Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

What to look for when buying a new 8 MP Digicam

essay by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller

 

 
 
 

The PMA 2004 was dominated by the introduction of 5 digicams that spot an 8MP sensor. There is the strong (mis)believe that only more pixels is the right way to better image quality. For many purposes cameras with 3MP good pixels will be all you need.

We want to try to help new buyers better understand what they need to look for to make a better decision. Actually the first thing you should do is better understand what you want to archive yourself with that new camera. Then you can better understand how the different cameras can help you. These cameras are all good enough to leave the photographer as the limiting factor.

 
Trends
 
  • The new 8MP digicams cost about as much as the new entry level DSLRs (Canon Digital Rebel and Nikon D70)
  • Cameras like the Konica Minolta A2 bring new useful innovations: e.g. Anti shake sensor.
  • 8MP sensors
  • Electronic viewfinders
  • Raw file processing for better image quality
 
We will discuss some of these issues in our criteria list.
 
Expectations
 
We will judge any 8MP from the perspective of a professional digital SLR user.
 
 
The Viewfinder
 
The viewfinder is the interface to the image composition and content. That means that the viewfinder quality is essential for good photography. The new electronic viewfinders (all new 8MP digicams have them) are not in the same quality league as a good optical viewfinder. Still we believe they are the future and the Konica Minolta A2 showed impressive improvements (900,000 pixels).
 
Raw File Processing
 

We will check how useable the raw file format for these digicams are. There are two main issues:

  • How long does it take to be able to take a next raw file
  • How well works the manufacturers raw conversion software
 
Chromatic Aberrations and Purple Fringing
 

Generally speaking chromatic aberration has to do with change in focusand/or magnification as function of wavelength.

Lateral CA is the change of magnification. That is, certain wavelengths being magnified different from other wavelengths. This varies across the lens - (i.e. edges).

All traditional optical systems suffer from this - some more, some less.

Purple fringing can be even seen in the center of images and seems to be related to leaking between sensor cells.

 
Criteria List
 

We rank the features at three priority levels:

  • 1 = essential
  • 2 = needed
  • 3 = nice to have
 

The only 8MP digicam we know well is the Sony F828 (out since December) and that is why we will add our findings of the that camera to the list. Don't forget that all findings are our subjective view and you might value things differently. All out future camera review will use the following feature list:

Outback Photo Camera Evaluation Chart

Criterion
Description
Prio
Sony F828
View Finder
Quality of the electronic Viewfinder
1
poor
Swivel Viefinder The Konica Minolta has a nice Swivel Viewfinder
2
no
Swivel LCD Swivel LCD can help viewing the LCD better
2
not need due to swivel body design
Resolution
How much detail can be represented
1
good
Color Quality
How well are colors rendered
1
good
WB
How well works the automatic white balance
1
good
Noise
Best detail does not help if you get too much noise. But we would not get noise neurotic either.
2
ok
CA
Chromatic aberration shown
1
sometimes severe
Purple Fringing
Extra purple fringing beyond CA
1
sometimes severe
Lens Range
What range is covered by the zoom (in 35mm equivalent)
1
28-200mm (good range)
Manual Zoom Ring Manual zoom rings feel nicer than electronic controls
2
excellent

Manual Focus Ring

Manual focus rings feel nicer than electronic controls
2
yes (don't think the EVF is good for manual focussing though)
Live Histogram
Showing a live histogram. Featuring a live histogram for all 3 color channels would be even better.
1
good (luminance)
Raw recording
How well is the use of Raw supported
1
poor (8-10 secs for each file the camera is blocked)
Raw SW
Manufacturers Raw software. Many raw files can be opened by Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS
1/2
poor (8bit only)
Flash
We are no experts on flash
1
ok
Flash Synch If you work a lot with flash check the flash connectors and flash synch speed
2
not tested
RGBG/RGBE
Does the sensor use the classic three color RGBG Bayer pattern or like the Sony F282 a new four color RGBE pattern
n/a
RGBE
Sensor Sensor type and manufacturer
n/a
Sony 8MP CCD
Startup Time to power up the camera
2
ok
Shutterlag Delay from pressing the shutter till the picture is taken
1
significant
Autofocus Autofocus quality (low light, low contrast)
1
good
AF Speed Autofocus speed
1
ok
Size Smaller does not mean better
1
excellent
Handling How does the camera feel in use. This is very subjective.
1
good

 

 
We hope this list helps a bit.
 
 
The Pragmatic Way
 
Buy the camera you like best (feel and handling). Learn your camera, photograph, improve and don't look back.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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