Thursday, July 20, 2006

Digital Camera Sensor Propaganda

I just read a great article titled "enough already with the megapixels" by Daniel Rutter. I was not only entertaining, but it is full of facts about why more megapixels is not necessarily better, which is something I have been saying for a while, but he says it with a lot more facts. Click the title above, I think you will find it an interesting read. It might even save you some money on your next camera purchase, and that's not a bad thing.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Casio EX-Z750

On my forever quest for the perfect digital camera, I also look for particularly good deals. This was a very special deal.
I like to check out Fry's Electronics occasionally, to see if they have any thing interesting being cleared out.
They always have a lot of demo equipment for sale, but normally the prices are too high to be interesting. This day, I notices they have very low prices on all the Casio cameras on display. There was a couple of 5MP cameras, and a 6MP camera priced at $142. It sounded too good to be true. I checked them over, and they were pretty banged up. I was a little disappointed, and I decided not to buy one. I kept looking around, and remembered they have a class case where they put demos, that are normally overpriced, and no one buys. I looked through the case, and I spied another Casio, with no price, and I couldn't tell what model it was. I asked to look at it, and it turned out to be they EX-Z750. I asked for a price, and the sales man checked the computer, and came back with $179, for a 7MP camera. Be still my heart. Next I asked if there was any chance they would have the accessories. He said it was unlikely, but he would look. He went away for about 10 minutes, and came back with a bag that contained all the accessories, including an extra battery, but was missing the docking station. Now this camera has no standard connectors to connect it to either the computer or the charger, so It is pretty useless without the docking station. I had thoughts about how hard it might be to find or buy one, then he mentioned that several of the camera docking stations were still in the display, so we went up and sure enough the docking station was there, and he managed to disassemble it from the display, and even extracted the correct charger. So now it had everything, except the box it came in, which was not a problem for me. I told him I would take it.

As you can see from some of the pictures, the camera does have some physical damage to the lower left corner. It has apparently been dropped. I didn't notice any of this at the time, whic i guess is fortunate, because I probably wouldn't have bought it. As it turns out, it works fine. Now, i don't ever reccommend dropping a digital camera, especially a Casio. I don't have any personal experience with problems with Casio cameras, but I have heard they are somewhat fragile. I am hoping this one will last for a long time, because i am really getting to like it.

Lets see, 7.2MP, 3X optical zoon, starts up in under 1.5 seconds, auto focuses in about .2 seconds, has almost no delay after autofocusing to taking the picture, takes 640x480 resolution video at 30 frames per second at two bit rates, 30 minutes/GB, or 60 min/GB, using MP4 compression. Produces .AVI files that can be used on a Macintosh after loading a Quicktime plugin from Casio. The video and audio quality is very good. Oh, yes, and it take good pictures too. The pictures are big, which is not suprising for a 7MP camera, and there are multiple quality settings. i checked normal agains fine, and I could actually see some differences when zoomed in on the computer to a very small section of an image. So I have decided to use fine mode, which created photos of 4MB each. I guess the one really good thing about having a lot of mega-pixels is you can crop to your hearts content, and still get decent prints (I print 4"X6" prints exclusively). If you know me, you will know that I always tell my friends that are looking for a camera, that they don't need a lot of megapixels for small prints, and you really don't, anything over 2MP will allow you to do some cropping before printing and still get good prints. So I generally tell people that there are a lot of camera characteristics more important then the numbe of mega-pixels.

One of the things I had heard about Casio cameras was that they could take a lot of pictures on a battery charge. In fact most of the tests I have seen indicate that Casio batteries last almost twice as long as other brands of cameras. I am looking forward to finding out if this is really true, but so far it does seem to last more than a day of fairly heavy shooting.

Anyway, as you can tell, I am pretty stoked about the Casio EX-Z750, the reviews I have read say it is a great camera, and my personal experience has been great.

