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As some of you know, the Canon SX100 series are my favorite cameras. I always carry the latest model with me in a video-camera-shoulder-bag (i.e. - "purse" for dudes,) everyday, wherever I go. I have owned and used all of them from the SX100 to the SX160. I have long-considered the Canon SX100 line of cameras to be "The Best 2-AA-Battery All-Purpose Travel and Field Cameras Ever Made." I have posted 5-star reviews of both the SX150 and SX160 here on Amazon during the last two years, and I have made it abundantly clear why I feel so strongly favorable of them.
Accordingly, I bought a new Canon SX170. I tested it out to compare it. For sentimental reasons, I intend to keep it. But for the most obvious of reasons, which I just indicated in the above statement, I'm not pleased with it. To the contrary, I am deeply saddened about what has now been completely lost to all consumers, worldwide - The day the last full-featured, full-manual-control, compact, 2-AA battery, travel & field camera left on the entire worldwide market - Died.
Here is a summary of my comparative conclusions.
SX160 IS vs. the SX170 IS - A CAMERA COMPARISON - THE BOTTOM LINE
The Canon SX160 runs on 2-AA rechargeable batteries.
The Canon SX170 runs on a Canon NB-6LH proprietary battery.
Other than the battery, the two cameras are virtually identical.
I will start with the conclusion first - There is no serious reason even to consider buying the new Canon SX170 instead of the previous model Canon SX160 ... unless you absolutely HATE using 2-AA rechargeable batteries in a camera.
Both cameras have exactly the same features, the same functions, and the same specs - except for the batteries. Cosmetically they are virtually identical cameras in almost all respects except for a small change in the shape of the grip on the right side of the SX170 camera. Functionally they both work exactly the same, and they both produce identical quality pictures. No changes were made to either the sensor or to the DIGIC 4 image processor to bring any improvement to the final images produced.
The initial Amazon release price of the SX170 is $179. (Sept. 2013)
The current Amazon price for the SX160 is $144, about $35 less. (Sept. 2013)
Literally, you have to HATE using 2-AA rechargeable batteries in a camera to want to pay $35 more for the same camera with a mini-sized proprietary battery that will only take about half as many shots with each charge, when the quality of the pictures you get will be absolutely identical with both cameras.
SPARE BATTERIES. Amazon is currently selling official Canon brand NB-6LH spare batteries for about $38 apiece. (Remember, people, your camera warranty is now VOID if you use a "cheap Hong Kong knockoff" proprietary battery in it. You do so at your own risk.) A spare pair of top-quality Sanyo brand "eneloop" rechargeable AA batteries can be bought on Amazon for about $4, but even "cheap" AA batteries won't void your warranty for the SX160.
That is the bottom line.
SX160 & SX170 - BACKGROUND INFO & THE "2-AA" BATTERY CAMERA.
The SX170 is the seventh model of the Canon SX100 line of cameras. This series began with the SX100 in the year 2007. From the beginning these cameras have always run on 2-AA rechargeable batteries. That has always been their strongest selling point - the fact that they use 2-AA batteries. If you happened to run out of rechargeable AA batteries, you could always buy spare AA batteries for them to keep taking pictures.
That is the main feature which made them ideal travel & field use cameras literally anywhere in the world.
The cameras of this SX100 series were all full-featured, with full manual control, and a good megazoom. They were also very affordable. Spare batteries for them could be purchased easily and economically. So these cameras were also inexpensive to use, too. And if you bought a new camera, you just transferred the rechargeable AA batteries to the new camera. You never had to buy any new (and much more expensive) proprietary batteries each time you bought a new camera. So in the long term, the AA battery cameras were always much less expensive for people to own and operate.
The new model SX170 no longer uses AA batteries. Instead it uses a mini-sized NB-6LH proprietary battery. These batteries are not readily available except by mail order unless you happen to live near a very large city. If you are traveling, the situation gets much worse. In many places the NB-6LH batteries will not be locally available at all. So the usefulness of the SX170 as a travel & field camera worldwide has been negated. If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere with dead batteries, then you are just stuck with no more pictures!
During the last couple of years, these Canon SX100 series cameras were the only full-featured, 2-AA battery, travel & field cameras still left on the world market. The SX160 was the last one. Now the consumer can no longer buy a full-featured 2-AA battery camera at ANY price, except for a few leftover models from previous years. And soon enough they will be gone too.
Some of you may realize the gravity of this loss, others may not. Most people don't miss things until they suddenly realize they can no longer buy them, because "they" don't make them anymore. And that is exactly what has just happened here. The day the SX170 was introduced was the day the last full-featured, full-manual-control, compact, 2-AA battery, travel & field camera left on the entire worldwide market - Died.
ERGONOMICALLY - THE "NEW" GRIP
There is a "not-so-new" larger grip on the right side of the SX170 camera. Canon claims it has "introduced" a design change with a larger grip on the right side of the camera for better one-handed shooting. Ergonomically. This will indeed be a fine feature for many people. I agree. But Canon's P.R. department says this was only made possible by using the new smaller proprietary battery. No. That is not true.
The original camera of this line, the SX100, had that same style, larger right hand grip on it, and it used 2-AA batteries. Canon removed that feature from the next model, the SX110, and made the overall camera flatter. Some of us would have preferred that Canon not make that design change, but that was Canon's decision.
Now Canon is "reintroducing" that larger right hand grip feature with the SX170, but it has nothing to do with having to drop the 2-AA batteries. I measured the two cameras with a set of calipers. The dimensions of the larger grip on the right side are very similar on both cameras - the grip on the original SX100 (using 2-AA batteries) and the grip on the new SX170 (using the new proprietary battery.) Canon could have "reintroduced" this same design change all along on any of the other SX100 series cameras, and still kept the 2-AA batteries in the camera just fine. So the justification Canon is giving for being able to make this design change is completely bogus.
RATING THE SX170
I'm giving the new Canon SX170 IS a 3-star rating only for sentimental reasons - it's still a Canon. It is still an excellent camera in many ways. It still has all of the same excellent features. ... But I won't recommend the SX170 to anyone.
Since it now runs on a proprietary battery, then it has to be compared to all of the other similar cameras today that run on proprietary batteries. And in that comparison, it does not measure up very well.
WHAT THE SX170 IS NOT
The Canon SX170 is not a fast-action camera, and it never will be. It still has all the same problems of the previous models. It has a noticeable shutter lag, a slower focus, a slow image processor, a slow maximum shooting speed of 0.8 fps (less than one picture per second,) a very slow flash recovery time, it doesn't work very well indoors or in low light, and it does not shoot full 1920x1080 HD video, either, only the older 1280x720 quasi-HD video.
The SX170 is not a good camera for taking pictures of fast-moving children or pets, fast-action sports moments, or fast-focus views of flying birds. The SX170 simply won't work for that kind of photography.
