Mother's going digital

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Martin Angove, Aug 18, 2005.

  1. Newbie warning :) Long post, sorry. I have done a bit of a search, but
    I've not yet found a "what camera" thread which has quite the
    combination I'm about to present...

    My mother is having her 70th birthday soon, and my father thinks that
    she could make good use of a digital camera. She's pretty good
    technically, but none of us has a digital camera at the moment(*) and so
    although I know a reasonable amount about these things from a paper
    specification POV, I'm interested in some real-world opinions please.

    At the moment she uses an Olympus OM1n with either a 28mm or a 50mm
    lens. This produces excellent pictures, but the camera is beginning to
    show its age, and she tends to take less than a film-full at a time
    which can make for frustrating delays between visits to the developer.

    The new camera will probably be used mainly for landscape work so a
    lens of at least 28mm equivalent is a necessity.

    I can't see mum getting on with an LCD screen outdoors in bright sun so
    it needs to have a good viewfinder. Optical sounds great, and for
    wide-angle shots the offset of an optical viewfinder (dad's budget
    really isn't going to stretch to a DSLR) shouldn't be a problem, but a
    good electronic viewfinder would be ok too. Mum needs glasses for close
    work so the viewfinder needs to have the sort of surround that works
    with glasses.

    She never uses a tripod and does suffer from arthritis, so as short a
    shutter-lag as possible would be good.

    A favourite trick for landscapes is the use of a polarising filter so a
    lens with a standard filter thread (current filters are 49mm, but buying
    new isn't necessarily a problem) is a good idea.

    On the subject of a polariser, can its effect be gauged accurately in an
    electronic viewfinder? I realise this kind of thing would be impossible
    in an optical viewfinder that isn't TTL. Do the autofocusing systems on
    digital cameras prefer circular polarisers or linear? We find linear
    much easier to use on our manual SLRs.

    She rarely uses flash, but does take indoor shots using long exposures,
    particularly inside churches and the like. In fact she has quite a
    repertoire of low-contrast shots as one of her hobbies is family history
    and so pictures of memorial tablets and worn-down or lichen-covered
    gravestones feature fairly heavily. A camera that can auto focus and
    decently expose that kind of thing would be very useful.

    She will not want to spend hours and hours retouching pictures, and
    certainly won't want to spend money on something like Photoshop. Quite
    honestly the most she's likely to want to do is crop or resize and
    print, so a good exposure "out of the box" is vital.

    Mum has an HP colour laser printer attached to a Mac Mini. She does a
    lot of painting from her photographs and one particular advantage of a
    digital picture will be the ability to print it, or a section of it, out
    at a large size for detail. Partly for this reason I've been looking at
    7 or 8 Mpix cameras.

    Erm, that's about it really. To summarise, I think my mum needs a camera

    * wide angle of 28mm (35mm equiv) or better
    * short shutter delay
    * optical or very good electronic viewfinder
    * decent ability flashless in low-light situations
    * filter thread
    * 6Mpix as a minimum, 7 or 8 preferably.
    * Mac compatible (OS-X)
    * as robust as possible; the OM1n has survived quite a few knocks and

    Based on extensive research (three magazines and a couple of evenings on
    the interweb) I'm particularly interested in the Konica Minolta A200 and
    the Olympus C7070 (or 8080). I realise that these are close to
    low-end DSLR prices, but when you factor in the cost of a lens they
    begin to look much cheaper. At the moment I favour the A200 for three

    1 It looks "chunkier" and more like an SLR. With carpal tunnel
    problems, chunky is good.

    2 It has a mechanical zoom function. I hate fiddly button-zooms.

    3 Although it has an electronic viewfinder, all the reviews I've read
    say that it is among the best currently available.

    On the other hand I've heard that the C7070 has a better focussing
    system and might have the edge on exposing awkwardly lit scenes
    (consider a seascape).

