Shiny Sexy Slick Here???? 1/2 ?? 1/2 s Our Pick

Published Date
01 - Oct - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Oct - 2007
 
Shiny Sexy Slick Here�s  Our Pick


In a digital world, what do you expect of cameras but that they'll be digital? Sure, you have fans of analogue-as in audio equipment, and yes, even with cameras, as in film-but they're a dying breed, and you decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Film cams are a fancy, a different art now. They're just not for you if you're a regular guy or girl!

So here's the deal, as usual: we test them, you buy them! Let's get straight on to telling you what we found after evaluating, very critically, the 31 lucky cameras that made it to this test.

Categories: A Matter Of Price
We only tested point-and-shoot cameras, so the most obvious categorisation is one based on price. First, we set the upper ceiling for this test as Rs 25,000. Second, we set Rs 8,000 as the ceiling for the entry-level cameras. With that in mind, we came up with three categories.

Cameras retailing at under Rs 8,000 cater to newcomers with no serious photography in mind, and who just want a camera for casual shots now and then. Basically, if you're saying, "I just want a camera; and I don't have any special needs in mind," then this is your category. We're calling this the Simple Shooters category.

The second category has cameras between Rs 8001 and Rs 15,000. This includes the mid-range cameras that have better performance but not necessarily the coolest designs, and we're calling this category "A Cut Above." The final group would be cameras priced between Rs 15,001 and Rs 25,000-"The Cream of the Crop" category. Here you'll find cameras with the most advanced features and performance along with style and elegance in one package.

Simple Shooters (Below Rs 8,000)
It's mostly TECH-COM here, along with lone contenders from iMedia, Premier, and Mustek.

Design
The TECH-COM cameras have a cheap, plasticky feel, but they're light. The buttons are rather clunky, and require some pressure to register a click; the resultant sudden click creates some shake, which often ends up as blur in the photos. Hence one has to be careful and use timer if possible.

The Premier DC6370 is one of the better cameras in terms of design.
Almost every Simple Shooter comes with a pouch and a handle. What you don't get is a charger, which is unfortunate because you'd have to spend anything between Rs 600 and Rs 1200 for a set of rechargeable batteries and a charger.

Features
As you might expect, we saw hardly any advanced features in this category. The features department is where the cams in this category lose out the most when compared with those in the other categories.
The TECH-COM cameras had pretty much the same set of features across all models.

Performance
In our flash test, the TECH-COM 524X PLUS has a fairly large advantage over the 512X PLUS in terms of clarity and colour contrast. The Mustek and the Premier cameras were behind in this test.

Macro photography was close to impossible in comparatively low light, and this goes for all the cameras in this group.

Accurate focusing is the main issue, followed by long-duration shutter speeds, which is the cause of most of the blur. The TECH-COM 512X PLUS and the iMedia DC-5360S are marginally better than the rest, though.

Outdoor photos, naturally, were much easier to shoot. The colour rendition of the TECH-COM cameras were very similar, but the Mustek MDC530 showed a very light pinkish red instead of a dark red.

In our indoor studio lights test, the Premier DC6370 brought up some very bright fluorescent green in some of the plant photos, and captured the yellow pencil as a pale green, and the orange as… you get the idea.
 
Value
The prices of the seven Simple Shooters were all within Rs 1,000 of each other. The TECH-COM 601 was quite undoubtedly the worst of the lot, clearly because of the lack of basic functions such as zoom and focusing… no focus means there isn't even a half-press button: you directly click the photo!

Tech-Com-Dsc-524XPlus
Decent Camera with no noticeable flaws

The best overall performance here came from the TECH-COM 524X PLUS, priced just Rs 500 more than the cheapest camera of the lot, the iMedia DC-5360S.

Consider the 524X if you want the cheapest decent-performing camera in this test. If you want to save Rs 150, which will just about buy you a pizza, get the TECH-COM 512X PLUS.
A Cut Above (Rs 8,001 to Rs 15,000)
These cameras are most likely what you'd walk out of a store with. We saw some decent performance here, as well as some superior features integrated. This segment comprises of 12 cameras and better-known brands enter the scene.

Design
The design of the Samsung S850 is anything but fancy. The screen is pretty large and pretty crisp as well, even in daylight. The buttons are a little clunky, and the zoom has to be controlled using a little flat notch at the back of the camera, which has to be moved up and down to zoom in and out. This will take some getting used to.

