Panasonic DMC-L10 review

Panasonic, a leader in digital technology, is delighted to announce the launch of their second digital single-lens reflex camera (SLR) – the DMC-L10 with an interchangeable LEICA lens. The DMC-L10 features an advanced 2.5-inch free angle LCD for full time live view that offers 270 degree rotation and a versatile shooting style. A 10.1-megapixel Live MOS Sensor provides beautiful images with delicate gradation and wide dynamic range. Dust reduction with a Supersonic Wave Filter system prevents dust from attaching to the sensor to degrade the pictures. The superb image processor, Venus Engine III, boasts high quality image rendering and a high speed response.

Four Thirds System – Developed Exclusively for digital SLR

The DMC-L10 adopts the open format of the Four Thirds system for its lens mount – so the L10 can be used with lenses made by a variety of manufacturers, giving users a host of equipment options. Drawing on leading technologies while defying any stereotype ideas in SLR cameras, Panasonic’s DMC-L10 is designed to help you make the most of your photographic creativity.

One of the DMC-L10’s real talking points is the LEICA D VARIO-ELMAR 14-50mm / F3.8-5.6 / MEGA O.I.S. lens. Sold as a complete kit – the combination of the world renowned Leica lens, with Panasonic’s excellence in digital photography – makes an impressive proposition.

Full-time Live View for a New Digital SLR Shooting Style

The full-time live view function on the LCD proposes a dramatic change in the shooting style of digital SLR cameras. The DMC-L10’s 2.5-inch large LCD offers 270 degree rotation and a versatile shooting style even in situations when looking into the viewfinder is not easy – so you don’t need to get down on bended knee, or lie flat on the ground – you can see the subject even while holding the camera up high. This free angle LCD also features an Intelligent LCD function that offers an automatic brightness level control function according to the light condition, under the strong sunlight or in darkness, to secure clear view anytime.

The full-time live view gives users more shooting flexibility and greater convenience not previously achieved by conventional digital SLR cameras without live view capability. Not one to rest on its laurels, Panasonic introduces another first for a digital SLR camera by incorporating a Face Detection and Intelligent ISO Control function. The face detection system detects human faces (up to 15 human faces can be detected simultaneously) and sets a focus and appropriate exposure to capture a face clearly and beautifully lit. The Intelligent ISO Control function detects and meters the movement of the subject and sets the suitable ISO setting and the shutter speed according to the amount of the movement to suppress the generation of motion-blur in the picture.

The live view enables the user to check the outcome image in advance after compensating the exposure or adjusting the white balance. The white balance can be adjusted in the area of two-axis of coordinates precisely. Furthermore, the DMC-L10 provides options of picture taste with a function called Film Mode. Each analog film has its characteristics, for example colour, contrast, gradation and these effect the outcome of the picture, they are ways of expression. With the DMC-L10, the Film Mode allows you to choose the one that takes the best advantage of the scene or the subject you take out of a total of nine film modes including Standard, Dynamic, Nature, Smooth, Nostalgic, Vibrant, Standard B/W, Dynamic B/W and Smooth B/W, with the capability of fine adjustment of contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction. All these settings can be confirmed before you take the picture.

Users can also change the aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 and 16:9) according to the situation. As a leader in the flat panel market, Panasonic has been proposing further enjoyment of photography, by viewing the dynamic photos you take in HD (high-definition) 1920 x 1080 resolution image size on 16:9 wide screens.

In conventional digital SLR cameras, the live image could be seen only through the view finder and the LCD existed just for the playback of images once taken. But with the DMC-L10, any trials of setting, adjustment and effect can be checked beforehand, ensuring the picture will be just as the user intended.

Olympus E-410 EVOLT review

The Olympus E-400 was announced on the 14th September 2006, just before the Photokina show in Cologne, Germany. At the time there was much excitement about this compact and lightweight camera however this turned to disappointment for many of our readers when we discovered the camera would not be available in North America. Fast forward six months and we have the solution, the new E-410, gone is the Kodak CCD replaced with a (Matsushita) Live MOS Image Sensor which can provide Full Time Live-View on the LCD monitor, an updated image processor and a few other added features. So finally an affordable, compact, lightweight 4/3 digital SLR for everyone, including those who live in North America.

New features (compared to the E-400)

  • Ten megapixel Live MOS Image Sensor (provides Full Time Live-View)
  • Auto Focus in Live View (although still requires live view freeze and mirror flap)
  • TruePic III processor (faster, better image quality, better noise reduction)
  • Improved continuous shooting; still 3 fps but unlimited at JPEG HQ or 7 RAW
  • No warning message at higher sensitivities (E-400 warned from ISO 800 upwards)
Two new ZUIKO Zoom Digital lenses

In conjunction with their announcement of the E-410 Olympus also announced two more ZUIKO Zoom lenses. There is a new kit lens in the 14-42 mm F3.5 - F5.6 which provides a nice wide angle three times zoom coverage equivalent to 28 - 84 mm on a 35 mm camera, next up is the 40-150 mm F4.0 - F5.6 which when combined with the kit lens would give you a full 28 - 300 mm equiv.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 review

Barely half a year after the introduction of the DMC-FZ8, Panasonic added another model to its popular range of compact 'super zoom' Lumix cameras in the shape of the FZ18. Although obviously based on the FZ8 (they are externally almost identical), the FZ18 doesn't replace it; it's a sort of 'big brother' with a bigger zoom, more pixels and a smattering of new features.

The biggest news is the optically stabilized lens, which has 'grown' at both ends and now sports a whopping 18x (28-504mm equiv.) zoom, putting the FZ18 into direct competition with Olympus' SP-550UZ (now updated to the SP-560UZ) and Fujifilm's recently announced FinePix S8000fd.

Almost inevitably the FZ18 squeezes even more pixels onto its 1/2.5-inch sensor, although the increase has been fairly moderate from 7.3 to 8.3 megapixels. Other new features include a dedicated AF/AE button, Face Detection and a new Intelligent Auto mode which integrates Image Stabilization, Intelligent ISO, Face Detection and Scene Detection into a 'Super' Auto Mode.

Despite the usual noise issues you would expect from a tiny sensor/big zoom camera (and our dislike of Panasonic's approach to noise reduction), overall we were pretty impressed with the FZ8 when we reviewed it a few months ago. This was to a large degree due to the superb LEICA lens. So let's find out how Panasonic have tackled the noise challenge - and if the new lens, with it's much more ambitious zoom range, can match its predecessor, starting with a look at what's changed:

Major differences to DMC-FZ8

  • 18x optical zoom (28-504mm equiv.) - FZ8 has 12x (36-432mm) zoom
  • Smaller maximum aperture at long end of zoom (F4.2 vs F3.1)
  • 8.3 megapixel sensor (vs 7.2 megapixel)
  • Face Detection
  • Intelligent Auto mode
  • Manually selectable ISO 1600
  • ISO 6400 High Sensitivity mode
  • AF/AE lock button and dedicated AF/MF button
  • 1cm macro (was 5cm)
  • Custom mode and extra scene modes (plus 'advanced scene modes')
  • Five level Noise reduction (was three level)
  • Slower continuous shooting (burst)
  • Heavier and slightly larger

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T2

The 8-megapixel model features 4GB of internal memory and can store up to 40,000 VGA-quality photos or 1,000 8-megapixel pictures, eliminating the need to manage multiple media cards. And, you won’t spend hours trying to find your pictures on this camera.

The camera’s album folder makes it easy to organize and access thousands of photos in-camera. Images can be viewed in chronological order and displayed in a helpful calendar view. By installing the bundled Picture Motion Browser software, you can also view images by events like birthdays or Sunday BBQs.
Beloved photos can be selected and moved to the camera’s “favorites” folder for virtually instant retrieval, without having to navigate through hundreds of pictures. In favorites, photos can be arranged in six separate subfolders with a touch of a finger.

The “sharemark” folder can store those photos and videos deemed worthy for sharing beyond the camera onto the web. The T2 model is pre-loaded with Sony PMB Portable software, a user-friendly application that automatically runs when the device is connected to a compatible PC via the supplied USB cable. The software lets you publish photos and videos directly to popular web sharing sites, such as Crackle™, Flickr™, Photobucket™, Shutterfly™ and YouTube™.

Designed to be both powerful and stylish for the holidays, the camera has a new look with a compact silver body; black LCD frame; and a sliding lens cover available in blue, green, pink, white or black. The fashionable Sony LCS-TWE carrying case is also available in the same colors to match the camera.

Its touch-panel LCD screen replaces small buttons with on-screen icons and a user-friendly interface to make camera operation fast and simple. You can touch the screen to select the subject you want to focus on (shooting mode) and where you want to zoom in (playback mode).

Sony’s distinctive “smile shutter” function makes capturing informal portraits and family snapshots effortless. The function automatically detects and captures a person smiling without the need to press the shutter. If there are several people in the frame, you can select the primary subject for the camera to watch by touching the screen. A sequence of up to six smiling shots can be taken without the need to manually press the shutter.

