December 12, 2005

Sweet Digital Camera Helps Get The Dad's Job Done

fuji_e550.jpgActually, my wife got it this summer, so I guess it's ideal for parents, but let's face it: more often than not, dads are still the Designated Photographer. The Fujifilm FinePix E550 is an excellent digital camera, but not just because it's 6.3 megapixels or because the screen is so gigantic.

The Fuji has two features that solve the most annoying problem taking pictures of a kid: actually getting the shot of whatever cutesy look or trick made you pull the camera out in the first place.

First, the shutter lag for most non-SLR digital cameras is so slow, by the time the picture actually snaps, the kid's not making that face anymore. The E550's shutter lag, though, is miniscule. Compared to our Elph, it practically feels instantaneous. And the interval between consecutive shots is totally decent, too. [The specs say 1.0 second. I don't think it's quite that quick, but still. Now you'll be able to shoot thousands of pictures in an afternoon instead of just hundreds. Then you can burn'em all and let grandpa sort'em out.]

The other strength is shooting videos. Unlike most digitals which only allow 8 or 15 or 30 seconds/clip--and whatever the number is, it's always cuts off two seconds too soon--the E550 lets you shoot continuously, for as long as your memory holds out. Now if you miss the kid saying "Go Sox!" or whatever it'll only be because you were too impatient.

Back in the summer when we got this camera, it was a deal at $350. Now it's even cheaper; Amazon's got it for $249.

Does that mean it's becoming obsolete and will be soon be pushed aside by a new It-camera like, say, this little-known Lumix (Panasonic) hybrid SLR with an insane Leica lens and image stabilization that is currently the $350 pocket camera of choice among "silicon valley billionaire gadget freaks"? Only if you're the kind of guy who outgrows cameras the way his kid outgrows pajamas.

Check out the Fujifilm Finepix E550 6.3MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Zoom, currently $249.88 at Amazon [amazon]
Lumix FZ5: Ultra sharp, bargain-priced digital camera [cool tools]
Check out the Lumix FZ5, $349 at Amazon [amazon]

[1/11/06 update: quite a few people have bought the Fuji from Amazon since posting this, which I take to be a good thing; but someone just returned one today, too. Of course, I never know who buys what, just what gets bought. But if you have tried the Fuji and found it lacking for some reason, please feel free to share your experience below. Don't want to lead people astray just so I can make a quick $3.]


If I had one piece of camera advice for new parents to give (and I have given it), is, unless you need flash (bah, I never use flash), burst mode shooting with a digital camera is a MUST... especially once the little one starts walking (since the time between learning to walk and desiring to run for kids is about 45 seconds).

Of the 5 pictures I take in burst, on average, about .8 turn out good. There is the rare time when I will get 3 or 4 of them that turn out good...

Forget that FZ5, unless you are a billionaire gadget freak. Get the Lumix FX7S. It's tiny, fast, has a giant screen and Leica lens. I have it and love it.

[kk seems to favor the larger form factor for stability, but the appeal of a true pocket-sized camera is undeniable. Especially if it has a Leica lens and image stabilization. -ed.]

You're treading in deep water here. I started off with an ELPH, moved up to the G5 and then went off the deep end with a DSLR. Now it's lenses, battery grips, flash, bags, monopods ... If you thought strollers could satisfy cool gear lust you ain't seen nothin yet. Oh, and the pictures you get of your kid from a DSLR (and lots of practice) make the digicam shots look like cuniform etchings on clay tablets. You have been warned.

BTW - Why did Maclaren discontinue my killer MAC 3? I gotta get the carry cot attachment for #2 before they're all gone.


We bought a Lumix LC-80 after Christmas last year in anticipation of the kid... Panasonic cameras are absolutely the fastest digital cameras I've ever dealt with on the consumer side. Start up time is negligible, burst mode is super fast, there's no lag before shots...

My only regret is buying it before the image stabilization models came out...

That's the camera I bought last year and I can't stand it. I went back to my good ol' Fuji Finepix4700 zoom found on e-bay for $60.00.

Hey Jenny, are you interested in getting rid of it? Shoot me an email if you haven't already! :)

Awesome! That's the camera I've been toting around for the last year (you can see my photo site that's linked from my name -- all the photos were taken wiht the E550). I swear by Fuji cameras for the very reason that you mentioned: miniscule shutter lag. The E550 takes awesome pics and unless you plan on having your point-and-shoot photos in a magazine, 6 megapixels is more than you'll ever need. Plus it's totally pocket-able.

Fuji's rule.

Yup, same as Chris...went from an ELPH then moved to the DSLR--Canon 20D. Trying to convince my wife that I *need* those $1000+ lenses!

I think the image stabilization is overrated. You end up with slow shutter times, which means blurred photos, which means IS is not so hot. You need a D50 etc... This will let you shoot at 1600 ISO and still get nice shots, instead of shooting at ISO 50 and getting blurry crap. Flashes are for newspaper photographers.

We got a Panasonic DMC-LZ2 and it's great ! 5mp, 6x optical zoom, 2" LCD screen (but no optical viewfinder), decent flash, anti-shake stabilizer, short lag time, takes only 2 AA batteries, very easy controls and screen interface all in a compact handsome package. For low low price of C$430.

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