The Canon PowerShot(PS) A450 and PowerShot A460 have the old-fashioned long, blocky design, and might not be the best to carry around in your pocket. The Kodak and Nikon cameras generally have a decent finish . It is the plastic material that gives them the cheap look. The Kodak V803, however, is sturdier, and is one of the classier-looking cameras of the pack.

Download PDF File of Digita Camera Below Rs 8000

The menu layouts don't change much from camera to camera within a single brand. You only find major changes when a new generation comes through. The Sony W55 is a comparatively old camera, and its menu layout and colour scheme is the same as that found on Sony cameras pre-2007.

Features
The Samsung S850 is a really feature-packed camera with some high-end specs for its category: 5x optical zoom, an 8.1 megapixel sensor, and a nice, large screen; a wide range of ISO ratings (50-1600) and shutter speeds; the 1 cm spec allows you to get unimaginably close to your subject; and the manual focus allows for some really creative shots.

The Nikons weren't impressive on the performance front, but they have some unique features inbuilt. One such is blur detection, which checks the image for blur once the photo has been shot, and asks you whether you still want to save the photo. So if you're on a clicking spree, you might have to keep saying "yes" every time. Bonus or irritant?

Performance
We got some pretty impressive shots from the Kodak V803. The crispness throughout the images was great; the macro shots were very easy to focus and the results were brilliant as well. The colours were a tiny bit on the aggressive side, though. The Samsung S850; what was most impressive about the S850's performance was the crisp and bright photos while zooming in the studio light setup. Almost all the other cameras gave us trouble while zooming to the limit. The images almost always ended up rather dark.

How We Tested 
We conducted a barrage of tests on the cameras with the main focus being quality. The primary test scene consisted of objects of a spectrum of colours and patterns. As you can see from the photograph, we had everything from bottles and cans to colour pencils. All were arranged on a table with a thunder-grey sheet on top. We used daylight simulation lights to illuminate the scene. The room was darkened to keep the conditions even. We placed the tripod at a suitable distance, and took the shots using a timer to provide more or less uniform situations for all the cameras. We carried out all the tests at the highest resolution possible, and the quality set to Best. We conducted all the tests-except the macro and portrait-at Auto settings.

To compare the photos, we used the Nikon D200 as a reference for higher-end cameras.

Here's a look at our reference shot

Quality
We conducted the quality test with the lights on; captured the test photo with the flash turned off. We examined and compared fine details. Some of these details were small text on a motherboard, as well as CPU socket pins and PCI slot patterns. Other things observed were the texture of the blue cloth and the text on the globe. Finer aspects included how well the specular effect on the bottles and the globe would turn out in the photos. There was also emphasis laid on the shadows on the motherboard panel and the details in the darker areas.

Macro
The macro shots were taken with the macro mode enabled. It involved us taking the closest possible shots to the colour pencils. We looked at the ability of the camera to focus properly and the amount of depth of field blur we could get.

Flash
For the flash test, we turned off all the lights and had the camera focus on the scene with whatever little ambient light there was. This shot helped us gauge how intense the flash was and how much the colours and shades degraded because of it.

Outdoors
The outdoor shots were taken at some 13 different locations around our office premises. They were mostly photos of plants and of the hills in the background. We used different zoom settings to shoot distant areas. Macro shots were taken of plants and some of metal piping.

Portrait
We shot a photo of an individual against daylight. This test photo was used to rate how well skin tones and gradients were represented.

Video
We took all our videos at the best resolutions supported. We recorded a short video clip to gauge the quality of the video in terms of crispness and colour. We also considered the resolution and frame rate of the video during the rating process.

The Canon PowerShot A450 and A460 suffered mostly from their inferior resolutions, though the colour representation  here was pretty good. The Kodak cameras in general gave us over-bright colours-different from the more natural, neutral colours of the Canons.

Value
The best overall performance for this category comes from the Samsung S850. The price tag is Rs 14,490, though-pretty high.

The Canon A450 is a steal of a buy: the 5 megapixels might be a bit of a let-down for some, but where it loses out on features, it makes up with its impressive pricing of just Rs 7,995. The performance was very close to that of the Samsung S850. It secures second place, a little ahead of the Canon PowerShot A460. These two are pretty much the same except for the zoom. The A460 has 4x optical zoom, as compared to the 3x of the A450. The price difference is about Rs. 500.

