who prefer the classic style of the Riga's heritage should go with Canon. 

A distinguishing feature of compact cameras as a class is that most of their extended functions are meant for a narrow range of users. The most important thing is that they can be easily fished out of pockets, do not weigh pockets down, and be ready in no time for shooting in the auto mode. Their basic mode is shooting without long preparations.

The automatic system of both cameras work well as I can judge as a man dealing mostly with manual settings. That is why the recommendations will be simple for most users: choose a camera the appearance of which looks better for you, which works as an extension of your hands and which is going to tear your pockets least of all. 

The further information is for those who like to go into more details in this matter. Nikon reminds a big camera and supports tele and wide-angle converters with UR-E7 adapter ring. The downside of this camera is perfectly explained in its description. 

Comments on the minimal aperture.

COOLPIX 4300 photo camera uses a filter in case of the minimal aperture which adjusts a light flow getting inside. That is why the minimal aperture can provide smaller depth-of-field than expected from the aperture shown on the monitor. 

Taking into account that the camera has only two aperture values specified, the aperture adjustment mechanism is not provided. And if there is too much light, it uses a neutral filter. Such cases were known before in the history of photography, but, for example, in case of the Rubinar lens which has no changeable aperture neutral filters are called neutral filters but not aperture. I don't have strong objections to such wording, here brevity is more important especially because the instruction gives the explanation. But such wording in the specification is very incorrect. I have to admit that culture and quality are far different things. This is the case when I want explanation why they did that, not satisfaction. Photography is used not only for image registration. This is also a good aid in learning physics, but the company doesn't accept this good educational aim; in contrast, they confuse consumers this way.

It's clear that such approach wouldn't provide for aperture priority or shutter priority; there is only a manual mode when you can set exposure and the filter, and a fully automatic mode. Maybe I'm wrong, and this is going to be a technological breakthrough. I have recently heard that there is a way to increase the DOF of digital cameras with the full aperture and, the filter is probably only an intermediate stage (CDM Optics).

For those who don't know much in physics there are special modes like Portrait, Sport, Night Shooting etc. (like in Smena-8 Symbol). After Smena-6 which I used in 60s, I got an impression that manufacturers wanted to develop an inferiority complex in users supposing that it's impossible for them to get the idea of the geometrical optics even on the simplest level. At the same time I think that quality of the cameras now corresponds to a supposed user's level. Let's calculate the constant aperture using the DOF calculation program when there is no lack of light. At the focal length of 20 mm the hyperfocal length for Nikon's camera makes 10 m. And the image will be sharp from 5 m to infinity. 

The aperture of Canon's camera can be reduced to F:8. The hyperfocal length in this case will be 5 m and the image will be sharp from 2.5 m to infinity. So, if you shoot landscape with the forefront, the forefront must be at least 2 meters further because of the neutral filter's focuses. Note that the cameras have almost identical lenses. At the maximum focal length the difference in the contrast-transfer functions (CTF) of Nikon, Canon (the lens is fully open, F:4.9 aperture) and Casio QV 4000 (F:5.6 aperture) is within  the inaccuracy of measurements. So, the compact size didn't affect much the quality, but the reduced maximum lens diameter made the aperture ratio smaller four times as compared to full-size models such as Casio QW-4000 and Canon G2. Since this Nikon's camera is a small copy of a big one, remember to take off the cap from the lens, otherwise you can damage the drive. It seems that the cameras are equipped with Sony's matrix 1/1.8" (i.e. of the same size as of senior model). But the filtering systems are different: Canon use GRGB and Nikon - CYGM. The spectrum of the halogen lamp obtained with a gitter demonstrates that the results are very similar in the RGB space, and the difference is noticeable only in the shape of the curves on the diagram of signal amplitude vs. wavelength in the blue channel. 


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Canon PowerShot S45 
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Nikon COOLPIX 4300 

Casio QV4000 seems to have the matrix identical to Canon, with the same filtering system and a similar shape of the spectral sensitivity curves.


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Casio QV4000

As to Canon's model, this is a full-featured camera (modernization of S40) which supports aperture priority, shutter priority and a manual mode. Its distinguishing feature is recording in the RAW format and shooting control through PC. But the camera is compact, and it has no standard means for attaching optical converters. 

Specification

  Canon PowerShot S45 Nikon COOLPIX 4300
Weight 323 g (260 g camera only) 286 g
Dimensions 112 x 58 x 42 mm 95 x 69 x 52 mm
Frame size (max.) 2272 x 1704 2272 x 1704
Recording format JPEG, RAW JPEG, TIFF
Matrix CCD 1/1.8" GRGB ; 4.1 Mp CCD 1/1.8" CYGM; 4.1 Mp
Lens 7.1 - 21.3 mm 
(35 - 105 mm in 35mm equivalent)
8 - 24 mm 
(38 - 114 mm in 35mm equivalent)
Aperture F:2.8 - F:4.9 / F:8 F:2.8/F:7.6, F:4.9/F:13.4
Exposure 15 s - 1/1500 s B, 8 s - 1/1000 s

Canon PowerShot S45 Nikon COOLPIX 4300

LCD display 1.8"; 118000 pixels 1.5"; 110000 pixels
Manual focusing yes yes
Focusing range from 10 cm from 4 cm
Exposure priority yes no
Aperture priority yes no
Manual adjustment of exposure and aperture yes yes

Canon PowerShot S45 Nikon COOLPIX 4300

Memory Compact Flash (Type I or II) Compact Flash (Type I only)
Power supply NB-2L Li-Ion 
(7.4 V; 570mAh)
EN-EL1 Li-Ion rechargeable battery (7.4 V; 680mAh) or 2CR5 battery
Charger CB-2LT MH-51
Video-out PAL or NTSC PAL or NTSC
PC connection USB USB
Sound yes no

Canon PowerShot S45 Nikon COOLPIX 4300

ăap ńhűe yctpoÚctba

Nikon MH-51 and Canon CB-2LT

ŢŰemehtű ´ŔtahŔ 

Nikon EN-EL1 and Canon NB-2L. The AA batteries are shown so that you can estimate the size.

Menu

I think that it's easy to get used to both menus. That is why you should choose the one you like more. I tried to place similar menu options next to each other, but sometimes it was impossible as the logic of the menu items differs.
 

Canon PowerShot S45 
Nikon COOLPIX 4300 

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Information displayed during shooting for manual focusing. Canon displays distance in meters, but it's to be taken as reference points, Nikon has only symbolic pictures for extreme positions: mountains on the horizon and a flower in the foreground.
   

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Photos

Canon PowerShot S45 
Nikon COOLPIX 4300 

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F=7 mm; !/320 s ; F:7.1 
F=8 mm; !/247 s ; F:7.6 
Click on the picture to see the original shot. 

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Fragment. F=7 mm; !/1000 s; F:4.5 
Fragment. F=8 mm; !/315 s; F:7.6 

˘oto


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Fragment. F=21 mm; !/640 s; F:4.9 
Fragment. F=24 mm; !/92 s; F:13.4 

Conclusion

We have compared two digital cameras of the same price range. The automatic systems work pretty well. Although Nikon's camera looks similar to its bigger brother, it is meant for fans of Point-&-Shoot devices who, however, conceal this fact. But it can be used with standard converters and has a smaller focusing length in the Macro mode. Canon keeps the traditions of both compact film cameras and its earlier digital models. The improvements are made mostly in the electronic section. The camera can't be used together with additional external devices but it doesn't yield to some bigger models in handling.

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