Review: Three Small 2 Megapixel Cameras
PowerShot S330 Digital ELPH / Minolta DiMAGE X / Nikon Coolpix 2500
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PowerShot S330 takes just three seconds to extend the lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures. Believe it or not,
you can actually customize the startup screen and sounds used on
the shutter release button halfway generally resulted in locked
focus in a second or less. When you fully press the button, the
photo is taken after a short and barely noticeable lag.
speed is pretty good, with a wait of about three seconds between
Large/SuperFine shots. The image is shown on the LCD for 2 or 10
seconds (use setup menu to change this) after it is taken, or indefinitely
if the shutter release button is held down.
the feature is turned on, the camera will automatically rotate images
(such as portraits) to display correctly on the LCD.
of image quality, let's take a look at the resolution and quality
choices available on the S330:
shots on 8MB card
(included with camera)
1600 x 1200
1024 x 768
640 x 480
is no TIFF or "RAW" mode available on the S330.
S330 has both auto and "manual" modes (though it's not
very manual). You have control over ISO speed, shutter speed (sort
of), exposure compensation, white balance, metering, and of course,
image quality and resolution. I'll describe this in more detail
in the next section. I've already mentioned the continuous shooting
mode as well.
DiMAGE X takes just over 2 seconds to turn on, before you can start
shooting. Auto-focus response is good, keeping under a second. Without
an AF illuminator, however, low light focusing can be frustrating.
Like the S330, the X has short, but noticeable shutter lag.
speed is about the same, or a little slower than the S330 -- it's
about 3.5 seconds.
a shot is taken, the image is shown on the LCD. The display time
is not adjustable.
a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE X:
shots on 8MB card
(included with camera)
DiMAGE X is the only one of the three cameras to have a TIFF mode,
though you can see that you can't hold many on that tiny 8MB Secure
Digital card. If you take a TIFF shot, the camera will lock up for
11 seconds while it's writing the image to the card. This is remarkably
fast compared to other cameras I've tested.
manual controls on the X are limited. The only real manual controls
are exposure compensation, white balance, and continuous shooting
mode. There are only four white balance choices, and no manual mode
like on the other two cameras. Two other annoyances are the lack
of file numbering control (it just resets the numbering when the
card is erased) and the fact that settings are lost when the camera
is shut off.
takes just under three seconds
for the CP2500 to show it's startup screen and prepare for shooting.
If the lens is not rotated, the camera will either show a message
or an animation to get you to do it.
the other two cameras, auto-focusing takes about a second. Like
the DiMAGE X, the CP2500 had some trouble in low light situations.
Shutter lag is minimal on the 2500.
speed is comparable to the other cameras -- about 3 seconds between
shots. Nikon is the only one who lets you review and delete photos
before they saved to the memory card.
the image quality settings:
shots on 16MB card
(included with camera)
is no TIFF or "RAW" mode available on the CP2500. You
can see that the 2500 has four image size choices, where the others
have three. Don't forget that you can also make a 320 x 240 image
by hitting the "Small Pic" button on the back of the camera.
CP2500 has the most manual controls of the bunch. These include
exposure compensation, size and quality (of course), continuous
shooting, "best shot selector", image sharpening, and
white balance. The 2500 has a manual white balance mode. More on
this in the next section.
CP2500 also has the aforementioned "scene modes", which
none of the other cameras have. This certainly helps out in many
situations where you don't know the best settings to use.
Nikon Coolpix 2500
This was really a tough call. All three cameras are about
the same speedwise. The CP2500 has the most controls, just edging
out the S330. The DiMAGE X hardly has any, and it forgets the settings
when you turn it off.
S330 has an intuitive and easy to use menu system. There are three
"tabs" at the top of the menu, for Rec. Menu, Setup, and
"My Camera". In playback mode, Rec. Menu will be switched
to Play Menu. The "My Camera" mode lets you customize
the startup image, along with various sounds the camera makes. You
can use what Canon gives you, or "install" your own. I
don't think this feature will make anyone buy the S330, but it's
nice to know that it's there.
a look at the choices available in the Record Menu. Items that are
only available in Manual Mode are bold.
(see chart in previous section)
(Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400) - in auto mode, the camera will choose
a value between 50-150
(on/off) - when on, camera chooses from three focus points. When
off, camera uses center focus point.