Download PDF File Of Digital Camera of Rs 8,001 to 15000

A major disappointment here was Nikon. The L10 and the L11 are almost identical in terms of specs and also in performance as we tested them.

The performance isn't spectacular, but if you're looking for a very compact camera, look at the Sony W55.

Busting More Myths 
Larger Megapixel = Better camera? Not always the case. All the visual data recorded on a digital camera comes from the sensor. The non-DSLR cameras we see have a much smaller sensor as compared to the ones on an SLR. So a 5MP D-SLR's CMOS is actually much better than a 5MP CCD sensor of point-and-shoot cameras.

Increasing megapixels don't mean the sensor size has increased as well.

For a fixed sensor size, megapixel ratings can change!

The other confusion is regarding the resolution increase of the image if you increase the megapixel value. Megapixels are used to measure the number of pixels: 1 megapixel = 1,000,000 pixels (1000 x 1000 pixels). The only improvement you're going to find is the marginal increase to the width and height of the image.

So if you see a camera with a higher megapixel rating than yours, don't think of it as a huge improvement in quality.

The Cream of the Crop (Rs 15,001 to Rs 25,000)

This group is dominated by Canon. Then there are Sony and Samsung cameras, as well as a lone Kodak.

Design
Samsung's i70 has a neat sliding mechanism similar to cell phones. Push the back panel to the left and it slides smoothly into place, and turns itself on. The buttons are flat and don't give any feedback. The zoom is controlled by similarly-designed buttons.

Samsung-S-850
Quality zoom but not the best design

Although the Canon TX1's vertical design is well-suited for camcorder-like use, it's not quite perfect. The index finger ends up where the camera's lens pops out. The battery slot panel is way too flimsy. The foldable 1.8-inch screen is too tiny for you to be able to make out anything. The camera does have a sturdy feel to it, with fat, chunky buttons for recording, including a dedicated button for recording video.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC H7 
In addition to what we've reviewed above, we also received the Sony DSC H7-a slightly different breed of digital camera, one that lies between a point-and-shoot camera and a digital SLR. Some people call such cameras pseudo-SLRs or semi-SLRs; some others call them ultrazooms. They do look very similar to SLRs, but are smaller.
The H7, like most other cameras of its kind, gives one complete manual control as well as semi-automated settings like the Aperture and Shutter priority, which allow you to set a fixed aperture and shutter speed-the camera changes the others parameters accordingly for proper photos.

Whereas most point-and-shoot cameras are stuck with 3x to 4x zoom, the DSC H7 is an 8MP camera with a tremendous 15x optical zoom (31 to 465 mm equivalent). The most impressive part is being able to zoom and take photos of objects and people some 100 to 200 metres away and get details you can't see with your eyes. We did run, on the H7, the same chain of tests that we used for the other cameras. The quality of the photos was more or less at par with the Rs 15000-Rs 25,000 group of cameras. Colours seemed a tiny bit on the darker side. At maximum zoom, there was a fair bit of degradation in quality. Holding the camera still at maximum zoom is another issue with such cameras.
There have been some improvements apart from the megapixel and zoom having been pushed up. The batteries are now Li-ion based, instead of AA NiMH cells. The menus are more user friendly.
If you think about it, the H7 is probably more practical than a SLR; it's much quicker to get running. There is no changing of lenses for the right kind of shot. You can use the manual controls to take the photos-like an SLR-or you can switch to the complete Auto mode if you're in a hurry, and use it like a point-and-shoot camera.
Getting the kind of flexibility the H7 provides on even a D-SLR is a very costly affair. At Rs 22,990, this camera is cheaper than the cheapest D-SLR you can buy today. Unfortunately, there is a downside to all the features and performance. Battery consumption is a little more with such cameras because of the larger motor movements required to move the bulkier lens mechanism. You also end up with a bulkier camera, which can't be shoved into a pocket. The camera is great for any photography enthusiast who can't afford to buy a good D-SLR, or a lens that would be required to match the performance of the DSC H7.

The screen on the Canon A640 is connected to a hinge that allows you to rotate it freely. This is particularly useful in turning the screen on its back and protecting it from scratches when not in use. The complaint about the A640 is the four AA batteries needed. The A640, although very well-built, is one of the heaviest cameras we tested.

