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Lights, camera, action!

For our anniversary this year, Tracy had been less-than-subtle that she wanted a new camera (picture camera, not camcorder). The old one (a Pentax Optio) is fine, but suffered from two deficiencies:

  1. It’s a few years old (and is 4MP); pictures we have obtained from friends’ cameras just “look better” (in part because they’re higher MP).
  2. Modern cameras have a few more features that help the, er, point-n-click-challenged.

So I did a bit a research and came up with the Sony CyberShot DSC T-100 camera. It’s ~8MP, got lots of good reviews, has a cool red chassis with a nifty sliding front panel for opening/closing the camera, and a very large screen on the back for previews. This model even got the CNet editors choice award. So it seemed like a good bet.

Off to Froogle — it pointed me to prestigecamera.com. So I duly ordered the CyberShot off the Prestige Camera web site. I wanted to ensure that the camera would arrive in time for our anniversary, so I called the Prestige Camera 800 number to talk to a human. A smooth-talking sales guy a) assured me that it would arrive in time, and then b) convinced me to buy a bunch of extra stuff that I wasn’t initially planning on getting. It turns out that the camera you get comes with a 10 minute battery and a storage card for about 10 pictures. Amazing (i.e., disappointing). So I had to get a better battery and a larger storage card, which, bundled up with a few other goodies made the whole thing a bit more expensive than I was planning on. But even after getting off the phone with the guy, I was overall happy with my purchases, so it was ok.

The camera arrived on a Thursday and I played around with it. Much to my dismay, I was quite unhappy with the quality of pictures that it took. I took the same pictures with my old Optio and my new Cbyershot and then compared them:

  • Many of the Sony pictures had a decidedly yellow tint; the Optio pictures seemed to have much truer-to-life colors.
  • The Sony flash appears to be offset from the lens; many of the pictures that used the flash had definite shadows.
  • Many of the Optio pictures just looked “better” than the Sony pictures (yes, I know that’s subjective). I would look at both pictures side-by-side on my Mac; the Optio pictures just looked sharper, had better overall focus coverage of the entire frame, zoomed in smoother (which was amazing to me since the Optio is 4MP and the Sony is 8MP), etc. And yes, I verified that the Cybershot was taking pictures in the 8MP setting.

After poring through the Sony docs, I found settings to correct some of the issues, but you had to manually select them to fix each issue (and they weren’t uniform in all lighting conditions — you had to manually select various settings for each different lighting condition).

In short: for the price I paid, I was quite disappointed with the camera as a point-n-shoot device.

So I called Prestige Camera, and the good folks there agreed to do a one-for-one swap for a Canon IXY 810 IS for no charge[equivalent to the Canon Powershot SD850 IS], in part because I had only opened the camera; all the other packaging was intact. The Canon is actually about $15 cheaper, but given that I effectively got to “try before you buy”, I really couldn’t complain. They even overnighted me the new Canon and associated packaged equipment. So kudos to Prestige Camera for taking care of their customers!

I am much happier with the Canon — it takes high-quality pictures in many different lighting conditions and is much more of an automatic point-n-shoot than the Sony was.

This is all my $0.02. If someone shopping for a new camera finds this writeup, I hope it’s useful to you.


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