Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mystery Camera Review- Series 1

Mystery Camera Review- Series 1
December 2017, Carl Garrard

MCR #1: This review is the first in a series of a new type of camera review (we will do lenses too) wherein I'll discuss only the image quality, usability, and some key features of the camera. There will be enough information in the review that you'll probably end up being able to discern the product name eventually, but the whole point here is solely on what the image quality can look like and how much I enjoy using the camera. Images shared in this review will be screen shots only from my 1080p HD monitor (no exif peeking!). It is not a challenge to guess the type of camera, but rather to see what can be done with the camera. Today, we have so many cameras available that produce excellent image quality, it is simply time to focus on how intuitive and fun a camera can be to use. No, the reflected image isn't the camera I used in this article, the fuzzy squarish thing around it, is.

MCR #1 Shooting:

Another first here, is that it is the very first camera review that I've completed in which Raw recording is not available in the camera (tis a hint). This wasn't intentional. It simply was a compelling model and a great subject for this kind of review. I will tell you this much about it though: It's digital, its small enough to fit in a pocket, it caters to beginner to mid level enthusiast photographers, and has a very usable zoom range. I purchased it in like new condition for about $120.00 on Amazon (which isn't close to its initial retail price). It is a camera that was released in the last decade from a popular camera manufacturer. Personally of note, this camera completely escaped my radar of press releases (I didn't know it even existed), and I was surprised to find out that this model existed at all. I was certain at first that it had raw capability, but it did not. It piqued my interest and I thought, why not do a review of a mystery camera. And thus here we are.

It's good to slow down and smell the roses, but there's no stopping in life.

I like to have a camera with me all the time. When I'm driving, hiking, biking, going out on the town, to a friends house, you name it. That, is what our mobile phones do for most of us these days. But I prefer to have more control over the photographic process and mobile phones are still very limited in features, control, and image quality in general. So when I'm not making a dedicated photo outing with larger camera equipment, I prefer to have a small, light, and capable compact camera with me at all times. The more control the camera gives me, the better. There are quite a few excellent sub-compact cameras out there that fit in a pocket, so any legitimate photographer has no valid excuse not to carry a camera alongside a mobile phone. The more you practice, the better you are. That's my rule, and my discipline. But honestly, I just like making images.

It's okay to reflect on the past, but don't put too much stock into the future either. Live in the framework of  'now' and you are likely to be most happy.

This camera is really light, and such, is wonderful as a companion. The battery life is enough to shoot a full day with if you manage it right. Shooting one handed is a  breeze, and there is a front ring that allows me to hold it with both hands if needed. On the wide end, its got a nice bright aperture for more low light shots, but the long end is only so so, better for day light photography. The screen is crisp and bright and detailed, and it even has wifi so I can share images I make with it to friends or family pretty much immediately.

Afterall, aren't we all just another unique brick in the wall?

What I like is that it uses an old fashioned CCD sensor, vs. CMOS. CCD tends to have a signature look all its own, and there are enough adjustments available to the Jpegs in the camera that allow me to get the most out of them (allows for less artificial sharpening, or noise reduction, or too much contrast for example). If raw isn't available, I like to at least have control over the Jpeg output from the camera as much as possible. So basically I'm saying that what is coming out of the camera I'm liking. I tend to back off sharpening and noise reduction for Jpegs all the way, preferring a more natural and untouched look to my images as possible. If I want to add some sharpening later, I will. I reduce contrast a bit too, to help preserve highlights, and later bring them up as needed.

Life is full of new little details everywhere, if you are willing to look closely. It's never boring, but we all can be from time to time.

The CCD look is there. Of the two types of sensors, CCD retains more of the qualities of film that photographers tend to like than CMOS seems too. With CCD, there's a more organic look to the grain and color profile in general. To many it may be missed, for the detail oriented, we definitely see it. I've reviewed so many cameras with both kinds of sensors, and CCD is definitely the less clinical looking output of the two. Organic is the word, and my personal preference (although Fujifilm seems to do magic with their CMOS Trans X sensors).

Sometimes less is more. In fact, most of the time it really is. Just like monochrome.

One handed shooting with this camera is a breeze. I prefer to shoot one handed with compacts so this is a good thing. Auto focus is fast and accurate too which helps, and makes for quick snaps when needed. Sometimes I like to per-visualize and create an outcome, and other times I like to capture a scene just as it is. So in this respect the camera works great. It's quick to be ready when I turn it on, and that's also a major plus. When I need to get into the menu's, it's well organized and easy to navigate. I find it to be a nice companion for travel, or anytime.

Or sometimes color is better. Kodachrome, it gives us those nice bright colors.

There is something very free about a simple camera and shooting with Jpegs only. I paid more attention to exposure and settings simply because I wanted the best outcome from the camera, but considering all things said and done, it did very well! When I started in digital photography, that is all I saved my images with, a Jpeg file. Doing this review brought me back to those more simple times. There's good things about this kind of shooting, and of course, drawbacks too. But for this project, it was simply .... perfect.

I have nothing profound to add to this picture. I just like shapes against the sky.

Not that I personally needed a reminder, but photography large in part should be about the joy of making the photograph. Sometimes thinking too much about your equipment really ruins the experience. This camera was simple enough to operate, but I had enough control over the process to make a lot of decisions in the outcome. I can't say that for mobile phones at all. They are snapshot devices, not photographic devices. Photography is more than snap shooting, and sometimes its not. But with a camera, you at least have a choice.

I wonder how many of these colorful sunsets the tree in this image has seen?

MCR #1: Concluding

This was a fun, and quick project. The camera performed pretty much flawlessly. Image quality was more than adequate for this article and if I need to make some prints, they will do just nicely up to 11x14". I shouldn't need to remind readers that obsessing about your equipment won't get you far if you want to express yourself, no matter what it is you want to share or convey, or create. We live in a time where there is more photography equipment available for unheard of low prices than we will ever need. Of course the industry needs people to buy new things to sustain itself, but it will balance itself out no matter how much new products are pushed on you. Get a camera, new or old, and go have fun. Don't obsess about specifications, work with what you have after you've made your best decision. It's a lot like having a relationship with someone, if you think about it.

If you want to know what camera I used, make a guess in the comments section. Participate a little, it will  be fun :). This is my last article this year. 2017 has been a roller coaster unlike I've ever experienced. I'm grateful for to be alive, healthy, and surrounded by the people I love that are still with us. For those that have passed on, you are in my heart always.  Happy New Year to everyone, lets hope 2018 is better than ever.

Stay focused.


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I leave you with this image. Keep the fire burning inside you, always.


  1. we need more photography articles like this, if photography is going to survive the new age

  2. I'm not an avid photography, if anything, I find photography another means to create or tell a story. I learned more about the technical aspect of photography in this article than I have in any previous articles I've read. I think it's the honesty, the genuine excitement and inspiration that the project as evoked. I'm looking forward to the next "mystery" review. Well done!

  3. Thanks to the both of you!!! glad you enjoyed it, will do more! :)

  4. Canon PowerShot S200? ;o)

  5. Winner. Are you psychic? Care to reveal your identity? :)

    1. you just gave enough hints: no raw (yes, S110 and S120 both have it, right? ;o) ), bright on the wide end, front ring...
      I'm from Europe, not much of a photographer myself but I like the technology behind it and I've enjoyed your articles since the alphamount ;o)