Combined with such technologies as face detection, optical image stabilization and high sensitivity (ISO 3200), the camera is equipped to capture life-like holiday memories.

Photo viewing can be festive with the camera’s new scrapbooking feature, which allows you to choose up to 16 colorful designs to view photos on the camera’s anti-reflective screen. The unit also lets you add up to eight different creative effects to your photos, such as blurring and filter effects.

For the ultimate in photo viewing, you can gather family and friends around a high-definition television set and enjoy memories in full 1080 HD resolution. The T2 camera can be connected to the TV set via HD component cable or an HD cradle (both sold separately). Equipped with a built-in slide show function, the camera lets you view photos, complete with dynamic transitions choreographed to your choice of programmed music clips or by adding your own.

Nikon D3 review

The professional Nikon D 'single digit' series of digital SLR's started life back in June 1999 with the groundbreaking D1. Groundbreaking because it was the digital SLR which broke Kodak's stranglehold on the digital SLR market and fundamentally brought prices down to a level which most professionals could afford (around the US$5,500 mark). Since then we have seen a steady progression of this line of cameras, while the core values of a high quality full size body with integrated grip have remained the line split into two halves, one targeted at high resolution photography the other high speed sports type photography (lower resolution but faster continuous shooting); the X and H suffixes. It's been almost three years since Nikon introduced a completely new digital SLR with a new sensor (the D2X) and there has been much anticipation that Nikon's next move would be a full-frame chip.

This predictions have come true with the introduction of the 'FX format' (new moniker created by Nikon) D3 which features a 36 x 23.9 mm 12.1 megapixel CMOS sensor as well as a vast array of new features which absolutely raise it another notch above previous single digit Nikon DSLRs. Important headline improvements include high sensitivity support by default, up to ISO 6400 with 25600 available as a boost option, 14-bit A/D conversion, a new standard image processor, a new shutter, new auto focus sensor, focus tracking by color, nine frames per second continuous, dual compact flash support, DX lens support (albeit at lower resolution) and a 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor (which it has to be said is lovely).

Some will undoubtedly question Nikon for 'only' delivering twelve megapixels on their first full frame digital SLR, all we can presume by looking at past model line history is that this camera is designed for speed (both in sensitivity, auto-focus and continuous shooting).

Nikon D3 Key Features

  • First ever Nikon DSLR with a Full-Frame (36 x 24 mm) sensor (coined FX format)
  • 12.1 megapixel full-frame sensor (8.45µm pixel pitch)
  • ISO 200 - 6400 (with boost up to ISO 25600)
  • Also supports DX lenses, viewfinder automatically masks (5.1 megapixels with DX lens)
  • 5:4 ratio crop mode (10 megapixels, up to 9 fps, viewfinder masked)
  • 14-bit A/D conversion, 12 channel readout
  • Nikon EXPEED image processor (Capture NX processing and NR algorithms, lower power)
  • Super fast operation (power-up 12 ms, shutter lag 41 ms, black-out 74 ms)
  • New Kevlar / carbon fibre composite shutter with 300,000 exposure durability
  • New Multi-CAM3500FX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type, more vertical coverage)
  • Auto-focus tracking by color (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor)
  • Auto-focus calibration (fine-tuning) now available (fixed body or up to 20 separate lens settings)
  • Scene Recognition System (uses AE sensor, AF sensor)
  • Picture Control image parameter presets (replace Color Modes I, II and III)
  • Custom image parameters now support brightness as well as contrast
  • Nine frames per second continuous with auto-focus tracking
  • Eleven frames per second continuous without auto-focus tracking
  • Ten / eleven frames per second continuous in DX-crop mode (AF / no-AF)
  • Dual Compact Flash card slots (overflow, back-up, RAW on 1 / JPEG on 2, copy)
  • Compact Flash UDMA support
  • 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Live View with either phase detect (mirror up/down) or contrast detect Auto Focus
  • Virtual horizon indicates if camera is level (like an aircraft cockpit display)
  • HDMI HD video output
  • 'Active D-Lighting' (adjusts metering as well as applying D-Lighting curve)
  • Detailed 'Control Panel' type display on LCD monitor, changes color in darkness
  • Buttons sealed against moisture
  • Dual battery charger as standard
  • Available November 2007

Sony Cybershot W80 review

Announced at PMA in February 2007, the Cyber-shot W80 is one of three almost identical models that differ only in their pixel count (the range-topping W200 is 12MP, the W90 is 8MP and the W80 is 7MP). The W series has been gradually refined over the last few generations and now offers a more affordable alternative to the ultra-slim 'T' series whilst still offering a compact body, optical image stabilization and - new for these models - HDTV (1080i) output - albeit with an optional composite video cable or Cyber-shot Station dock. Also new to the W series is a new multi-point AF system and - of course - face detection AF/AE. Otherwise the spec is pretty standard ultra compact fare; 3x zoom, 2.5-inch screen and a claimed 340 shot battery capability. This is a crowded part of the market and Sony is one of the most successful players, and the W80 has proved very popular since it arrived in stores a few months ago. But is it any good? Let's find out, starting as usual with the headline features:

  • 1/2.5" CCD sensor, 7.2 million effective pixels
  • 3x Carl Zeiss branded optical zoom
  • 2.5" LCD screen
  • HDTV video output (requires optional cable or dock)
  • Super Steady Shot image stabilization
  • 4cm macro
  • ISO 80-3200
  • 7 Scene modes
  • 2.8 fps continuous shooting
  • Available in 4 colors (black, silver, white and pink)

Nikon D300 review

Just under two years since the D200 Nikon reveals the D300, the range of changes is so significant that it wouldn't be inappropriate to call it a 'compact D3' (less the full-frame sensor of course). From the top there's a new CMOS sensor with twelve megapixels, a new auto-focus sensor with 51-points (15 of which are cross-type sensitive), there's focus tracking by color, scene recognition, Picture Control presets, six frames per second continuous shooting (or eight frames per second with a battery pack), Compact Flash UDMA support, Live View (with contrast detect AF) and the mighty impressive 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor (oh and HDMI video output). It's an impressive list, the D200 was a fair step up from the D100, the D300 can be seen as just as big a step, certainly more than enough to make the competition sweat.

Nikon D300 Key Features

  • 12.3 megapixel DX format CMOS sensor
  • Self-cleaning sensor unit (low-pass filter vibration)
  • ISO 200 - 3200 (6400 with boost)
  • 14-bit A/D conversion
  • Nikon EXPEED image processor (Capture NX processing and NR algorithms, lower power)
  • Super fast operation (power-up 13 ms, shutter lag 45 ms, black-out 100 ms)
  • Shutter life 150,000 exposures
  • New Multi-CAM3500DX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type, more vertical coverage)
  • Auto-focus tracking by color (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor)
  • Auto-focus calibration (fine-tuning) now available (fixed body or up to 20 separate lens settings)
  • Scene Recognition System (uses AE sensor, AF sensor)
  • Picture Control image parameter presets (replace Color Modes I, II and III)
  • Custom image parameters now support brightness as well as contrast
  • Six frames per second continuous shooting (eight frames per second with battery pack)
  • Compact Flash UDMA support
  • 3.0" 922,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Live View with either phase detect (mirror up/down) or contrast detect Auto Focus
  • HDMI HD video output
  • 'Active D-Lighting' (adjusts metering as well as applying D-Lighting curve)
  • Detailed 'Control Panel' type display on LCD monitor, changes color in darkness
  • New MB-D10 vertical grip fully integrates into body, multi battery type compatible
  • Buttons sealed against moisture

Canon - Ixus V2 review

Canon's Ixus V2 is a true pocket digital camera. Its sleek, credit card-sized, all-metal case is under 30mm thick, making it very easy to take with you. The 2-Mpixel camera is a model of simple design, with power and shutter release buttons on its top surface, together with a centre-sprung, two-way jog-switch to control zoom level. The Canon lens offers 2x optical zoom and there's a further 2.5x digital zoom, giving a total of 5x.

On the back there's a 38mm colour LCD display, which also shows icons for the various camera settings. You navigate the menus with a circle of four buttons and make selections with four further buttons under the display.

One of the key features of the Ixus V2 is AiAF, or intelligent auto-focus. With most digital cameras, in fact almost all cameras offering auto-focus, you have to trick the technology if you want to focus on an object which is not in the centre of the field. The new Canon system uses three points to assess which part of the frame to focus on and normally takes the object closest to the lens. The system works well, but can be turned off if you want to achieve special effects.

Images are captured onto an 8MB CompactFlash card, which slides into the side of the camera. A rechargeable NiMH battery pack slides into the bottom and can be recharged in the supplied charger in a couple of hours.

Picture quality from our test images was very good with a bright, well-focused macro shot and high fidelity colours in the landscape image. A great little camera if you don't require ultra-high resolution.