There are literally dozens of other more modern proprietary battery cameras out there today that can run circles around the slow-performing, antiquated design and performance of the older-design SX170. So if you really want a modern, fast-action camera that works well in low light and that also shoots full 1920x1080 HD video, then why would you even consider buying the SX170?
Canon designed the original electronics for the SX100 line of cameras way back in 2007.* These cameras were originally designed as, "Stand here while I take your picture" cameras. And basically that is what they still do best. Changing the battery isn't going to change the primary use for which these cameras were originally intended. No more than injecting "energy steroids" into an old dog is going to teach it to do new tricks.
If you want a modern, fast-action, full-HD video camera, then the SX170 will simply not work for you.**
* Actually it was released in 2007. Design precedes release by about 2 to 3 years, so essentially these cameras were designed almost ten years ago. Remember what that world was like? Digital cameras were low quality and high priced. Most people did not have PCs, and fewer still knew how to use Photoshop. Computer hard drives were 30 gigabytes - smaller than a standard 32 GB SDHC camera memory card of today. Photo paper for printers was terrible and would begin to fade out within months, gone altogether in a few years. .... Most people were using 35 mm film cameras with 36 shots for each roll of film, paying $27 or more at 75 cents per print each time for all the photos, both good and bad. (There was no "preview" feature before they were developed and printed. Besides, you could not "preview" photos very well by squinting at a tiny, color-reversed film negative.) ... Most people could not AFFORD to take more than a few pictures each month. Taking pictures was expensive! Every single picture had to count, so yes - literally - using a camera back in those days meant, "Stand here while I take your picture!" It didn't MATTER if they were slow. Getting your "36 prints" back from the developers at Long's Drug Store took two to three days anyway. That is the world in which the electronic circuitry for these SX100 series cameras was originally designed.
** (If you do want that however, which obviously many people do, then for a short list of modern, fast-action, full-HD-video cameras in a similar price range of the SX170, please see my post of suggestions in the Comments Section, page 1. For a comparative list of (almost all) current Canon point-and-shoot and bridge cameras, please see my post in the Comments Section, at the bottom of page 4.)
FOR A CLASSIC CAMERA WITH FULL FEATURES, USING "2-AA" BATTERIES, CONSIDER THE CANON SX160.
If, on the other hand, you do like the classic Canon SX100 series camera line - as I do very much - you have to like it for what it is. It is an older style, classic design, point-and-shoot camera. As such you simply have to accept the fact that it has some very real limitations. And those limitations are not going to be "fixed" simply by putting a different battery inside the same camera.
It makes no sense to buy a camera first, expecting it to meet your wants and needs, and then end up being disappointed when it doesn't. It works the other way around. You find the camera that actually does fit your personal wants and needs first, and then you buy that camera for yourself and enjoy it.
If you do prefer the convenience of owning a classic design, 2-AA battery, travel & field compact camera, then I suggest you consider buying the Canon SX160, on sale now, while the supplies still last. That is what I chose to do. I bought two more SX160 cameras, and tucked them away safely in a storage box for my future use and enjoyment for the time when my current SX160 either wears out or breaks down. If you are interested in the SX160, please see my own previous Amazon review of it - 5 stars and more, if I could.
The Canon SX160 is still my number one favorite camera I have ever owned, and I still plan to keep right on using it for many pleasant years yet to come.
Sincerely, and with best wishes to everyone, John AKA SLOphoto1
POST MORTEM - USING "AA" BATTERIES AS A RELIABLE POWER SOURCE.
Energy independence. That is one of the main reasons why some people - like me - have been fighting so hard for so long trying to keep the last remaining full-featured AA cameras on the market - If you can choose your own AA batteries in a competitive market, then you have total control over your own power source. And there is no future time limit for being able to still use your camera, either. ("They" don't make that battery any more.)
I still have my original digital camera, an Epson PhotoPC 600, from 1997. It runs on 4-AA batteries. It still works well, and it still takes some interesting pictures. They are particularly interesting because the pictures have an "older" look to them, because of the older camera technology. I don't have to fake this "older" look with special effects in a modern camera or with Photoshop manipulation. They genuinely look older because they really are "older," due to the older technology actually producing them inside the original camera right now.
Imagine trying to locate a proprietary battery for a fifteen to twenty year old camera? The only reason I can even still use that camera at all is precisely due to the fact that the camera was originally designed to run on 4-AA standardized batteries. The same thing will be true of the SX160 cameras of today. Fifteen or twenty years from now, they will still work just fine, because they were designed to run on AA batteries.
AA batteries were standardized way back in 1954. Almost 60 years later, in 2013, they are still the most widely used standardized battery in the world. And especially now that they make rechargeable AA batteries (as in "green" - reusable and even "renewable" if you use a solar-powered AA battery recharger,) there is virtually no doubt they will still continue to be very popular for at least another 60 years into the future, too. They are and will continue to be a very reliable source of power - for millions of different items. This will still be true long after the proprietary - and non-standardized - batteries of today will only vaguely be remembered as a passing fad (and expensive folly) of the early 21st century.
Non-standardized products have no long-term future in an increasingly globalized world.
That's my personal opinion about it, but speaking as a retired history teacher I am also asserting that based on actual and repeated long-term historical patterns and precedents.
Again, best wishes to everyone - John AKA SLOphoto1
UPDATE: A FEW WORDS ABOUT BATTERY USAGE - HOW MANY PICTURES PER CHARGE?
I've been asked to comment on battery usage. How many pictures should a person expect to take with each charge? Here is some data on that. This includes an actual field test I did myself of the earlier model SX150.
The proprietary battery in the SX170 - the Canon brand NB-6LH - is rated at about a 1060 mAh (milliamp hours) charge. The preferred, high-quality Sanyo brand "eneloop" rechargeable AA batteries are rated at about a 2000 mAh change (or about twice as much.) There is no great mystery to it. 2000 mAh of power will take about twice as many pictures as will 1060 mAh of power.
The SX160 and SX170 each require about 2.1 to 3.7 volts to operate the cameras. That requires either one NB-6LH proprietary battery (at about 3.7 volts) or two "eneloop" AA batteries at 1.5 volts each, (two for a total of about 3.0 volts.) The NB-6LH costs about $38 on Amazon. A pair of "eneloop" AA batteries costs about $4. Either system requires less than one cent of electricity to recharge each time. However, the NB-6LH will probably recharge only about 700 times, based on typical lithium-ion battery life spans, which have a pretty high burn out rate, whereas the "eneloop" brand AA batteries are advertised as being able to take at least 1500 recharges.
I haven't tested the SX160 and SX170 cameras yet for the number of shots they will take per charge in actual field use (where you are actually using the camera under field use conditions,) but I did do just such a test earlier for the SX150, and here are the results. (Reprinted from my earlier review of the SX150.)
"On a recent field trip to the local mountains near Monterey, CA, I set out with a fully-charged pair of eneloop AA batteries in the SX150, and I carried a backup pair of eneloop AAs just in case. I did a full day of shooting with 425 full-sized JPEGs and 8 minutes of HD video, and I used a lot of zoom and frequently turned the camera off and on too. That is a LOT of battery use for one set of AA batteries. The batteries finally ran out early the next day as I was testing some of the features on the camera."
