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How long should a P&S digital camera last?


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#1 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted February 13 2008 - 09:15 AM

Is there a finite number of photos that can be taken by a generic point-n-shoot digital camera (in this example, a Canon A610) before the photos start to be filled in with a lot of video noise and look grainy (like high ISO value was used in taking the photos)? I know I've taking thousands of photos with this A610, but I think its better days are behind it now. Or maybe the photos shot on Auto w/flash was sucking because the light sensor could be going bad on it, as the non-flash photos look a little better, though there is more blur due to slower shutter speed and camera shake.
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#2 of 25 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted February 13 2008 - 10:58 AM

No idea what the expected life is, but your note about "Auto w/ flash" might indicate either something's wrong w/ the metering for flash or that maybe you've developed a tendency to shoot from greater distances than before.

As I understand it, Auto w/ flash on Canon compacts may bump up the ISO a notch or two as needed. And if your subject distance is beyond the actual range of the flash, the camera will need to bump ISO to make up the difference. I forget the exact formula now, but IIRC, ISO needs to be bumped by 2 stops to cover 2x the distance for flash range.

Also, do not trust the manufacturer specs for actual flash power on these compacts. They might already build in the higher (or even max) ISO capability (along w/ largest aperture) for their quoted flash range -- probably whatever the max ISO is for "Auto w/ flash".

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#3 of 25 nolesrule

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Posted February 13 2008 - 11:29 AM

I had that issue with a 2 year old camera. Probably has to do with being dropped quite a bit.

#4 of 25 Don Solosan

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Posted February 13 2008 - 04:36 PM

I've had my Nikon Coolpix 5000 for going on six years, and other than a few stuck pixels, it hasn't given me any problems.

#5 of 25 Allan Jayne

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Posted February 14 2008 - 12:29 AM

Are you seeing problems that were not there before? Or just concerned that problems might appear?

My own concerns had to do with things like the zoom lens getting stuck or the little buttons in the back starting to bounce and either require a hard press or generate two presses when you pressed only once. Mine is just two years old so I haven't run into any problems --- yet.

Actually I had problems with a six odd year old film camera with a lots of electronics (as opposed to gears and springs) inside. I started to get error codes in the readout and one day the camera would do nothing but display an error code. It was the failing of this camera that got me to buy a digital (Canon SD850 P&S).

Yes it is two more stops or four times the light output in order to double the distance using flash.

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#6 of 25 Scott Merryfield

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Posted February 14 2008 - 04:19 AM

Patrick,

Have you looked at the EXIF information on the photos that have excess noise? If so, is the ISO value high (400 or greater)? Most p&s cameras, with their tiny sensors, do not perform well at higher ISO settings, and you will get the noise that you have described.

If you are getting higher ISO values than you did in the past, then the most likely culprits are either (1) you are using the camera differently than in the past, or (2) something in the light metering system for the camera has changed and/or malfunctioned. While I am sure it's possible, I have not heard of issues with the actual sensor itself "wearing out". Now, on a DSLR, where the sensor can be exposed when the lens is removed, it is certain possible to physically damage a sensor. Since a p&s camera has a fixed lens, though, it is hard to image that happening with that type of camera.

#7 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted February 14 2008 - 07:44 AM

Hopefully, I'll get some examples to show y'all as I upload some photos up to Flickr in the next few days.

As some of y'all are familiar with my guerilla style of shooting photos of costumed attendees at various conventions, I did attend a small gathering this weekend, the Atlanta Comics Expo, and they did have a few people dressed up, and this is where I was seeing the graininess of the photos taken with flash show up in the photos, and I don't remember seeing as much grain show up in previously uses with this camera.

I think I was taking photos within the usual proximity of the subjects (5 to 10 feet), so this is why the change in photo quality was sort of perplexing to me.

I'll take a look at the EXIF info and see if I see some wacky ISO numbers on them.
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#8 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted March 08 2008 - 05:11 PM

Finally uploaded some of the problematic photos:

IMG_4572 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

IMG_4563 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

IMG_4541 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

And then some look okay:

IMG_4545 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

IMG_4551 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

IMG_4567 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

IMG_4571 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Here's the photo set:

ACE 2008 - Masquerade Contest - afterwards - a photoset on Flickr
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#9 of 25 Don Solosan

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Posted March 09 2008 - 07:26 AM

Hey, that's a Chinese hopping ghost!

Is it a coincidence that those three "problematic" pictures feature people in white face?

#10 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted March 09 2008 - 08:03 AM

No, I suspect the auto-focusing will give more weight on the rest of the darker spots in the frame, which means the white faces will look over-exposed, and causes a higher ISO setting to be used, which leads to the graininess.
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#11 of 25 Scott Merryfield

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Posted March 09 2008 - 01:42 PM

The shots from the first batch are definitely a little overexposed, as it appears the camera was metering the overall scene and therefore overexposing the face. As you said, the camera may be boosting the ISO because of the overall dark scene. I'm not familiar with your model camera... are there different metering options you can try, or maybe try shooting in manual mode so you can keep the ISO lower?