Fujifilm - FinePix 30i review

Even with the batteries in place, the FinePix 30i feels rather lightweight and plastic. Designed very much for the youth market, Fujifilm highlights the fact that it can also be used as an MP3 music player. The company even supplies a wired remote control so you can select tracks while the camera is in your pocket. With only a 16MB SmartMedia card for storing audio or images, though, you'd be lucky to fit more than four music tracks on it, depending on the sampling rate.

As a camera, the FinePix 30i is quite fiddly to use. The buttons are small and the two shaped menu selectors, positioned around the jog-switch which controls the digital zoom, are particularly awkward. The three other buttons set into the back of the camera are hard to operate with a thumb, as they're too close together.

The FinePix 30i comes into its own as a fun camera, with extra features such as sound captioning of stills, short video sequences and sound-activated shooting. The idea of this last feature is to set the camera up, perhaps at the start of the party, so it shoots whenever there's a burst of laughter or shouting. If the party's any good, though, wouldn't it be going off most of the time?

Our test images came out over-bright, with the macro, flower picture looking particularly washed out. You can adjust for this using manual exposure compensation, but the automatic setting should have made a better attempt.

The FinePix 30i is a peculiar mixture. While its sound-based features could make it a handy toy in a busy social life, the price is not really right for a gadget. As a camera, its lack of optical zoom and fiddly controls make it look rather expensive.

Kodak - Easyshare DX4900 review

Kodak supplied both its DX4900 camera and the optional EasyShare USB dock into which it plugs. The camera alone is a similar price to the others in this group.

The DX4900 has a chunky and rather utilitarian design, full of bumps and lumps. On its back panel is a four-way thumb control and two other buttons with which you can navigate the menu system, which appears on the 38mm colour LCD display. Unusually, the top surface of the camera also contains a mono LCD, for status information like the number of shots remaining.

A 2x optical zoom lens powers out of the front at switch on and, with a further 3x digital zoom, provides a good degree of magnification. The built-in software makes effective use of this, enabling you to magnify a shot within the camera and pan around it on the LCD.

The 4-Mpixel CCD array produces large files and a 16MB CompactFlash card is provided to hold them. A single use, Lithium battery provides power if you buy the camera on its own, but a rechargeable NiMH pack is included in the version with the bundled dock. The battery recharges all the time the camera is docked.

Our test macro image came out very well on this camera, with the huge magnification available from its maximum 2,448 x 1,632 resolution. The landscape picture was also well reproduced and again can be zoomed to show the fine detail.

The DX4900 is an effective digital camera with great flexibility of control, including manual focus and exposure adjustment if needed. It's a shame Kodak's industrial designers still feel it has to look like a £40 'Brownie', though.

Ricoh - Caplio RR10 review

Ricoh's Caplio RR10 has an unusual vertical/horizontal design. About the size and shape of a hand-held dictation machine, you slide it down on one of its ends into a supplied dock, which you keep connected permanently to your PC. The dock, known as the Ricoh Base, acts as a recharger for the built-in Lithium-ion battery, a link for downloading pictures and the same for uploading music files.

Music files? Yes, this is another multi-function camera, designed for people who want to listen to music on the move. However, a late-night bus or train is probably not the ideal place to brandish a £300 piece of technology and anyway, the 8MB Secure Digital memory card will only hold a couple of music tracks.

Used as a camera, the Caplio RR10 is well-designed, although a little limited in function. A large thumbwheel on its back panel selects function - including music playback, audio recording and a short sequence of video - and most other controls are operated from 4 buttons above and below the LCD display and a thumb-pad for controlling the zoom level.

There are a few shortcomings to the Caplio RR10's feature list. There's no optical viewfinder for a start; you have to use the LCD display for every shot, which won't be to everyone's taste. There's no tripod mount and no macro facility, either, though in its normal mode the camera focuses down to a very useful 40mm.

Image quality was fair, though the lack of a macro mode was obvious on the close-up flower picture. The landscape shot was better, with reasonably natural colours and decent clouds. Overall, the Caplio RR10 is a better attempt at a camera with multimedia pretensions than the FujiFilm FinePix 30i.

Samsung - Digimax 350SE review

Like the Kodak EasyShare DX4900, Samsung's Digimax 350SE is a chunky design, but with a lot more style. A blue or silver band and handgrip mark out its body and its controls are commendably easy-to-use. On top there's a six-position dial to select photo, video or playback modes, with the shutter release set in its centre.

On the back there's a toggle switch controlling zoom level, with a 3x optical zoom and 2x digital, a five-way thumb-pad to navigate the on-screen menus and two other buttons for selection of extra features. Finally, there is an easy to spot, red, lozenge-shaped power button.

Samsung's new camera has a 3.2-Mpixel CCD array, which gives it a maximum resolution of 2,048 x 1,536, for highly detailed images. Our test shots were well reproduced, though the colours were a little bland in comparison with real life. The macro mode produced a very detailed close-up of our test subject.

In its basic form, the Digimax 350SE doesn't come with rechargeable batteries of any kind. A set of AA alkaline cells is all that's supplied, though NiMH batteries and charger are available as optional extras. A 16MB CompactFlash card is provided, which can hold up to nine images at the camera's highest resolution.

The camera makes electronic sounds when you press the power or shutter-release buttons. This is comforting for beginners but may scare off some subjects, like small birds. Other than this, and its relative heaviness, Samsung's latest venture into the digital camera world is a success. The Digimax 350SE is easy and comfortable to use and produces fair images straight out of the box.

Canon - Ixus v3 review

It is entirely possible that 'Q' never issued a Canon Ixus digital camera to James Bond, and we feel that is a terrible oversight. The Ixus v3 is a 3.2 megapixel update to the original Ixus and it looks for all the world like a small block of brushed stainless steel that measures 90mm x 60mm x 25mm.

Press the On/Off button and the lens extends, but not very far as this model only has a 2x optical zoom. As this is such a small camera the controls are all close to hand, but they are well laid out and easy to operate. The zoom is particularly neat, as you adjust it with the same fingertip that operates the shutter button.

The battery is Li-Ion and drops out of the camera to charge in a charger that Canon supplies. There's no option to plug the camera into the mains or use it with a flat battery. The media is regular Compact Flash, which is on the one hand quite chunky and on the other very cheap and cheerful at £30 for 128MB.

We found that indoors shots were clear, sharp and well balanced, but we were less impressed with outdoors photos. They were acceptable but unimpressive; not very sharp, as though the "intelligent 9-point AiAF system" couldn't quite decide where to focus, and the 2x optical zoom didn't help matters either.

We were a little surprised that the Ixus wasn't natively recognised by Windows XP and actually had to resort to the Canon driver CD. We also noted that Canon uses a proprietary port for the USB cable, which can also be used for the supplied AV cable, as well as its direct print devices.

There's more to taking a photo than pointing and clicking, and the Ixus v3 comes with a full package of software including ArcSoft CameraSuite 1.2, ArcSoft PhotoImpression and ArcSoft VideoImpression as well as PhotoRecord and PhotoStitch. The only way to improve that would be to include the same Adobe Photoshop Elements package that Canon bundles with some of its scanners.

We feel that the Ixus v3 is fundamentally limited by its size, and a fair amount of that is taken up by the battery and compact flash card, but if you work within the limitations of the camera you'll be very happy with it. The price isn't extortionate either, and represents fair value for money.

HP - Photosmart 850 review

Somewhere in the depths of the huge HP corporation there is a team that desperately wants to develop a 35mm film camera. Instead they've been told to sort their act out and develop a digital camera fit for 2003, so here it is: the HP Photosmart 850, a digital camera that looks just like a traditional film camera. As a result it's quite large at 120mm x 120mm x 85mm with the lens extended.

The specification includes some big numbers, including a 4.1 Megapixel resolution, 8x optical zoom, 7x digital zoom and a lens that is the 35mm equivalent of 37-300mm. In fact the specification actually says "Total 4.13 Megapixels (3.89 recorded Megapixels)" so let's err on the side of caution and say it's approximately 4 Megapixels.

HP has chosen to power the Photosmart 850 with four AA batteries (supplied), which is not a choice that we approve of, as one of the beauties of a digital camera is that it has no consumables to pay for. If a Li-Ion battery isn't appropriate for some reason then at least give us four AA Ni-Cads and a charger. Anyway, the four batteries live in the part of the camera that looks like it should hold a roll of 35mm film.

The rest of the layout is conventional, with a decent-sized 50mm display and just enough buttons to navigate the set-up menu comfortably.

You'll find the flash on top, where it pops up when you release a catch. This is hardly rocket science, but again it's not quite what we want to see. A regular flash set in the front of the camera can respond to the auto setting as necessary. Perhaps it's all a ploy to discourage us from using up those AA batteries.