Based on previous experience, when I actually get around to doing an actual, full-day field test of the SX170, I anticipate the results to be about half the amount of the results I obtained for the SX150 (or would similarly expect with the SX160, since the electronic circuitry is basically unchanged in all these SX100 series cameras.)
&&&&&&&& PLEASE NOTE: These cameras all show a "low battery" indicator based on a sensor which looks for a voltage drop. In the SX160 and in previous models, these cameras were designed to use regular Alkaline AA batteries which start out at about 1.5 volts (3.0 volts for two of them.) When they begin to drop too low, the low battery indicator appears on the LCD screen. Rechargeable AA batteries like the Sanyo brand "eneloop" type only recharge to about 1.2 or 1.3 volts (or 2.4 to 2.6 volts for two of them.) The internal sensor will "think" that they are running "low" long before they actually run out, once they begin to drop below the "warning point" for the internal sensor in terms of "low" voltage. They are not actually anywhere near "out." My advice is just to keep right on using them until the LCD on the camera finally tells you to "change the batteries," as it shuts down on you.
I hope that gives everyone a fairly good idea of what to anticipate with both the SX160 and the SX170 cameras in general terms of the number of pictures to expect per charge.
Again, best wishes to everyone, John AKA SLOphoto1
UPDATE: Sept. 30, 2013 - DESIGN FLAW DISCOVERED IN THE SX170. POTENTIAL DAMAGE TO THE CAMERA.
Recently while testing the Canon SX170 camera in the field I discovered a serious design flaw. This flaw became apparent entirely by accident through normal use of the camera. It seems that the camera suddenly and unexpectedly turns on or off simply while handling it in a routine manner. This is especially true when trying to pull the camera out of a coat pocket, purse or camera carry bag.
Apparently in one of the few design changes, Canon has now relocated the On/Off power button almost to the very end of the right-rear-top of the SX170 camera (literally, only about 1/4" from the right rear corner of the top of the camera.) This is the side where the new larger right-hand grip is also located. It is the natural hand position to reach into your coat pocket or carry bag and grab the camera by the main grip in order to pull it out. When you do, if your thumb happens to be on the top of the camera, you can very easily activate the camera and possibly jam or even break the lens-extension mechanism.
When the lens pushes out against a resistance (like still being confined partially inside a coat pocket,) then the lens stops and retracts, and there is a series of several quick "beeps," similar to those of the time-delay shutter release. The more serious aspect of this is that each time this happens it puts stress on the delicate gears inside the lens-extension mechanism. Eventually this type of stress can cause the lens-extension mechanism to fail, and the camera will no longer work. (You see them on eBay, "Lens won't extend outward.")
Back in 2008, Canon faced a similar problem - and a number of lawsuits - over this very same problem with one if its "G" series cameras. If the extending lens hit an obstacle, the extending lens would sometimes jam and the camera would become altogether inoperable until it was factory repaired. (And the warranty only lasts one year.)
The SX160 did not have this design flaw, nor did any of the other previous SX100 series cameras before it. All six of the previous models of the SX100 series cameras had the On/Off power button located safely inward toward the center of the camera by at least 3/4" to 7/8" from the right end of the camera.
I've taken a total of 58 shots with the SX170 camera so far, and this "accident" has already happened to me three times. This same easy activation has also suddenly turned the camera off twice while I was simply standing there holding it. This design flaw is an accident waiting to happen.
I don't know how much of this type of stress the lens-extension mechanism on the SX170 can take. I have never encountered this problem before with any of the other six models of the SX100 series that I have owned and used previously. They all had the On/Off power button located well inward at a safe distance from the right end of the camera. So I have never previously encountered this sort of "activation by accident" with the SX160 or any of the other previous cameras of this line. But this flaw does have the very real potential to cause serious damage to the camera, and even render it completely inoperable, just by the ease with which the SX170 can be so readily activated just by complete accident.
Earlier I said that I would not recommend the SX170 over the SX160 to anyone. Now I must say that I specifically recommend against it.
Once again, best wishes to everyone, John AKA SLOphoto1
I ordered the SX50 through Amazon, I tried it out, I liked it well enough and I intend to keep it. For what it does best, it works very well. For the rest, well... that depends.
This is a video I shot of a fishing boat in Monterey Bay. I used my new SX50 with a 50X optical zoom and a 4X digital zoom for a total of 200X (sort of.) I know it's pixillated, but still just look carefully and you can see the fisherman casting his fishing pole at the stern of the boat and then sitting down. Pretty amazing video technology they have developed for this camera. So that is where this review starts - with the monster-zoom telephoto lens.
What this camera does best is pretty obvious - it has a monster-zoom telephoto lens. I enjoy doing some telephoto work, and for that purpose it works amazingly well. At a 1200mm - 50X - zoom you simply cannot buy a Canon DSLR lens with that kind of magnification for any amount of money.*1 The largest [standard production] DSLR telephoto lens that Canon makes is an 800mm and that lens costs over $13,000. So there you have it. For around $500 you can run circles around that magnification, get some fantastic shots and have a lot of fun with it. It will most definitely amaze your friends when you show them with what you can do with the monster-zoom feature alone.
*1 Technically, "any amount of money" is not completely true here. Another poster has pointed out that on special order Canon will make a 1200MM lens for a DSLR. It weighs about 40 lbs. The MSRP is $100,000. Only a few dozen have ever been produced. My bad.
It also has a wide ISO range (film speed) combined with some very fast shutter speeds for fast-action shots. And the recovery and repeat shot time is very fast too. There is also built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature that will be fun to use for creating vibrant-colored, surreal landscapes. (Don't try it with portraits though, since HDR is notoriously bad at distorting human skin tones.) For the more advanced shooters it also offer RAW files as well as RAW plus JPEG, so that you can fine-tune your photos with post-processing in a Photoshop-type program.
All around this should turn out to be a good recreational and family-fun camera that will work very well for daytime things like social events and sporting events, particularly at getting candid shots of people all the way across the other side of the auditorium or the sports arena. And it has an excellent HD video feature that - with a good secure tripod - can produce some very respectable quality videos. Unfortunately, the "hot shoe" for the camera only works with an external flash, not a high-quality external microphone. So no, it won't take one, so you don't even need to ask. Yes, of course with a high quality HD video feature you would only expect that Canon would allow you to attach a high-quality external microphone to the hot shoe, but no they don't. You can take that up with Canon - again - just the way people did last year, and see how far you get with it. Otherwise you will simply have to enjoy it the way it is, or else use a tape recorder and sync the sound with it in a movie-making program afterwards.
But if you want to take any long-exposure, nighttime shots with it, then this camera probably will not work for you at all. It COULD take them easily, but for marketing reasons Canon put an arbitrary ISO limit on it last year that will no longer let it take them. (Earlier models of this same camera could easily take them before Canon imposed the arbitrary ISO limit on it.)
