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6- and 7-Megapixel Digital Cameras

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Between the burgeoning field of sub- 5-megapixel pocket cameras and the ranks of 8-megapixel-plus prosumer models is a growing group of 6- and 7-megapixel cameras that don’t seem to know what they want to be. Some pose as compact point-and-shoots, and some act as faux digital SLRs.

We tested six 6-megapixel cameras: the Casio Exilim EX-P600, the Fujifilm FinePix E550 and FinePix S7000, the Kodak EasyShare DX7630, the Konica Minolta Dimage G600, and the Olympus Camedia C-60. We also looked at three 7-megapixel cameras: two from Canon, the PowerShot G6 and PowerShot S70, and one from Sony, the Cyber-shot DSC-P150. And we found a few surprises.

A few of these models are pricey compacts with little more to offer than a million or two extra pixels that most users won’t appreciate, but a couple of them offer excellent value and picture quality. The Canons and the Sony are the standouts of the bunch.

Some Big Shots

Some of these cameras—the Sony, for instance—are so small that they can sit comfortably on your palm. But despite their small size, the 7-megapixel models take pictures as large as 3,072 by 2,304 pixels. Fujifilm claims that the 6.3-megapixel FinePix E550 and FinePix S7000 can record 12.3 million pixels, yielding a 4,048-by-3,040-pixel image, but we found that these images looked no better than enlargements achieved by upsampling in Photoshop.

A panel of Macworld experts judged a test photo (on screen and printed out) from each camera, rating the image’s color and clarity (see the benchmark chart).

The Canon G6 and the Casio captured the most-accurate color. The Fujifilm E550’s images had a slight greenish tint, and the Fujifilm S7000 captured reds that looked almost orange. The Kodak’s images had a similar problem and appeared undersaturated.

The Canon G6 also captured the sharpest pictures, with very little noise. The Fujifilm cameras’ images had noticeable noise and purple fringing (a purple glow that can appear around high-contrast edges in a picture). Images from the Canon S70, the Kodak, and the Konica also showed a small amount of purple fringing. The Casio’s pictures seemed slightly soft throughout.

When we used automatic white-balance settings and our tungsten lights, the Casio, the Canon S70, and the Konica produced images with an orange cast (the Casio was the worst offender).

These cameras feature a wide range of video quality. The Casio, Kodak, Konica, and Olympus models capture video at 320 by 240 pixels. The Canons can capture video at 640 by 480 pixels, but only at a disappointing 10 fps (frames per second), and clips are limited to 30 seconds.

The Fujifilms and the Sony capture video continuously at 640 by 480 and 30 fps (duration is limited only by memory capacity). The quality of the video captured by the Fujifilm cameras was good, but the audio had some distracting static. The Sony’s video was a bit grainy and dark, but the audio was stronger. The Sony requires a Memory Stick Pro (not included) to capture video at 30 fps (it captures at 16 fps with the provided standard Memory Stick).

Your Best Shot

Of these cameras, the Fujifilm S7000 has the longest optical zoom, at 6x—equivalent to a 35mm-210mm lens on a 35mm camera. The Canon S70 has the widest lens; a 3.6x zoom with a 28mm-100mm focal range. The Canon G6, Casio, and Fuji-film E550 offer 4x optical zooms; the remaining cameras have 3x. The Fujifilm S7000 can focus to 0.4 inches in its Super Macro mode. The Olympus can focus to 1.6 inches. The Casio has the longest focal range in macro mode: 3.94 inches. For added flexibility, optional lens converters are available for all but the Canon S70, the Konica, and the Olympus. The Fujifilm S7000 has a focus/zoom ring on its lens, which gives you more control than the buttons or levers that control zooming on the other models.

With a maximum aperture of f2.0, the Canon G6 has the fastest lens (the maximum for the others is f2.8), which is important for shallow depth of field. The Fujifilm S7000 has shutter speeds of up to 1/10,000 of a second—ideal for freezing action—but most people probably won’t need more than the 1/1,000 or 1/2,000 of a second offered by the others.

Most of the cameras are light sensitive to 400 ISO. The Fujifilms are the most sensitive, with ISO equivalents of 80 to 640 (the E550) and 160 to 800 (the S7000) in automatic mode (in manual mode, the E550 can go as low as 80, while the S7000’s lowest ISO is 200). If you take many low-light pictures, that’ll sound reassuring, but a higher ISO means more noise, and an ISO of 200 in manual mode is high. Also, an ISO of 800 is available only at up to 3 megapixels. The Canons, the Casio, and the Konica can go as low as 50 ISO in manual mode.

All offer automatic white balance, several presets, and custom modes, except for the Kodak, the Konica, and the Sony, which lack manual white balance. And all of these cameras have built-in flash and red-eye-reduction modes. The Canon G6 and the Fujifilm S7000 have hot-shoes for attaching an external flash.

The Olympus, the Casio, and the Canon G6 include wireless remotes, but the Olympus remote lets you control only the shutter. The Casio and Canon G6 remotes let you release the shutter, control the zoom, and operate menus.

Digital Camera Image Tests

Color Quality Clarity
Canon PowerShot G6* Excellent Excellent
Canon PowerShot S70 Very Good Very Good
Casio Exilim EX-P600 Excellent Good
Fujifilm FinePix E550 Good Good
Fujifilm FinePix S7000 Good Good
Kodak EasyShare DX7630 Good Very Good
Konica Minolta Dimage G600 Very Good Very Good
Olympus Camedia C-60 Very Good Very Good
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150 Very Good Very Good

Best results in red.    *Editors’ choice.