    But I'm open to other suggestions. As this is quite a hefty purchase,
    we're probably going to go to the local camera shop (Walters in
    Caerphilly) to "try before buy" so any models which are only available
    at specific retailers or online are not really under consideration.

    I can see that if this works out, my dad is going to use it too, so
    secondary considerations are:

    * reasonably long zoom (he tends to photograph aircraft and garden

    * the ability to display to a TV (though photo playback units aren't
    all that expensive these days)

    Mainly for budget reasons I'm personally sticking with film for now, but
    I see this exercise as a good way to get some proper experience with
    digital without incurring too much cost!

    (*) My 4-year-old has a 1.3Mpix Fuji camera which cost £20 and is
    perfect for his kind of "snap happy" photography. I have to say that,
    despite the fixed focus, low number of pixels, low cost, very long
    shutter delay and tiny tiny flash, I'm very impressed with it. I used to
    carry a disposable 35mm around for the occasional snapshot, but I've
    taken to carrying the 4-year-old now instead :)

    TIA for any advice.


    Martin Angove, Aug 18, 2005
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  2. Martin Angove

    John Bean Guest

    Consider finding an A2 rather than a A200. All the same
    advantages plus 8 *much* better EVF.
    John Bean, Aug 18, 2005
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  3. In message <>,
    The main problem being about a £300 difference in price if I read my
    specs correctly. I was hovering around the £500 mark. If you are
    seriously suggesting that £300 makes that much difference to the
    electronic viewfinder then no thanks, I'd rather go SLR for the same

    But I don't think I could persuade my dad to part with quite that
    much, even for my mum...


    Martin Angove, Aug 19, 2005
  4. Martin Angove

    Trev Guest

    Now I was going to say That.I'm a Happy 7 hi user and think I would Lose out
    If I got a A200
    Trev, Aug 19, 2005
  5. Martin Angove

    harrogate2 Guest

    If you are hovering around the £500 mark then do what you said you
    couldn't or wouldn't - get a DLSR. Although I think it may now
    technically be discontinued the Canon EOS300D should be available with
    lens for that price, and although only 6Mp it can knock spots off any
    compact of that size.

    It has the advantage of being able to take normal Canon SLR lenses
    although they magnify the focal length by about 1.5 times - i.e. a
    35mm SLR lens will act as if it were about 50mm when on the digital.

    The advantage of the DSLR is that it works like an SLR - it takes
    pictures pretty well when you press the button which compacts most
    certainly do not. I have an Olympus 5050 and have used the 8080 and
    both can take up to about 3 seconds (or more) to take a picture
    (without flash) unless pre-focused. The Canon is also about the same
    size as an OM1, whereas its successor the EOS350D is seriously small -
    I used to have problems with hand size on an OM1 (my son has one) but
    found the 350 impossible. I am told the new Pentax DSLR (something
    like *ISt) is pretty good albeith a bit more expensive. If you can
    find a Nikon D70 (not D70s) at the right price you can update it's
    operating software from the 'net and it will beat the new D50s into a
    cocked hat - albeit if it suits the D50s is a superb machine if you
    don't expect too much of it and has a 2" screen to boot.

    If you end up with a compact then look seriously at the Canon Ixus 50
    or A85/A95, Fuji E550, or Casio QV-R61 all of which respond relatively
    quickly and take good pictures.

    Finally, unless your Mum wants to crop to less than half the picture
    and print at A4 don't bother looking above 5Mp. You get little
    advantage at 6 or 8Mp by comparison but you do get colour noise
    (graininess in saturated colours) which can be most objectionable.
    Remember that you only need 3Mp and a half decent lens to get superb
    quality for full frame printed at A4 size.
    harrogate2, Aug 19, 2005
  6. Martin Angove

    John Bean Guest

    The A2 is discontinued and heavily discounted if you can
    find one. The RRP has no meaning at all.
    Even when the A2 was current it didn't cost £800. I bought
    one last year for under £600, and that was from a local
    The EVF of the A2 is unique and never bettered. As EVFs go
    it's as good as any you'll ever see, and it's *big* as well
    as sharp.