Olympus D-595

A few months ago, Debbie started having trouble with her Minolta that was about three years old, and we decided to buy another camera to replace it. We went looking, and found the olympus D-595. Five Megapixel, 3X optical zoom, runs on two AA batteries. We use Eveready Lithiums which last a long time, and can be left sitting for a month or three months and still work fine. Unlike NiCad, and NiH batteries which gradually die as they sit. It uses XD memory, which is more expensive than SD or Compact Flash, but you don't need to buy memory cards very often, so the extra $10 for a card isn't really a problem. The D-595 takes ok video, but it is limited to 320x240 resoluton, and I believe it is only 15 frames per second. It also doesn't use a lot of compression, so video takes a lot of flash card memory, around 18 minutes per gigabyte. On the plus side, it has a built in speaker, so you can play videos immediately after you take them, and it is macintosh compatible, and creates .MOV video files. Overall, I would not buy it as a video camera, it just doesn't shine in that area. Fortunately we didn't buy it to take video, but to take stills, and it does a very good job of that. the D-595 is very easy to use, it provides a direct rotary dial to presets for portrait, scenery, night time, scenery+portrait, plus it has even more presets available through the menu system.

One of the truely great things about Olympus cameras, is that most of them will do super macro photography down to about an inch from the lens, and the D-595 is no exception. I don't suppose everyone has a need for macro capability, but if you do, then you should consider an Olympus camera.

Here are some pictures of the D-595, click any image to see a larger version;

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Update on the Olympus IR-500

Well, now that I have had the IR-500 for about a month, I have had an opportunity to use it in various situations. here is what I can tell you about the digital "still" camera part of the Olympus;

Picture quality and detail is "ok", but not incredible. It is only 4MP, so I shouldn't expect miracles, but it does get grainy as you blow it up, and especially in low light. Since there is not manual control of ISO speed, you have to do with what you get.

Color it pretty good. I like the non-flash results better than flash, not because the color isn't good, but because the flash pictures are pretty harse and contrasty. Of course this isn't unique to the IR-500, pretty much any digital camera will produce high contrast images when you use flash. I think this just got highlighted when i saw the results that my friends 8MP Rebel XT produced without flash. They were incredible, mostly because his camera can take pictures without flash, and still use a pretty fast shutter speed. The Rebel had a 50MM F1.8 lense on it which is much faster than your usual digital camera these days. the IR-500 has a F2.8, which is about 2 F-stops slower, and consequently needed an shutter speed that is four (4) times as long to get the same picture. Movement is a big problem in low light when you needc to use 1/8 second exposure instead of a 1/30 second.

Mostly I DO like the IR-500 for video. It only runs at 15 fps, shich is certainly not as fast as i would like, but it does a really good job at that speed. Also the sound is great, and it must have automatic gain control on the sound, because it never overloads and always seems to pick up voices in the room pretty well. I have posted several videos made with the IR-500 on my main blog at "", just look at the ones taken in December.

Finally, I still really like the way you can fold up the display and lense together to protect the camera from damage. It makes for a very rugged, transportable pocketable camera.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Olympus i:robe IR-500

Well, I suppose it had to happen, i found another camera. This one is from Olympus, the IR-500. I haven't been able to find a decent review on the web, so you will have to live with my comments. I just bought it today, so I don't have a lot of details yet, but here goes;

Click the title for the Olympus web site.

General Specs;

4 Mega-Pixel, 2.8x optical zoon, nothing to brag about today, but high enough for lots of stuff.

Runs on a Lithium Ion battery, i haven't been able to check the life yet. (After two days, battery life seems to be ok, you can just leave it on, and it will go to sleep till you press the shutter button to wake it up again)

There is no ISO film speed adjustment, although it does appear to adjust it automatically. It gets kind of grainy in low light, so it sure would be nice to have a faster lens than the f2.8 provided.

One video feature is interesting, it will take an 800x600 video clip with sound, but only for 10 seconds. I suppose that could be useful for something, but I'm not sure what. It seems to wait on writing the video to the card until the 10 seconds is over. Kind of silly today, when you can get cards that have write speeds that are plenty fast enough. According to the size of the clips, the write speed only needs to be about 1.5 MegaBytes/second, well within current technology.

For longer video, it will take 640x480 video with sound as long as your card isn't full. This video runs at about 700 KiloBytes/second. The video format is Quicktime compatible, and are even .MOV files. Really the video is "Photo - JPEG", 640 x 480, Millions of colors, audio is "8-bit Unsigned Integer, Mono, 7.875 kHz", near DVD quality, at 15 FPS, which isn't terrible, but isn't as good for full motion as 30 FPS either. It will also shoot 320x240 video for TV quality video at 30 FPS.