Thankfully all this is mere quibbling, as the HP is very good indeed when it comes to taking photos, both indoors and outside. The colour balance is just right, the picture is sharp and clear, and that huge zoom range drags the subject just as close as you want. The most important thing is that the Photosmart 850 doesn't add or remove any information; instead it takes the picture that is in front of you.

HP includes both a USB cable to connect to your PC and a USB Direct print cable, should you have an appropriate printer. That's inevitable as HP is an imaging company, however we tend to find that pictures need a bit of editing before printing. The included HP Instant Share software helps you to send photos to your nearest and dearest over the Internet, although we trust that visitors to this site are au fait with e-mail and attachments and so likely to be able to manage on their own.

Fujifilm - FinePix A204 Zoom review

A sub-£200 digital camera with this specification would have been unthinkable a year ago. Prices continue to fall and the FinePix A204 Zoom from Fujifilm has an impressive feature list. It starts with a 2-megapixel CCD array, so the camera can capture high-resolution images at up to 1,600 by 1,200 pixels, and adds to this a 3x optical zoom. Zoom lenses are normally only found in digital cameras costing well over the £200 mark.

Fujifilm has adopted a technique used by Olympus to protect the lens with a sliding cover but, unlike its rival, the sliding mechanism isn't linked to its power switch. This means you can leave the lens exposed with the power off or leave it covered with the power on, neither combination being particularly helpful.

Its other controls are more sensibly grouped into bars of three on the back panel, or around the shutter release on its top. Also on the back panel is a 38mm LCD monitor, a quality device unlike the cheaper LCDs found on many entry-level cameras. There's an optical viewfinder, too, so you don't have to rely on the LCD to compose your pictures. The menu system is clear and easy to navigate and most of the everyday exposure and timing decisions are made for you automatically. The camera has a built-in flash too.

Fujifilm has long been a fervent supporter of the SmartMedia memory card format, but with this model has moved to its own, new xD-Picture card. The card is about the same size as a Multimedia or Secure Digital card and seems to have few advantages over these more widely used storage media. While the 16MB capacity is generous for a camera in this price range, it's a shame yet another format has to be added to the list.

The camera can capture video at up to 10 frames per second in QVGA format, at a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels. On the card supplied with the camera, though, you can only fit 20 seconds of video. Fujifilm's supplies its own FinePix Viewer for uploading images to a PC or Macintosh and the software is reasonably accomplished at performing simple manipulations of your pictures.

Images are finely detailed, even when blown up for large prints, and the colour balance is good for a camera in this price bracket. Pictures taken in bright light, though, can suffer from over-vividness in their hues.

The FinePix A204 Zoom is supplied with twin AA alkaline batteries, but you can use rechargeable NiMH cells, too. A carrying strap is included, but there's no case as standard with the camera.

Polaroid - PDC 2150 review

There's no doubt that digital cameras are making an impact in all areas of photography, from the high end to the entry level, plus a few new niches like key-ring cameras.

Ultimately, though, the mass market requirement is for pocket cameras that can be used at parties, on holidays and other 'real world' events. Such cameras need to be small enough to fit into a pocket or handbag, with high enough resolution to compete with basic 35mm cameras, plus a long battery life. If they're easy to use, so much the better.

And that's pretty much what we have here. The Polaroid name has been attached to this PDC 2150 digital camera, but there's no 'instant film' inside. That old style of Polaroid mechanism has been pretty much relegated to the sidelines by digital imaging, and this camera has a 2.1-megapixel CCD instead. There's 8MB of memory built in plus a slot for an SD card with which you can install more memory (although if you use this, the 8MB of internal memory is temporarily disabled; you can't use both at once).

Refreshingly, it's point and click. So much so that there's rarely any need to use the small, backlit LCD screen. You can leave it off while you take pictures, which helps to prolong the battery life. You will need to use the screen to change resolution and perhaps tweak the settings - such as exposure, flash type, resolution, etc. - but on the whole you can get by without it most of the time.

So, what else do we have? A switch between macro and normal modes, two resolution settings, the higher of which - 1600 x 1200 pixels - produces surprisingly good photos, particularly when used outdoors. It's not so much that the resolution is particularly high, more that the colour balance is good and the JPEG algorithm, which can sometimes leave a lot to be desired, has been well implemented so that smooth edges don't look too jagged. In fact, the PDC 2150 would shame some more expensive cameras.

There's a 2x digital zoom, which is pretty much irrelevant since you can do the same thing in software, and... well, that's about it. Leaving aside the adequate photo imaging software, USB and video connection cables and the carry case that are included in the box, the only other point worth mentioning is that the PDC 2150 can be used as a Web-cam too should you feel the need.

Pentax - Optio S review

It would be easy to start this review with the well-worn cliché about all good things and their predilection for small packages. However, when it comes to cameras, size really is important. If a model is too big or clunky it's more likely to be left at home, while one that's very small may be portable but can lose out on features or suffer from shaking hand syndrome.

At first glance, the Optio S is off to a good start. Smaller than a packet of 20 Marlborough, this camera will genuinely fit into most trouser pockets and handbags. It's also incredibly light, weighing just 113g complete with lithium battery and memory card, but the small dimensions belie a remarkably robust design. The aluminium body feels solid in your hands and a slightly milled finish makes it easy to grip.

Pentax has managed to pack an enormous amount of features into something so tiny. Along with its 3.2-megapixel resolution, the Optio S offers 3x optical (35-105mm equivalent) and 2x digital zooms, a 1.6-inch colour LCD display, 11MB of built-in memory and video-out facilities. There are eight shooting modes, including Panoramic Assist, 3D and movie settings, and seven picture modes with two macro options for close up work.

Images are captured at up to 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, with a choice of three compression settings, while movies come in at 320 x 240 in 12 frames per second AVI format. The latter trades the zoom facility for audio capture and 30-second sound bursts can be attached to still images. There's also a neat time-lapse video mode and the camera can even act as a digital voice-recorder, though how many people will use it as such remains to be seen. The internal memory stores seven pictures at full-quality and this can be supplemented with both MMC and SD storage cards.

We really enjoyed testing the Optio S. The menu system and settings are clear and the majority of images we snapped were crisp and noise-free. What's more, the automatic picture mode performed admirably in a variety of lighting conditions. Transferring pictures to a PC is simply a matter of attaching the USB lead; the camera then appears as another drive.

In fact, aside from a slight lag in shooting speed and some blurred night scene photos there's really only one thing we can moan about. The Optio's size has forced Pentax to mount a tiny four-way controller for accessing menus and settings. It's not the worst we've seen but it is fiddly, making it easy to select an option accidentally when you want to scroll around and vice versa. You do get used to it after a while but you still need to use it slowly. Fitting a slightly larger version would make a world of difference. Hopefully Pentax will take note for the S2.

Canon - PowerShot S50 review

Canon is aiming this new camera at what it calls 'advanced amateurs', which seems to fit the bill quite nicely. It's not a professional camera - for a start it doesn't have the option of huge, screw-in lenses and hot-shoe attachments - but it is some way above the conventional point-and-click fare, especially when it comes to manual control of the photographic process.

This is a surprisingly hefty camera given its pocketable size, so unless Canon's built the chassis out of lead, there's quite a selection of electronics inside. A quick glance at the control system will confirm that it's the latter. The sliding cover reveals a motorised mechanism containing a 7.1 - 21.3mm lens (equivalent to 35 - 105mm on a 35mm camera) with 3x optical zoom. The top dial is the sort you'd seen on Canon's film SLRs, with pre-sets for portrait, landscape, action, night scene, 'stitch assist' and the option of short video clips (there's a microphone and speaker on the top of the camera). In addition to this there's a thumb-pad controller for navigating menus, plus eight other buttons, not counting the shutter release.

Despite this, it is reasonably easy to use the PowerShot S50 as a simple point-and-click camera. Just rotate the dial to the appropriate setting and you're away. With a 5-megapixel CCD and Canon's respected lens and image processing electronics, you're pretty much guaranteed to get some decent photos on the standard settings.

Actually, 'decent' is doing the camera a disservice. The results are excellent, with few or no artefacts (even when saving pictures in JPEG format as opposed to raw mode), high levels of detail and 'real' colour balance. We noticed a very faint trace of blue/red separation around hard contrast edges, but only if we zoomed into the image, and this was less than we've seen in other cameras in this price range. It's actually hard not to produce decent photos with this camera, which will flatter would-be professionals everywhere.

But that's only part of the package, because it's the range of manual settings that gives the PowerShot S50 its 'advanced amateur' appeal. You can adjust pretty much everything, from the usual flash modes and white points to colour balance, aperture size, shutter speed, focus mode and flash sync. You decide what the LCD panel tells you (if anything - you can switch it off and use the viewfinder instead) and the menu system for altering the camera's settings includes user pre-sets so that you can quickly recall your own preferred settings. In playback mode the LCD can give you a histogram of your image, so you can see whether the colour settings are appropriate to the conditions.