If you have ever owned any of the previous cameras of this series, (the SX1, SX10, SX20 and SX30,) then you probably know that it has a rather small 1/2.3 sized sensor, but (now) it processes the images with a very good DIGIC 5 processor. If you have also owned an SX40, then you also may be aware of a rather recent limitation on this line of cameras that the previous models did not have. Beginning with the model SX40 Canon put an arbitrary ISO (film speed) limit on the camera which severely restricts one type of photography in particular - long-exposure, low-light, nighttime photographs. They are now almost impossible to take with this line of camera, because the user can no longer select any ISO greater than 100 at any of the slower shutter speeds, not even in full manual mode.
ISO 100 is a film speed (nowadays called "sensor sensitivity", but the numbers are identical) that has been traditionally used only in bright daytime photo shooting. Low light and nighttime exposures have always required faster film speeds like ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1000 or even more. Photos of that type which had always been easy to take with earlier models of this camera suddenly became almost impossible to take beginning with the SX40. Suddenly any attempt to set the shutter speed to slower than 1.3 seconds automatically reduced the camera setting to ISO 100. There was no way for the user to bypass this limit, (without resorting to a special Hacker program available on the internet called "CHDK." Watch a YouTube video on that before you decide to try it. )
There were a lot of complaints about the ISO limit on the SX40 from a lot of users (me included - see the YouTube video on "Canon SX40 ISO limits,") going on for a year now, and finally Canon has introduced the new model SX50. So here's the bad news... Canon did not take the ISO limit off this line of cameras. In fact, the ISO limit on the new SX50 is even worse. Now any attempt to drop the shutter speed under 1 second automatically drops the ISO setting to ISO 80. The user cannot change this limit, even in full manual mode.
Adding to that problem, the SX50 has also reduced the widest aperture opening from f/2.7 to f/3.4. The aperture is the size of the opening that allows light to enter the camera through the lens. It is variable, and the smaller the number the larger the opening. So on the new SX50 the largest size to which you can open up the aperture to let light in has been reduced from f/2.7 to f/3.4. The result is that now it is even harder to take low-light, long-exposure, nighttime photographs with it. The current Canon SX160 with the same-sized sensor (though a CCD and not a CMOS sensor) does NOT have this arbitrary limit on it, and does very well at taking long-exposure, nighttime photographs, so I bought it too - for less than half the price of the SX50 - and I gave that one a very strong 5-star rating. Since my primary use of my cameras, however, is expressly for taking long-exposure nighttime photographs, and since there is NO TECHNICAL REASON for putting this arbitrary ISO limit on the SX50 camera (it has already been established during the previous year that it was a marketing decision) - then I'm giving this camera a 4-star rating instead of a 5-star rating. Not for what it CAN'T do, but simply for what Canon will no longer LET it do.
If you want to use the camera for a similar purpose - nighttime long exposures, moonlit night scenes, deer in the garden at night, wide-angle star shots or anything similar to those themes, then this camera will not work well for you at all. I understand that the audience for that usage may well be only a small percentage of all users. Still, some users will be effected by it and they need to know. During the last year quite of few of them were pretty upset by that ISO 100 limit on the SX40, so those same users will probably like the the more restrictive ISO 80 limit on the new SX50 even less. In case there is any doubt about it, the online .pdf file for the User Manual at Canon's website clearly states on pages 150 and 152 - "With shutter speeds of 1.3 seconds or slower, ISO speed is [symbol "ISO80"] and cannot be changed."
If that effects you, then now you know about it. If it doesn't effect you, then you can simply ignore this part of the review and then you may well have a lot of fun with this camera. With it's many other features I'm sure it will be a lot of fun, and that is one of the reasons I am keeping it myself - for those other features. But for $500 for a digital camera you should at least know very clearly what you will be getting for your money, ... and what you will not.
Best wishes either way you decide, John
The Kodak EasyShare Z990 works great in Auto Mode, but in Manual Mode it feels like you are trying to drive an army tank, in low gear.
Using a camera only in Auto Mode - any camera, even if it is a DSLR - is simply using the camera as a glorified "Point-and-Shoot" camera. That is fine if that is how someone wants to use the camera, but then an honest review of the camera is, "The Kodak EasyShare Z990 works really well as a point-and-shoot camera." Which it does.
I've had mine for just over a year now, and though I get it out and use it sometimes - because I enjoy the challenge, I guess - at this point I am about out of patience with it for anything except Auto Mode and the HDR feature.
As a "Bridge" camera - meaning a "bridge" somewhere between a Point-and-Shoot and a full DSLR - using Manual Mode, no, it does not work quite so well.
On any camera, when you are using Manual Mode you have to set three settings - ISO (film speed), Shutter Speed, and Aperture (size of the hole in front of the lens) - just to take your first shot. Every other camera I ever worked with let me change a setting by one or two clicks to create a new setting. Not the Kodak Z990. It does not remember anything if you start try to make any change to a setting.
Some of the default settings in Manual Mode on the Kodak EasyShare Z990 are just plain backwards. If you want to set the ISO, the camera defaults every time to ISO 6400. For daytime shooting you want just the opposite, either an ISO 125 or ISO 200. But the camera always defaults to ISO 6400, and each time you have to click your way all the way down to ISO 125 to set it. Then suppose you want to try the same shot at ISO 200. Does it remember you are on ISO 125, just one click away? Nope. You click on the ISO icon again and have to start all over again at ISO 6400 and work your way all the way down to ISO 200 and set it - again.
Ready to set the next setting, shutter speed? Same process. You have to start at the fastest shutter speed of 1/2000 sec and click your way all the way down to the one you want. If you are trying to take a long-exposure night shot say at 16 seconds, then you literally have to run through every other setting to get there. And some of the menus choices - like starting at a shutter speed of 1/2000 and dropping it down to 16 seconds - are on 3 different pages. When you get to the end of each page in the menu, you have an extra step. Question mark, do you want to go to the next page? (Of course) Okay, then click the "next" arrow, go to the next page of the menu and go through that page in the same way, then click the question mark again, and do it all over again on the third page of the menu.
Then suppose after you take that one shot at 16 seconds you decide you want to try another shot with a couple of seconds less shutter speed instead? Does it remember you are on 16 seconds, just one click away? Nope. You have to start all over at 1/2000 second and repeat the whole process all over again, page after page, until you finally get there.
Are you finally ready to set the third setting, Aperture? Same slow, tedious process each time. It's a terrible pain to work with.
You have to do this every single time you make a single change to one of your settings. Any attempt to make any change throws you all the way back to the original default setting for that feature every single time.
Trying to use the Kodak EasyShare Z990 as a Bridge camera in Manual Mode feels like you are trying to drive an army tank, in low gear.