Here is a picture of the camera closed up, illustrating one of it's important features. It fully protects the LCD screen and lens when closed, so you can really stick it in your pocket, and not worry about it.

Here is a shot with the screen partially open, as you can see the display swings out so the persone being photographed can see the screen. This will be useful for taking pictures of yourself, something we all need to do a lot.

Finally, here is a picture with the display swung all the way around to the back of the camera, the way you would normally use it, so you can take pictures of other people.

As you can see, there is no optical viewfinder, so that is a downside when you are taking pictures in bright sunlight. There is a brightness adjustment that should make it easier to read in the sunlight, but I haven't tried to adjust it yet. One reason I haven't tried to adjust it, is there are a lots of menus, and they don't make it all that easy to get to the brightness adjustment. You have to go to camera setup, and go down to the third screen of settings to find the screen brightness adjustment.

Other features, include a supplied docking station, which the camera slides into, and is used to transfer pictures to the computer, and to recharge the battery. A slight downside to that, is that the dock is required, not optional, so you can't charge the battery or unload pictures without it, because there re no standard connectors on the camera itself. On the plus side, the dock isn't very large, so it shouldn't cause much of a space problem.

Here is a short video I uploaded to It is of my granddaughter playing around with a product called FLARP, which is basically noisy playdough. the clip doesn't show the quality of the original 640x480 video, but you get the idea. Video quality really isn't bad, and the sound works pretty well too, which is not like the CAMP34, which has heavily oveloaded audio. This camera's audio definitely gets a plus.

Finally, the IR-500 screen is 2.5 inches, and is very nice, except under the brightest conditions. I ran across the IR-500 at Fry's Electronics, it was on clearance today for $129. It was too cheap not to buy. It still isn't my ideal camera, but it is very interesting. Overall, I find the IR-500 most useful for video, now if they would only get the framerate up to 30FPS.

Rating: **** out of 5

Monday, November 14, 2005

Videoing a Motorcycle Event

Debbie and I went to the Texas FallOut Rally this weekend. You can click the title for more details and access to the online versions of the videos themselves. Anyway, I used the CAMP34 (alias DV250) to video some of the more entertaining events. I continue to be very impressed with how small and convenient the CAMP34 is to use, but I sure wish it didn't have an audio system that was so easy to overload. It worked fine for the events like the Loud Yelling contest, and the Miss UCOA Dressing event, where the wasn't a lot of background noise, but the motorcycle event totally blew the audio away. I took about 25 minutes of video, and there still seemed to be a lot of battery left. The visual quality is not the best, even in 640x480 format, but it is certaily good enough for web video like YouTube, where they scale everything down to about 320x240 size. I did discover that can't handle just any kind of Quicktime video. I originally video clips through FFmpegX, to convert the audio to MP3 from whatever the original camera AVI format was. Once this is done, I can play it in Quicktime just fine. The clips then consist of MPEG4 video and MP3 audio. I then used Quicktime Pro to create longer videos from the multiple clips and saved them as standalone .MOV files. What I found was that uploading one of these files to YouTube failed in conversion from .MOV to their Flash display format. So I then used Quicktime Pro's capability to export as an MP4 file as 320x240 resolution, and uploaded that to YouTube, and it worked just fine. YouTube might have been able to handle the original video from the camera, but I wanted to merge several of the clips together into a single video on the Barrel Racing video, so I didn't try the native clips.

Anyway, I am pretty happy with the results, but I am still looking.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What Am I Looking For In A Camera?

I suppose, if I am going to look for the ideal low cost digital camera/video camera I should know what I am looking for, so I thought I would describe some of the attributes I want in a camera, to help clarify for you where I am coming from. So, here is a list, in no particular order;

Resolution: More is better, but not too high, because it will take too long to save the images on the flash card. Since most of these cameras have only digital zoom, 3MP is pretty much the minimum acceptable pixel count, because the pictures almost always need to cropped. More than 5 MP or 6 MP will likely result in the camera taking too long to save the images, and slowing down the rate at which pictures can be taken.

Size: the camera should be small enough to fit into a pocket, and should ideally provide protection for the lens and LCD screen. Most cameras in this category dont provide any protection, but it sure would be nice.