(2 or 10 sec)
(Off, 2 or 10 sec)
No. Reset (on/off)
Rotate (on/off) - I described this in the previous section
(on/off) - allows you to choose the shutter speed
long shutter feature will let you choose from a range of shutter
speeds from 1 to 15 seconds. This is the only camera of the three
that gives you this kind of control.
also a setup menu, with the usual options like date/time, beep,
language, and card formatting.
DiMAGE X's menus are similar to the Canon's, except their are fewer
choices. It took me a minute to figure out that the button with
the black circle was actually the OK button for the menus. The menu
mode (Single-shot, continuous shooting, self-timer, movie,
size (see chart)
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
name (standard, date form)
shooting mode will let you take images consecutively at a rate of
2 frames/second. You can take 7-29 shots in a row at 1600 x 1200,
depending on the quality setting.
recording mode will record audio at 8 kHz. You can record audio
in 90 second increments.
setting above that is selected will be reset to default when the
camera is shut off.
with the S330, there's also a basic setup menu.
menus are just as intuitive as the other two cameras, so I'll get
right to the details. Items in bold are only available in
manual mode (which is selected by pressing "down" on the
quality (see chart)
size (see chart)
(Auto, custom, fine, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, speedlight)
compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
shooting (single-shot, continuous, multi-shot 16)
sharpening (Auto, high, normal, low, off)
CP2500 has an excellent selection of white balance settings, including
a custom mode. Continuous shooting mode will shoot at 1.5 frames/sec.
If the buffer fills up, the camera will keep shooting at a slower
rate. Multi-shot 16 will take 16 shots in a row and combine them
into one 1600 x 1200 shot. Best Shot Selector will take up to 10
shots in a row, and then uses "fuzzy logic" to pick the
sharpest image. This works best when camera shake may blur images.
a setup menu as well, just like the other ones.
Canon PowerShot S330
While all three menu systems are easy to use, Canon wins
for having the most controls. Nikon is very close here, but the
manual shutter speed controls put the S330 over the top. Minolta
loses points for not storing the settings when the camera is shut
cameras have always had a superb playback mode, and this newest
Digital ELPH continues the tradition. The basic features include
image protection, DPOF print marking, slide shows, and thumbnail
advanced features include "zoom & scroll", image rotation,
and a sound memo function, which lets you add 60 second sound clips
to each image.
and scroll mode (my term) lets you zoom in as much as 10X into your
image, and then move around in the image. The scrolling is super-fast
camera can show basic or detailed information about your photos.
In advanced mode, you get exposure information and even a histogram!
S330 zooms through images -- there's about a second delay between
images on the LCD. The camera goes straight to the high res image
-- there's no low res placeholder like some other cameras.
only downside for me is the S330's inability to delete a group of
playback mode isn't nearly as robust as Canon's. There's no slideshow
feature, but there is still image protection, DPOF print marking,
and thumbnail mode.
advanced features include audio captions and zoom and scroll. Audio
caption mode lets you add a 15 second sound clip to each image.
Zoom and scroll mode lets you zoom in 4X into your image and scroll
around. The scrolling is not smooth like the S330, but is still
shown with each image is extremely basic: just date/time, filename,
and the resolution and quality settings. No exposure info or histograms
are available, though I'm not sure how many people will miss these.
X moves quickly through images on the LCD in the same manner as
the S330, just a little faster.
CP2500's playback mode is at the same level as the DiMAGE X but
still below the S330. The basic features here are DPOF print marking,
image protection, and thumbnail mode (4 or 9 images). There's no
slideshow mode here either.
fancier features include Auto Transfer, Small Pic (both of which
I already mentioned), and Zoom and Scroll. Zoom and scroll lets
you zoom in 6X and scroll around fairly smoothly.
like on the DiMAGE X, the info shown with each photo is basic. In
fact it shows the same things that I mentioned there.
the other two cameras, the CP2500 shows a low res image before the
high res one replaces it. This This helps speed up image browsing
(though the high res version takes longer to appear on the CP2500
than the other cameras).
Canon PowerShot S330
contest here. Canon has always had the best playback mode, and you
get more options and faster image browsing on the S330 than the
this isn't usually something I cover, I'm going to keep this brief.
I'm only going to mention the basic software used to get the photos
off of the camera. I will be covering the Mac versions of the software,
since that's what I use. I assume the PC versions will be very similar,
if not identical. All three software packages are compatible with
Windows 98, 2000, ME, and XP.
- Digital Camera Solutions 9.0
S330 is currently not supported by Mac OS X's Image Capture program,
or iPhoto. It's up to Apple to fix this.
