Features & Controls
There are three focus modes, which will cover most shooting situations (face recognition and tracking AF), though you don't get the ability to choose your focal point or use multi-point patterns.
Though the camera offers the welcome option of manual focus, you'll have to accomplish this using an on-screen magnification of your subject because the camera lacks an optical viewfinder.
Face AiAF, Tracking AF, Center
5.0 (W) - 80.0 (T) mm (35mm film equivalent: 28 - 448 mm)
Normal/Auto: 0.4 in. (1 cm) - infinity (W), 2.0 ft. (60 cm) - infinity (T)
0.4 in. 1.6 ft. (1-50 cm) (W)
TTL Autofocus, Manual Focus
At full zoom, the 16x lens sticks out roughly 1-inch further than when at wide angle, making the camera about 3.5-inches deep. At this strong magnification, however, the camera was not always the quickest to focus. The autofocus at times was a little slow to lock on to my subject, even in bright daylight, and tended to swim in and out of focus.
f/3.5 (W) - f/5.9 (T)
15 - 1/3200 seconds
The spring-loaded flash pops up when you press the release button just below its hinge on the back panel. This little flash doesn't throw around a lot of light, however, having a specified range of less than 10 feet at wide angle. This translates into an obvious fall-off in flash strength at roughly 10 feet. I didn't find this as disappointing as the spec would suggest, however. Shots taken indoors at night still had an acceptable amount of light from the flash on peoples' faces 15 feet away.
More importantly is the specification for flash recycling time: "15 seconds or less." That's not exactly encouraging. Having to wait 15 seconds to take your next photo would feel like an eternity. I never had to wait that long, but I was repeatedly frustrated by the "Charging the flash" message I received repeatedly. And it wasn't isolated to successive shots after taking a shot with the flash. My first shot taken with flash (or my first shot since turning on the camera, period) often resulted in this delay, taking a few seconds to charge the flash and take the shot.
Auto, Flash On, Slow Synchro, Flash Off (Facial brightness is also evaluated in Face Detect)
1.6 - 9.8 ft. (W), 2.0 - 6.6 ft. (T) (50cm - 3.0m (W), 60cm - 2.0m (T))
15 seconds or less (battery voltage: 3.0 V)
Flash Exposure Compensation
+/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments
The body of this camera has a comfortable shape, for my hand, and feels sturdy. The slight contour on the right side helps get a firm grip. It's not a slim model, though, as you can see, so be sure you're happy with the bulk (it won't be most comfortable companion in a shirt pocket). Buttons on the top panel are well-placed, falling easily under the index finger, while the mode dial is easily reached with your thumb.
The zoom dial around the shutter button feels a little far to the right when holding the camera one-handed. I tended to use my left hand to stabilize the camera while operating the zoom, in part because of the weight of the body. At over 10 ounces with the memory card and two AA batteries installed, it's not a featherweight point-and-shoot, but it does have a little heft when holding it with one hand.
Dimensions (W x H x D)
4.37 x 2.85 x 1.74 in
CIPA standard: Approx. 10.3 oz. or 291 g
Camera Body Only: Approx. 8.57 oz. or 243 g
The 3.0-inch LCD has a modest resolution of 230,000 - adequate, but nothing to write home about when so many models have sharper displays. The specifications tout this as having a wide viewing angle, but I wouldn't take much stock in that. For one, the TFT color LCD is set back behind a protective plastic window that's quite reflective, which can make even straight-on viewing a problem in bright sunlight.
Secondly, this display does something odd I've never witnessed before: When pointing the camera downward, starting at only 45 degrees, the display becomes almost unusable, taking on the appearing of a film negative. This only happens when pointing the camera downward - arguably the most important viewing angle because this is how you would hold the camera overhead to frame a shot.
The ring around the function/set button doubles as a four-way button. This makes menu navigation easy and swift, though on occasion you may find yourself accidentally pressing it and making a selection when you're only trying to scroll with the ring.
The buttons around the four-way control are easily reached with the thumb, including the dedicated movie button at top right, which falls very naturally under the thumb when holding the camera with one hand.
Around the corner from the four-way control sits a rubberized flap protecting two ports: mini-HDMI and USB. (HDMI cable not included.)
NTSC/PAL (dedicated connector (female) with unified type of digital, audio and video)
Stereo (dedicated connector (female) with unified type of digital, audio and video)
The camera supports the usual varieties of SD Memory Card. Part of the reason for the camera's bulky body is that it runs on two AA batteries. Whether you're satisfied with the camera's battery life may depend on what kind of batteries you're willing to feed it. I found battery life to be a mixed bag, to say the least.
While battery life is specified to be much greater with NiMH rechargeable batteries, the camera was quite literally unable to operate with them (they are admittedly half a dozen years old, but I've never run into this kind of trouble before - full details in Steve's Conclusion). You might have better luck with the newer NiZn rechargeable variety (pictured, but not included).
On the other hand, when powered by a new pair of Duracell alkaline batteries, the camera lasted well beyond the specified 140 frames - using burst mode and very little flash, I shot more than 800 photos before the batteries called it quits. It was not as hearty with the included pair of Panasonic batteries (pictured).
Storage Media: SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card
1) 2 AA Alkaline batteries
2) AC Adapter Kit ACK-800 (optional)
AA Alkaline: Approx. 140 shots
AA NiMH: Approx. 380 shots
AA Alkaline Batteries: Approx. 7 hours
AA NiMH Batteries (NB-3AH): Approx. 10 hours
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