Batteries: Rechargable Li batteries are fine as long as they are relaceable. If a camera has a rechargeable battery, that is not replacable, there is simply no way it will last long enough. The other alternative is to use AA batteries. I have found the Everready Lithium cells to be very good. They are expensive, at around $10 for four, but they do truely last a long time. Of course using hte electronic flash a lot will kill any battery. I used to like the Nickel Hydride batteries, since they hold a lot of power, but they have a lot of internal leakage, by which I mean they run down even when they are not being used, whereas the Lithium cells have almost infinite shelf life, and can still be used for occasional pictures after being carried around in a camera for months. Finally, always, always carry a spare set of batteries, whatever type of batteries you use.

Startup: The camera should be fast to power up. It should not take more than a second or two at the most to get ready to take a picture. Second, a camera should remember which mode it was in when you shut it off, so you don't have to reete it back to the way you want each time. Some variations on this theme are acceptable, but at the least it should remember how the flash was set, and whether it was in still or video mode. Some cameras don't have this problem, because they have actual slide switches to select mode, but these can easily get bumped in a pocket to leave you set in the wrong mode.

Video: The camera should take video at 640x480 resolution, at 30fps, and it should produce either .AVI files or .MOV files. The video bit rate should be between 1Mbps (Megabit per second) and 2Mbps, and the compressor codec should be either MPEG4, or MJPEG, so it will record around an 1 hour/GB (GigaByte) of storage. Under low light conditions, it is permissable lower the actual frame rate and introduce smear, but the sensor should have enough sensitivity and gain to produce results other than a black frame under low light situations. The camera must have sound recording capability, but it can be monoral, and doesn't need to be super high quality, but it must have AGC (automatic gain control), so it won't overload under noisy conditions, like at a motorcycle rally. The CAMP34 is a very interesting camera, but it has no AGC on the audio recordings, and is set much too sensitive for even normal conditions, so it overloads almost all the time.

Video NONOs: On the negative side, don't ever buy a digital video camera that records in Microsoft ASF format. They say they are MPEG4, but the visual results I have seen are poor. All the ASF cameras I have tried pixelate (get blocky) when you move the camera while recording, or when the subject moves. In addition the videos produced by these cameras cannot easily be converted to other formats. To make matters worse, you can't always tell from the packaging. i recenlty looked at an AIPTEK camera, that looked great in the store, but rather than take a risk, I wrote down the details and model number, and looked it up on the web when i got home. Sure enough it recorded in .ASF format, but they don't tell you that on the package. They just say "Records in MPEG4". My general rule is : If the package doesn't say .AVI or .MOV or Quicktime, or DIVX, then don't buy it. MPEG4 is great, but not in a .ASF wrapper.

Viewfinder: Many of the digital cameras I buy have only an LCD display for viewing while recording. Most of these cameras, actually all that I have seen, don't work well in bright sunlight. This is exactly where most videos are taken, so not being able to see what you are taking is a big problem. Ideally, there should always be an optical viewfinder so you can see approximately what you are shooting.

Lens Cover: most of the low cost digital cameras use very tiny lenses, with very small sensors, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to use a removable lens cover that would easily get lost. fortunately most of these cameras solve this problem by putting optical glass in front of the lens that is flat, and can easily be cleaned with a shirt sleeve. you should be careful not to scratch it, but pretty much any soft cloth can be used to wipe away smudges. You should check and clean this glass regularly, because most cameras make it very easy to put your finger prints on the lens cover, which reduces the quality of each picture you take. Of course if you like soft focus pictures, then I guess you don't need to worry about that.

Form Factor: All digital cameras should be able to be set on a table or shelf, without having to prop them up to get them to sit straight. In other words, they should have a flat bottom. Of all the great things about the Digilife DDV-S670, one of the worst was that you could not set it down to take a picture. It would not sit straight, and it did not have a tripod socket. It was designed to be hand held Period. Is this a deal breaker, well no but it was certainly inconvenient.

Flash Cards: Don't buy the cheapest flash card you can find. In particular, I don't like PQI brand, because when I bought one, it had such a slow write time it failed to even work. As Forrest Gump would say, "Cheap Is as Cheap Does". You get what you pay for, except when you get less than what you pay for. Look for name brand cards to go on sale. I have had found Lexar cards to work ok, but for some cameras, you will need to buy faster cards. Be careful about speed ratings too, PQI likes to rate some of theirs at 60X, whatever that means. A speed rating should be in MB/Sec. 6 MB/Sec to 10 MB/Sec should be fast enough for most video work, unless you are buying a very high end camera that specifically says it needs more.

