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Pentax EI C90 3 Megapixels and Smaller
Submitted by Mike a Casual
Date Reviewed: November 17, 2002
This is an awesome camera. This is my first digital camera and I am very happy. The picture quality is very good. I you are like me and want to view your pictures in a normal format, like 4x6 or 5x7, then this camera is good. If you like seeing your pictures very big, then you will notice the resoloution starts to get worse.
Submitted by Rob Bentz a Intermediate from Michigan
Date Reviewed: August 27, 1999
I purchased this digi-cam through onsale.com for approximately $300. I was expecting a great camara for the low price, but I ended up having many problems. First, I had to return the camara after about 3 months of use because the camara stopped working, Pentax warranty dept. said I had a faulty camara, so they replaced it. It took about 3-4 weeks though.Second, I had trouble loading the pictures from my camara to the PC. The software supplied is horrible and I would highly reccomend using an alternate brand. The transfer system is very slow and kicks you out on while transferring to the PC. I returned it to Pentax a second time-thinking it was "faulty" again, but they said it was fine. The warranty dept. digital camara supervisor sent me an email on how to fix these slow and crashing transfer problems, but none worked. I had tried to get my money back from Pentax, but they didn't cover that because I bought it through Onsale. I had to eventually buy a Kodak transfer unit ($150) w/a PC card because the memory on the camara itself will only hold about 18 pics.Third, the resolution is very poor. I have to constantly alter the brightness and contrast in each picture.The only good thing is that it is small and you can keep it in your pocket on short trips.This camara has too many problems, I suggest on buying a reliable model (Sony), it will be worth paying a little more it too.
Submitted by Simon Green a Intermediate from Australia
Date Reviewed: April 24, 1999
I've found this camera to have a fairly narrow dynamic range, which makes photography a challenge under conditions of high contrast; bright areas become washed out, while dark areas tend to end up black. Gamma correction and fiddling with the HSV can help sometimes here.It also has trouble estimating the exposure, so I usually have to set it manually. This tends to agravate the problem mentioned above.I also have difficulties using the serial link at 115k on my laptop, generally it bombs out unexpectedly at this speed. I leave it set to 57600.That said, it's very useful. I travel for work occasionally, and email pictures home.
Submitted by Adisak Pochanayon a Intermediate from Hoffman Estates, IL
Date Reviewed: August 19, 1998
I purchased this camera inexpensively ($249) from onsale.com. The camera takes fairly nice photos which are adequate for web publishing. With the standard quality, you can take around 20 decent pictures. They are definitely lower quality than taking them with a 35mm and scanning the results. In order to get higher quality, you have to have a memory card (20MB recommended) since a single fine picture pretty much takes up the entire available RAM on the camera.Pros:+ You can use the LCD as a view finder. + The camera portion detaches for a small portable camera. + Instant playback and erasing of images with LCD. + Better picture quality than most low-end digital cameras (low-end = 640x480 or lower). + Built-in flash for pictures indoors.Cons:- Not megapixel quality. - Need memory card to take multiple "fine" pictures. - 5-10 second wait between pictures (while compressing).
Submitted by Steve Sanders a Expert from Clearwater, FL
Date Reviewed: January 21, 1998
Here's another example of what I am now calling "Digital Disappointment Syndrome." The Pentax EI-C90 digital camera on the outside looks to be a great camera. It has both an optical viewfinder and a 2" TFT color LCD playback screen/viewfinder unit that is detachable. The camera may be used without the LCD monitor as both units have their own power sources. The EI-C90 camera runs on two CR-2 3v lithium batteries with a claimed life of about 700 exposures without using the flash. The EI-L90 LCD color monitor is powered by four standard AA-type batteries, these can be alkaline, lithium, NiCd or NiMH rechargables, the latter being preferred for longest operating life and the best bang for the buck.When the LCD monitor is docked with the camera the power to run both the camera and the monitor comes from the monitor's AA-cell batteries. Pentax is the only camera maker yet that has thoughtfully included the AC power supply with the camera package instead of making it a $30-50 option - this is indeed a nice touch. They also include two CR-2 lithium batteries and four alkaline AA batteries but as can be expected, the alkaline batteries don't last very long before needing to be replaced.The EI-C90 camera itself when undocked from the color monitor is about the same thickness and length of a pack of cigarettes, it's about 20% wider and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. It comes with 2MB of internal flash memory that can take 18 "normal" mode or 1 "fine" mode image in a resolution of 768x560 pixels. The normal mode are standard JPG images with a quality factor of 84 (according to ThumbsPlus) that can range in actual file size from a low of about 30K up to 110K. Fine mode are uncompressed TIFF images that