The other well-built camera here is the titanium-body Canon IXUS 900 Ti, which is particularly compact.

The Kodak V1003 looks like its sibling, the V803, from the earlier category. It has similar smooth curves and a good glossy finish.

Both the Sony cameras-the W90 and the T100-are well-designed, flat cameras that can fit in a shirt pocket. The menus have the new user-friendly look, grey with orange highlighted icons and smoother fonts-some of the nicest-looking menus.

Features
The Canon TX1 is unique; it doubles up as a good HD camcorder, and can record video at 1280 x 720 (720p). You would require a sizeable memory card to be able to record a video of decent length. The quality of the video isn't particularly great, it must be said.

Controlling the Samsung i7 is the ultimate in ease; it has a touchscreen that allows you to select a displayed feature and proceed to more advanced options within that feature. This is a happy departure from the multiple button-press sequences to do the simplest of tasks.

Features like image stabilisation and face detection were present on most of the cameras; the Kodak V1003 and the Canon A640 missed out.

Unfortunately, only the Canon A710 IS, A640, and the A570 IS have manual focus.

Performance
Canon's top line-up performed very well in general. Some of the best macros we shot throughout the test were with the Canon A640, A710 IS and A570 IS. The Canons took the top five spots in the overall performance figures.

Canon Power Shot A570 IS
Great performance even greater value for money!

The Canon IXUS 900 Ti didn't give us very good macro shots, but its outdoors colours were very good. Video quality was good at the highest resolution-1024x768 at 15fps-as well as at the standard 640x480 resolution. Skin tones were pretty neutral, too.

In this category, Samsung appears to have focused more on features than performance. The performance scores suffered mostly because of the colours, although the detail and crispness was more or less there. With the NV10, the colours were too intense, and with the i7 and i70, the images looked a bit faded.

Glossary 
Aperture: The opening through which light enters the camera. The larger the aperture, the more light goes in, which results in a brighter image. The F-Stop number, or F-Number, is used to denote the size of the aperture. For example, f2.8 denotes a larger aperture than f8.
Shutter Speed: The duration for which the shutter is left open. It is denoted in seconds, like 1/1000th of a second, 1/30th of a second, etc. The shorter the duration, the lower the amount of light entering the camera. A longer shutter speed will give you brighter images, but if your hand shakes, you might end up with blurred images.
ISO Rating: ISO or ASA was traditionally used to denote the sensitivity of the film in film cameras. The higher the ISO-equivalent value, the more sensitive the sensor is to light. Higher ISO values add a lot of grainy noise to the images as compared to low values. Higher ISO settings are preferable for low-light scenarios and lower ISO settings for brighter conditions.
EXIF: Exchangeable Image File Format. This is a tag you'll find in file formats like JPEG. Digital cameras use this tag to store information about the camera and the photo taken such as shutter speed, aperture size, ISO sensitivity, flash, and more.

Kodak's V1003 wasn't too good in the colour department, either-the outdoors flowers showed up more pink than red.

Value
In a category where one tends to splurge, the best camera to buy in terms of value is also one of the cheapest in the category: the Canon PowerShot A570 IS. It has all the features expected from a top-end camera, and it fares pretty close to the top-spot cameras in terms of performance as well.

The next-best buy would be the Canon A710 IS-the one with the 6x optical zoom. The price for this takes it beyond the price of the A570 IS by about Rs 3,000.

Those who want good performance and also a compact and stylish looking design will find that the Canon IXUS 900 Ti is the right choice.

The Sony W90 and W100 would also be suitable candidates, although their performance numbers cannot not be compared to the Canons in general.

Download PDF File of Digital Camera of Rs 15,001 to 25,000

So That's Where It Stands…
Well, that's that then. Refer to the tables for features and performance scores. Something to remember before buying a camera: costly cameras don't mean easy-instant-professional shots. Even the cheapest of cameras can get you some really impressive results. The tests we did were at Auto settings, because that's what most people tend to use. It's possible to get much better results by using the manual settings or different scene modes. Our Tips and Tricks on Photography might help you achieve just this.

Photography for you can graduate from a casual interest to a serious hobby to a passion. Who knows-you could just decide upon one of the cameras here, pick it up, and go places!