    SLRs are a different category; it's unlikely that any
    current SLR/lens combination offering the same
    range/performance of the A2/A200 will be small/light enough
    for the purpose intended, but only you know that for sure.
    John Bean, Aug 19, 2005
  7. Martin Angove

    nick J Guest

    Why not persuade her that it is ok to develop her film with less than
    24 exposures used. She could get them scanned at the same time.
    Enabling her to make prints at home.

    I'm not anti-digital, I use a dSLR myself but if she's comfortable
    using the OM1n why not continue using it. It is a lovely camera after
    all and she has the lenses she needs.

    Nick J
    nick J, Aug 19, 2005
  8. i think i would be tempted to either take nicks advice and stay with her
    old OM1n or to look for a 2nd had DSLR, they are coming down in price
    now, though the loss of the wide end would probably be a problem.

    the advanatges are that the DSLR is likely to be more simular in use, a
    chunker more robust body, but it will be pricer particlly if you get
    wide angle lences, and your unlikely to get 6mp at a cheap price, though
    of course size isn't every thing and having a good lence etc...

    Roger Merriman, Aug 19, 2005
  9. Martin Angove

    Odie Ferrous Guest

    If that were indeed the case, then why do manufacturers even bother to
    put out "compacts" "that size"?

    Does the Canon come (included in the price) a 12x optical zoom?

    I have no idea whatsoever, but does the Canon come with hand-held shake
    protection? (Sometimes it can be useful, you know...)

    To each his own.

    That is exactly why there exists such diversity amongs digital cameras.

    Just so long as someone doesn't recommend a Kodak...!

    Someone whose daughter trashed his Olympus C3020 camera. Then went and
    bought a Panasonic FZ20.
    And who has found the quality between the two incredible. The Olympus
    won on all counts other than optical zoom. By a long, long margin.

    Next camera may *well* be a digital SLR - but only because I am prepared
    to splash out on the lenses that give me the flexibility of something
    like the FZ20.
    Odie Ferrous, Aug 19, 2005
  10. In message <>,
    Hmmm... yes, she's been using this particular OM1n since 1981, on and
    off. I've taken hundreds of photos using it and love it to bits. It
    isn't mum that's had this idea to go digital, but dad, but I can see how
    it would work for mum. Running cost isn't really the issue given that
    she uses no more than a dozen films a year, but a couple of other things

    * The OM1n is in need of a major service (couple of bits falling off,
    back isn't reliably light tight etc.) and so if this camera is to be
    kept then money will have to be spent on it. (The main broken bit is
    the film rewind lever. It is a very difficult and painful (honestly)
    task to rewind a roll of film, especially with her arthritic hands).

    * Although mum has a 28mm and a 50mm lens at hand, and knows how to
    change them, she often can't be bothered, or hasn't carried the
    alternate with her, and has trouble framing shots as a result. A zoom
    has to be the answer which again means more money spent on the OM1n.

    * Believe it or not, our local 1 hour processor no longer sells (much)
    film! In stock at the moment they have Fuji Sensia (slide film) and
    an own brand print film based on Agfa something in 200ASA only.

    * She's finding it more and more difficult to use the split-centre
    focus. This isn't often a problem for landscapes, but can be for her
    close-up shots of gravestones etc. (see earlier post) in particular
    in low-light situations where half the split often goes black.

    * She does a lot of painting from photographs. At the moment she can
    scan them and print them out larger, but her scanner has also seen
    better days (it only has OS9 drivers and only runs with a minimal set
    of options under third-party drivers on OSX) and although she *could*
    get the photos put onto CD by the local 1-hour people, it adds three
    or four quid to the price of developing (Agfa machine). Jessops and
    Boots with the Fuji machines are better at around a pound or two, but
    they're in Cardiff and visits to Cardiff are rare. Anyway, we like to
    feel we're supporting local businesses (Walters are local to South

    * Some of her photographs are taken for other family historians and
    often they prefer them via email. Same argument as above.