#12 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted March 10 2008 - 04:04 AM

I will have to see if there are different selectable modes for the metering on Auto, but I use it as a P&S, so it's hard to shoot it in manual mode and deal with the variables when I need the speed to snap the shot in a hurry. It just seems that I've been getting more over-exposed shots recently, but I guess I'll have to go through my previous photos from the past couple of years and see if I'm just over-sensitive to it nowadays.
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#13 of 25 Scott Merryfield

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Posted March 10 2008 - 07:01 AM

If it's anything like my wife's Canon SD800IS, Patrick, using manual mode may be cumbersome. The little bit I use the camera, I keep it in AUTO mode, too, because I cannot remember how to shoot manual on the device. So, I definitely understand why you would do the same. Unfortunately, cameras do not always make good decisions when used in AUTO mode.

On my Canon dSLR, I always use manual mode when using a flash because of the way Canon's flash system works -- it acts as fill flash only in aperture and shutter priority modes.

#14 of 25 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 10 2008 - 09:28 AM

Shouldn't it have a "P" (Program) mode that's basically the same as Auto mode, but let's you optionally adjust a few things as you find need, eg. ISO setting, exposure comp, choosing a particular flash mode, etc.?

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#15 of 25 Scott Merryfield

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Posted March 10 2008 - 11:00 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Man-Fai Wong
Shouldn't it have a "P" (Program) mode that's basically the same as Auto mode, but let's you optionally adjust a few things as you find need, eg. ISO setting, exposure comp, choosing a particular flash mode, etc.?

_Man_

My Canon dSLR does have such a mode, but shooting in manual mode is not that difficult to use with the flash, and I prefer having control over all the settings. I never use auto, P or the scene modes with the camera. I do not even remember which settings "P" allows you to override. I'll use aperture priority mode for non-flash shooting most of the time, since I'm usually more concerned about depth of view than shutter speed for those shots. For those rare occasions where I'm more concerned about shutter speed with non-flash shots, I'll use shutter priority. If I want some exposure compensation, I'll shoot manual.

My wife's SD800IS doesn't have a "P" mode, if I remember correctly (I do not use the camera much). It's either auto, manual or some "scene" modes (portrait, landscape, etc.).

#16 of 25 ManW_TheUncool

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Posted March 10 2008 - 06:50 PM

I think the Canon A series probably all have P/Program mode. P mode usually works like Av mode (ie. Aperture Priority), except you're letting the camera choose aperture setting also (though it seems many implementations still let you override the camera's choices for aperture+shutter speed combo by letting you cycle through the various combos that fit the camera's metering after the camera's initial choices). In P mode, a decent camera would probably try to choose the best combo that uses the sweet spot of the lens while keeping the shutter speed handholdable. IIRC, Canon compacts tend to go for somewhere between f/4 and f/5.6 while keeping shutter speed at >=1/50s (or maybe >=1/60s).

The Canon Elph series (Sxxx and SDxxx) probably stick w/ just the basic Auto and so-called "Manual" modes -- the latter being more like a basic version of the Program mode on most other cameras that also have Aperture and Shutter Priority (and true Manual).

_Man_
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#17 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted March 11 2008 - 06:34 AM

I'll have to check out the P-mode if my old A610 has it. Thanks for the suggestion. I have started scoping out my next P&S digital camera, just in case my A610 is going to perform like it has of late.
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#18 of 25 Dennis*G

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Posted March 12 2008 - 01:45 PM

I have an old S50 going on 5 years old and it has a P mode, amongst others. It has been dropped once and has about 12400 pictures logged to it, but the pictures still look as good as they did when new.

#19 of 25 Thomas Newton

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Posted March 14 2008 - 07:37 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Patrick Sun
Is there a finite number of photos that can be taken by a generic point-n-shoot digital camera

I think some of the "semi-pro" DSLR bodies (Canon EOS 30D, maybe also the Nikon D200) are said to have 100,000-cycle shutters. Implying that perhaps P&Ss and lesser DSLRs may get fewer photos before the shutter breaks.

#20 of 25 Patrick Sun

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Posted March 31 2008 - 09:20 AM

Does anyone have any experience with the Canon A650? I'm thinking about upgrading my A610 to it for my small carry-around digital camera, and I haven't read enough bad things about the A650 to make me re-consider such a purchase.

I like the 4-AA battery compartment for longer battery life and lower flash cycle times, and the 6x optical zoom with IS. I've read that it does a better job with the flash output control to minimize over-exposing the shots.

Most of the use would be of subjects within 10 feet most of the time, maybe a little further away sometimes, but not crazy far away (over 30 feet away or further).
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