5 stars for how well the camera works in Auto Mode. But 1 star for how hard it is to work with - as an actual bridge camera - in Manual Mode. Since most people here seem to be using it mostly in Auto mode, then I'll give it a 4-star rating for use as a point-and-shoot camera - only. For anything else, I simply wouldn't recommend it, unless you really need to save money, and so it's worth it to you to go through all of that cumbersome process every time you try to use it in the Manual Modes of a standard bridge camera.
URGENT UPDATE, September, 2013:
If you prefer using 2-AA batteries in a digital camera - as I do very much - then you seriously need to consider buying a Canon SX160, now, while the supplies still last. The new model SX170 runs on a Canon NB-6LH proprietary battery which costs $38 on Amazon for each spare battery, and it will only take about half as many shots per charge. The Canon SX160 is now the last remaining 2-AA battery, full-featured, full-function, compact, travel & field camera left on the entire worldwide market. When the remaining ones are gone, they are gone forever.
I have owned and used all of them from the SX100 to the SX160. I have long-considered the Canon SX100 line of cameras to be "The Best 2-AA-Battery All-Purpose Travel and Field Cameras Ever Made." I have posted 5-star reviews of both the SX150 and SX160 here on Amazon during the last two years, and I have made it abundantly clear why I feel so strongly favorable of them.
Both cameras - the SX160 and SX170 - have exactly the same features, the same functions, and the same specs - except for the batteries. Functionally they both work exactly the same, and they both produce identical quality pictures. No changes were made to either the sensor or to the DIGIC 4 image processor to bring any improvement to the final images produced by the SX170.
But it's your call.
If you like using 2-AA batteries in a full-featured, compact, travel & field digital camera, then you need to act now. As for myself, I just bought two of them. The Canon SX160 is still my number one favorite camera I have ever owned in my life, and I still plan to keep right on using it for many pleasant years yet to come.
Sincerely, and with best wishes to everyone, John AKA SLOphoto1
Tuesday, September 18, 2012 10 AM -- I bought the Canon SX160 IS today. (Early-Sale Source.) I've tested it out at home, and everything works great! Here are some observations and results.
Video Added, Friday, September 21, 2012 at 11 AM. Flyover of the Space Shuttle, almost over my house in Monterey, CA, shot with the Canon SX160 at 16X zoom using a tripod mount.
Oct. 17, 2012 Finally got my Red Canon SX160 locally from Green's Camera World here in the Del Monte Shopping Center in Monterey. Beautiful right out of the pristine box. I love it!
Oct. 25, 2012 Posted three images I recently took to the users' image gallery here with this camera. They show what this camera can do with the right adjustments in Manual Mode. (I give the exact adjustments for each one.) A Monterey Sunrise, A Blue Jay on a Wire at 16X zoom, and a Balcony View of Monterey Bay. Enjoy!
The Canon SX160IS is - in my personal opinion - the best 2-AA battery, all-purpose travel and field camera ever made. It is the latest and the best of a long line of highly dependable point-and-shoot megazoom cameras - the Canon SX100 series - which began five years ago in September 2007. With its combined features, its reliability, its versatility, and it's very economical price there is absolutely nothing else like it available today.
It is the only quality digital camera of its type left in the world that still runs on 2-AA batteries. In the world of digital cameras, it stands alone as completely unique. It is the last one its kind, and the very best one manufactured to date. And it's a Canon.
A WORD OF CAUTION: This camera is not ideal for everyone. There is no point buying something that you are not going to like. If you don't like AA batteries, then you won't like this camera. Its features probably don't outweigh its faults unless you really want to use AA batteries. It does not have a viewfinder, none of this line of cameras ever has, so if you want a viewfinder then this camera simply will not work for you. Also, for the record, this camera is not a fast-action camera. It is not the best camera for taking pictures of fast-moving children or sports action shots. Photos taken with it at higher ISOs (film speed) are pretty grainy even in good light. And the flash-recovery time is notoriously - there is no other word for it - slow! If any of this won't work for you in your own individual situation, then you really need to look elsewhere, seriously, because this camera simply will not meet your needs and will only frustrate you when you try to use it.
The SX160 has its own charm, but it's rather old-fashioned in style and a bit slow in operation. It's kind of like owning the latest version of a classic car. It feels like a classic, and after five years and six very successful models it is actually becoming a classic in its own right. If that idea appeals to you, then you will probably like the SX160 very much. For photographing things like landscapes, portraits, architecture, and pretty much anything without a lot of fast motion in it, it functions very well, and it has an excellent zoom. Realistically, you will need a tripod at times if you want to get the best quality shots with it, especially for lower-light shots, long-exposure night shots and for very precise full-telephoto shots.
If that still appeals to you, then this review of the SX160 is addressed to you.
I have owned and used all six of the cameras in this line over the years - SX100 (2007,) SX110 (2008,) SX120 (2009,) SX130 (2010,) SX150 (2011,) and now the SX160. I have also had an extra two of these cameras converted internally to shoot infrared photographs. Over the years I have used these cameras to photograph everything from brilliant outdoor landscapes to the wispy lights of the Aurora Borealis and out to some 12X images of the four moons of Jupiter (Now you can even do 16X images of them.) These cameras have shown themselves to be very versatile field cameras for me, very dependable, and have always worked out very well for me all the way around. After five years, I am very familiar with them, and I prefer them for general purpose, travel and field photography above all other cameras on the market today.
I always carry my current model of this camera with me wherever I go, and if I am on a vacation or field trip, I also carry last year's model with me as a backup camera. They produce an excellent quality image (for a small sensor) and they have all the features I personally want to do a wide range of photography. And in countless situations - particularly while traveling - I have been very, very glad that I had with me a camera that still ran on AA batteries. I always carry at least one or two extra pairs of eneloop rechargeable AAs with me, and the few times when even those ran out on me I was always able to find a pack of standard AA alkaline batteries nearby - anywhere in the world - to keep on shooting.
I shoot mostly in Manual mode, but Auto Mode also does an excellent job in selecting the proper settings for you. If I am unsure of the lighting in any one situation, I always make sure to take at least a few shots in Auto Mode myself, just in case.
The SX160 is very much like the previous model, the SX150 (which I also reviewed here at 5-stars.) I'm not going to list all the basic features about the SX160, since they are easy to find in any professional review, or from Canon's own website. But I will point out in particular what is new with the SX160, and there are some nice new features. So moving right along then...
PART 2 -- HERE'S WHAT IS NEW with the Canon SX160IS.
16 MEGAPIXEL IMAGE and 16X ZOOM: Last year's model SX150 had a 12X zoom and took a 14 megapixel image. This year's model SX160 has a 16X zoom and takes a 16 megapixel image. Most people will certainly like that better.
