DCRP Review: Three Small 2 Megapixel Cameras
Canon PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH / Minolta DiMAGE X / Nikon Coolpix 2500

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Movie Mode

Canon PowerShot S330

The PowerShot S330 can record movies at three different resolutions. The choices are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120. Before you get too excited, clips are limited to 4, 10, and 30 seconds respectively for each resolution.

Movies are recorded at a rate of 20 frames/sec, and are saved in the AVI format using the M-JPEG codec. Sound is recorded with the movies.

The zoom lens is not useable during filming, so you'll need to get it where you want it before you start.

I took the same thrilling sample movie with each of the three cameras, so you can compare the movie quality.


Click to Play Movie (2.2MB, AVI format)

Can't play it? Download Quicktime.

Minolta DiMAGE X

The DiMAGE X is limited to one resolution: 320 x 240, and clips are limited to 35 seconds. However, you can only fit 19 seconds worth of video on that tiny SD card that Minolta includes.

Movies are saved in Quicktime format.

Like with the S330, sound is recorded with the movie. Be sure not to cover the microphone with your finger. Also like the S330, the zoom lens is disabled during filming.

Here's that sample movie again:


Click to Play Movie (2.7MB, Quicktime format)

Can't play it? Download Quicktime.

Nikon Coolpix 2500

Nikon's movie mode hasn't really evolved since the earlier models. Only the Coolpix 5000 supports sound.

Movies are recorded at 320 x 240 at a rate of 15 frames/second, and are saved in Quicktime format. Clips are limited to 15 seconds.

Since sound is not recorded, you can use the zoom lens during filming.

One annoyance I noticed was that you cannot access any menu items in movie mode, not even white balance. So movies filmed under "funny" lighting may not look great.


Click to Play Movie (2.3MB, Quicktime format)

Can't play it? Download Quicktime.

Winner: Minolta DiMAGE X
Another close one, but the Minolta wins. It can record the longest movies and the video quality is the best in my eyes. The microphone could be in a better spot, though. The S330 has more choices as far as resolution goes, but clips are short and the video quality isn't as good as the other two. The CP2500 has high quality video but no sound, and clips are limited to only 15 seconds.


Photo Test: Macro Mode

The first of the photo tests in this review is the traditional macro test shot. If you've read any of our reviews, you've seen this shot before.

I took these shots over the period of a few minutes using natural light, so things should be equal in each. Again, I used automatic mode for each, and used exposure compensation on some of them.

Canon PowerShot S330 Minolta DiMAGE X Nikon Coolpix 2500

All three cameras did a fine job with this test, though the DiMAGE X has a yellowish cast, possibly due to that cork coaster I put underneath it to get it a boost (due to the high placement of the lens on the X). If I was to pick a winner of the three, I'd choose the Coolpix 2500, which had the best color and detail. If you blow up each of them, I think you'll agree.

At the push of a button, you can enter macro mode on the PowerShot S330. At wide-angle, you can get as close as 16 cm to your subject, while at telephoto, it's 26 cm.

The DiMAGE X doesn't have a macro mode you just turn on. The camera must sense that the subject is super-close, and adjusts the focus accordingly. The minimum distance you can be from the subject is 25 cm.

The Coolpix line has long been known for its macro ability, and the CP2500 keeps up with the family. You must use the "Close up" scene to get into macro mode, but once there, you can be just 4 cm away from your subject.

Winner: Nikon Coolpix 2500
Just like its predecessors, the CP2500 is the best of the bunch for macro shots. Not only can you get closer to the subject than with the other cameras, but the test photo looked the best to my eyes as well. Don't write off the other two, as they both did a good job.


Photo Test: Night Photos

Next to the macro test, no photo test has been around longer than my fabled night shot test. Unfortunately, the usual spots were totally fogged in, so I had to grab a friend to watch my back while I photographed City Hall (not a great idea to have thousands of dollars in camera equipment down the block from the projects).

I used the $2000 Canon D60 Digital SLR as my reference camera for most of these photo tests. If you blow up the images you will see the incredible amount of detail that it can record with virtually no noise. If all cameras were so lucky!