Production: So now that you have a small digital camera that can take videos, what are you going to do with all those video you are shooting? Well, the obvious answer is to burn them onto DVDs. You can play them on your computer, but it is a lot easier to share them with friends if you can put them into their DVD player.

Platform: My prefered video production system is a Macintosh. Now I can hear you already saying things like "oh, those are too expensive", and there was a time when that was true, but Apple has done a lot to bring the price of a Macintosh down to the common man (or woman). I have been using a Macintosh for video production since they came out with the original iMac DV, which ran at 400MHz. Think about it, if you can do video production on a 400 MHz Mac, then any Mac that you can get today at any speed is capable of the same thing. You are not likely to even be able to find a Mac that slow. Now it is true that a modern Mac with a 1 GHz processor running OS X with at least 512MB of memory will make things a lot easier, but even that should be available for about $500, which is the bottom end price wize of PCs, which won't come with any software, or will come with software that doesn't really work well. New macintosh computers today like the Mac mini come with all the software you will need to not only do video production, but most other common home tasks as well. You know you want it, now is the time.

Price: Back to digital cameras, I prefer to stic with digital cameras that fall into the under $200 price category. There are quite a few cameras to choose from, and while i haven't found the perfect one yet, I don't think it is too far off. Now if I could just get some camera manufacturers to read this blog, i might actually get what i want.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

CAMP34 by i.Parris

Here is another very interesting camera. This is the latest digital video camera that I have purchased that I am still using. The CAMP34 is a very compact unit, that had a 2.5 inch display. Like the DDV-S670 and the iJoy, it has no optical view finder, so you are stuck using the built in screen, which can be a problem in bright sunlight. The screen is a little better than the DDV-S670, so it is somewhat more usable outdoors. The CAMP34 claims to have a 6MP sensor, though it acts more like a 2MP camera in terms of resolution. Perhaps the biggest weakness in the CAMP34 is it's fixed focus lens, or perhaps it's optics. I have found none of it's pictures to be very sharp. They always seem to be a little blurry. I don't know if this is because of the higher resolution sensor makes everything look soft, or whether the camera just isn't in focus. The pictures it takes are ok, but they just aren't very sharp. I think I must have gotten an early, perhaps pre-release model, since none of it's buttons are labeled. I had to read the manual and memorize their functions. Not a big deal, probably later samples will have labeling. Like the iJoy, the lens flips inside to protect it. This is very handy, since I tend to keep my cameras in a pocket, and on a motorcycle, you never know what kind of junk will end up in there with it, so it is very handy to have the lens protected.

Like all of the cameras I have been looking at, the CAMP34 can be an MP3 player, but I am convinced that Apple and their iPod don't have anything to worry about from the CAMP34. I have yet to see digital camera with an MP3 player function that is more than just barely usable. Come to think of it, most MP3 players that are supposed to be just MP3 players are generally just barely usable. I know many of you won't agree with me, but I view most consumers as "penny wise and pound foolish", they save money, but get even less than their money's worth.

The CAMP34 charges from the included USB II cable. It includes a nice little flexy tripod, stereo headphones and a video out cable for connection to the TV, which I haven't tried. I bought mine from GEEKS.COM, which you can find at the link above.

Conclusion: All in all, the CAMP34 is ok, it has good battery life, though the battery is not replacable. It works with a Macintosh, search the web for the FFMPEGX and MovieGate software. It is fairly rugged, and take ok pictures. It's fixed focus lens is probably it's greatest weakness. The flip inside lens protects the optics well, though the plastic body shows wear pretty quickly.

Rating: **1/2 out of 5

Digilife DDV-S670

Here is another of the digital video cameras in my collection. This is the DDV-S670. What a wonderful name. Here is the Digilife page for the DDV-S670

The 670 is a very interesting camera. It looks and acts somewhat like a cell phone, you unfold it, which automatically turns it on. you normally hold it horizontally to take pictures landscape, but you have tohold it vertical when you take video, or you will have ot watch your videos while laying down. The display swivels so you can take pictures of yourself. There is a three position focus selector, landscape, groups and portraits. This works pretty well, you just have to remember to select the right one before snapping the picture, or it will be blurry. Mostly this was a problem when i wanted to take a picture os something fairly close, and I forgot to select the right mode. This is a common problem with these fixed focus cameras, you just have to have a brain. The 670 runs off of an NP-60 Li battery, which was easy to get at Fry's Electronics for around $20. It is very worth while to have a spare battery, even though the battery life of this camera is very good. I could record over an hour of video on a charge.

