Past EED rants


Live leaderboard

Poker leaderboard

Voice of EED

Sunday 10 August 2003

Best compact digital camera evah! [lurks]

You may recall in blog 466 that I was on the hunt for an inexpensive digital camera. I did get the Olympus C-150 in the end. It's a solid little performer for the money. It's so gratifying to see that pretty much every USB storage device these days, including cameras, just turns up as a drive. It's also very nice that one of XP's default options is just to open the folder in explorer, or in my case Directory Opus.
Anyhow, the Olympus is now being used exclusively by the missus and she loves it. However the things that I found a little annoying prompted me to buy a new camera for myself. The annoying issues were the lack of a zoom, the lack of resolution and the length of time before it's ready to take a photo. It's also too big for the pocket.
Candidates for a new camera included the Canon Ixus range which is popular with EED. I've nothing against Canons but I tend not to like the controls and there are some more modern cameras around. Particularly the Pentax Optio S. Pentax make their own lens system for this, it's a stunning feat of engineering in that three lenses slide up and into the camera when the camera is off. That and the latest miniturisation technology yields a camera which is ridiculously small and thin yet has a 3X zoom lens. Here's it in front of a CD as a size comparison.
This then lead me on to discover the Casio EX-Z3. It uses the same Pentax lens system but the back has a massive 2' CCD on it. The back of the thing is mostly LCD. It also seems to fair a little bit better in the image quality stakes in comparisons with the Pentax. The more I came around to thinking this camera was for me, the more I came to realise that the thing was virtually impossible to buy in the UK.
In the end I found it on Pixmania (which appears to be closed for the weekend), which is a French shop. It was cheaper than anywhere else, in stock and with a bit of googling and a lot of guesswork I ended up guessing a coupon code and had the thing delivered in two days for around £250. Result!
I'll do things in reverse. So far the only things that remotely suck about it are as follows; The lens is a little soft in the corners sometimes. It has a tendency to overexpose light bits although conversely you could say that it tends to bring out dark bits automatically at the expense of light bits so I'm not really sure that's a flaw as such. When shooting movies, the vids are pretty low quality and you hear the clatter of the auto focus if you move the camera around. Comes with only 10MB built-in so an SD card is needed for any use (although you could also say it's nice there's any built-in memory at all).
Now about covering the stuff that rules; The camera is fucking tiny! It weighs fuck all! It fits very easily in a pocket and it has a stunning magnesium alloy case. In fact everything is rounded and recessed, it's designed for the pocket clearly. I also like the fact that there's no nooks and cranies to wipe pocket fluff out of.
The TFT on the back is bloody huge and this really does beat the shit out of squinting at smaller ones on digital cameras. The power-on time is insane. Given that this bloody lens appears out of nowhere on the front of the camera, it's ready to shoot in a second or so and already I've caught lots of pics instantly. It's the fastest-on camera I've ever seen by a long shot.
The controls are the most intuitive I've ever seen. There's a solid little metal power button that toggles on off. Play/record slider. 4 way scroll cursors with a set button etc. Seriously, I've accessed most functions of the camera in 15 minutes of just scooting through them. The menu system is way cool, superimposed on the video. While the cam is basically point-and-shoot, it has dozens of preset modes for types of shot, each with a helpful little picture demonstrating that usage.
It comes with a little cradle. You plonk the cam in the cradle and it charges but there's also a USB button. You whack that and bingo, it turns up as a drive as you'd expect. I like the whole, I wanna charge now, I wanna shovel pics off it thing. Standards default settings for this thing just appear to be the closest to usable I've ever seen. 2048 x 1536 images come out at a bit over a megabyte. The camera doesn't post process much at all by the looks of it, so when you get the images into a paint package they're ready for tweaking.
The image quality is, I would say, about on a par with the mid-sized zoom Olympus cameras I've used before. That is to say, fucking good but easy enough to fuck up with too much movement, not taking focusing into account properly etc. On the other hand, it seems to be impossible to take a completely duff image. I've got a couple of photos which illustrate me whipping it out of a pocket and pressing the button, moving quite quickly and not giving the auto focus any time whatsoever to do it's job. Here and here
The auto focus seems to work in virtually no light. The flash doesn't overexpose on close subjects, it seems designed for that sort of thing. However it definitely likes to pull out detail and overexpose bright bits. As a matter of preference I prefer that over losing detail but you often get some chromatic aberration on the overexposed bits. Image quality certainly isn't in the league as the modern mid-sized zooms like the Canon Powershot S45 or the Olympus C-450 but it's not really that sort of camera. It's a snaps cam, one you'll always have on you at a moment's notice.
The fact I'm even comparing image quality of a cam the size of a fucking credit card with mid-size zooms is just insane. The zoom is physically faster than my old Olympus C-200Z. It's got a full tripod mount on it. The macro on it, as picked up by dpreview and steve's, is absolutely awesome and by far and away the best I have used on any digicam other than a big-lens SLR. See for yourself.
General picture wise, here's a couple of untouched raw images in medium quality out of it of my lair taken from a tripod. Flash fill (auto) and no flash.
In all, it's an object of desire make no mistake. It was a toss-up between this or an Olympus Mju 300 but I reckon I've made the right choice.


  1. I've just got one of these without the focus (EX-S3) that is even smaller(people stop me in the street and say wow! - good potential fanny magnet?) which I bought after my pentax incident (see blog 404). It is excellent *blushes with shame for not doing a blog on it earlier*
    I have noticed a slight halo effect which changes the colours in the corners slightly - I'm playing with settings with trying to sort out - but I'm well pleased :)

  2. I just bet you play cricket as well Houm!! :o)

  3. I guess you mean without the zoom. Here's what he's talking about in case anyone wondered what Houmous the Slack was on about. :)

  4. God why am I such a moron? Yes I did mean zoom of course. Anyway just stuck these up from this week at Cowes - all done on the EX-S3.
    The reason I didnt get a zoom in case you were wondering (which I'm sure you werent) is that I found I never really used it on my Pentax and I suspect that was how what ever crap I did get in it destroyed it!
    Floyd - I cant stand cricket! you arent trying to categorise me are you!