Digicams: The New 2 Megapixel Monsters

In 2001, the world market share of digital camera sales, in terms of value, exceeded those of conventional cameras. In terms of volume, traditional cameras still have the advantage, with an 81% share of the market, but manufacturers are banking on complete digital domination, starting in 2003. This means that next year will be The Year of the Digital Device.

Three Categories For Three Types Of Photographs

Many people seem to be quite happy with what is currently on the market. A huge range of models is available; each falls into one of three broad categories.

The 5 megapixel models are the top of the range. They are extremely expensive, but also very complete in terms of functionality, and are mainly used by semi-professionals. They are very attractively clad, possess all the necessary functions and can be operated automatically as well as manually. They also have powerful optical zoom capabilities, a reflex viewfinder system, and more. As with conventional cameras, there is the usual range of shutter speeds and apertures. We tested these cameras earlier this year, click here to read the review.

There is a new category for entry-level models. The market leaders are gradually abandoning the 1.3 megapixel devices and replacing them with 2 megapixel models. Furthermore, new entrants from the world of webcams have just been waiting in the wings to invade the world of photography. Philips, Creative, Logitech and Consort are gradually replacing the CMOS sensors, considered to be noisy and unreliable, in their cameras with the much better CCDs, which are to be found, for example, in Fuji's excellent FinePix 1400. Their optical systems are not yet comparable to those of the leading digital camera manufacturers, but as long as quality is not too much of an issue, images can be produced as 10 x 15 cm prints. These new digital cameras are being rolled out at a price of around $175, and are thus aimed at new users, children, families on vacation, and anyone else who might be looking for a combined webcam/ camera at a low price.

There is a heavy concentration of models in the mid-range price segment, $150 to $800. There are ugly ones, attractive ones, tough ones, large ones, absolutely everything to suit every taste. Logic dictates that a particular type of digital camera always comes out on top - the camera that is perceived as being "sexy." Why choose cumbersome, heavy equipment when, for the same price, you can find something pocket-sized with features that are worthy of the best models?

The cameras chosen for this comparison have several points in common. They come in a metal case, are very small, weigh less than 200 grams, and have 2 megapixel sensors. We checked and discovered that as long as you have a good printer, it is perfectly possible to produce prints, not only in 10 x 15 cm format, but even in A4 size.

On today's menu:

The Powershot S200 (N. America) or Canon Ixus V² (Europe) costs US$349 or 579 Euros. It is historically the best-known in the category because it is based on a previously successful model. Features include a 2x optical zoom, a very wide shutter speed range and matrix or spot light metering. The Fuji FinePix 50i costs US$599 (899 Euros) and has an MP3 player. It comes standard with 64 MB memory and a sync base. Its third advantage is that it works best at a resolution of 2400 x 1800 pixels even though its rivals are happy with a resolution of only 1600 x 1200. The Kodak LS420 is the least expensive of the 2 megapixel models at US$299 (399 Euros). The Minolta Dimâge X , at US$399 (499 Euros), is mega-thin and yet it has a 3x optical zoom. It is also the only camera of this category capable of saving digital images in TIFF format.
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