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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Coolpix 5900 or Canon Powershot SD300, need advise please

I am torn between Nikon Coolpix 5900 and Canon Powershot SD300. There are both nice compact digital cameras, prices are comparable. I care about the macro function as I am going to shoot a lot of close up pictures. Coolpix's macro is 1.6 inches, and Powershot SD300's macro is 1.2 inches, not too much differences.

So which one should I get? Anyone has any experiences and opinions?

Thanks a lot.
 

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The 5900 is too new to have any good reviews out yet, but I suspect the macro is similar to the 5200. Both the SD300 and 5200 have problems with using the flash at the closest macro focusing distance. There aren’t many cameras that can focus that close and not have the lens block the flash. You might read “Closeups” in the SD300 review: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/SD300/SD3A.HTM The 5200 reads about the same and I would guess the 5900 is also the same.

If you want to take flash pictures at very close range I would suggest something with a flash sync connection if you want a pocket camera. You might also want something with manual exposure modes. You want the aperture as small as possible to give you more depth of field if what you are photographing has much depth. Manual focus is nice too, but it is hard to find in a tiny camera except for the Pentax S series. And the S series disables the flash for super macro mode. It works OK for normal macro, but I would guess the others would be fine at the regular macro distance as well.

The Sony P150 has manual exposure modes and some preset manual focus distances. You still can’t use the flash at very close macro range.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Slipe,

Thank you. After reading stevesforums I've pretty much ruled out the Canon SD 300. Thanks again for the information.

As far as taking pictures with Macro, I plan to set up plenty of lights and turn off the flash, for using flash with close-up shooting is never good. I know you can turn off flash with those cameras.
 

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Many cameras take very nice flash macro shots. Ranges where the camera will fully frame something 1.2 inches wide was considered “super macro” until recently, and it is only at the extremes of this range that you can’t get good flash pictures with many cameras. Even if you were taking pictures of something tiny for Ebay you could use the flash with many 5Mp cameras because you have so much cropping capability. A good lighting setup is always preferable, but not always practical in the field.

The Nikon 3700 frames to the same 1.67 inch width as the 5200 in macro, and it does take excellent flash shots all the way to full macro. So maybe the 5900 isn’t hopeless. I would wait for a review in Imaging Resource as he always does a good standard macro test. If you don’t need the 5Mp the 3700 is a steal for the next two days. With the $100 rebate you can get it delivered for $130 total. I got one for my daughter for times when she would be worried about her expensive camera, and she found a 256Mb SD card for $20 after rebate at a local store. It seems to perform at full specs with the card. Nice little camera for $150 total investment. Look in the conclusion under “Closeups”: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/CP3700/CP37A.HTM

If you really intend taking pictures from super macro range you will want manual focus and at least aperture priority. Depth of field is a real problem at those ranges unless you are photographing stamps or something completely flat. The smallest aperture (largest number) gives the greatest DOF and being able to focus where you want rather than the leading edge can give a better picture. If macro is a major concern to you and you intend having a light box and tripod, then you might not want to be looking at tiny cameras. The corner softness that many have is magnified with macro, and you don’t have circle-light capability.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Slipe,

Thanks for your expert opinion. Do you know anything about Coolpix 4800? It has a very good macro: it can take a picture from as close as 1 cm. But I don't know anything like aperture and DOF as your mentioned in your email about the 4800. Actually I don't even know what those terms mean. I guess that's the best macro camera I can afford before going into SLR which all start at $799 or more. The best price for 4800 I can find online is under $300.

Thanks,
Fei
 

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Well you seem to want the camera with the closest macro and that seems to be about as close as it gets. It is a purely beginner’s point and shoot camera, which is what you seem to be leaning toward. Other than long shutter lag by current standards it seems to be a nice little camera. Keep in mind that the close macro distance applies to wide angle only. As you zoom you get a larger image.