The 670 does have one peculiarity that could drive you nuts. It defaults to being a video camera, so when my wife tried to take pictures with it, she was always taking video of peoples feet, because she didn't realize she needed to select photo mode. She would think she was taking a picture, and the camera would continue to record video of whatever she was pointing it at. This is a shortcoming that some cameras overcome by defaulting to the last mode you were in when you turn them off. I'm sure she would have learned to use it eventually, but it was my camera, so she only touched it occasionally.

The one fairly serious weakness of the 670 is that since it uses only the LCD screen for viewing while taking photos or video, it can be very difficult to video in bright light, since you can't really see the screen under daylight conditions. This would tend to imply it was best used indoors. Indoors, it worked ok in normal room light, but if the light level is low, it has no night mode, so basically you just get a dark screen. unlike the iJoy, it uses the traditional electronic flash, so youcan't use the flash while recording video, just photos.

Video recording was at 640x480, and claims to be 30fps, but I think it drops at lower light levels, producing the expected smearing.

The 670 has a digital zoom, which was mostly useless. Like many digital zooms today, it would just throw away parts of the picture to pretend to zoom, resulting in no more actual detail in the image than if you did not use the zoom. It had the same problem when using video, the image would just get more pixely when you zoomed. Some of the more modern cameras are starting to use simulated optical zoom when you are shooting video. What they do is use all the pixels of the sensor and downsample to 640x480 to save, so when you szom, it just uses a smaller portion of the sensor, but it is still using more than a 640x480 portion of the sensor, so the video quality is still good. For the technically inclinded, it is a question of whether you zoom before you downsample or not. Older cameras downsample then crop to zoom, newer cameras crop to zoom then downsample. The difference is night and day, newer cameras can zoom digitally and actually get more detail in the resulting image as you zoom, just like a real optical zoom. Isn't technology wonderful.

Dispite it's limitations, I liked the 670 a lot. It protected it's screen by folding up. It had good battery life, and used a battery you could actually buy. The image quality was decent, probably around 3MP, though they advertized 6MP. The color quality was good. It was lots of fun to use, and best of all it records in AVI format, so it can be converted to work with the macintosh. You can get a little more than an hour of video recording on a 1GIG SD card.

Conclusion: All in all, I think this is decent camera, it has good battery life, it works with a Macintosh, search the web for the FFMPEGX and MovieGate software. It is rugged, and take pretty good pictures. It also has three focus positions, which makes it more generally useful that some of the other fixed cameras I have tried.

Rating: *** out of 5

i-JOY by MobiDV H12

I bought the iJoy while I was on a business trip in California. I saw a Fry's Electronics ad, and it looked interesting. retails for something around $200, but was on sale for $99. Right in my price range. I went to Fry's to look for it, and found it in the video camera area, instead of in the digital camera area. It is billed as a video camera, so I guess that makes sense.

You can read a review by someone else on the iJoy here. (The page is slow to load, but has lots of pictures.)

Anyway, The first words out of the sales person's mouth I spoke with were; "The battery only lasts 30 minutes". To which I responded; "Thank you", ignoring them completely. I should have listened. You see, I had recently bought a DDV-S670 which uses an NP-60 Li battery, and it seems to have pretty good battery life, running around an hour on a charge when taking stills or video. So, when I saw the iJoy, I figured that it would have a similar battery, and similar performance. Big mistake. The iJoy uses a 3.7 volt 780mAh Li battery, that thinks it is about out of energy after 10 to 15 minutes of recording. (The DDV-S670 has a 3.7 vold 1050mAh Li battery.) In fact the iJoy only shows full for a couple of minutes after charging, so I suspect the camera simply doesn't fully charge the battery completely. By the way, I tried to get another batter, so I could have a spare. It is supposed to use a Nokia N7210 battery, but I couldn't find one at Fry's, no luck there.