Canon EOS-D60
Reference Camera
8 sec exposure
view 30 sec exposure
ISO 100
Canon PowerShot S330
Long shutter mode
1/2 sec exposure
ISO 50
Minolta DiMAGE X
1 sec exposure
ISO 100
Nikon Coolpix 2500
Night Landscape mode
1/5 sec
ISO 400

Winner: Canon PowerShot S330
I will go in reverse order here. The Coolpix 2500 will adjust its ISO automatically, which is bad news for shots like this. There's no way to turn that off. As you can see, the ISO 400 shot the CP2500 took is very noisy. The DiMAGE X's image is much less noisy, and shows more detail, but the white balance isn't great and it overexposed a lot of the lit areas of the building. The S330 is the big winner, with the most accurate colors (perhaps more accurate than the D60) and excellent detail. And I hadn't even discovered the manual shutter speed controls when I took that photo!


Photo Test: Flash

Everyone always wants me to take people pictures. Since I can't find anyone to volunteer and I'm sure not going to do it, I've had to get creative. The following tests will hopefully give you an idea as to which camera takes the best flash pictures.

For this first (unscientific) test, I put my hand on the wall and took four flash pictures within a few seconds of each other, all under the same lighting.

Canon EOS-D60
Reference camera
Canon PowerShot S330
Minolta DiMAGE X

Nikon Coolpix 2500

Holy smokes, does my hand look red in that DiMAGE shot, or what? Something else to note -- though you probably cannot tell in those small shots, the DiMAGE's shot is much noisier than the other three (in fact, it makes it look blurry). The reason for this is that the DiMAGE boosts its ISO setting up to 200, which brings in the noise. The other three cameras did a pretty good job.

"Redeye" is an annoying phenomenon that affects both digital and film cameras. In a nutshell, here's what it is: When you fire off the flash, the light goes through your pupils, and hits your retina. There, the blood vessels absorb all the colors of the flash (remember, white is made up of lots of colors), except for red, which is reflected. This red light is what you see in the pictures that makes both man and beast look like something out of a horror movie!

All three of the cameras take a similar approach to fixing this problem: they try to shrink your pupils. The S330 uses its AF illuminator to do the job, while the other two use the flash.

In my test below, I set the camera on the tripod in a darkened room. I let my eyes get used to the light between shots so my pupils would be roughly the same size in each. I used the self-timer and made sure redeye reduction was turned on. The images below are blown up 200% so you can get a closer look at my lovely eyes.

Canon PowerShot S330

Arrrgh -- it's the one red-eyed demon pirate!

Minolta DiMAGE X

Hey, not too bad but a little noisier than the others. Skin tone seems off as well.

Nikon Coolpix 2500

I told you having the lens so close to the flash was a bad idea! I look like the Terminator!

The results from that test are pretty obvious. After a good nights sleep, my eyes have returned to normal.

Winner: Canon PowerShot S330
While the Minolta did a good job at redeye reduction, it loses points for the noisy images. The S330 did a nice job on skin tone (and the wall is actually white in the first test) and was OK in the redeye department. While the Coolpix did alright with the hand, it was a complete disaster in the redeye test.


Photo Test: Image Quality Comparisons

This isn't the easiest thing to pull off (especially outdoors when the LCD is hard to see), but I've attempted to take the same shot with the three cameras. I've again used the D60 as my reference camera. Here goes.

Canon EOS-D60
Reference camera
Canon PowerShot S330
Minolta DiMAGE X

Nikon Coolpix 2500

Observations: The D60 and DiMAGE X really have saturated color. The shot on the X loses detail in the background and the edges of things have this video capture look to them.

Canon EOS-D60
Reference camera
Canon PowerShot S330
Minolta DiMAGE X

Nikon Coolpix 2500

Edges seem sharper on the CP2500 and S330 vs. the DiMAGE X. Also, take a look at the text on the stone. No sign of any chromatic aberrations (purple fringing).

This next one was designed (by accident) to show how the cameras handle tough metering situations. These are all taken in auto mode.

