Digital Cameras

This article supercedes a legacy article from 5 years ago (which we have saved here).

In the time we have owned Maringret we have managed to go through some a number cameras (we’ve actually lost count): the first 2 were film based (and we used to get the pictures put onto a PhotoCD); the rest were digital.

This discussion is mainly about a pragmatic solution to photography in a hostile environment – by that we mean around salt water. Skipping over the film based cameras (which are mentioned in the legacy article here), we have had the following digital cameras:

Model Resolution in Megapixels
PalmPix 0.3
Minolta Dimage V 0.5
FujiFilm 2800 Zoom 2.0
FujiFilm 3500 Zoom 4.0
Canon PowerShot S5 IS 8.0
Canon PowerShot SX 10 IS 10.0
Canon PowerShot SX 20 IS 12.0


  • the PalmPix was an attachment that clipped on to the Palm Pilot, it was actually made by Kodak
  • both the PalmPix and the Minolta had a resolution of 480 by 640
  • the Minolta had a detachable lens on a cable which we thought would be great for taking picture of inaccessible things (like the far side of the engine)
  • unfortunately as the detachable lens on a cable was basically real time video feed, the Minolta managed to get 7 pictures out of a set of 4 AAA batteries
  • the most recent Canon models are based on proprietary batteries

A friend had one of the Canon PowerShot cameras – possibly the S5 IS. We were very impressed with the software built into it, as well as the zoom lens. Over time these cameras came to be referred to as a “pro-sumer” “digital bridge cameras.” The cameras suited us very well, they were a bit bulky but were also sturdy.

It was at this point we ran into two drawbacks of these digital cameras as well as one unavoidable fact of photography on a boat:

  • latency
  • proprietary batteries
  • salt water environment

The latency was most noticeable when you moved from one camera to a newer (and usually more powerful zoom) model. The latency was quite a bother for wildlife photos (dolphins don’t stay suspended in the air while the camera goes away and counts its pixels). Also it was annoying on a moving deck of a boat – especially when at long zoom lengths as the focus are would be moving up and down the target of the picture.

For whatever reasons, we suspect purely marketing, as the cameras climbed into the higher zoom ranges, the manufacturer (Canon) decided to make the cameras dependent on proprietary rechargeable batteries. We were already using rechargeable batteries, but of the AAA type. The idea of being out somewhere and either forgetting the charger, breaking the charger, losing the charger, etc. It really didn’t bear thinking about. Being there for that perfect shot and finding out the batteries are low, and no, there is no electrical outlet here to recharge. So of course you have to buy some extras.

As a consequence we’ve never bought a model more powerful than the Canon PowerShot SX 20 IS as the models above it only take proprietary batteries.

As for salt water, it is death to electrical things. It’s in the air at trace levels and the salt just corrodes anything in time. We have some electrical things that are immune to it – they’re “potted” (i.e. encased) in epoxy. So all the innards are inside a block of cured epoxy – not exactly the way for a camera to function well.

So we came to our working solution to this problem: we started buying used SX 20 cameras on eBay. We get them for a fraction of the new purchase price, they last a few years or so, and then we move on to the next one. We keep them in sealed bags on the boat but still the salt air gets in to them.

The digital photography field has changed quickly. Performace that was the sole domain of digital SLR cameras just a few years ago are now starting to be approached by camera phones. But still, optics remain the heart of a camera. The cost and excellence of camera optics have continued to fall and increase respectively.

In the thumbnails below the resolution differences are not as visible due to the small display area. But even at thumbnail size, the PalmPix image has a definite lack of clarity, the Minolta gains clarity but seems somehow to be slightly washed out while the Samsung has both clarity and pixel density (which is what avoids the washed out appearance of the Minolta image). Clicking on each thumbnail below will launch that image in a separate window so that the full size images can be compared side by side. The image sizes (i.e. the pixel dimensions) are the same for the first two images and so they will display as the same size on the screen while the Samsung image (which is a proper 35mm image) will display as much bigger on the screen. By shrinking the Samsung image to the same screen size as the other two then the resolution differences may be compared.

Kodak PalmPix Minolta Dimage 2 Samsung ECX1 Panorama
Image Size 480 x 640 pixels 480 x 640 pixels 1028 x 1536 pixels
Pixel Count 0.3 megapixels 0.3 megapixels 1.6 megapixels
ar_cockpitCoverAft ar_maringret9907 ar_maringretSnow
Canon PowerShot SX20 IS
Image Size 400 x 3000
Pixel Count 12.0 megapixels

Note: the bottom picture is 3.4 megabytes in size, clicking it will download it and display it by itself. And for some unknown reason it downloads as 5.2 megabytes, even though the image is 3.4.

Digital Photograph Review camera reviews

Imaging Resource camera reviews

Steve’s Digital Cameras camera reviews

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