EXPOSURE LIVE VIEW (This is not new, but it is an important reminder): Canon cameras have something called an "Exposure Live View" on the LCD.* Other brands only have "Live View," but that's not the same thing. "Live view" simply means you see on the LCD exactly what the camera sees. "Exposure" Live View means you see on the LCD what the final photo will look like (how light or dark it will be) before you actually take the shot. The LCD lightens and darkens as you adjust the dial. If you want high definition in the shadows you simply raise the exposure. If you want high definition in clouds, then you lower the exposure. Combine the two images in Photoshop and you get an HDR photo (High Dynamic Range) with well-defined clouds together with bright colors even in the shadows. Canon LCDs make this judgement call (how much exposure?) much easier, because it is more intuitive. You can actually see a simulation of the image on the LCD before you take the actual shot.
* Technically called "exposure simulation live preview" or "exposure priority display."
IT IS MUCH, MUCH EASIER to learn how to use the Advanced Modes on a Canon camera than on any other camera, because you can see the effect of each one of the adjustments - Shutter Speed, Aperture Size and ISO (film speed) - right on the LCD as you make the changes. On other cameras without this Exposure Live View LCD feature, all individual adjustments are done completely blind to the user. You just have to "know" from experience how to make the adjustments. And that can be a long, slow, frustrating learning process for many people. With a Canon camera, it's easy.
To the best of my knowledge ONLY CANON CAMERAS have "Exposure Live View" as a standard feature (The first one on the market was the Canon PowerShot G1, I think Canon has a patent on it.) Nikon, Panasonic and Fujifilm, cameras do not, except maybe for some of their high-end models, where they probably have to pay a license fee to Canon to use it. Think about this "Exposure live view" feature on your LCD display VERY carefully. It is one of the biggest differences in deciding between buying a Canon camera, and buying anything else.
SUPERFINE JPEG COMPRESSION Option: This outstanding feature was dropped after the SX110, but has now been restored on the new SX160. JPEG compression always results in some loss of data. The 16 megapixel image taken by the SX160 would normally compress down to about a 3.8MB JPEG file image using a "Fine" compression, as on previous models. The restored "Superfine" option on the SX160 will compress that same camera image down to about a 7MB JPEG file image instead, much larger and retaining much more of the original data in the final image. (These figures are approximate and I have found in practice they can vary considerably with image complexity.) This is an important feature for getting a good quality JPEG file, so please keep it in mind.
LESS SHUTTER LAG: Shutter lag has always been a problem with this line of cameras. Canon says the shutter lag has been reduced by 46% on the new SX160, and, yes, it is noticeably faster. This is really appreciated after having lost quite a few good shots over the years to this shutter lag problem myself. I am glad they improved it, but just remember that this has been a long-standing problem with this line of cameras.
IMPROVED PROCESSING SPEED. This has also been a traditional problem with this line of cameras, and given the structure of the internal electronics, it is likely to persist. They are slow to process the image and load it onto the memory card. (Use at least a Class 6 card with the SX160.) Canon claims to have improved on this by about 20% and any improvement certainly will help. But fast-processing is simply not this camera's strong point, so just remember that, too.
LIVE VIEW CONTROL MODE: Canon has introduced a new and rather interesting type of mode on the main camera dial called "Live View Control." This mode is similar to Auto mode, but has three additional individual adjustments the user can control on variable slider bars using the right and left arrows or turning the control dial on the back of the camera. These control 1) Brightness as Dark --- Light, 2) Color as Neutral --- Vivid, and 3) Tone as Cool --- Warm. They are easy to use, and adjust in a series of distinct steps as you rotate the control dial. This is an excellent feature for the novice who wants to try some different adjustments without having to go to full Manual mode, and it makes these image adjustments right in the camera which would normally require a Photoshop-type program to adjust afterwards. Again this will be easy for the novice to use, because the Canon LCD display on the SX160 shows an image of the actual exposure adjustments being made before the shot is finally taken.
DESIGNATED VIDEO BUTTON was moved: The model SX150 introduced a designated video button, but placed it so close to the spin control dial on the back that is was pretty easy to start a movie by accident. The button has now been moved further away, and has also been recessed with a small, raised, plastic lip around it making it much less accident prone. This was a very good idea.
NO ISO LIMIT on the camera: Some of the lower-end Canon cameras have recently been subject to an unfortunate ISO 100 (film speed) limitation when shutter speeds drop below about 1 second in length, even in full Manual Mode. This can be a severe hinderance to doing things like long-exposure nighttime photography. Fortunately, Canon did not put that loathsome ISO limit on the new SX160. ....*** THANK YOU, CANON! ***
Also, many of the professional reviews, and even some conflicting data on Canon's own website indicated that the ISO 1600 (very fast film speed for shooting things like fast-moving cars and also for doing long-exposure star shots) had been eliminated. This is false. The ISO 1600 is still there on the SX160, and though it is pretty grainy it does still work well when needed, and most of the excess noise can be cleared up in Photoshop. On the lower end, the ISO 80 was eliminated on the SX160, but is was close enough to the ISO 100 that it should not matter too much except maybe in photos taken in very bright sunlight.
In closing, I hope that this review may have been helpful to you in gathering information to make your own decisions about which camera to buy for yourself. You should read as much as you can before you decide which one to buy. Whatever decision you make, it should be YOUR decision, not what I or anyone else tells you that you "ought" to prefer. Each of us has our own reasons for preferring one camera over another. May you choose the camera that best suits your own individual needs and preferences, and may you enjoy it to the fullest extent.
Best Wishes, John AKA SLOphoto1
I did have some expectations for this book, but for me personally it didn't live up to them very well. It is a long, mixed, camera tinkering "how to" book that is pretty detailed, certainly, easy in some places and fairly challenging in others. Some of the information, especially about infrared conversions is very useful and current. Some of the chapters actually get into some pretty high-level stuff that I think would simply be over the heads of many readers, admittedly me included. But other information is just mundane, some of it is pretty outdated, and in some places the book can also be a bit confusing and even tedious.
A lot of it still deals with converting film cameras. ( Despite the title, and being written in 2005, no less, it still goes on and on about converting infrared film cameras, and about where to buy "scarcer" infrared film and have it processed, even though digital infrared technology is already conceded in the book as being clearly superior. OK, whatever... ) Even the use of the term "hacking" is a bit misleading here, since it also describes things like "how to attach an external filter to your lens."
One way involves using epoxy to glue a threaded ring onto the camera, doing a similar thing to a short piece of PVC pipe on both ends, screwing a filter onto it and slipping that assembly over the lens, which is interesting - and useful perhaps if you don't ever plan on a resale of your newly-stylish, PVC-piped camera (which of course you can also show off to all of your friends, too, if you feel brave) - but I wouldn't exactly describe that sort of thing as "hacking a camera." Tinkering on a budget, yes, but not really hacking. There are some other suggestions, too.
There are 519 pages of this kind of stuff, ranging widely from the arcane and complex to the tediously mundane. It is hard to characterize this book fairly. It is a mixed batch of information that is both too simple and too advanced at the same time. But even wading through all of that, much of the digital camera information is unfortunately just a bit dated at this point.
