Digital Cameras [Legacy 2015 version]

In the time we have owned Maringret we have managed to go through some 5 cameras: 3 digital and 2 film based. We had selected these cameras for both use on this website and for our own photography while sailing. At the outset we had film cameras for our travel photography and the digital cameras came to us for use on the website. Over this period we came to alter our perception of the place for both types of cameras.

When we bought Maringret in 1998 we had two 35mm cameras, a Minolta camera with two selectable focal lengths and a Samsung ECX1 Panorama with an electric 38 to 140 zoom. We started this website soon after buying Maringret and quickly decided that we would try and capture our progress on the website in the hope that it would help others avoid similar problems – even if they could simply adapt our information sources to their own purposes. In those days getting pictures from a 35mm negative to a digital format was technically possible but not generally commercially available. This lead us to our first digital camera, the Minolta Dimage 2. It had a 480 by 640 pixel resolution and a detachable lens that we thought would be invaluable for inspecting things out of a direct line of sight. The problem was that its appetite for batteries was colossal, we figured that 7 pictures was the maximum we could get out of a brand new set of 4 AA batteries. As a consequence it never got used heavily, there was a power adaptor which was used when at home but afloat its appetite for batteries became its Achilles tendon. (Click here for an example of pictures from the Minolta camera).

At the same time we had been using the Samsung 35mm camera for our regular traveling pictures. This was about the time that having the images put onto a CD-ROM when they are being developed and printed became a commercial reality. We started to use the Samsung for both our trip and boat pictures. The camera had received great reviews when it was released in about 1995. It finally ceased to function due to unknown reasons after almost 8 years of good service (in all sorts of demanding environments). (Click here for an example of pictures from the Samsung camera).

Immediately prior to the Samsung giving up the ghost we had started researched getting a 2 megapixel digital camera. A friend on another cruising boat had shown us his FujiFilm 2800 Zoom. We checked reviews of it on the Internet and the press reception was very similar to that received by the Samsung in 1995 – a very cost effective package. Funny enough the model had just been discontinued about a month before we saw it and so we had to scramble to find one of the last ones available. It seems that Fuji had decided to replace it with a 3 megapixel model.

Slightly earlier we had bought a PalmPix camera attachment (made by Kodak) for our Palm Pilots. It generated 480 by 640 images but the quality of the images never compared with the Minolta and also never lived up to the sample pictures that Kodak had on their website. We used it as an extremely portable “idea grabber” where if we saw something we wanted to grab the general shape, colour and lines of we would use the PalmPix. As far as detailed pictures of the subject it was hopeless. (Click here for an example of pictures from the PalmPix camera).

Using the PalmPix which, for all its faults, didn’t have the appetite problem the Minolta had, lead us to change the way we were taking photos in that we would take many more exposures of the subject, this was for two reasons: a) the PalmPix was not predictable in its colour resolution and contrast, so you increased the number of exposures in the hope that one would be usable; b) there was no cost attached to each shot as the PalmPix batteries seemed to last for ever.

This had the end result of changing our perspective on picture taking. We were starting to treat exposures with the Samsung 35mm as a fixed cost per shot (which was about 30 cents or about $11 for a roll of 36 exposures) where you got your feedback later when they were developed. On the other hand our foray into digital cameras had no costs (other than batteries) beyond the original purchase. The number of exposures was limited by a) camera memory; b) patience; c) time available. Through preparing the photos for this website we had developed a certain level of comfort with tools like Adobe PhotoShop and so gradually our modus operandi became one of culling through a larger number of exposures from the digital camera in order to select the best available and then, if necessary, altering attributes such as the contrast and brightness levels after the fact with PhotoShop.

It was at this point that we came to purchase the FujiFilm 2800 Zoom, and coincidentally the Samsung breathed its last sigh a few days later.

I should point out that camera technology is not one that we are well versed in. In buying both the SamSung and the FujiFilm we relied heavily on the trade press, collecting numerous reviews of the products and then comparing those reviews in order to decide whether the product was appropriate for us.

Of course the above discussion has been based on evaluating the output from the camera based on digital presentation. We have never had a paper print made of a picture taken with one of our digital cameras, it would be interesting to judge the best based on prints.

The digital photography field is changing quickly. This has a side effect on traditional film based photography in that it must keep pace. For digital cameras, until the field and technology matures (which is probably a few more years), whatever you can buy today you can buy cheaper and better tomorrow. This places a risk of sorts on entering the field, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The top end digital cameras can now give the film based models a close run for quality as well as offering options (such as movies and sound recording) that are just not possible with the film based cameras. One thing that has not changed is the delicacy of the units, they still don’t like rough treatment, salt water environments, temperature extremes. Unfortunately these are often part of life on a boat.

Optics are still at the heart of a camera. Both our Minolta and PalmPix list the same resolution but the end product is vastly different.

Although it has improved, battery life is still a vital parameter of digital cameras. The online review sites we visited (and have listed below) all suggest investing in high quality rechargeable batteries. our experience certainly bears this out.

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

Digital Photograph Review camera reviews

Imaging Resource camera reviews

Steve’s Digital Cameras camera reviews

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