A 32MB CompactFlash disk is included, so you can either use the USB connection cable to link to your PC or simply plug the CF disk into a card reader. Cables are also included for playback to a TV set and there's a selection of software from ArcSoft and other manufacturers that should provide all you need for fairly advanced photo editing.

This is not a studio camera; there's no hot-shoe option or other straightforward means of controlling external flashes. But for any other use, the results obtained are considerably better than you might expect given the relatively cheap price tag. There are just two problems that we can see. First, because the PowerShot S50 uses a proprietary rechargeable battery (it comes with a mains charger) there's no point in carrying round a set of 'emergency' alkaline AA batteries. Instead you'll probably want to carry around a spare rechargeable battery, which won't be cheap. Second, the soft carrying case is an optional extra - now that is cheap.

Trust - 770Z review

With an initially quite impressive-looking specification for the price, Trust's compact and sleek 770Z digital camera arrived with a reasonable degree of promise. The manufacturer behind it, while not likely to rival the likes of Sony or Kodak, has been steadily growing in confidence with its digital camera range after a bumpy start. The 770Z? No big cigars, but a steady, straightforward digital solution.

It does score points immediately for being blindingly straightforward to use. A minimal selection of buttons on the unit itself makes its operation eminently obvious to mildly experienced camera users, and you can be quickly snapping away without needing to open the manual.

The camera has a 3.3-Megapixel resolution, with a 3x optical zoom. That's not bad going for the price tag, and you can theoretically use the added 3x digital zoom as well, although we found that doesn't work as well when it comes to the end image. Still, the in-built TFT screen is crisp, with a decent enough menu system for you to make picture choices from the unit itself.

Mind you, the weedy 8MB memory won't get you very far. If you're thinking of the 770Z as a bargain, then you at least need to factor in the cost of a bigger memory card. As it stands, at top resolution you're looking at getting around seven or eight images stored on it (twiddling with resolutions can squeeze up to 60 in there, with the obvious hit on quality as a result); but those images will look quite good. A clear 300 dpi image taken on the camera measured in at a healthy 13 x 10cm, which is ample for most prints.

Where the Trust camera skimps, though, is in not doing things quite as well as some of its competitors. For instance, the in-built flash boasts red-eye reduction capabilities, yet the first snap we took with the camera had the eyes of a 'Doctor Who' monster staring back at us. It's easily corrected with a piece of software, and four good Ulead packages - Photo Express 4.0 SE, DVD PictureShow SE and Photo Explorer 7.0 SE and Cool 3D- deal with the PC-based tasks. Also, the camera's optical zoom is fine, but digital zoom rarely works out that well, and this camera is no exception in that respect. And it eats batteries like nobody's business!

Still, the Trust 770Z has a good auto-focus that works really quite well, and for the money it's hard to find a camera that can match it in terms of both features and the very generous selection of software you find in the box. Mind you, anyone more than an enthusiastic amateur really should look to spend a little bit more.

Canon - Ixus 430 Review

If you've seen a Canon IXUS before then the new IXUS 430 will be quite familiar to you. Externally similar to the previous models, Canon has added some new features and updated the specification, but at heart this is still the same old IXUS.

The design is starting to show its age a little so Canon has decided to cover its options with the 4.3-megapixel 430 and 5-Megapixel 500 models, and it has also introduced the tiny IXUS I to cater to customers who want the smallest possible camera.

The single most obvious sign of the age of the IXUS is its use of Compact Flash as storage medium, where most cameras use an SD card or media that is even smaller in size such as xD.

Most of the right-hand end of the IXUS 430 is filled with the battery and Compact Flash card, and it is tempting to think that if Canon used smaller internal parts then the four-way navigation pad could be moved to the right and that in turn would allow Canon to enlarge the LCD screen.

That LCD is a conventional 1.5-inch unit, and it is very clear to read as Canon has used white writing on a black background, with each option turning red as it is highlighted. It's incredibly clear and easy to use, but we find that a bigger screen makes it easier to frame the shot with a high-resolution camera, as there's so much information included in a 4-megapixel photo.

The IXUS 430 looks quite complicated, as there are so many buttons and switches all over the back. Most of these have quite limited functions so the rotary control, for instance, only has four positions where some manufacturers would cram in up to nine pre-set profiles, and you have to wonder if it is strictly necessary to have a dedicated switch to change from Camera to Transfer mode. Kodak, for example, uses an automatic system that detects when you plug in a USB cable with no need for a Transfer switch at all.

Canon includes a Direct Printing button as the IXUS 430 supports the latest PictBridge technology, so you can connect your camera directly to an appropriate printer and then use the LCD on the camera to navigate the printer controls. Naturally Canon hopes that you'll use a Canon printer, but we regard PictBridge as yet another reason for manufacturers to include the largest possible display on their cameras.

Despite all those minor quibbles we loved the IXUS 430. It feels solid and well made, and the menus and controls are quite intuitive to use. Picture quality is generally good, and close-up photos using the macro setting work particularly well both with and without the flash.

Portraits taken indoors were clear and displayed accurate colours and skin tones. Exterior shots also look good, but the IXUS only has a 3x optical zoom like so many compact digital cameras, so it helps to bring the subject closer to the camera, but can do little more than that.

The IXUS 430 is a good all-round performer and while it doesn't excel in any one area it won't disappoint you.

Fujifilm - Finepix S2 Pro review

If you're used to professional digital cameras, then the design of the Finepix S2 Pro won't hold many surprises, but if you're used to consumer cameras then you'll be impressed by the build quality. This is a chunky camera that gives the impression (although we didn't test it) that it would survive a knock or two. There's the familiar hand-grip design (as an aside, one wonders how left-handed people cope with the standardised right-handed camera design) with a four-way thumb selector on the rear panel along with a few extra buttons and the 1.8-inch LCD screen below a backlit LCD status panel. On top is the shutter release, wheels for aperture and exposure settings and the main mode selector.

The usual settings are all available. You can change the resolution up to a maximum of 4,256 x 2,848 pixels - that's 12.1 million from the camera's 6.17 million 'effective' pixels - and change the file storage quality too. Various levels of JPEG are the default, but TIFF and raw mode (where the CCD output is dumped straight to file without even going through the camera's image processing electronics) are also present.

Four shooting modes are available; single frame, continuous (approximately two frames per second), preview and multiple exposure. There are also four exposure modes; multi-programmed AE, shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE and manual. And, conveniently, there are also four focusing modes; Dynamic AF, Dynamic AF with closest-subject-priority, Single Area AF and Focus Tracking. White balance can be adjusted as can the colour saturation level.

Most of the functions can be locked once you've set them, to prevent accidental changes to the picture quality. The two that aren't lockable are the aperture and exposure wheels, presumably so that you can change them to suit varying lighting and depth conditions while you work. It's possible that these could be adjusted accidentally while you're shooting, but it's not too likely.

We've deliberately left the jargon out of this review, because what matters is the photographic result, not the technical means by which it's achieved. But it is worth mentioning Fujifilm's "Super CCD sensor" which is claimed to produce very realistic colours. It does. There are no tricks involved - the colours aren't made more vibrant than life - but the results are excellent, with fine detail clearly shown, good optical density and outstanding colour balance.

Even on the medium resolution settings the camera produced publishable results, so the top resolution raw mode is really only likely to be necessary for absolute perfectionists and those printing posters. This mode produces 36MB images, but the camera has a large enough buffer that you can still shoot quickly and leave the camera to write the data afterwards. That data is written to either SmartMedia or IBM Microdrive cards. The latter seems more practical, as the 1GB drives are readily available. Camera connectivity is via IEEE1394 FireWire and USB interfaces, although a card reader will suffice.

It's important to bear in mind that you only get the camera body when you buy - lenses have to be bought separately. The Finepix S2 Pro is compatible with all AF-D type, AF-G type and AF-S type Nikkor lenses, so you've got plenty from which to choose. Ultimately, the only thing we didn't like about this camera is its built-in flash, which produced harsh, high contrast photos whatever the setting. Professionals are very unlikely to use it anyway.

Mustek - DV2000 review

There's not an awful lot in Mustek's low-cost DV2000 digital camera to send serious photographers heading down to their local shop. But for the more casual user on a tight budget, there's quite a lot to admire here.

Its flexibility is arguably this camera's strongest appeal. The unit can work in three modes - as a web-cam, a digital camera and a digital video camera. It's fair to say that the latter mode is the weakest. Storing around three minutes of video on the supplied 16MB MMC flash card (it also supports SD cards), the quality really doesn't come close to competing with a dedicated video camera, although there's little doubt that it's a handy feature to have for those just-in-case moments. The relatively small resolution of the footage - 320 x 240 is as high as it will go - means that the output is best suited to online use. A big plus, though, is that given the relatively low weight and size of the DV2000, it's really easy to lug around.

