New (and Noteworthy) Digicams
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Splish Splash- A Trio of Dunk-able Digicams


A Trio of New (and Noteworthy) Digicams

By Allan Weitz

The cool part of digicams is that you can take them anywhere. Or can you? You can take them to the beach, but watch out for sand and rogue waves. There's no sand at the pool, but you still have to steer clear of errant splashes from water-winged 5-year olds, not to mention Uncle Paulie's 'shock and awe' cannonballs. A day at the local water park? A box of donuts says you'll void the camera's warranty before the kid's ask for their first snacks.

The following digicams are unique in that they are sealed against water, dust, and other invaders that stop the average point-and-shoot in its tracks. One, the Olympus Stylus 770 SW, sports a solid, sealed-to-the-hilt camera body, while the Intova IC600 and Pixtreme PX2 are standalone cameras with dedicated polycarbonate housings.

Each of these cameras offer you the ability to take pictures in environments and weather conditions you would never dream of using your 'normal' cameras. And best of all they're all reasonably priced.

Olympus Stylus 770 SW

Olympus Stylus 770 SW (Starts at $314.95, OLS770SWB for bronze, OLS770SWS for silver and OLS770SWBL for blue )- I really should have taken a picture of the small crowd that stood at the waters edge staring at me while I repeatedly dropped the Olympus Stylus 770 SW into the water and photographed it as the waves washed over it. Their heads were cocked to the side with the same pointy-eared look dogs give you when they don't understand what you’re talking about, which for dogs is most of the time.

The Olympus Stylus 770 SW is neat in that, specs aside, it doesn't have the beefy 'I-have-gaskets-and-you-don't' look of most waterproof cameras. If anything, it wears its armor in a rather svelt manner. And unlike most comparably-sized digicams, the 770 SW has a solid, substantial feel about it when you pick it up.

Buff looks aside, the Olympus Stylus 770 SW is guaranteed to withstand dives down to 33' below sea level (JIS Class 8 Compliant), as well as sudden stops on hard surfaces from 5' above sea level (MIL-STD-810F Drop Test Compliant). If cold-weather shooting is your thing, the 770 SW is guaranteed to work down to 14° F (-10°C). And while I don't recommend parking any digicam in your back pocket, the camera body and LCD are designed to withstand up to 220 lbs of pressure. For a point-and-shoot the Olympus Stylus 770 SW is one tough little bugger.

And now the numbers. The Olympus Stylus 770 SW packs a 7.1Mp CCD and a 3x (38 - 114mm analog) zoom lens containing 3 aspherical lens surfaces. ISO levels range from a native 80 and can be juiced up to 1600. An Auto ISO mode is also available. JPEGs can be set to 8 levels of compression, and for video clips you have a choice of AVI Motion JPEG with sound, SHQ, HQ, and SQ.

Bright Capture Technology enables composition of images under the lowest of lighting conditions, while digital image stabilization helps smooth the bumps at slower shutter speeds. A total of 27 shooting modes allow you shoot your way through daylight, artificial light, tsunamis, dust storms, cyclones, or April showers - above or below the waterline.

The Olympus Stylus 770 SW is available in a choice of either silver, blue, or bronze front cover plates (the rest of the camera body is silver).

Intova IC600

Intova IC600 - The Intova IC600 (INIC600, $199) consists of a 6Mp digicam packaged with a dedicated underwater housing that allows you to shoot images as far down as 180' below the water's surface, not to mention everyday rain, snow, and sleet.

The camera's 6Mp sensor records images as JPEGs as well as AVI video clips through a 3x (34 to 102mm analog) zoom lens, which can focus down to 2.36". ISO sensitivity ranges from a native 64 up to ISO 400. The camera's built-in flash is good up to 10' topside, and 5' below the waves. For composing and editing pictures the IC600 has a 2.4" color LCD, and images are recorded onto SD cards (up to 2-gig). The camera also contains 16Mb of built-in memory.

To keep the ocean at bay, the camera's polycarbonate housing utilizes double 'O'- rings, and features controls that are easily manipulated when shooting around the octopus' garden. A set of double-'A's (alkaline or Ni-MH rechargeable) batteries runs the whole show.

Pixtreme PX2

Pixtreme PX2- So you want a digicam that can survive a dunk in the pool but don't want to spend a bundle? If that's the case, the PixTreme PX2 (PIPX2) at $99.95 just might fit the bill. As with the Intova IC600 (see above), the PixTreme PX2 is a camera/underwater housing combo, though the PX2 contains a smaller 3.1Mp CMOS sensor as opposed to the Intova IC600's 6Mp sensor. You can rightfully say it's half the pixels for half the price.

As with the 6Mp Intova IC600, the housing that comes with the PX2 contains dual 'O'-rings to insure a watertight closure down to 125'. Nine control buttons enable easy use when shooting 'down under'. The camera features a fixed, non-zoom lens, but offers the option of 4x digital zoom. For composing and playback of images the PX2 has a small, but adequate 1.5" LCD display.