N/A
Canon EOS-D60
Reference camera
Canon PowerShot S330
Minolta DiMAGE X

Nikon Coolpix 2500

Still no signs of CA, even in this situation. The CP2500 really had trouble with this one, with the Minolta and Canon faring better. The Minolta camera still has that video capture look though.


View mid-sized image
View full-sized image

View mid-sized image
View full-sized image
Canon EOS-D60
Reference camera
Canon PowerShot S330

View mid-sized image
View full-sized image

View mid-sized image
View full-sized image
Minolta DiMAGE X

Nikon Coolpix 2500

This final test shot involves my newly-purchased plastic fruit and veggies. Choosing the winner is tough here, but the D60 is definitely the most accurate in terms of color. The yellow pepper is way too yellow on the S330 and CP2500, and is closer on the DiMAGE X. At the same time, the DiMAGE's shot seems to have a blue cast to it.

Be sure to at least blow these up to the mid-sized level to compare them. They were all shot at the same time under identical lighting, on a tripod, in auto mode.

For additional sample photos, please visit the PowerShot S330, DiMAGE X, and Coolpix 2500 galleries. You can use those samples to make you own decisions about photo quality.

Winner: Canon PowerShot S330
This was really a tough call. Both the Coolpix 2500 and PowerShot S330 take excellent pictures. The S330's looked a little better to me, so I gave it the edge. Many of the photos from the DiMAGE X look like they were taken with a camcorder... they're soft and "fuzzy". Something noticed by the keen eye of Phil Askey is that the DiMAGE X exhibits "vignetting", where the corners of the images are darker than the rest of the image. Once made aware of this, I could see this on some of my images too. Again, please refer to the galleries (linked just above here) and use them to make your own decisions.


Conclusion

This is the part of the review that I hate the most: making decisions. So here's what I suggest. What you see in this section is my conclusion. Using the information you've hopefully gained in this review, you need to draw your own conclusion. I recommend giving each of my tests a "weight" and decide which of the areas is important to you. That said, here's the summary chart for all my tests:

  Canon PowerShot S330 Minolta DiMAGE X Nikon Coolpix 2500
What's in the Box      
Look and Feel      
Taking Pictures      
Viewing Pictures    
Menus/Features    
Software    
Movie Mode    
Macro Mode    
Night Photos    
Flash Tests    
Image Quality    
       
WINNER    

Based on all the tests I performed, it looks as if the Canon PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH is the best of the bunch, with the Nikon Coolpix 2500 close behind. For me, the things that really pushed the PowerShot S330 ahead of the Coolpix 2500 were the redeye troubles and auto ISO boosting of the CP2500, which made low light shots awfully noisy. The CP2500 is still an excellent choice that you should consider in your camera search.

While the Minolta DiMAGE X has a stunning design, its feature-set, photo quality, and software bundle weren't at the same level of the other two cameras. The Minolta DiMAGE 7 was a very good camera that was troubled in some areas, and Minolta addressed them with the 7i -- so let's hope they do the same with the X.

Well, that's all! I hope this review has helped you figure out which of these three cameras might be the best match for your needs. But don't take my word for it. Go out and try all of them, if you can find them.

Other small cameras with an optical zoom include the Canon PowerShot S200 Digital ELPH, Fuji FinePix 2600Z and 2800Z, Kyocera Finecam S3, Minolta F100, Olympus D-40Z and D-520Z, Pentax Optio 330 and 430, and the Sony DSC-P5, DSC-P71, and DSC-P9.

Like our reviews? Then help give back to the DCRP by purchasing your camera from our sponsor EPC-Online. Thank you for your support!

Canon PowerShot S330 - Buy now
Minolta DiMAGE X - Not available
Nikon Coolpix 2500 - Buy now

Photo Gallery

For additional sample photos, please visit the PowerShot S330, DiMAGE X, and Coolpix 2500 galleries. You can use those samples to make you own decisions about photo quality.

Need more opinions?

Or, check out some other reviews of these cameras, just to make sure that I'm not crazy:

Feedback

What did you think of this review? Send me some feedback, please! If you want to criticize the review, please be constructive. But please, do not send requests for personal recommendations or missing software/manuals.


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