For example, I bought this book specifically because it claimed it would show you how to convert a digital camera to be able to use an external battery pack. I am specifically interested to learn how to convert a proprietary-battery camera to be able to run on much cheaper, standardized, rechargeable AA batteries. (I am a bit of a camera "survivalist," and I think in the coming years it will be important to be able to continue to run scarcer items on simpler forms of power like standardized, rechargeable AA batteries.) Well, it does show you how to build the battery pack (not much to it except solder together a couple of wires to some parts you can easily buy at Radio Shack,) but THEN it makes the assumption that the original camera just "runs on AA batteries already."
What if it runs on the newer-style proprietary batteries? ( The author calls them "specialized" batteries back in 2005, ...quaint... ) Well, in that case there is a side note to help you out as follows:
Page 99: "NOTE: It's also possible to interface to digital cameras that use specialized batteries, though it would take more work on your part because you would have to disassemble the camera to find the power cables."
That's all is says. No photos, no diagrams, not even any words explaining how to find the power cables, what they might look like, or what to do with them once you do find them. You are on your own to figure out the rest of it. Well, that's not really very much help for anyone trying to modify virtually any point-and-shoot digital camera sold on the market today. In effect that entire chapter is rendered pretty well useless by the lack of the inclusion of that one critical piece of information, because without it there is no way for you to follow any of the other steps carefully described and try it out yourself.
If you decide to buy this book, please keep in mind that the author just assumes that the camera you will be "hacking" into runs on AA batteries, is possibly also a film camera - not digital, and nothing that has happened to digital camera technology since 2005 is going to be discussed here at all. Take it from there, and you can easily figure out which types of camera model "examples" you will be studying to try to figure out how to hack into your own digital camera to make modifications to it in the present time.
The book does have some very good, solid, useful information in it. I'll agree with that. It's not a bad place to start, and this type of information is scarce to come by. I know because I have searched for it myself. It is not something that the camera companies just give out. So in certain places it could be a very intriguing read for certain types of people.
Probably the best aspect of this book, however, is that regardless of anything else all of this is explained for someone who needs to tinker with things - if at all - only on a serious budget. It is not the Rich Man's Guide to camera modifications by any means. So in that respect it is really a pretty interesting and even a pretty challenging read.
I am somewhat satisfied with the book, and personally I will keep it and study it more. But this book is only for a pretty specialized audience. Fundamentally, many of the concepts in the book could be very useful to anyone interested in how cameras work and how to make certain kinds of modifications to them. On the other hand, if you already know that kind of information, then this book would probably be a bit too basic for you. In any case you will still probably have to update much of the information you learn from it first before you can actually apply it to your own digital camera. It is already (2012) a bit dated, and in my opinion it really is in serious need of a revised edition to bring it current.
With high expectations the Fujifilm HS30 arrived yesterday on it's first day of release. I tested it out yesterday afternoon. Today it went back to Amazon. To be specific, the actual performance of the camera did not match everything the official spec sheet said it would do. And there were a few other problems with it, too.
Part 1 - THERE IS A LIMIT ON THE ISO / SHUTTER SPEED.
Those of you who may have seen my Amazon post on the Canon SX40 will know that over the last five months and 22 pages of Comments and replies I have criticized Canon heavily for putting an unnecessary restriction on its ISO (The old-fashioned term for this was "film speed"). If you want to do low-light photography you have to be able to use a higher ISO and a slower shutter speed. That is the way it has always been for all types of cameras.
Canon had placed a new, arbitrary limit of ISO 100 on the camera (which was not on its previous model, the SX30) together with maintaining its maximum 15-second shutter speed limit. This stopped me, briefly, from doing my long-standing, nighttime photography of Monterey Bay Harbor, which sometimes required an ISO 400 with a 15-second shutter speed. There was no way for the user to bypass this limit even in Full Manual Mode.
The new Fujifilm HS30 has a similar limit, though it is not nearly as severe. To be fair, this limit on the HS30 is so slight that most people will probably never notice it at all. But for those of you who may be effected by this ISO and Shutter speed limit, here it is.
The Website makes no mention of it. Download the .pdf file for the full User Manual for the HS30, and you will see only this small notation repeated both on pages 33 and 34.
"The shutter speed is restricted depending on the ISO setting."
How much is it restricted? The user manual does not say. I called Fujifilm tech support, and they didn't even know for sure. So I tested the camera myself, and here is the ISO / shutter speed limit, exactly:
ISO....100 = 30 second shutter speed limit
ISO....200 = 15 second shutter speed limit
ISO....400 = 8 second shutter speed limit
ISO....800 = 4 second shutter speed limit
ISO..1600 = 2 second shutter speed limit
ISO..3200 = 1 second shutter speed limit
Although all of the publicity says that you can use shutter speeds "from 30 seconds through 1 / 3200 of a second," that is not quite literally true. You can only do that at ISO 100. If you try to do that at ISO 200, then the shutter speed limit is cut in half to 15 seconds. At ISO 400 it is cut in half again to 8 seconds, and so on.
Those of you who want a graphic example of what a limit on ISO means may wish to view my video I posted for the Canon SX40 here on Amazon. At ISO 400 with a 15-second shutter speed there are some beautiful nighttime colors reflected from the light of Monterey Bay Harbor. At ISO 100 with a 15-second shutter speed limit the picture is almost entirely dark. The limit on the Fujifilm HS30 at ISO 400 is only 8 seconds, very close, but not quite enough for what I personally need. If that effects you, fine, now you are aware of it. If not, then that's fine too. In which case please simply just ignore this whole part of my post as completely irrelevant to you personally.
But be aware that in some modes on the HS30 you cannot use a shutter speed of longer than one quarter of a second. That really isn't very much to work with if you are trying to do any time-exposure photography with this camera, especially nighttime long-exposures. So at least now you know.
Part 2 - THERE ARE A FEW OTHER PROBLEMS WITH IT, TOO.
Shooting in low light at dim targets in the distance is like shooting blind in the dark if you cannot see what you are shooting at. While the Fujifilm HS30 does have "live view" on the LCD, it does not have an "exposure" live view.* Live view means you see on the LCD exactly what the camera sees. "Exposure" live view means you see on the LCD what the final picture will look like (how light or dark it will be) before you actually take the shot. The LCD lightens and darkens as you adjust the dial. Canon cameras do that. Fujifilm and Nikon cameras apparently do not. (If I am wrong about this, however, then someone please correct this information for the benefit of everyone else reading this post. Thank you.)
* Technically called "exposure simulation live preview" or "exposure priority display."
