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Christmas 2003 Digital Camera Round-up
by Keith Benicek and the Tech Lab Review Panel
Dec. 13, 2003

Every year during the holiday gift buying rush, we like to round up the best of the new crop of leading digital camera offerings by the top camera manufacturers. This year we have an outstanding group of high-tech combatants and reviewing them has been an absolute pleasure.

We assembled a review panel of six; one advanced newbie, two intermediate digital users and three professional photographers that are either press, fashion or product photographers. While some of the Pros may still use film primarily in their trade, all are including digital cameras more and more in their production work and all have been using digitals through curiosity since the early-mid 90’s. I’m also in the group, having worked as “fashion/product advertising photographer” at SB&D in Chicago. My first digitals were Apple’s Quick Take 150 (1992) and the very first Casio digital (1993). I love digitals, but my favorite camera is my now ancient Hasselblad 500C 2-1/4.

All the camera’s included in this round-up are low to mid price market entries and while some of these brands do have higher end “Pro Models” , we’re saving those for a special shoot-out in February 2004. Make sure you watch for that review of the titans on our Articles index page.

In this round up we don’t call out an over-all winner because each camera has its certain market niche and attributes that offer virtues for different tastes and needs. However we do rate each camera on a scale of 1 to 10 and remember that it is based on price market segment. So a 9 rated camera costing $200 is certainly not equal to a 9 rated camera costing $500. We also searched for the lowest street price available from “reputable” retailers. You can find the same price with a bit of judicious Internet searching.

One thing that you will notice is that most of the new cameras are not using the tried and true CF (Compact Flash) Digital Card, but instead the newer SD/MMC and xD Card, which FujiFilm and Toshiba introduced late last year. Sony is still using the Memory Stick which nearly up to the MB level of CF Cards.

When looking at prices of Digital Cameras, remember that all come with minimal and inadequate sized memory cards, and you need to plan on buying one or two big ones of about 128MB to 512MB if you’re a voracious photographer. Also remember that CF memory cards are nearly half the cost of SD/MMC, Memory Stick and the newest xD cards, So with that bit of consumer insight, on with the games combatants and we hope that you all enjoy the spectacle.

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Review Short Cuts:
FujiFilm FinePix F410
FujiFilm FinePix F700
FujiFilm FinePix S7000
Gateway DC-T20
Gateway DC-T50
Kodak EasyShare CX6330
Kodak EasyShare DX6490
Olympus CAMEDIA C-740 Ultra Zoom
Sony DCS-V1
Olympus E-20N

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               FujiFilm FinePix F410
                      
Description
The FujiFilm FinePix F410 is best described as a shirt pocket or purse camera, one that you’d choose for its compact size, yet good features. While FinePix F410 is not as small as the “junk” off-brand tiny cameras you might see at the local office product store of computer flea market, it is one of the smallest and certainly slimmest we know of.

The FujiFilm FinePix F410 all metal construction is great looking and very well built. Our six-member review panel liked the look and particularly the feel of holding the camera for a shot. The Optical View Finder is a bit small and using the Preview Display is a lot easier but uses up the battery faster. The removable battery pack is rechargeable lithium-ion and lasted for about 120 pictures using the review display sparingly. A rather small 16MB xD-Picture card is supplied with the camera; you should plan on buying at least a 128MB or a 256MB xD card to use on vacations.


Packed with nice features, such as 3+ Mp chip, 3x Optical Zoom, Movie Mode and a very fast lens, makes the FinePix F410 pretty sophisticated for its size. Just remember that this camera is designed for convenience, not medium to advanced photography. While it allows Manual Mode, it simply means that you can select the ISO equivalency and white balance from a list of presets. Other available settings are normal or enhanced color and black-and-white, which are nice touches.

This was the first camera to receive FujiFilm’s new 4th Generation Super CCD HR chip, which delivers a respectable 3.1Million pixels, a 2816 x 2120 (6 million recorded) image file. This will easily provide you with a good 11 x 14 inch print. A Movie Mode with sound, gives you10 frames per second Windows AVI format motion captures at 320x240, or a smaller space saving 160x120 pixel size (1/3 of a TV screen).

Tests-
Natural Reds are three degrees towards the Orange and over saturated, this causes a loss of detail in the over driven Reds. Greens are light and Blues are very accurate, with absolutely no “stepping” seen in color shading from light to dark as seen in sky blue images.

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