by Ctein

I have a bunch of film cameras gathering dust. My standard carry-around camera is a Fujica GA645, a fully automatic medium-format point-and-shoot with manual overrides. I've a Canonet G-III 17 and an Olympus XA with flash that I haven't used in 10 years, and an Olympus Stylus Epic that I haven't used in four. They're not more convenient to use than the GA645 and the negatives are just too small to really make me happy. Why make photos if I don't get pleasure out of them?

So, they're off to eBay, along with some Wallace ExpoDiscs, etc. I'm gonna finally buy a low-end digital camera for its convenience, and researching this is giving me a serious headache. There are too many damn compromises unless one spends lots of money. I'm not going to spend over $400.

Is this the stuff that dreams are made of...or nightmares? The camera may prove to be the former, but buying is definitely the latter.

I'm a color negative, available light photographer. Low image noise in dim light and low contrast in any situation are important to me. I know a cheap digital camera isn't going to have the capture range of even slide film, let alone negative film. So I want either really low image contrast or RAW format. And I'd like some decent degree of sharpness, so that when I make 8x10 prints I don't feel the same way I did with my dinky 35mm negs.

I looked at the Fuji Finepix F30/F31. Fabulous low light performance and sharpness more like a 10 MP camera. But dpreview says daylight photos are very contrasty with clipped highlights and shadows, and no RAW to circumvent that. Forget it!

Next came the Olympus SP-550 UZ. RAW, image stabilization, and a big zoom (size matters). But the lens is lousy; an awfully fuzzy image for 7 MP. Low light quality is poor and there are weird performance issues. Feh.

Third time's the charm...maybe? The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 looks plausible. Good lens and good sharpness, very good image stabilization and RAW quality, even usable RAW quality at high ISO's. But...

I can't seem to find any review sites that provide "characteristic curves" ("dynamic range," if you prefer) for different cameras. Pretty basic and important info, that. Give me a graph that plots exposure on the x axis and output value on the y axis. Is that too much to ask?

Headaches, really!

Posted by: CTEIN


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