As a digital camera, it fares better. Accepting that for under £100 you're not getting anything incredibly special, it works fine during the day, and can happily take some good snaps. However, one of the major omissions is a flash, and that makes night photography all but impossible unless you have an alternative lighting source. Yet considering this is a 2.1-megapixel device, when the circumstances are right you really do get some good output from the camera (incidentally, if you're after higher resolution, then the DV3000 is available with 3.1-megapixel support, although unlike the 2000 this relies on both hardware and interpolation). Images of up to 1,600 x 1,200 pixels can be taken with the DV2000.

Aesthetically, the DV2000 has the look of a digital camcorder, only smaller. It has a fold out screen on which you can review your images and the device as a whole is devilishly easy to use. That's because Mustek hasn't overburdened the camera with umpteen buttons, and those that are present are well labeled. Sadly, the zoom isn't much cop. Entirely digitally based, the zooming function theoretically goes up to 2x (which isn't an awful lot anyway), with underwhelming results.

A big thumbs up for the generous software package, though. It includes Special Edition versions of popular Ulead titles Photo Express, VideoStudio, Cool 360 and Photo Explorer. Each of these are fine applications that can help you achieve good results.

Ultimately, with the DV2000 you get a little more than you pay for. We've been quite extensive in our criticism of it, but that has to be significantly tempered by its low price tag. Compared to many other units on sale at a similar price, this is a strong purchase, and will suit the casual photographer thanks to its simple, user-friendly layout, plus its ability to produce a good image at the end.

JVC - GR-DVP9 Miniature High-Band Digital Camcorder review

Like everything else in the electronic field, camcorders have been gradually shrinking in size. Yet there comes a point where a fine balance has to be struck between convenience and performance and JVC believes that its latest MiniDV has just about cracked it.

The Miniature series began in 1996 with the GR-DV1 and was quickly acclaimed for its sleekness and compactness of design - it was clearly intended to be slipped easily into a pocket, jacket or handbag. The GR-DVP9 keeps the cool, smooth lines of its predecessors while incorporating some new improvements.

Picture quality is, of course, the prime consideration and the GR-DVP9 has a high-density 1.33-megapixel CCD as well as a super high-band processor that calculates and restores the high-band components of the luminance signal that would normally be lost in conventional processing, raising the horizontal resolution to a maximum of 540 lines.

You'll be pleasantly surprised at the resulting clarity of picture from such a small piece of hardware. Unusually, in addition to the 2-inch fold-out LCD monitor, the camcorder comes with a colour viewfinder and the brightness of both the monitor and the viewfinder can be adjusted for more reliable shooting. The attached 'info-shoe' will also allow you to use an extra light source or stereo zoom microphone.

The usual kinds of wipe and fade effects come as standard, as do special effects like sepia, strobe and monochrome. The one innovation, though, is Night-Scope which boosts the sensitivity of the shutter speed by up to 30 times and will enable you to capture murky (possibly in more than one sense of the word) shots that you might previously have felt were beyond your reach. This feature works best, naturally, on a tripod as the effect frequently looks like its strobing and that's without the additional hazard of camera shake.

If you need an convincing that this camera is as much designed for fun as practical video recording, then the proof is in the variety of MP3 digital sound effects provided on the supplied memory card. You can now add everything from applause, cheering and laughter to explosions, buzzers and sirens to your recordings - which will be especially appreciated on stag and hen nights.

There's an incorporated Navigation feature which will make a thumbnail image of your last record point. This makes it easy both to go straight to the part of the tape you want to review again, and to decide where to edit or continue shooting from. The menu controls are housed in the hollow where the viewfinder folds in; it takes a while to master the correct pressure for the push-buttons.

The 10x optical zoom is more than sufficient for highly detailed close-ups and the 200x digital zoom produces impressive results at a distance. However, even with the digital image stabiliser engaged, you'll still need a steady hand to avoid the inevitable long distance wobble.

Fast data transfer to and from a computer is possible through the DV terminal and there's also a handy analogue input so you can dub non-digital material to MiniDV format. The USB interface will allow MPEG-1 streaming to a computer from which video CDs can be made, and by the same means the GR-DVP9 can be turned into a web-cam for teleconferencing or surveillance.

As you'd expect, the GR-DVP9 can also act as a digital still camera with four image size settings (from 640 x 480 to 1,600 x 1,200 pixels). At the highest resolution you can only store 9 images (in Fine mode) on the 8MB MultiMediaCard, but that expands to 165 in Standard mode on the lowest setting. Snapshots can be taken with sound effect on or off and there's even an MPEG-4 E-mail Video Clip recording function that can later be transferred via USB to your computer.

Bundled software includes Digital Photo Navigator for still image transfer, image re-sizing, slideshows, Web file creation and data library management, plus ImageMixer to help with MPEG-1 editing and the driver for USB video streaming.

Samsung - Digimax V4 review

Samsung may not be one of the first names to spring to mind when you think of digital cameras, but the company has a good name for quality compact conventional cameras and now offers a wide range of mid-range digital devices.

The Digimax V4 is the company's new top-of-the-range camera and, although styled like a sub-compact, it has some very grown-up features. These include automatic, aperture and shutter priority and manual settings for operating the camera with the degree of control you want.

The camera has a high-tech feel with rather more buttons and dials than normal. On the back is five-way thumb-pad for navigating the menu system on the 45mm LCD panel, plus another four buttons ranged around it. There's a toggle switch for moving between wide-angle and the 3x optical and 4x digital maximum zoom, and an eight-way rotary switch to select between modes.

On top is a slide-on, slide-off power switch and the large shutter-release button. This array of buttons takes a while to master, though most make sensible single-functions out of other maker's menu options. The camera may take a little longer to master because of this, though.

In the right-hand end of the camera is a cover for the battery pack and a 32MB Secure Digital memory card, which is needed with the large CCD array in the V4. Samsung offers a true 4-megapixel sensor here and the camera can produce images with resolutions up to 2,272 x 1,704 pixels, which is easily enough for a detailed A4 print. You can also take a video clip, with or without sound, at a resolution of 288 x 208 and with length dependent on memory capacity.

Picture quality is natural without any major colour offsets, though reviewing shots on the display takes a little while, as the camera refocuses each image for the small panel. Using Easy mode, you need do little more than point and shoot, but you can take more precise control at any time. You can use macro mode to focus down to 30cm and super-macro to take it all the way to 6cm.

Although good value, one oddity of the Digimax V4 is that it contains a standard, non-rechargeable Lithium Ion battery pack. This means you either have to invest in the optional rechargeable pack, or start shelling out for replacement cells as soon as the pack expires. A £300 camera really should include rechargeables and a charger.


Common formats for digital camera images are the Joint Photography Experts Group standard (JPEG) and Tagged Image File Format (TIFF).

Many cameras, especially professional or DSLR cameras, support a Raw format. A raw image is the unprocessed set of pixel data directly from the camera's sensor. They are often saved in formats proprietary to each manufacturer, such as NEF for Nikon, CR2 for Canon, and MRW for Minolta. Adobe Systems has released the DNG format, a royalty free raw image format which has been adopted by a few camera manufacturers.

Raw files initially had to be processed in specialized image editing programs, but over time many mainstream editing programs have added support for them, such as Google's Picasa. Editing raw format images allows much more flexibility in settings such as white balance, exposure compensation, color temperature, and so on. In essence raw format allows the photographer make major adjustments without losing image quality that would otherwise require retaking the picture.

Formats for movies are AVI, DV, MPEG, MOV (often containing motion JPEG), WMV, and ASF (basically the same as WMV). Recent formats include MP4, which is based on the QuickTime format and uses newer compression algorithms to allow longer recording times in the same space.

Other formats that are used in cameras but not for pictures are the Design Rule for Camera Format (DCF), an ISO specification for the camera's internal file structure and naming, Digital Print Order Format (DPOF), which dictates what order images are to be printed in and how many copies, and the Exchangeable Image File Format (Exif), which uses metadata tags to document the camera settings and date and time for image files.


Digital cameras have high power requirements, and over time have become increasingly smaller in size, which has resulted in an ongoing need to develop a battery small enough to fit in the camera and yet able to power it for a reasonable length of time.

Essentially two broad divisions exist in the types of batteries digital cameras use.


The first is batteries that are an established off-the-shelf form factor, most commonly AA, CR2, or CR-V3 batteries, with AAA batteries in a handful of cameras. The CR2 and CR-V3 batteries are lithium based, and intended for single use. They are also commonly seen in camcorders. The AA batteries are far more common; however, the non-rechargeable alkaline batteries are capable of providing enough power for only a very short time in most cameras. Most consumers use AA Nickel metal hydride batteries (NiMH) (see also chargers and batteries) instead, which provide an adequate amount of power and are rechargeable. NIMH batteries do not provide as much power as lithium ion batteries, and they also tend to discharge when not used. They are available in various ampere-hour (Ah) or milli-ampere-hour (mAh) ratings, which affects how long they last in use. Typically mid-range consumer models and some low end cameras use off-the-shelf batteries; only a very few DSLR cameras accept them (for example, Sigma SD10). Rechargeable RCR-V3 lithium-ion batteries are also available as an alternative to non-rechargeable CR-V3 batteries.


