I gave my older Canon digital camera to my son, and so last fall I looked around for a suitable replacement. I picked Samsung's EX2F because it has one very special feature: the brightest lens of any point-and-shoot, an amazing f1.4. That's two f-stops brighter than just about any other digital camera, and nearly three f-stops brighter than Apple's new iPhone 5s.
Another time I might write more about what I liked and disliked about the EX2F.
(Increasing by one f-stop is like doubling the shutter speed; three f-stops allows 9x faster shutter speed und the same lighting conditions. I wish tech sites would trumpet lens size and ignore megapixel counts, which are irrelevant.)
I liked the idea of having the brightest lens available to a point and shoot, because I never use a flash in my photography. Flash makes ugly photographs. Bright lenses are available to digital SLRs; the largest I've read of is f1.1; but even an f1.4 lens is expensive because of the large amount of precisely-polished glass needed.
But even after several firmware upgrades, the rare $500 EX2F became frustrating to me. The big lens meant it was limited to 3x optical zoom, and I love a big zoom! Last month I searched for a relatively compact camera with a long zoom, reasonable price, and preferably Canon brand name.
I found it in the $250 SX500IS, a point-and-shoot with a 30x optical zoom. I've owned several Canon digital cameras since 2001, and so I opened this one up with some preconceived notions of what to expect. I found there were things I hated and others that I loved about it.
No USB charging. During day-long conferences when I am taking many pictures, I keep the charge up on my camera and cell phone by plugging them into the USB ports of my notebook computer. Canon doesn't do this; it provides a proprietary battery and an external battery charger. To recharge the battery during a busy shooting day, well, I can't. I had to buy and take along a second proprietary battery ($30) and the external charger -- instead of using a simple USB cable.
Not an external drive. This Canon camera is not seen as an external drive to computers. Instead, the company provides a CD with needed devices drivers and so it works only with Windows and Mac computers; not Linux, et al. Most other cameras appear as an external drive, and so files can be easily copies. The workaround is to pull the memory card each time I need to copy files to a non-Windows/Mac computer.
Other irritants. The box contained no printed manual; it was on the CD. But at the time I bought the camera, I had no computer with a CD drive. The CD contains Canon's software for stitching photos into panoramics, but (a) this software hasn't been updated since the first time I encountered it in 2001, and (b) the camera has no function for taking panoramics.
Zoom out preview. When I take a photo at 30x zoom (or even at 30x optical * 2 digital = 60x), it can be hard to find my point of interest, because the field of view is t-i-n-y. Canon provides a button on the lens barrel that temporarily changes the zoom back to wide angle so that I can see the full view; the current zoom-in area is shown as a small rectangle, allowing me to position the camera correctly.
F-stop adjust. I ranted earlier about the importance of a bright lens, and this camera has a mediocre f3.0 maximum brightness. But it does have a button to bias the f-stop, a function I have not seen on any other point-and-shoot -- not that I've seen them all. Press the +/- button and then use the dial to make the scene brighter (for backlit images) or darker (for overbright scenes).
Folders by date. All the recent Canon cameras I've owned segregate photos in folders by the shooting date. This is brilliant, and I wish all cameras did this. When on a vacation and taking lots of photos each day, each day's photos are neatly separated. Usually, at the end of the day, I copy the folder onto my computer as backup.
Over the few months I have owned the EX2F camera, Samsung has issued numerous updates to its software (firmware) that the Cloud function now works. (In the early days, the camera would try to connect repeatedly and unsuccessfully.)
There is, however, one more update Samsung needs to issue: to make the Cloud upload service work with Dropbox. Samsung make some sort of deal with Dropbox, and so I am hopeful this may well show up in the Ex2F.
Right now, the camera's Cloud upload service works only with Microsoft's SkyDrive. The first time I connected, the camera showed a rudimentary Web browser on the screen that reminded me of Web browsing with a Palm Pilot. There I entered the email address and password of my wife's Hotmail account, and told the camera to remember the settings.
The camera then prompts me to select certain photos or to choose to upload all photos. It works pretty well, but with one deal breaking problem: somewhere along the line, the photos are reduced in resolution to a fuzzy 2 megapixels, making them pretty much unusable.
I don't know if the camera does the reducing, or SkyDrive, but it renders the service useless.
TIP A drawback to using WiFi with this camera is that it wears down the battery pretty quickly.
My daughter wanted this image printed 11"x17", but our largest printer is the typical 8.5x11" one.
1. In the printer driver, I turned on the Borderless option (found under Resizing Options for the HP PhotoSmart series).
2. I opened the image file in Adobe Acrobat, because it does a good job of handling multi-page prints.
3. In the Print dialog box, I set the following options:
4. And then I clicked OK and waited for the printer to output the two pages.
Google Picasa is great software for processing photographs, but it is painfully slow copying files from digital cameras that have large memory cards. Mine has a 4GB memory card, which is small for today, but can hold 2,000 photos.
When it comes time to get the photos off the camera, Picasa slows to a crawl. The reason is that Picasa checks through all thousand-odd photos to see which ones have already been downloaded. This just takes too long, and I found a faster alternative:
1. Plug the camera into your computer's USB port. (Alternatively, plug the camera's memory card into the computer's card slot -- either way, doesn't matter.)
2. When Windows displays the AutoPlay dialog box, choose "Open device to view files with Windows Explorer." (If this dialog box does not open, then open Explorer on your own.)
3. The camera appears as a disk drive on your computer. Use Explorer to navigate to the folder containing the photos. In the case of my camera, Canon thoughtfully places each day's pictures in a folder of its own, such as "272Canon" shown below.
4. Right-click 272Canon, and then choose Copy from the shortcut menu.
5. In Explorer, go to the Photos folder under Favorites, and then choose Paste.
6. Now fire up Picasa, and it within a few seconds it will find the newly added photos.
After my Canon S1is suffered from the sensor problem, I bought a Canon SX100 is as a stop gap. It had the 10x zoom, etc I need. But I continued to keep an eye on a more capable one, especially with movable LCD screen.
A month ago, I made my decision: I bought a reconditioned S1is for $85 -- my third one. It has more features than the SX100is, yet is compatible with add-ons I've bought since I acquired my first S1is in 2004.
I discarded the SX100is (my daughter will take it over) after I found the following flaws in it:
So two features I use a lot are handicapped by Canon. Instead of buying a new $450 camera from them, I sent my $85 to an online camera store.
PS: I conacted Canon Canada about the failed sensor, but after a month they have failed to respond. Canon claims to provide free repairs of these units.
In the previous posting, I noted that my SX100's 10x zoom is better than the 12x zoom on the new SX200 model.
This is a case where the optical zoom number is misleading. The "normal" zoom level is 50mm (when there is no zoom). Divide the mm numbers into 50 to get the zoom multiplier (shown as "x" in specs).
So the SX100 gets you 0.5x closer to distant objects than does the SX200. The sole advantage of the SX200's relatively stunted zoom is that the wideangle is much wider, useful for photographs taken inside rooms or of landscapes.