Compact Digital Cameras

To: birding aus <>
Subject: Compact Digital Cameras
From: Russell Woodford <>
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 2004 13:21:11 +1000
Hi everyone

I've been following the digital camera market closely for a couple of years, as well as reading the very useful contributions of some of our members, such as Bob Inglis, Gordon Brook, Lawrie Conole and others.

There are now a range of compact, long-range zooms on the market. Canon, Olympus, Minolta, Kyocera, Fuji and Kodak are all represented with 10x Optical zoom digital cameras. Choosing one is a bit of a minefield as there are so many parameters to compare. For instance, these cameras all use EVFs (Electronic Viewfinders) - and most freeze the action during autofocus or while executing the shot. That makes it virtually impossible to follow a moving subject - not ideal for seabird photography! This is probably the main reason serious photographers go for digital SLRs, which allow you to look through the lens the whole time.

I've been looking for a camera to use for bird photography and general purpose use. I can't justify the expense of a digital SLR, and I'd like something reasonably compact. The Olympus cameras have always been the smallest of the big zoom cameras, although all the 10x zoom cameras referred to above are almost pocket-sized (think jacket pocket rather than shirt pocket!).

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has used one of the 10x zoom cameras, especially for bird photography. I'd also like to hear from people who have used a high resolution camera (6 megapixels or higher) with digital zoom or enhancing in Photoshop to get closer to the subject.

The good and bad points I've discovered are listed below - I'd welcome comments privately to me - or to the list if you are happy to share your experiences. I'd also suggest to others interested in ANY digital cameras to make us of some of the excellent digital camera review sites, esp. Steve's Digitacams ( and DP Review (

PANASONIC DMC-Z1 and Z2  2 megapixels 12x optical zoom
FOR:            Huge zoom, image stabiliser
AGAINST:        Only 2 mgpx, bulky

PANASONIC DMC-Z10  4 megapixels 12x optical zoom
FOR:            Huge zoom, image stabiliser
AGAINST:        Bulky, more expensive than others in range

MINOLTA Z1      3 megapixels 10x optical zoom
FOR:            Fast startup and processing, price (under $700 online)
AGAINST:        A bit tinny, looks weird!

MINOLTA Z4      4 megapixels 10x optical zoom
FOR:            Fast startup and processing
AGAINST:        A bit tinny, looks weird, and not here yet!

KODAK DX6490            3 megapixels 10x optical zoom
FOR:            Picture quality - although some users say the opposite
                        Kodak printing and transfer system (Dock)
AGAINST:        Variable user reports, long freeze during shooting

FUJI S5000Z     3 megapixels 10x optical zoom
FOR:            Price (around $530 now online, still $900 at shops!)
AGAINST:        hasn't got the image quality or features of other brands

OLYMPUS have had a range of big zoom digitals for years, starting with the Camedia C-700, and adding another number every few months!
C-720 and C-730 can still be found in a few places.

OLYMPUS C-740           3 megapixels 10x optical zoom
FOR:                    Compact, price (low $600s)
AGAINST:                Lacks features of others (e.g. hotshoe and audio)

OLYMPUS C-750           4 megapixels 10x optical zoom
FOR:                    Compact, fully-featured
AGAINST:                Not sure - this was close to being my choice
                                xD card storage is most expensive format
                                Lens doesn't appear to be well protected (same 
with some others)

A few weeks ago Canon entered the market again - their old Pro90 IS is still favoured by many photographers.

CANON S1 IS     3 megapixels 10x optical zoom
FOR: Good optics, Image stabiliser, excellent movie capability (if you want it)
                                Fast zoom lens - well protected by clip on lens 
AGAINST:                New - not much feedback about it yet.
                                Not as small as the Olympus cameras

And now OLYMPUS have really complicated things by bringing out 3 new models:

OLYMPUS C-760           Replaces C-740 in a smaller body

OLYMPUS C-765           Replaces C-750 in a smaller body

and the best new release, to my mind, is the

OLYMPUS C-770 Replaces C-750 in a smaller body, with a similar feature set as the Canon
The main difference is NO Image stabiliser on Olympus, but it's a LOT smaller (105w x 60h x 69d mm). One of the Sydney photographic chain stores (no advertising on Birding-Aus!!!) has it for the amazing ONLINE price of $799 when it arrives in May (another online store has it for $809 so I guess there's no mistake). This makes it a family point-and-shoot still and movie camera, great for outdoor work, close range down to 7cm - unusual in a big zoom cam - with the added bonus of 10 optical zoom.

All I'd like to see are some comments from owners - but I guess I''ll have to wait because they've just hit the shelves overseas.

Any further comments appreciated!


Russell Woodford


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