The second division is proprietary battery formats. These are built to a manufacturer's custom specifications, and can be either aftermarket replacement parts or OEM. Almost all proprietary batteries are lithium ion. While they only accept a certain number of recharges before the battery life begins degrading (typically up to 500 cycles), they provide considerable performance for their size. A result is that at the two ends of the spectrum both high end professional cameras and low end consumer models tend to use lithium ion batteries.

Filter mosaics, interpolation, aliasing

In most current consumer digital cameras, a Bayer filter mosaic is used, in combination with an optical anti-aliasing filter to reduce the aliasing due to the reduced sampling of the different primary-color images. A demosaicing algorithm is used to interpolate color information to create a full array of RGB image data.

Cameras that use a beam-splitter single-shot 3CCD approach, three-filter multi-shot approach, or Foveon X3 sensor do not use anti-aliasing filters, nor demosaicing.

Firmware in the camera, or a software in a raw converter program such as Adobe Camera Raw, interprets the raw data from the sensor to obtain a full color image, because the RGB color model requires three intensity values for each pixel: one each for the red, green, and blue (other color models, when used, also require three or more values per pixel). A single sensor element cannot simultaneously record these three intensities, and so a color filter array (CFA) must be used to selectively filter a particular color for each pixel.

The Bayer filter pattern is a repeating 2×2 mosaic pattern of light filters, with green ones at opposite corners and red and blue in the other two positions. The high proportion of green takes advantage of properties of the human visual system, which determines brightness mostly from green and is far more sensitive to brightness than to hue or saturation. Sometimes a 4-color filter pattern is used, often involving two different hues of green. This provides potentially more accurate color, but requires a slightly more complicated interpolation process.

The color intensity values not captured for each pixel can be interpolated (or guessed) from the values of adjacent pixels which represent the color being calculated.

Image resolution

The resolution of a digital camera is often limited by the camera sensor (usually a charge-coupled device or CCD chip) that turns light into discrete signals, replacing the job of film in traditional photography. The sensor is made up of millions of "buckets" that collect charge in response to light. Generally, these buckets respond to only a narrow range of light wavelengths, due to a color filter over each. Each one of these buckets is called a pixel, and a demosaicing/interpolation algorithm is needed to turn the image with only one wavelength range per pixel into an RGB image where each pixel is three numbers to represent a complete color.

The one attribute most commonly compared on cameras is the pixel count. Due to the ever increasing sizes of sensors, the pixel count is into the millions, and using the SI prefix of mega- (which means 1 million) the pixel counts are given in megapixels. For example, an 8.0 megapixel camera has 8.0 million pixels.

The pixel count alone is commonly presumed to indicate the resolution of a camera, but this is a misconception. There are several other factors that impact a sensor's resolution. Some of these factors include sensor size, lens quality, and the organization of the pixels (for example, a monochrome camera without a Bayer filter mosaic has a higher resolution than a typical color camera). Many digital compact cameras are criticized for having excessive pixels, in that the sensors can be so small that the resolution of the sensor is greater than the lens could possibly deliver.

As the technology has improved, costs have decreased dramatically. Measuring the "pixels per dollar" as a basic measure of value for a digital camera, there has been a continuous and steady increase in the number of pixels each dollar buys in a new camera consistent with the principles of Moore's Law. This predictability of camera prices was first presented in 1998 at the Australian PMA DIMA conference by Barry Hendy and since referred to as "Hendy's Law".

Methods of image capture

Since the first digital backs were introduced, there have been three main methods of capturing the image, each based on the hardware configuration of the sensor and color filters.

The first method is often called single-shot, in reference to the number of times the camera's sensor is exposed to the light passing through the camera lens. Single-shot capture systems use either one CCD with a Bayer filter mosaic it, or three separate image sensors (one each for the primary additive colors red, green, and blue) which are exposed to the same image via a beam splitter.

The second method is referred to as multi-shot because the sensor is exposed to the image in a sequence of three or more openings of the lens aperture. There are several methods of application of the multi-shot technique. The most common originally was to use a single image sensor with three filters (once again red, green and blue) passed in front of the sensor in sequence to obtain the additive color information. Another multiple shot method utilized a single CCD with a Bayer filter but actually moved the physical location of the sensor chip on the focus plane of the lens to "stitch" together a higher resolution image than the CCD would allow otherwise. A third version combined the two methods without a Bayer filter on the chip.

The third method is called scanning because the sensor moves across the focal plane much like the sensor of a desktop scanner. Their linear or tri-linear sensors utilize only a single line of photosensors, or three lines for the three colors. In some cases, scanning is accomplished by rotating the whole camera; a digital rotating line camera offers images of very high total resolution.

The choice of method for a given capture is of course determined largely by the subject matter. It is usually inappropriate to attempt to capture a subject that moves with anything but a single-shot system. However, the higher color fidelity and larger file sizes and resolutions available with multi-shot and scanning backs make them attractive for commercial photographers working with stationary subjects and large-format photographs.

Recently, dramatic improvements in single-shot cameras and RAW image file processing have made single shot, CCD-based cameras almost completely predominant in commercial photography, not to mention digital photography as a whole. CMOS-based single shot cameras are also somewhat common.

HP - Photosmart 735 camera review

HP has been plugging away making cameras for the last five years or so, yet many of the main digital camera outlets don't stock them. This is a shame - just because HP's background is in computing rather than optics doesn't mean it can't make a good camera.

The latest Photosmart 735 may look a little bland - there are only a couple of curves to break up the fairly boxy look of this 35mm, compact-size camera - but its specification and performance put it up with many better known brands. As with previous HP cameras, the lens system is from Pentax, the two companies having collaborated on previous cameras, with each bringing its own expertise to the design.

The lens on the Photosmart 735 offers 3x optical zoom and the electronics add a further 5x digital zoom, producing an unusually high 15x total. The camera has a 3-megapixel CCD array, so it can cope with this high level of digital magnification. Other features more often found in higher-end cameras include manual aperture control, as well as several automatic presets for different environments, such as landscape, night-time and portrait photography.

The camera is straightforward to control and has two LCD displays. As well as the normal colour LCD used to view shots and make menu settings, there's a mono LCD status display on the top of the camera. This shows things like the number of shots remaining, battery status and the selected image quality. Buttons ranged around both displays make it easy to set up and change the camera's parameters.

Picture quality is generally very good, with the camera's optics and electronics working well together to produce natural colours and well-defined foregrounds. When set to fully automatic, the camera still manages to make most of the right decisions and is as 'friendly' for the novice photographer who wishes to point and shoot as for the more seasoned user, keen to take more control.

HP includes its Memories Disk with the Photosmart 735, offering basic image manipulation and management. This makes it particularly easy to get pictures off the camera and onto your PC, or further out onto the Internet. InstantShare is a function which uploads selected images to an HP-maintained Web site and automatically sends messages to selected contacts so they can view them directly from there. This saves sending bulky pictures to all your friends, particularly those with dial-up links.

Tapes of digital cameras

A digital camera is an electronic device used to capture and store photographs digitally, instead of using photographic film like conventional cameras, or recording images in an analog format to magnetic tape like many video cameras. Modern compact digital cameras are typically multifunctional, with some devices capable of recording sound and/or video as well as photographs. In the Western market, digital cameras now outsell their 35 mm film counterparts.

Digital cameras can be classified into several categories:

Video cameras

Video cameras are classified as devices whose main purpose is to record moving images.

  • Professional video cameras such as those used in television and movie production. These typically have multiple image sensors (one per color) to enhance resolution and color gamut. Professional video cameras usually do not have a built-in VCR or microphone.
  • Camcorders used by amateurs. They generally include a microphone to record sound, and feature a small liquid crystal display to watch the video during taping and playback.
  • Webcams are digital cameras attached to computers, used for video conferencing or other purposes. Webcams can capture full-motion video as well, and some models include microphones or zoom ability.
Live-preview digital cameras

The term digital still camera (DSC) most commonly refers to the class of live-preview digital cameras, cameras that use an electronic screen as the principal means of framing and previewing before taking the photograph. All use either a charge-coupled device (CCD) or a CMOS image sensor to sense the light intensities across the focal plane.

Many modern live-preview cameras have a movie mode, and a growing number of camcorders can take still photographs. However, even a low-end live-preview camera can take better still pictures than a mid-range video camera, and mid-range live-preview cameras have much lower video quality than low-end video cameras; that is, products are not generally optimized for both still and video photography, due to their different requirements.