We took a photo of a standard test scene with each camera under controlled conditions, with the flash turned off, and with the white-point setting at tungsten. All other settings were at automatic. A panel of experts looked at our test image, both on screen and printed by an Epson Stylus Photo 2200, and rated color quality and clarity as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, or Unacceptable. - Macworld Lab testing by Robert Ellis and James Galbraith

Both the Canons and the Fujifilms offer RAW capability, letting you save uncompressed images without any processing in the camera. Serious photographers will appreciate this, since adjusting an image in Photoshop gives you more control than in-camera processing.

On the Menu

We found that the information displays and menus on most of these cameras were easy to navigate and decipher. The Olympus and Konica menus are the least intuitive. The best is the Casio menu, which offers the unique Ex Finder, an information overlay that looks like a fighter jet’s heads-up display. Crosshairs help you align your shot; you can view numerous settings at a glance and quickly adjust them. Manual Assist menus show you the effect of manual adjustments, making it easier to set aperture and shutter settings. There’s also a live histogram, which displays tonal range and warns you of lost detail in shadows or highlights as you compose your shot.

The Canons, the Fujifilm S7000, the Olympus, and the Sony also offer live histograms, and the Canon G6 displays an overexposure warning for clipped areas, but only in preview mode. The Fujifilm E550 can display a histogram in preview mode. The Kodak and the Konica have no histogram display.

The Kodak has the largest LCD monitor, at 2.2 inches. The Canon G6 and the Casio have 2-inch LCDs; the others’ LCDs are 1.8 inches, except for the Konica’s, which is the smallest at 1.5 inches. Bigger is better, and 1.8 inches is about the minimum for good visibility. The Canon G6 is the only one with an adjustable, flip-out LCD, which lets you fine-tune your viewing position (handy for shooting at odd angles, such as over your head). The Fujifilm S7000 has an electronic viewfinder, perfect for sunny days when LCDs can be difficult to see.

All digital cameras capture EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data such as aperture settings and shutter speed. In this group, all but the Kodak and the Sony also let you attach audio notes (such as a subject’s name or a shot’s location) to a picture; maximum lengths range from a few seconds to one minute. The Canons let you add the longest audio notes, and the quality is surprisingly good.

Out of the Box

All of these cameras are quick to start up, so you won’t be likely to miss a shot. Most menu operations feel responsive. The Casio and the Olympus felt a bit sluggish while saving images to memory and during playback. The Sony felt the most responsive in typical use.

All the cameras feel solid. The Canon G6 and the Fujifilm S7000 are too bulky to call compact. The Fujifilm S7000, at 17.6 ounces, is heftier, and it looks and feels more like an SLR than a compact. At 5.4 ounces, the Sony is the lightest. It’s also the smallest—you can even call it a pocket camera. It’s a bit weighty for a shirt pocket, but it does fit comfortably in a jeans pocket, as does the 6.9-ounce Konica. The Olympus is a bit bulkier but still compact.

With the exception of the Kodak, the Canon G6, and the Fujifilm S7000, all of these cameras have built-in sliding lens barriers to protect the lenses. The lens cap on the Fujifilm S7000 is to be expected; this camera has a larger lens, in keeping with its faux-SLR form factor. But lens caps on two other models are puzzling. The Kodak lens cap clips on, while the Canon G6 lens cap merely fits snugly. Both fall off easily, putting the lenses at risk of damage.

In the Box

In these cameras’ boxes, you’ll find everything you need to get started with shooting.

All of these cameras include interface cables for transferring files to your Mac, and all but the Konica include AV cables so you can plug your camera into a TV for easy viewing. All but the Fujifilm S7000 include rechargeable batteries and chargers (it takes 4 AA alkaline batteries or optional rechargeable AA NiMH batteries). The Casio doesn’t come with a printed manual, even though it’s tricked out with a multitude of impressive features (it does come with a 247-page PDF manual).

None of these cameras come with a reasonably sized memory card, considering their resolutions. The Canons, the Olympus, and the Sony come with 32MB memory cards, while the Fujifilms and the Konica come with 16MB cards. The Casio and the Kodak come with built-in flash memory, but the Casio’s is a paltry 9MB (not enough to take even one TIFF at the highest resolution). The Kodak offers a more generous 32MB (both also take SD and MMC memory cards).

You’ll also find software in the boxes, although no bundled application is likely to replace iPhoto, and Casio’s works only in OS 9—Casio recommends iPhoto for all OS X users. The Canon and Olympus applications offer more capabilities than the others do. You’ll need the software included with the Canons and the Fuji-films for converting RAW files if you don’t have Photoshop or another RAW-capable application.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

If size is a factor, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150—with its compact form, light weight, and 7-megapixel pictures—should fit your needs the best. We really liked the Casio Exilim EX-P600’s striking and innovative Ex Finder, but for the same price, we prefer the Canon PowerShot S70’s pictures and RAW capability. The Fujifilm FinePix S7000 has an impressive 6x zoom, but its pictures don’t compare with those of the Canon PowerShot G6. Ultimately, image quality counts, and the PowerShot G6 is a winner.

Canon PowerShot G6Canon PowerShot S70Casio Exilim EX-P600Fujifilm FinePix E550Fujifilm FinePix S7000Kodak EasyShare DX7630Konica Minolta Dimage G600Olympus Camedia C-60Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P150
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