    * She has written a book about our family history
    ( ) which has a lot of her
    photographs in it. They all had to be professionally scanned, and in
    some cases the negatives were missing. There is a supplement "in
    production" and photographs which are already in the digital domain
    would be very useful.

    * Dad needs to buy her a birthday present and can't think of anything

    * I'm really keen to see how a decent digital camera works as although
    I'm not in the market for one at the moment, I may be within the next
    couple of years.

    Ok, the last two are a bit funny, but you get the drift :)


    Martin Angove, Aug 19, 2005
  11. In message <%gfNe.12967$>,
    Interesting suggestion, and one I'll investigate, but knowing dad (and
    the fact that this is to be a birthday present) I doubt second hand
    would do it, even if I could find such a beast. And I should have made
    clear that £500 is my idea of an upper limit. Although dad hasn't
    specified, mum's going to have a fit if she finds out he's spent even
    that much on a camera for her ;-)

    I really don't think the jump to dSLR is economically viable. Comparing
    new prices we're looking at £350-odd for the 7070, £400ish for the A200,
    and £450 for the 8080. A D50 plus 28mm (eq) lens kit is around £600 and
    a D70 with 28mm lens seems to be well over £700.

    Ok, this could be a problem. Possibly not for the landscape stuff
    though. Your figures are quite high, I'm sure I've read reviews where
    they are claimed to be lower. Is your figure the click-focus-snap-store
    total or just click-focus-snap? I don't think mum's likely to have a use
    for multiple shots in quick succession. Having said that, if she can be
    persuaded to pre-set the camera (shutter button half way) or if she
    decides to use the thing on full manual, presumably the speed improves

    Size is one reason we want to be able to audition these cameras at a
    local shop, and one reason the A200 is tempting; although smaller than a
    modern SLR it still looks (on paper) quite chunky and easy to handle.
    Remember that the OM1n is actually quite a "petite" camera by modern
    (film) SLR standards as it has a metal body, and absolutely no
    automation so needs no body room for motors or batteries.
    Ok, noted. Will go and find some reviews of those before making a final
    Again, point taken, but 6 to 8 Mpix seems to be the current "standard"
    in the range of cameras I'm looking at. I'm not sure about your 3Mpix
    statement (though I recognise that you aren't the only person to say
    this, and I've seen similar in magazines as well as here). I've not seen
    a lot of digital photographs, but my sister in law has a 3Mpix camera
    (something small and Canon I think) and personally I would say that the
    6x4 prints are fine but 7x5s are a bit ropey. I really wouldn't want to
    see one of her 3Mpix images professionally printed at A4, though I can
    see that on a home-bound inkjet or (possibly) laser they might be

    Thanks for the help :)


    Martin Angove, Aug 19, 2005
  12. Martin Angove

    harrogate2 Guest

    Expensive World are doing the EOS300D kit (i.e. including 18-55mm
    lens - equiv 28-90mm at 35mm) for £499.87.

    The shutter delay that I quoted does NOT include memory writing. If
    you pre-focus (by holding the shutter release half pressed) then any
    camera will take the picture almost instantly when you apply the full
    shutter pressure. However few take it quickly if you press the shutter
    fully from the start. I have a Ricoh Caplio RR30 which is reckoned to
    take the picture within 220mS of a full shutter press - and I can
    vouch for that. Their current R1V, R2, and GX8 all seem to be similar.
    If you want to see real slow, try one of the Nikon compacts in the
    4000 or 5000 series - five seconds is quick there!