The Pixtreme PX2 contains 32Mb of internal memory, and accepts SD cards of up to 512Mb for recording JPEGs and Motion AVI video files. Included with the camera is a filter set designed to neutralize the blue color shift that occurs when shooting underwater.

And by the way…

If you're looking for a deal on a weatherproof digicam check out the Olympus Stylus 750 (OLS750). For $199 the Stylus 750 contains the same 7.1Mp sensor as the Olympus Stylus 770 SW as well as a 5x zoom (36-180mm equiv), Bright Capture Technology for low-light imaging, dual (optical and digital) image stabilization, Automatic Pixel Mapping (APM), which electronically masks faulty pixels, and auto noise reduction for cleaner image files.

But remember, weatherproof means sealed against rain, snow, and Uncle Paulie's 'shock and awe' cannonballs… but no diving!

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A Trio of New (and Noteworthy) Digicams

By Allan Weitz

While not quite a 'dime a dozen', there are more than a few digital point-and-shoots available at B&H Photo to fit your needs and budget. The following noteworthy digicams fall into the $250-$500 bracket, which today buys you a whole lot of bang-for-the-buck.

Canon Powershot S5 IS

Canon Powershot S5 IS- At $469.95, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS (CAPSS5IS) may not slip easily - if at all - into your shirt pocket, but it makes up for this shortcoming in features. This DSLR-style digicam sports a fixed 12x, Image-Stabilized 6 to 72mm optical zoom (that's 36 to 432mm for you analog thinkers out there), and an 8Mp CCD sensor, which is powered by a Canon DIGIC III image processer.

The working benefits of this combo include Face Detection Technology, advanced red-eye reduction, improved color and AF-response times, the ability to shoot hand-held at shutter-speeds 3x slower than a non-stabilized camera, and ISO ratings of up to 1600 (native ISO is 80). A choice of 22 shooting modes are available, along with the ability to switch to a 16:9 wide-field format.

Going beyond stills, Canon's S5 IS can capture VGA video at 30/fps or QVGA video at up to 60/fps. For composing and editing images, you have a choice of the rear-mounted 2.5" Vari-angle LCD or the more 'traditional' electronic viewfinder. If your lighting needs go beyond the camera's pop-up flash, the PowerShot S5 IS plays nicely with all of Canon's EX-series Speedlites.

Short of stepping up to a true DSLR, Canon's S5 IS is about as close as you can come to a compact, one-camera-does-it-all digicam.

Canon PowerShot SD750

Canon PowerShot SD750- Canon's latest SD-series PowerShot is the SD750 ($259.95). Available in silver (CAPSSD750S) or black (CAPSSD750B), actually silver with a black 'raccoon eye' around the lens) the PowerShot SD750 boasts a 7.1Mp CCD sensor, a 3x optical zoom lens (35-105mm 'analog'), and a 3" TFT color LCD that all but covers the back of the camera.

Significant improvements over previous SD-series cameras include ISO ratings of up to 1600 (with a base speed of 80), a DIGIC III image processor, Face Detection Technology, improved image processing speeds, faster auto-focus and shutter response times, and iSAP Scene Recognition Technology, which optimizes the color and tonal qualities of your photos based on thousands of scenes stored in an internal database.

The SD750 records JPEGs (6 levels) and AVI video clips to both SD and SDHC memory cards (up to 2-gigs), and as with other Canon SD PowerShot digicams is encased in a sleek aluminum body.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX100- Based on the spec sheet, Panasonic's Lumix DMC-FX100 (PADMCFX100K, $399.95) should prove to be mighty tempting for those seeking a digicam capable of capturing high-resolution, wide-angle images in a package that slips easily into your shirt pocket.

The fun starts with the FX100's 12.2Mp CCD (1/1.72"), which resolution-wise, makes this digicam top of it's class by about 2 million pixels. The camera's sensor is appropriately complimented by a 3.6x EA (Extra High Refraction Index Aspherical) Leica DC optical zoom lens (28 to 100mm analog equivalent) that contains five aspherical surfaces and extra-low dispersion (ED) lens elements.

To help steady the action when shooting under low light levels, the Lumix DMC FX100 employs Panasonic's patented MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization) and/or Intelligent ISO Control, which automatically boosts the ISO rating and shutter speed when lighting conditions start getting 'iffy'.

Shutter speeds range from 8-seconds down to 1/2000th. The Leica DC zoom lens goes from f2.8 @ 28mm (f5.6 @ 100mm) and stops down to f9 @ 28mm (f18@100mm). MEGA BURST Shooting allows for 2-shots-per-second, or up to 8-shots-per-second in Hi-Speed Burst Mode. As for shutter lag, long the bane of digicams, the newest Lumix claims a shutter lag of a mere 0.009 seconds.

Images can be composed and edited on the FX100's 2.5" Polycrystalline TFT LCD screen, which features a 'High Angle' viewing mode, which is real handy when shooting pictures above eye level. The Panasonic Lumix DMC FX100 records in a number of color modes including Cool,Warm, B&W, and Sepia. Images, stills or video clips, can be recorded onto SD, SDHC, MultiMediaCards, and in a pinch, 27Mb of built-in memory.

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