The iJoy is a fixed focus camera, and unlike some low cost cameras, it doesn't have a macro selector, so you get what you get. Overall, given the fairly wide lens, this arrangement works ok. Next to the lens, you will see the flash, which consists of two high intensity white LEDs. These can be used for flash stills, constant illumination while videoing, and as a flash light to help you see where you are going. They work fairly well in very low light, but in normal room light, they don't seem to have any effect for flash fill, so don't bother. By the way, my comments on the short battery life, wee not because of the LED flash, I did not normally use it, and the problem is not related to the flash.

In terms of features, it has lots.

Under Photo Basic settings you can manually control exposure, use center, central, or averaging light meter, manually select shutter speed, which is interesting since it is fixed apature, so you are really just adjusting exposure. You can adjust image size and image quality. Neither of these last tow have much effect on the actual results, but you can do it. Under Advanced settings you can set effects None/red/green/blue filter or Sepia, ISO speed 100/200/400, burst mode on/off. Self timer on/off anddate stamp on/off.

Under Video settings, there are similar adjustments, along with a setting to prefer faster shutter rate for sports, or more light for night time shooting.

It all seems like a pretty sophisticated camera, I wish it was as good as it appears. Of course I don't want to forget to mention that it is an MP3 player, and a voice recorder, as well as a flash light. Seems the only thing they left out is the FM radio.

I suppose by now you are wondering what kind of pictures it takes. Well, here is a simple picture taken out my office window;

Click the image to the right to see the 1024x768 version.

Stills: This photo was originally 2MP, and has been resized down to 1024x768. It isn't too bad, though it seems a little dark and flat. It claims to take pictures up to 5MP, but they are just doing some pixel expanding in the camera, and the actual resolution is still only 2MP. I would call it usable for stills.

Video: I don't have an example for you, because this camera uses the dreaded Microsoft ASF formatted version of MPEG4, which can not be easily used on any web site I know of. I'm sure many of you will correct me as soon as I post this. I can tell you that it takes 640x480 video at 15fps, at least in decent light. With low light, the frame rate slows to allow more light accumulation. In very low light, there is lots of visible smearing with motion, something which consider acceptable. The video quality was ok, it even simulates optical zoom, using the extra resolution of the sensor to prevent image degradation while zooming, at least up to about 2.4X. beyond that, the video image degrades because of resolution loss.

Conclusion: All in all, even with a file format of .ASF. Videos can be played on the Macintosh with VLC. I would consider this camera worthy, if it had decent battery life. It doesn't, so I can't even recommend it to my Windows only friends.

Rating: ** out of 5

My Digital Cameras

This is a new blog that will contain experiences, views, opinions and reviews, both personal and subjective, on the digital cameras I purchase. I tend to buy a lot of cameras, so there should be new stuff appearing on this blog fairly often.

The kind of cameras I buy are generally the small low cost digital video cameras, that record onto some kind of flash memory. You see I am on a quest to find the perfect portable digital camera. It is a quest that I don't believe will be successful for a while, but will be at least entertaining along the way.

I thought I would begin this blog with a picture of me. Taken with the iJoy by MobiDV. It isn't very good, but it is all I could come up with on short notice.

About Me: I am 55 this year, and I have been a tech nerd since highschool. I am a software manager by profession. I have spent many years as a software developer, using an obscure language called Forth. Some of you might know me by some of my earlier projects, like F-PC and Win32Forth. I have been interested in photography for most of my life, and owned many cameras during that time. The last few years, I have been riding motorcycles, and had a desire to always have a camera with me to photograph the various events I attend. Thus began a quest with no forseeable end, as I search for the ideal pocketable digital camera with decent video capability.

I should also mention that I am an Apple snob. I used and developed software for PCs, but I prefer Macintosh computers. This leads me to have a serious dislike for any digital cmaera that produces ASF (Microsoft specific) files that cannot easily be manipulated on a Macintosh. Yes, I do know that programs like VLC allow some ASF files to be viewed on a Mac, but I want to make DVDs and web videos that most people can read, including Macintosh owners. So, I prefer Quicktime compatible cameras, and AVI compatible cmaeras that produce files that can be converted to a format that is useful on a Macintosh.

The bigest complaint I have with the packaging of many digital cameras, is that you can't tell by reading the package if they produce .AVI files, or .ASF files. They all say they produce MPEG4, but as many of you know, one person's MPEG4 is another person's unreadable, useless .ASF file.