    The comment about 3Mp being enough for A4 is from personal experience
    but you can work it out:-
    Newprint is about 75dpi
    'Normal' photoprints are around 130-150dpi.
    Glossy mag front covers are around 200dpi.
    Take A4 to be about 10x8: at 200dpi this will be 2000x1600 pixels or
    about 3.2Mp. QED (although doubtless someone will flame me and argue
    with the maths, but the principle is probably right.)

    One thing that affects final quality is the physical size of the CCD
    chip. One of the early Nikons - D1? - had only a 2Mp chip but it would
    knock spots off most 5Mp compacts.

    As for the quantity of pixels - most people who don't understand just
    follow the 'who can use the most pixels' race. As I said earlier - and
    again from personal experience - 5Mp is plenty enough for most uses.
    6Mp is useable, but 8Mp certainly does show noise in saturated colours
    without much subjective overall picture quality improvement. (Noise:
    look at a saturated blue or red on your TV screen with an off-air
    signal and you will see it seems to be 'snowing' slightly - this is
    electrical noise.)

    What affects the final picture most is the computation done on the
    picture before it is saved, especially if it is in jpeg format. There
    is much discussion at the moment, but RAW format is the best to use -
    it is effectively a digital negative - and is proprietry to most
    manufacturers. It does require some adjustment - usually sharpening -
    but that is in your control by your editing software, not at the
    choice of the camera manufacturer's designers. Not all cameras have
    RAW capability.

    Having been a keen photographer for over 30 years and having had
    digital of some form for about five I can only offer comments from my
    own experience which may differ from others. However when anyone has
    asked me which camera to buy I always give the same answer: go to a
    good and well stocked camera shop on a mid-week morning knowing
    roughly what you want and how much you want to spend. Ask the shop to
    get the cameras of you choice out on the counter and play with them.
    Sure as eggs is eggs one of them (if you're lucky more than one) will
    feel 'right' and that is the one you should buy. At the end of the day
    you have got to live with the thing!
    harrogate2, Aug 19, 2005
  13. ....but optical prints on photographic paper from a Fuji Frontier or an
    Agfa D-lab are 300dpi or 400dpi respectively.

    And yes, I can tell the difference.

    At 300dpi, 8x10" is 7.2Mp. And A4 is actually closer to 8x12"...
    (slightly less in fact)

    Most of the A4 samples that I see from manufacturers of 3-4Mp cameras
    look slightly dodgy to me - although this is probably not helped by the
    fact that they are usually oversharpened too.

    Having said all this, I totally agree with the number of pixels not
    always being the most important thing. I'm told that sensor size makes a
    difference, although I'm not sure why, but the other huge thing which
    gets forgotten in the race for big numbers is the lens quality! You can
    have as many pixels as you like, but if you're projecting a fuzzy image
    onto them....
    Simon Waldman, Aug 20, 2005
  14. I'd find my job far easier if they were!
    Try 300dpi - or better.

    And assume 90dpi for good web graphics.
    John Cartmell, Aug 20, 2005
  15. In message <>,
    Not that she is likely to use the telephoto end much (though dad might)
    but it might just make that low-light shot more achievable.
    Yes, I think I said that a filter thread was one of the priorities. This
    is one reason I'm not looking at the normal compact-compacts; even if
    they go down to 28mm, they rarely have a filter thread.
    Since all the cameras I've been looking at will take CF, I'm thinking of
    doing the same. Depth of field is an interesting issue. Mum probably
    wouldn't use it creatively, though I have seen a few shots from her
    where she has framed a distant landscape using a slightly out-of-focus
    tree or hedge or something in the forground, but a camera that is
    relatively "fast" and can therefore use smallish apertures will
    certainly help with the focussing, not that that should be an issue with

    I suspect that she'll mainly be using the viewfinder, hence the reason
    for discounting many cameras with EVFs unless the reviews say they are
    I tried that this morning. I've been having all sorts of
    community-related feelings about supporting local businesses and as I
    was dropping a film off this morning anyway, I asked at the shop whether
    it would be possible to arrange to audition the C7070 and the A200. Note
    that I didn't want to see them immediately, but was planning to take dad
    down there during next week. Granted, they had a C7070 on the shelf, but
    they didn't have an A200 in any of their shops according to the computer
    system, and as far as the assistant I spoke to was aware it was "no
    longer a stock item". What? I was under the impression that this was a
    fairly recent camera.

