harp photos and big zoom
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The camera has a number of modes: Action, Landscape, Auto, Movie (with audio) and Auto. It also has aperture priority and shutter speed priority - but not a fully manual mode. The mode dial is on the top of the camera next to the pop up flash. My previous camera used to pop up the flash automatically when it felt that I needed to use it. This camera however doesn't do that. You get an icon on the display suggesting that you need a flash. If you've popped it up though it will only use it if required (in auto flash setting).
The burst mode can handle taking between 4-6 shots before the buffer fills up. The manual focus is not via a focus ring on the lens, but instead you use the up and down cursor buttons (much more difficult).
On the back of the camera there are a number of buttons: Flash mode button (Flash on, flash on with red-eye, night, night with red-eye, auto flash), timer/burst button (normal, self-timer, self-timer 2 shots and burst), Focus button (normal, macro, infinity and manual), live view button (turns on/off the screen), playback button, Instant share button (see below), print button (print direct from camera next time connected via optional docking station or PC). It also has menu and cursor buttons, an on/off button and a zoom in/out rocker button.
From the menus you have functions for EV Compensation ( -3 to +3 in 1/3 steps), White balance (Auto, sun, shade, tungsten, flourescent, manual), AE metering (average, center, spot), ISO Speed (Auto, 100, 200, 400), Digital flash off/low/high (see below), Colour (full, B&W, sepia), Resolution 5MP or 1MP, Compression (Good/Better/Best), Saturation, Sharpness, Contrast, Setup.
In general I have found the camera really easy to use and the 8x optical zoom is fantastic. I don't use the digital zoom - but it shows it in an interesting way. A yellow box appears on the screen and closes in as you increase the zoom.
I have found myself wanting to have control over my shots, and have therefore wanted to use the EV compensation and white balance settings quite a bit. This can be a problem because you have to go through the menus to change them. This can be quite a hassle after a while - particularly if you are trying to bracket your shots.
The screen is good and large. One minor problem I have had is that you can configure it for indoor or outdoor use. To conserve battery life I have it set to indoor use all the time. To change it to outdoor is too difficult (its buried away in a sub-menu). Therefore the screen can be difficult to view when outside - particularly in strong light.
The camera takes four AA batteries. It came supplied with four good quality disposables - but you will need to get some rechargeables if you buy this. Don't forget to factor the cost of this (and a charger if you haven't already got one) into the price of this camera. I have found the battery life to be quite disappointing - but as this is my first digital camera I don't have anything to compare it too. You'll also need to buy a new SD card. The one supplied is inadequate (32Mb).
There is a mounting point underneath the camera to put it on a tripod. Unfortunately there is no way to attach an external shutter release so I have had to use the self timer. There is a 55mm thread around the lens - but this doesn't extend with the lens when you switch it on. Therefore if you want to use any filters you'll need to use an adaptor. There are a couple available on the market.
The camera is quite a hefty beast if you are used to compacts - but not if you have used an SLR. It fits well and feels comfortable in my hand. The build quality is generally good - however recently the rubber ring around the view finder fell off mine. It fitted straight back on again but I'm now worried about losing it.
It has a couple of interesting features. One is "Instant Share". This enables you to configure the camera (via your PC) with 6 email addresses. Direct from the camera you can mark shots to be sent to some or all of those email addresses. When you connect back up with the PC it automatically sends them. Another interesting feature is the digital flash. When on this automatically lightens darker areas of the shot (at the expense of a slightly grainier picture in those areas).
In conclusion this camera is a very good camera. I have been really pleased with the pictures taken on it. As I am used to using a SLR I have found some of the features difficult to use because they are buried away in menus. However if you can't afford a digital SLR and want one I can recommend this camera. However if you don't care about SLRs and just want a decent camera I'd buy a smaller compact instead.
The camera is well specced and looked on paper to meet my requirements - however the reality is that it is clunky to use and left me going back to buy the digital SLR that I wish I had bought in th efirst place - Bear in mind I spent around £500 on this camera ( including rechargable batteries and some extra SD cards).
On the plus side it is easy to download images and the software supplied does enable you to file photos in a logical date order. Also 5 M pixels allows for fantastic quality when printing at A4 size.
Of course this is all in my opinion - remember one mans meat is another mans poison.
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