Compact digital cameras

Also called digicams, this encompasses most digital cameras. They are characterized by great ease in operation and easy focusing; this design allows for limited motion picture capability. They tend to have significantly smaller zooms than bridge and DSLR cameras. They have an extended depth of field. This allows objects at a larger range of depths to be in focus, which accounts for much of their ease of use. They excel in landscape photography and casual use. They typically save pictures in only the JPEG file format. All but the cheapest models have a built-in flash, although its guide number tends to be very low, perhaps just 6 or 8.

Bridge cameras

or SLR-like cameras form a general group of higher-end live-preview cameras that physically resemble DSLRs and share with these some advanced features, but share with compacts the live-preview design and small sensor sizes.

Bridge cameras tend to have superzoom lenses, which compromises – in varying degrees, depending on the quality of the zoom lens – a "do it all" ability with barrel distortion and pincushioning. These cameras are sometimes marketed as and confused with digital SLR cameras since the bodies resemble each other. The distinguishing characteristics are that bridge cameras lack the mirror and reflex system of DSLRs, have so far been always produced with only one single sealed (non-interchangeable) lens (but accessory wide angle or telephoto converters can be attached to the front of the sealed lens), can usually take movies, record audio and the scene composition is done with either the liquid crystal display or the electronic viewfinder (EVF). The overall performance tends to be slower than a true digital SLR, but they are capable of very good image quality while being more compact and lighter than DSLRs. The high-end models of this type have comparable resolutions to low and mid-range DSLRs. Many of the these cameras can save in JPEG or RAW format. The majority have a built-in flash, often a unit which flips up over the lens. The guide number tends to be between 11 and 15.

Digital single lens reflex cameras

Digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) are digital cameras based on film single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs), both types are characterized by the existence of a mirror and reflex system. See the main article on DSLRs for a detailed treatment of this category.

Digital rangefinders

A rangefinder is a focusing mechanism once widely used on film cameras, but much less common in digital cameras. The term rangefinder alone is often used to mean a rangefinder camera, that is, a camera equipped with a rangefinder.

Professional modular digital camera systems

This categoryincludes very high end professional equipment that can be assembled from modular components (winders, grips, lenses, etc.) to suit particular purposes. Common makes include Hasselblad and Mamiya. They were developed for medium or large format film sizes, as these captured greater detail and could be enlarged more than 35mm.

Typically these cameras are used in studios for commercial production; being bulky and awkward to carry they are rarely used in action or nature photography. They can often be converted into either film or digital use by changing out the back part of the unit, hence the use of terms such as a "digital back" or "film back." These cameras are very expensive (up to $40,000) and are typically not seen in the hands of consumers.

Line-scan camera systems

A line-scan camera is a camera device containing a line-scan image sensor chip, and a focusing mechanism. These cameras are almost solely used in industrial settings to capture an image of a constant stream of moving material. Unlike video cameras, line-scan cameras use a single array of pixel sensors, instead of a matrix of them. Data coming from the line-scan camera has a frequency, where the camera scans a line, waits, and repeats. The data coming from the line-scan camera is commonly processed by a computer, to collect the one-dimensional line data and to create a two-dimensional image. The collected two-dimensional image data is then processed by image-processing methods for industrial purposes.

Line-scan technology is capable of capturing data extremely fast, and at very high image resolutions. Usually under these conditions, resulting collected image data can quickly exceed 100MB in a fraction of a second. Line-scan-camera–based integrated systems, therefore are usually designed to streamline the camera's output in order to meet the system's objective, using computer technology which is also affordable.

Line-scan cameras intended for the parcel handling industry can integrate adaptive focusing mechanisms to scan 6 sides of any rectangular parcel in focus, regardless of angle, and size. The resulting 2-D captured images could contain, but are not limited to: 1D and 2D barcodes, address information, and any pattern that can be processed via image processing methods. Since the images are 2-D, they are also human-readable and can be viewable on a computer screen. Advanced integrated systems include video coding and optical character recognition (OCR).

Kodak - EasyShare LS633 review

Kodak's 3.1-megapixel EasyShare LS633 is the world's first camera to use an OLED display instead of the more traditional LCD display. It's a stylish design offering good features and image quality.

The undoubted star of the EasyShare LS633 is the amazing 2.2-inch, 112,000-pixel OLED screen. OLED - or more correctly AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) - is a technology which Kodak has pioneered, and which it will brand under the name NeVue.

Unlike in a conventional LCD display, where the shades of light are blocked by the liquid crystal, in an OLED display each pixel generates its own light, hence there's no need for a backlight. The resulting image has a higher colour contrast than an LCD display. It also supposedly improves the battery life, although we didn't find that to be the case, mainly due to the sheer size of the EasyShare LS633's screen.

That screen comes into its own when you view it at an angle; images remain clear, crisp and vivid even when getting close to Kodak's claimed viewing angle of 165 degrees. They also remain clear and crisp even in sunlight.

Aside from this screen, the other important piece of technology is the 3.1-megapixel CCD sensor. This allows images to be captured up to a resolution of 2,041 x 1,533 pixels, good for prints up to 14 x 11 inches. The lens has a 3x optical zoom and is, as with most recent Kodak cameras, made by the German company Schneider-Kreuznach.

The lens has a range from F2.7 to 4.6 and a focal range of 5.6 - 16.8mm (equivalent to 37 - 111mm on a conventional 35mm camera). Captured photographs are perhaps a little over exposed and a little soft on things like trees or grass, but in general the images are sharp and well defined with good, natural colours.

The rest of the EasyShare LS633's features are what you would expect from today's point and shoot cameras. The manual options are simple and easy to use and include exposure metering and compensation, focus setting and light metering (up to ISO 400); the only thing missing is a manual setting for white balance.

The camera also has a "Capture always Ready" feature that allows you to snap a picture in any camera function mode, and although you can't frame the picture with the OLED when doing so, it does allow a picture to be taken, even if you are currently reviewing images.

The EasyShare LS633 can be used in video mode - it has built-in speakers and a microphone. Videos are saved in QuickTime at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels and you can get around 81 seconds of video on the internal 16MB memory. For extra memory the camera supports SD and MMC cards.

Using the EasyShare LS633 presents no real problems and for beginners it displays a short description when switching between scene modes, helping you to make the right choice. There are six such modes; auto, close-up, landscape, sport, night and burst. To transfer images the camera can be connected to a Kodak cradle, but if you can't afford the extra expense of the cradle (£60), it also has video and USB ports.

Canon - Ixus i review

We've got this theory that technology will destroy the world. It's not a particularly original thought and we've certainly watched Terminator a few too many times, it's true, but it seems inevitable to draw only one conclusion from the inexorable miniaturisation of gadgets that is the natural flow of technological evolution.

You see, in distant galaxies there are races far in advance of us who have produced washing machines the size of thimbles which harness anti-matter technology to compact clothing, suck it in, then spit it out whiter than white and re-enlarged.

And when these devices go wrong... that's where black holes come from. So this tiny digital camera from Canon is another nail in the coffin of our solar system, which is marching steadily towards oblivion via some disastrous, boffin-inspired implosion. Small is dangerous - you heard it here first.

Small is also incredibly cool when you wield a camera the same size as a credit card (albeit a 2cm-thick one) which weighs 100 grams and is truly pocket-sized. The real shocker, however, is that this fellow is a 4-Megapixel, all-singing, all-dancing affair, with a 5.7x digital zoom, a sharp LCD display and a host of other finger-tingling features. Oh yes.

The Ixus i is a small bundle of craftily-designed photographic joy. The on-screen menu is operated via a 4-way pad and two buttons, with a switch to toggle between photos, video film (you can shoot 180 seconds of video) and playback (reviewing your masterpieces). It's very easy to use and it bristles with features, some complex and some along handy, idiot-proofing lines.

This camera is an ideal compact point-and-shoot affair, as it has built-in auto-focus, auto-flash and red-eye compensation functions which are on by default. The auto-flash doesn't always get it right, but of course you can see that on the LCD display and re-take the picture, if necessary using the manual flash.

On the whole this is a great beginner's camera as a result, and the software is also heavy on user friendliness; installation is painless and downloading your images onto the PC is a breeze. There are also more complex facets to the software, such as a panoramic stitch program which lets you build up landscape shots from multiple photos.

A macro mode is incorporated into the Ixus i library, allowing for close-ups with considerable clarity, and there are also built-in photo filters such as "sepia" or "vivid" (which emphasises contrast and colour saturation). You can shoot in resolutions of up to 2,272 x 1,704 pixels and three levels of compression are available, so you can balance quality with the number of images you can fit onto the camera's 32MB memory card.

We were impressed with the quality of the pictures, too. Using the higher resolutions we obtained some very smart-looking snaps, although there was the occasional jagged edge to be seen. The zoom feature falls apart a little at the higher levels in terms of pixellation, so we stuck mainly to the medium territory for good results. Another minor moan is that the LCD is a little awkward to view in bright light, but that's to be expected with all cameras of this type.