Trying to line up on a distant target in low light is fairly easy with an exposure live view LCD, since it lightens as the exposure setting increases. If you want high definition in the shadows you simply raise the exposure. If you want high definition in clouds, then you lower the exposure. Combine the two images in Photoshop and you get an HDR photo (High Dynamic Range) with well defined clouds together with bright colors even in the shadows. With the Fujifilm HS30 you have to guess ahead of time, take the shot and then look at the results afterwards to see if you got it right. On a camera with an "exposure" live view you already know fairly closely ahead of time what the result will be. I personally consider "exposure live view" superior to simply "live view" on the LCD of a camera, because it is simply more intuitive when you look at the LCD and see it for yourself. It is especially important when shooting in low-light conditions since it makes it much easier just to find the actual shooting target, and is also very helpful for doing your own HDR photographs to finish yourself in Photoshop since with HDR you have to deliberately make some portion of each photo look lighter or darker in order to combine two opposites, but the judgment question will be, by how much exposure on each one?
The Red Craftsman Toolbox Test. The first poster here noted that there was some washout in the colors with his Fujifilm HS30, and I noticed a similar effect, but for me it depended on the angle of the light source. Here's how to test it for yourself. Take an American-Flag-Red Craftsman toolbox and place it near an open window. When I photographed it from the side, the color was accurate. When I faced the window and shot directly toward the light source, the colors washed out considerably, and I noticed that the toolbox had shifted to a distinctive orange-red color. A parallel test with a small Canon point-and-shoot camera (the SX150) showed no color washout and no similar color shift. Photoshop can easily adjust for this, as the first poster noted, and the HS30 photos would have required that adjustment to them, but only to the ones where the camera was pointed directly toward the light source.
Focussing Problems and Image Stabilization Problems. I had heard stories about focussing problems and image stabilization problems with Fujifilm cameras, and they all turned out to be true. I shot from a tripod, from a makeshift beanbag rest (my Filson jacket rolled up) and also from a freestanding position. The tripod shots did much better than the others by far, especially for image stabilization, but some of the others did not do very well at all, especially at much lower speeds of around one quarter of a second. With the bean bag there was some double imaging with the HS30 (which did not show up with the little Canon SX150 by comparison.) Higher shutter speeds obviously worked much better for image stabilization, but in a variety of outdoor and indoor settings I used during the afternoon of that day I just could not get the camera to focus consistently at all. Even some of the well-stabilized shots were still slightly out of focus. To be fair, the shots that were in focus were much better photos on the Fujifilm HS30. No doubt about it. Some of them were truly outstanding. But also to be honest about it, less than half of all the shots I took were very clearly in focus at all, using both manual focus and auto focus. I just couldn't seem to get it quite right.
I have heard that people who know how to adjust the focus well on a Fujifilm camera can work around this with much better results than I got. I certainly hope that is true. And the little Canon SX150 is simply no match for the Fujifilm HS30 when it is focussing well. A few of the shots with the HS30 were truly extraordinary. But I can see that learning how to focus the HS30 well and under a variety of different conditions might take some considerable practice before it was fully mastered.
In the end I decided it was just more practice than I wanted to undertake. The Fujifilm HS30 camera simply does not work well for me for doing low-light, time-exposure photography, both because of the limits on the ISO and shutter speeds, and because of the lack of an "exposure" live view on the LCD. Since that is my main interest, I decided to return it to Amazon.
If you have different interests, then the Fujifilm HS30 camera might turn out to be one of the best Bridge cameras you have ever owned in your life. It certainly has all the potential to be just that. I really do hope there are others who can benefit from this camera better than I did.
In either case at least you now have the best information about it that I can provide you from my own limited experience with it. I hope it was of help to you in eventually making your own decision about which camera to buy. Whatever you decide, it should be what you decide that you like best, not what I or anyone else tells you that you ought to prefer, because each of us has our own reasons for preferring one camera over another.
Best wishes to all, John
The Manual setting on the new SX40 has a new childproof governor on it. The SX30 did not. Try to set the ISO at 400 for a night shot, and then spin the dial towards a 15 second shutter speed. It stops it at 1 second and drops the ISO to 100. Then a message appears on the LCD which says, "ISO speed is limited due to slow shutter speed." I verified it with the Canon Tech Dept. They also verified that the previous Canon cameras DID allow full Manual control in setting both the ISO and shutter speed, but no more.
This has halted a large portion of the sunset and night photography I have been doing of the Monterey Bay Harbor for the past 2 years. It is condescending and insulting to adults in general and to long-term Canon users in particular to presume to say to us, "We think you don't know what you are doing, you must be an errant child, and we have put a childproof governor on the SX40 so that you cannot use those manual settings anymore." Obviously if we use a Manual setting it is precisely because we do know what we are doing! Canon needs to UPGRADE its firmware to make the SX40 at least as good as the SX30, not DOWNGRADE its features to make it worse.
UPDATE: Many of you have asked me for an example of nighttime time-exposure photos* of Monterey Bay Harbor for comparison. Here it is.
* [When I first made the video I did not yet understand the subtle distinction between "time-exposure" and "time-lapse" photos. The more precise term is "time-exposure," but the video still shows the less accurate term "time-lapse."]
I agree that overall the Canon SX40 is an excellent camera. I still use mine during the daytime. I am not arguing about "overall." That is not my point.
For me, personally, the SX40 has a fatal flaw, and a flaw that no one would normally expect in a camera of this caliber and price range. It won't take simple time-exposure night shots. Why not?
I had to buy an older SX30 just to "upgrade" my full use of it. If you think that having to pay twice for what should have come in one camera in the first place put me in a good mood, then you would be mistaken.
You may watch this short video, if you like, and see the evidence for yourself. If you disagree, then by all means please show me your evidence.
SECOND UPDATE: There is another limit on the SX40. This one is in plain sight and it effects everyone who wants to use this camera on a tripod. Please see Page 16 of the Comments for more details.
THIRD UPDATE: Another poster has stated the following, "Certain things in a camera are a given. 1) a true manual mode. 2) have the battery & memory card in a convenient place." This poster is absolutely right. Please see pages 17 and 18 of the Comments for more details.
FOURTH AND FINAL UPDATE: March 11, 2012; Canon's conduct of imposing this ISO limit on the SX40 in secrecy has now been fully exposed for what it is by its own corporate rival, Fujifilm. After five months of fighting against this, I have now been fully vindicated by the openness and honesty of the Fujifilm corporation. I shall now be taking my leave of you on this post and I will be returning to my former routine of enjoying my own photography. See Page 22 of the Comments section for details.
AFTERMATH UPDATE: March 31, 2012; I have come to the conclusion that the Canon SX40 is like a thoroughbred race horse penned up in a stable made for a dimwitted donkey. It is a camera with a tremendous potential over a wide range of photographic interests that is being held trapped inside a childproof box. After having tested the camera myself with CHDK - a form of public, hacker software for the camera, available for free download on the internet - I can see that the ISO limit is only a very small part overall of what is actually being limited. When you take those limits off of it by using CHDK, what the SX40 camera really can do is absolutely staggering.
I don't like having to resort to a hacker program like CHDK to get the settings I want with the SX40. Unfortunately, it seems that CHDK is simply "the only game in town" if you want to have the freedom to use the Canon SX40 to its fullest potential. Please see page 25 of the Comments for further details.
Best Wishes to All, and to All a Goodnight, John