Why I chose the Canon PowerShot S10
Consider carefully where you buy your digital camera. Buy from an authorized dealer to be absolutely sure that you get a brand-new, guaranteed factory sealed camera. Authorized dealers will not sell you a gray market import or a refurbished model. The peace of mind is worth a few extra dollars to know that if anything goes wrong the dealer will replace it. I have used Cameraworld.com for both of my camera purchases, and I highly recommend them. When they claimed an item was in stock, it seems to have been, for my order was shipped the next day.
This information was written in April of 2000 and has since been updated with notes.
Size. The camera is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket at 4.1" x 2.7" x 1.3", and since it has a durable metal exterior and a self-closing lens protector, you can drop it in a bag and not worry about it. (N.B. Canon has release an even smaller version of this camera in the fall of 2000, called the Digital Elph. It is the smallest digital camera and should take pictures just as well as the ones here from the S10, and it boasts an included rechargeable battery.)
In general, try to buy a camera with as high a resolution as possible. This one has a 2.11 megapixel CCD, which means that an 8x10 printout should look pretty good from the 1600x1200 images. The tradeoff is the larger the CCD, the larger (but also more detailed) the file will be.
The S10 has a USB connector for very fast connections, plus the ability to plug in to a PC without having to powering down and up again. Plus, USB will be in all kinds of future appliances, e.g. the new Sony PlayStation 2. If you try to download many files over a serial connection, you will wait forever. USB is the only way to go.
All of the reviews that I read online commented on the high quality of the photos--especially in low light. In my digital experience, it is possible to take good low-light photos; however it will take some practice to get it right.
2X Optical zoom. Having optical zoom allows for some adjustment in framing the scene, though 2X is hardly a zoom. Digital zoom does not increase the resolution of your photos! Do not use digital zoom except to narrow the field of view to isolate an area for better contrast or exposure metering.
Compact Flash Type II seemed like the best "digital film" format, though you probably can't go wrong here. The 8MB card which ships with the camera will hold about 10 pictures at 1600x1200 with Fine resolution, which prints well up to 8x10 inches. I highly recommend getting a second card for more pictures and to buy one from the Lexar JumpShot series. Lexar built a USB controller onto the Compact Flash card, which means it can transfer the pictures much faster than regular cards. Even cooler, it ships with a cable so you can plug the card directly into the computer and access the card as a removable drive, which is much easier than using Canon's Imagesaver utility to manage your files. I chose the 32MB JumpShot 4X (more than fast enough) which retails around $100.
It has an optical viewfinder in addition to an LCD. This can improve battery life, since you can turn off the power hungry LCD. Canon added a nice feature--if you hold down the shutter button after snapping a photo, it will display it on the LCD even if the LCD was not on when the shutter was pressed.
Most cameras have an auto-stitch feature which shows part of the last frame so the photographer can perfectly line up the next shot in a series. Canon's works quite well and ships with the excellent PhotoStitch software. Once you have downloaded the images to your PC, you can use the bundled software to smartly blend the photos and even save them as a QuickTime VR movie if you have QuickTime Pro installed.
The PowerShot S10 has fast transfer from the camera RAM buffer, which allows for three rapid fire shots.
Canon ships this camera with no rechargeable battery! If you buy this camera you must buy the optional NiMh rechargeable battery at around $100. (The new digital Elph comes with a rechargeable battery.)
Optical zoom is only 2X, but it is better than nothing. Only the Fuji compared in size and had a better optical zoom, but it didn't have USB support.
Removing the compact flash card from the slot on the S10 can be frustrating if you have large fingers.
Your nose will occasionally smudge the LCD screen when you look through the viewfinder.
Check out my tips page for taking better photos after 4,000 in seven months.
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Canon PowerShot S10