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Compare Digital Cameras: New vs Old Models

May 25, 2008
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Recently I needed to buy a digital camera for our optical microscope. Instead of a commonly used CCD, we thought a digital camera should have better resolution. Don’t most of digital camera, even entry-level ones, have at leas 8 MP?

The adapter to the top eyepiece of the microscope limits the choice of digital cameras to not so few options (no DSLR ones or those with larger zoom). I don’t need a digital camera with some fancy features, like face recognition, scene modes, anti-handshake etc. Just the quality of the picture, larger number of pixels and a larger LCD screen. My old Nikon Coolpix 3200 (bought in 2004 summer) can fit with the adapter, but its LCD screen is too small for adjusting the focus in the microscope and it has only 3.1MP.

In the end I picked up a entry-level digital camera yesterday, Pentax Optio E50, based on OK reviews like this and this. Today, I tested this camera, and compared its shots with the ones taken by Nikon (plus two by Canon SX100 in macro mode).

I then noticed that the minimum focus distance for Pentax Optio E50 in the macro mode is 15 cm (5.88 in), which is nearly 4 times of Nikon Coolpix 3200’s. No wonder that I had problem on focus when using Pentax E50 in the beginning of my test. But that’s not the only problem I found in this camera. Check out the slideshow below. The first two shots were taken by Canon SX100, and the rest were by Nikon and Pentax in turn.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Note: Nikon (3MP) & Pentax (5MP) in Better picture quality. The photos are then resized to 800×600 with 90% in quality. The two by Canon was set as Pentax.

Can you see the difference? Which has the better picture quality? Well, it may not so obvious in this slideshow but it is even when presented in 800×600 size. The pictures by Pentax Optio E50 show unnatural vividness in color and lack depth and clarity. Nearly 4-year-old Nikon Coolpix 3200 clearly win the competition. The only drawback is that this Nikon doesn’t have anti-handshake feature, so that the indoor picture without flash may be blurred due to the shaking.

Nowadays the entry-level digital cameras even equipped with more features and more pixels do not guarantee to deliver better picture quality than the old models. When choosing a digital camera, you should see the taken pictures in your own eye, rather judge it from the spec.

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