Digital Camera Resources

What Digital Camera Should I Buy?
Inexpensive digital cameras worth looking at
by Chris Maher
Check out our mini review of PMA 2002

What digital camera should I buy?” This is the most frequent question that we are asked, and one of the trickiest to answer. In truth, everyone’s needs and expectations are different, and so the ideal digital camera for each is equally different. A host of different issues should be addressed, starting with the purpose for which the pictures will be used, and ranging over the gamut of technical and usability points. But after all is said and done, the most important issues around which the others revolve are the price and the quality of the images that the camera can produce.

With that in mind, we closely examined the results of the 2002 PMA digital camera shoot out. Fifty-one digital camera entries from 20 different manufacturers participated in the 6th Annual DIMA Digital Camera Shoot-Out. The subject was a professional model wearing a brightly colored sweater, well lit by studio type hot lights. Prints were made from each camera, and hung side by side, arranged in categories according to the price of the cameras. Attendees at the PMA 2002 Annual Convention voted on the results, and winners were selected. We didn’t always agree with the popular picks. In many cases our practiced eye found that cameras that were sharper were often passed by in favor of softer images that flattered the model more.

If you want to spend less that $100…
Can you really get acceptable results from a digital camera under $100? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. The popular pick was the Zoran CamMini (Zoran Corporation, Santa Clara, CA) but we liked the Argus DC3150. We felt it was sharper, and showed slightly better color. Its 1280x960 resolution would be more than enough for putting images up on the web, or creating 4x6 snapshots. It’s not going to satisfy folks who compare it to a 35mm camera, but at this price it’s amazing how good the quality is. Hats off to the manufactures competing in the under $100 price category, these cameras just keep getting better.
In the $100 to $199 category…
Here again we disagreed with the popular choice of the Toshiba PDR-M11 (Toshiba America, Irvine, CA) The Fugi FinePix A101 was remarkable for the quality of the image it created for $179. Its resolution of 1280x960 is fine for web and small prints. I’m not a big fan of smart media, but won’t hold this against Fugi. Color was decent, and the sharpness was an improvement over both Zoran CamMini and Argus DC3150.
In the $200 to $299 category…
The Fuji FinePix 2600Z ($249.00 Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc., Elmsford, NY) was a clear winner. This camera produced image quality that I would never expected to come from such an inexpensive camera. Producing a 1600x1200 pixel image, it also sports a zoom lens.
In the $300 to $499 category…
The Kodak EasyShare Dx4900 (Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY) is a four-megapixel camera at a break though price of $399. It takes CF cards, and has a resolution of 2048x1600. Although advertised as a 6x zoom, in fact it is a 2x optical with a 3x digital zoom. Out of the box it comes with a “KCRV3”nonrechargeable lithium battery, which, despite its inherent long life, is an expensive way to power a digital camera. The camera will also work with NiMH AA rechargeable batteries. For $70 more you can purchase the docking station, which includes rechargeable batteries, and automatically charges them when the camera is in the cradle.
Interesting to note....
Our favorite camera manufacturer, Nikon, chose not to compete in the digital camera shoot off. The CoolPix 995 is currently selling in the $450 price range and is worth looking at.

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