Samsung ES63 Digital Camera
I always like to think about the usage I will get out of any product before I commit my credit card details. In business parlance, this is like putting together a mental Business Case, and should the case for purchase not be overwhelming, I'll keep my money in my pocket. The Business Case for an inexpensive digital camera was compelling: I need a camera that will fit in my pocket (and not those gigantic side pockets on cargo pants), is inexpensive enough not to induce worry should it be damaged by rough transit, be used in pub/restaurants and sporting venues (where sometimes expensive-looking cameras are not allowed) yet have the capacity and functionality to deliver very high resolution quality pictures. And finally, a budget for under £80 (about $125).
After trawling the marketplace, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of options there were, but in the end I settled for the Samsung ES63 12 mega pixel camera. Despite the list price being a budget-busting £129, the reality is they can be secured for much less than that, and mine cost £69.99 from Amazon. Of course, a camera without a memory stick isn't going to be much use, so I bought, without my customary consideration a SanDisk 8GB SDHC Secure Digital Card. This is overkill I have to concede, and the file size table published in the manual proves my profligacy. By setting the camera to 12MP (its highest setting) I should be able to get approximately 1176 pictures on the card! That'll keep me going!
Once the camera arrived and was unwrapped, I was immediately struck by its tiny size. That's fine by me - just what I want. Along with the camera was a wall recharger with a USB cable that could also be plugged into a computer, a wrist strap, a lithium ion battery, and as is the tradition these days, a quick-start printed manual and a CD-ROM with the complete manual. This policy, whilst probably being green, does bug me - I had a four hour train journey planned and wanted to read the manual during the journey. Rendered impossible unless I took my laptop! The second disappointment is the Amazon page lists "Blink Detection" and "Smile Detection" as features in the camera. In fact, neither are present. Neither feature are important to me, but maybe at a subconscious level I factored them into my decision-making process when selecting the camera. So be warned if that's what you are after.
Ok - on to the operation of the camera. As previously mentioned, the modus operandi of the camera is to be used in 'high stress' sporting events and pub / evening out environments. That's high stress for the camera, not for me! It is therefore imperative that the camera works effortlessly with minimum interaction from me. I took the camera on a weekend to London to watch a significant game of football, and as is often the case, beer and pubs accompanied the football. So, an excellent test for the camera's capabilities. I set the camera to 'fully automatic' - the camera must be able to function whilst my mind is elsewhere. Ok - the first situation was in a tavern in Marylebone. If you look at the picture on the left, you can see that the chap on the right would be an ideal candidate for red-eye, but the camera has coped admirably. Also note the tricky exposure conditions - there is backlight from outside streaming through the window, yet the fill-in flash has adequately lit the faces of the subjects.
On to the football venue. Here is another tricky situation - a load of motion behind the subjects as the flags are waived around, but despite this the camera has correctly focused on the faces and calculated the exposure correctly despite it being a not atypical grey, overcast London day.
This was the first (and only) situation that slightly disappointed. If you look carefully, you'll notice that the scoreboard matrix lights are marginally out of focus, yet the painted logos either side of the matrix are pin sharp. The camera was unable to obtain sharp focus on the lights. This is an extreme condition and unlikely to be faced everyday, but worth remembering should you ever be in the same situation.
Despite this shortcoming, the camera performed very well over the weekend and I was extremely impressed. The camera is what it is - an inexpensive, honest trier capable of delivering excellent shots in extreme conditions, yet pocket sized and easy to use. I have yet to test all of its many features, but over the coming months will do so and add to this review as appropriate. Notwithstanding this, I would thoroughly recommend this camera to anyone who has the same requirements for a camera as myself.
3 Month Update
After owning and using the camera for three months I thought it was time for an update. I have had opportunity to use the machine in different settings so an update is worthy.
The picture was taken indoors, without flash, in macro mode and quite frankly it is absolutely astonishing. What you can't see, because I have had to crop the size for website purposes, is the amazing detail in this picture. It is possible to read all the small print on the printed circuit board - the clarity is fantastic!
In the 'summer' I went to a local classic car show. As befits the UK summer, the weather was atrocious. There was monsoon-like rain and a force 9 gale! However, despite the awful conditions this picture of a Ferrari 308 is razor sharp and on the larger version I can see each rivulet of rain. The technique I used was to focus on the plate of the car using the focusing area in the centre of the screen with a half-depression of the shutter, then still holding the button halfway, re-compose the picture and fully depress the shutter.
However, because the weather was so inclement, there is always the possibility of a Grade-A cock-up, and here is proof. The wind was blowing and I was juggling an umbrella in one hand and the camera in the other. Because of this, and because of the weather, and because my arm was too far extended and not tucked in, I took this thoroughly miserable shot. Despite the on-board software to iron out camera shake, it is not entirely foolproof. You must therefore take time to compose without distraction and ensure your arm is nicely tucked into your side to stabilize.
So, after three months I am so impressed with this little marvel, I heartily recommend it to anyone!