Check out the comments on my high-end compact survey for some real insight and experience.
[Update: Also check out DPR’s PMA report, which echoes me and the commenters: the camera companies are basically walking away from the high-end compact market. Go figure.]
Jonathan and the Ricoh · Probably the most interesting part of the conversation was a paean to the Ricoh GR Digital, which hit home pretty hard with me because it’s by Jonathan Delacour who is only like my favorite photoblogger in the whole world, or he was until he went quiet in 2005.
Even though he taught me the word bokeh, he didn’t quite convince me... since I’m a computer geek (lots of inside shots) living in the Pacific Northwest (sunshine? what’s that), low-light performance matters really a lot to me, and I don’t have any sentimental attachment to “the most gorgeous pushed film-grain” as a look, I want to approximate what my eyes report to the brain.
Jonathan also sneered expressively at DPR, but I’m not quite ready to let go yet.
Camera Store · I dropped by a big-box camera store the other day and now I know why I didn’t include the Canon G7 in my original survey, it’s just way too damn big, not a pocket camera for anyone under NBA size.
On the other hand, the Canon 710 IS looked just about right, if I hadn’t been so sick at the time I probably would have grabbed it. Gotta have something in my pocket if only as an interim measure.
Comment feed for ongoing:
From: David Edmondson (Mar 06 2007, at 00:21)
It sounds like a stupid question, but...how do you actually carry the camera around? Is it in a case? Just dropped in a pocket? If no case, doesn't the LCD display get smashed easily?
I (mostly) carry around an older Canon IXUS500. For a long time it was my only camera, so I was worried about breaking it, resulting in it sitting in a LowePro D-Res 8S. The end result is not huge, but it's too big to go in anything smaller than a jacket pocket (more likely a coat - not often do I venture out in a "jacket".)
From: Tim (Mar 06 2007, at 03:27)
David: For me, it has to be loose in the pocket, otherwise how are you going to get it out fast enough? This means that when I'm not wearing a coat or jacket, I wear a vest with lots of pockets.
I guess you could strap the carrying-case to your waist, but that looks kind of dorky.
From: Andrew Shebanow (Mar 06 2007, at 09:38)
I have one of the Canon 710 IS cameras, and like it quite a bit. Like almost all pocket cameras, I wish it was a bit faster to start up and take pictures. I also dislike the fact that it has no battery meter - you just get a warning when the battery is low.
But it takes great pictures, the IS works well, and its very convenient.
From: Paul B (Mar 06 2007, at 09:40)
Someone in the original thread mentioned Fuji. I almost went with their F30, but the "learning curve" I read about to accommodate it's somewhat finicky exposure control ultimately put me off as I needed something immediately usable for a trip (went with the Canon A640 as the 620 had just had its inventories flushed and was only available at a "last few" premium). Also, the Fuji lens produces noticeable purple fringing in some situations.
That said, many, many people "rave" about its low light performance, particularly given that its a pretty small compact camera and not a DSLR. Quite good shots at 800, and acceptable at 1600.
It's been replaced by the F31 fd (face detection). Comments I've read on the dpreview "fuji" board tend towards the opinion that Fuji scaled back the noise reduction a bit over the 30, resulting in a bit more noise unsuppressed but also more detail to work with after using something like Noise Ninja to do any necessary cleaning. It also sounds like the face detection can actually be useful in people situations, getting up to 10 faces as parameters in optimizing exposure to best capture those faces.
I also read that the F31 adds a much requests 800 limit in automatic exposure setting, where before some otherwise desired modes jumped too quickly to 1600 with commensurate loss of quality.
The F3* are also quite quick in start up (second or two) and in shutter activation.
I'm still likely to buy one, for the low light performance and also for "data capture" situations. To catch a filled whiteboard before it's erased. Also, I've realized that with one of these in my pocket, when I stumble across an interesting article or other dead tree item I can't take and don't have sufficient time for, I can just snap a few pictures of the relevant pages and complete them at my leisure. My impression is that the F3* will let me do that discretely in ambient light indoor settings.
And I guess that gets to the other point, that the thing's apparently reasonably compact and pocketable.
Ok, end of my long ramble. Perhaps it would be worth your while to look it up on dpreview and particularly to invest some time trolling the pages of its Fuji discussion board. They're pretty active and the camera series has been out for a while, so I'd work my way back a good many pages into the board history. Like any board, there's a fair amount of noise and redundancy, but there are also some quite informative gems interspersed.
Hope this helps.
P.S. An F40 has been announced, but it doesn't have the manual controls of the F3*. People are anticipating/hoping for an F5* that will be like the 40 but with more manual controls (and taking also an SD card instead of just xD). The F20 and F30 played out this scenario, with the 20 having limited controls and the 3* having full fledged exposure control.
From: Doug Cutting (Mar 06 2007, at 11:04)
I'm NBA sized, but I doubt my pockets are any bigger than yours.