>> Update 6/4/02: Mac OS X 10.1.5 adds support for this
all the bundled software that I've seen, Canon's software is my
favorite. Canon includes ImageBrowser (for downloading photos and
basic editing), PhotoStitch (for panoramas), RemoteCapture (for
controlling your camera from your computer), and various drivers.
In addition, Canon includes the ArcSoft Camera Suite for further
photo editing (an older version than what Nikon gives you).
you connect your camera to the computer, there's a good possibility
that ImageBrowser will start up. In Mac OS X, you need to turn Classic
off in order to download photos.
a look at ImageBrowser. This is running natively in Mac OS X. The
image at the top left is where you see photos which are on the connected
camera. Double-clicking them, or hitting the download button will
transfer them to a folder which you designate. You can see the "browser"
window in the background, where you can move through your folders
and view the images in each. When you click on an image, you can
delete it, get info, rotate it, or edit it. The cat image on the
right is in edit mode. You can crop images or adjust their color.
Unfortunately there's no redeye reduction feature. You can also
add captions to your images, but I couldn't figure out how in this
software is easy to use and very snappy (especially compared to
the other two products in this review). A slideshow feature is also
available, but turn off those transitions, as it's dead slow.
also Mac OS X native, is my favorite tool for making panoramas.
It's pretty self-explanatory and the results are excellent, especially
if you were careful while taking the pictures.
are the only two OS X native programs included.
- DiMAGE Image Viewer
includes just one program with the camera -- Image Viewer. This
tool is more powerful than Canon's software, but it's also slower
and clumsier. In addition, it doesn't work in Mac OS X properly.
When you connect the camera, the Image Capture program (in OS X)
will load, and you can get the pictures off the camera that way.
But you'll have to copy the images to somewhere where DiMAGE Image
Viewer can see them.
I've done that, and here's what you get. You can see the thumbnails,
and if you get info on a photo, you'll see the window at the center.
you double-click on an image (or select one and choose Color Correction)
you will get the window you can see in the background. The "Variations"
window in the front is one of many tools you can see in this mode.
The color correction tools include:
curve / histogram
black, gray-point corrections
can also click on the sharpness tab to sharpen your images. One
other feature of the Image Viewer is the ability to change the color
space, but you probably won't need to, as the DiMAGE X does not
use a nonstandard color space like some other Minolta cameras.
one big thing missing among all these fancy tools: no ability to
crop photos! And since this is all Minolta gives you, you're out
in all, the DiMAGE Image Viewer software is fairly powerful, but
needs a little work in the UI department.
- NikonView v5.0
Canon's software, Nikon has updated their NikonView 5.0 product
to support Mac OS X. That's the good news. The bad news is that
the software is still buggy, and it's not that great in the first
place. But it's improving.
you connect the camera to the computer, NikonView will load up and
will download the pictures you've marked (if you wish), or you can
choose the ones you want. Note that pressing the "transfer"
button on the camera is not supported in Mac OS X yet, but it works
for the other supported OS'es.
you can see the image browsing interface over at the left, and an
image being edited on the right. Above the images in each is a Shooting
Data window, with all the stats about your photos that you could
dream of. It's nice to see that without having to hit some key command.
the thumbnail mode, you can adjust the size of the size of the thumbnails
in a manner reminiscent of Apple's iPhoto software. There are five
thumbnail sizes available.
you double click on an image, you get the window you can see towards
the right. Hoping to do some photo editing? Forget it, as all NikonView
can do is rotate images. However, Nikon redeems themselves by including
a new version of ArcSoft's CameraSuite, which includes PhotoImpression,
VideoImpression, and PanoramaMaker. Unlike Canon's ArcSoft bundle,
these are Mac OS X native versions, complete with fancy interface:
PhotoImpression can do just about everything you could possibly
want to do to your photos, with a pretty easy to use interface too.
That includes color controls, redeye reduction, effects, captions,
has the unique ability to transfer your photos to your NikonNet
account (for sharing or printing), or to your PDA. A slideshow feature
is also available.
nice that NikonView is getting updated for modern operating systems,
but it's still one of my least favorite bundled products out there.
It's just as sluggish as Minolta's software, with none of the features.
Canon PowerShot S330
was easy to eliminate here -- their software has lots of color correction
tools, but lacks basic functions like slideshows and photo cropping.
Canon ImageBrowser is superior to NikonView, and light years better
than DiMAGE Image Viewer. Nikon gets a few points for including
a newer version of the ArcSoft suite than Canon, but Canon's older
version does the same things.
to page three for more tests and the conclusion >>