    Not only that but the C7070 was marked up at £499, discounted to £429.
    That's a lot more than I've seen it elsewhere...

    I've just checked their website which certainly still lists the A200, at
    £399 which oddly is less than the C7070. Oh well.


    Martin Angove, Aug 20, 2005
  16. Martin Angove

    shee Guest

    Here is a viewpoint from someone who loves photography, and is in similar
    age and physical condition to Martin's Mum, but without the in-depth

    My first digital camera was a Fuji MX1200 - and it taught me a lot, but
    eventually I knew that it simply did not do all the things I wanted it to
    do. I took a trip to a small camera specialist shop where I knew they would
    advise me properly and not treat me like an idiot granny with no business
    "being technical". I left the shop with an Olympus C-70 Zoom.

    This camera does everything I ask of it, and more, and takes superb photos.
    I wear glasses and don't take them off to use the view-finder. The camera,
    with spare battery and cards, is small enough to live in my handbag, but it
    is big enough for the zoom control and buttons to be used very easily by
    large, stiffening fingers. It is almost impossible to delete a photo
    accidentally. The screen is large, though I only use it occasionally for
    checking a photo, or for flicking through a number of photos to find a
    particular one. The genuine Olympus battery is expensive, but lasts 3
    times as long a the cheap alternatives.

    It has a number of special settings - sport, portrait, landscape, night,
    panorama - and a lot of other settings for lens, speed, aperture and so on
    which speak to me of "normal" cameras, which I have never had and do not
    understand. I mostly keep the setting at auto-focus and sport - probably
    not the right thing to do, but works for me. Changing the settings is very
    simple but time-consuming, and since most of my photography is spur of the
    moment, time is a luxury I don't have.

    On the down side, it does not have any protection against camera shake, and
    I can never guarantee that the photos I take will turn out right, especially
    when taking photos from a moving vehicle (which I often do from the
    passenger seat!). For night shots a tripod (or other firm base) is
    essential. I find that it is not good in dim lighting, such as churches,
    without flash for the same reason - my hand is not steady enough to hold the
    camera perfectly still for the delayed exposure. But maybe if the settings
    (in the group I don't understand) were altered it would be better.

    I hope this helps you with your decisions.
    remove one bluey to reply).
    shee, Aug 20, 2005
  17. Martin Angove

    Trev Guest

    You can actually see a dot of 300 the of an inch never mind 400th

    Do the labs auto intapolat or do they print by inches whatever the res of
    the supplied image
    Trev, Aug 20, 2005
  18. Martin Angove

    Trev Guest

    I think he means LPI Lines per inch. Even if his figures are wrong. Web
    graphics have no Pixele, dots, or drops per inch Resalution just a hight by
    width in pixels.
    Trev, Aug 20, 2005
  19. I can see the dots from a Frontier. One of the reasons that I don't
    particularly like these machines is that the actual dots they put down
    are too sharp (of course it looks fine from more than 4 inches away!). I
    can't see the dots from an Agfa d-lab. I don't know whether this is due
    to teh 33% greater resolution or just because the "dots" are softer.
    Not sure I understand the question. Usually they take what you give them
    and scale it to the size you specify (presumably they interpolate when
    they do this).
    Simon Waldman, Aug 20, 2005
  20. If web graphics have no dots or pixels what do they have? And if you expect
    them to be seen at (approximately) a certain size (measurable in inches ...

    Get a high enough resolution and screen sized monitor and all the assumptions
    go out of the window of course - but my guidance is good for ordinary people.
    John Cartmell, Aug 20, 2005
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