generally average about 1.3MB in size.To extend your picture taking capabilities Pentax has designed the EI-C90 to use standard Type II ATA flash memory cards that are readily available in sizes from 2MB to 40MB. I used my 10MB SanDisk Compact Flash card mounted in the full-size PCMCIA adapter and this allows the camera to take 108 normal mode or 8 fine mode images.The EI-C90 has a fixed-focus lens that is the equivalent of a 50mm normal lens on a 35mm camera. It does not require any adjustments to shoot pictures from 3 feet to infinity and has a macro setting for shooting from 3 feet down to 0.8 inches. When in macro mode you have to use the LCD monitor to avoid the usual problem of parallax between the taking lens and the optical finder which are mounted as physically close to each other as possible. More importantly the LCD monitor is used for critical focusing in macro mode which is accomplished by sliding the macro/normal lever up and down. Even though the color LCD is fairly big at 2-inches it is still somewhat difficult to tell if the camera is properly focused or not. The camera's flash unit is automatically disabled as soon as you switch it into macro mode so you need plenty of light and a tripod is highly recommended.The EI-C90 is rated at ISO 200 which is fairly fast for a digital camera, most are only rated at ISO 100. It is capable of taking indoor shots without the flash but these must be done on a tripod to avoid blurring due to camera movement. The lens aperture is fixed, the camera adjusts the exposure by changing shutter speeds from 1/4 to 1/4,000 of a second. Most of my attempts to take non-flash pictures in a well-lit indoor environment yielded blurry images no matter how steady I held the camera. Flash shots tend to be consistently 1 to 2 stops underexposed when taken within the camera's rated flash range of up to 9 feet. You can compensate for this by setting the EV override to +1.5 or +2.0. Outdoor exposures were almost always "on the money" and the camera's white balance works very well.The Pentax is much like my Ricoh RDC-2 and other digicams I have used with an LCD monitor and NTSC video-out capability. The pictures when viewed on the camera's LCD look properly exposed and very colorful but when these same images are viewed on a computer monitor it is a different story. Most need to be brightened and further color-corrected before they look the way they are supposed to look. The Pentax does NOT show the picture you have taken on the LCD while it is being stored like most other cameras. To see an immediate playback you need to go into playback mode, press the down arrow button to go to the last picture stored and then press the shutter button. The LCD monitor can be used as a preview-viewfinder in both normal and macro modes however.(The Ricoh RDC-2 is the best camera I've used so far for anyone who needs to snap pictures in the field and then show them later on a TV screen. It loads the pictures quickly and the optional infrared remote control is absolutely wonderful for controlling playback from across the room. More digicam makers need to include the option of an IR remote!)Unfortunately the bottom line with any digital camera is the final image and I'm sorry to report that the EI-C90's image quality is not very good. Even though its image resolution is higher than most of the point-n-shoot 640x480 digital cameras it is not very detailed. There is considerable compression artifacts visible and angled lines tend to be stair-stepped. Printing even the uncompressed 1.3MB TIFF images on my Epson Stylus Photo printer looked pretty pixelly and blotchy at anything bigger than 3.5 x 5 inches. On the computer screen the images look their best when reduced 50% and would be appropriate for email attachments or web page use.Strangely I saw very little difference between the normal mode JPG images and the uncompressed TIFF images. The big difference is the size of the files and certainly not worth wasting the space on your memory card...This is the first camera I have owned since my Kodak DC-40 (almost two years ago) that uses a fixed-focus lens, unless I see another one that works as well as the old DC-40 it will be the last. To be completely honest, the DC-40 takes better quality pictures than the EI-C90 and can be bought now for about 1/3 the cost. The Kodak DC-50 also takes a better picture, has an auto-focusing 3:1 zoom lens and costs $150 less than the Pentax. Neither of these Kodak cameras have an LCD monitor but the bottom line is the picture quality and the Pentax doesn't have it. I wondered why they didn't have any sample images online at their web site and now I think it is because they are too ashamed to post them.The camera controls are well marked and easy to operate without having to constantly refer to the manual or do any kind of "double pushing" to activate secondary functions. Without the LCD monitor attached you can easily slip the camera in your pocket and forget you even have it, it's very small and extremely lightweight. I have to give this digital camera a solid "two thumbs down" and hope that Pentax can do better with their next digital offering. The suggested retail price is $915 but I bought it at Camera World of Oregon for $599. For the about the same price you can buy the Olympus D-320L, it takes excellent quality pictures and has both an optical viewfinder and a color TFT LCD monitor.Steve Sanders
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