I haven’t the slightest idea what you intend shooting with it and can only speak in generalities. If I were looking to specialize in macro photography I would want a camera with exposure and focus controls. The 4800 seems to be a very nice little camera with a long zoom range if you are happy with point and shoot.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I have a few old coins I intend to sell on ebay. That's why I need that macro feature. After that it will be all for regular family use. But then your mention of the "long shutter lag" cautioned me. Does 5200 also have that problem? Which specification tells you the slow shutter lag? As you can see I don't have much camera knowledge at all.

Thanks.
 

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Shutter lag is the time it take the camera to actually record the image from the time the shutter is pressed... A continuous focus feature can be a big help when shooting moving objects

These are from the reviews here... http://www.steves-digicams.com/hardware_reviews.html

4800... "The shooting performance of the 4800 was good for a camera in this class. Power up to first image captured measured just under 5 seconds. Shutter lag measured approx. 2/10 of a second when pre-focused and 7/10 of a second including autofocus."

5200... "The shooting performance of the 5200 was good. Power up to first image captured measured just under 4 seconds. Shutter lag measured a fast 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus."

Much more technical details available at the end of each review in the Steve's conclusions section

buck
 

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Jeff at DCRP said in his Nikon 4800 review:
“The 4800 isn't going to win any awards for its focus speeds. Quite often it took 0.8 - 1.2 seconds for the camera to lock focus after pressing the shutter release halfway. The camera focuses better than average in low light but not as good as I was expecting from a camera that has an AF-assist lamp”
and
” The CP4800 seems to have a problem with shutter lag, as well. It was noticeable at all times, even at faster shutter speed. This isn't a great camera for action or pictures of the kids!”
and
Shot-to-shot speed is below average, with a delay of about 2.5 seconds before you can take another picture.
http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/nikon/coolpix4800-review/

Dave at Imaging Resource has a page specifically for these numbers in every review. The Imaging Resource site is down at this moment – you might look up the 4800 review later. He tests at various focal lengths and gives exact numbers. He said the shutter lag was slow as well. Cameras with long zoom lenses tend to take longer to focus and the 4800 isn’t really excessive for an 8X lens. http://www.imaging-resource.com/MFR1.HTM Phil at dpreview found the same 0.8 to 1.2 pre-focus lag at telephoto but also found the same 0.6 full shutter lag at wide angle. Not really that bad.

I agree with buck52 that a continuous focus mode can eliminate a lot of lag problems. I looked through the record menus and didn’t see any reference to one with the 4800.

Why do you want to get so close for Ebay shots of coins? You have to downsize the image considerably anyway. A little cropping won’t hurt at all – you will have to downsize the crop. Even a camera that focuses down so you get a 3 inch picture would give you a great shot for Ebay, and you can probably reduce the flash intensity and have it supplement your lighting on a camera that lets you adjust the flash intensity. If you get the 4800 you will probably find you can light the coins better if you back off a little and don’t have the lens so close to the coin anyway.

There isn’t a depth of field problem with coins and the auto-focus should work fine focusing on the surface of the coin. You can do without the manual modes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thank you buck52 and Slipe. But what exactly does the term "crop" mean? Does it mean to reduce the actual size of the picture, like from 4" X 6" to 3" X 5"? Or does it just mean to reduce the size of the mega pixel?

Also, what camera allows you to adjust the flash intensity? My current one only allows flash to On and Off.
 

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Photo:


This is the same photo cropped to get rid of the ugly guys:


If you crop large parts of a photo you need higher resolution.

I don’t have a week to go through all of the camera reviews to give you a complete list of which cameras let you adjust the flash intensity. Some adjust the flash directly and some have a flash EV adjustment. The direct adjustment would be best for integrating other lighting. This is from Steve’s “record screens and menus” from a review of the Olympus C50 which I happen to own and know it has the feature. You can look there for any camera you might be interested in.
 

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With Irfanview just drag a box with the left mouse button. You can adjust it. When the crop is where you want it go Edit>Crop selection. Some people are confused when they don’t see a crop tool. It is always active in Irfanview.
 
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