film advanced

thoughts & research into film shooting and processing.

$5 vs $1400 Point and Shoot-Out

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Last week I was exploring Wanhua, the old part of Taipei and found a whole lot of street peddlers. One of them was selling this camera, at the bargain price of $200 NTD (About $5US). I bought two AA batteries to test it, it worked, was clean and so I promptly purchased it.

This camera has my favorite kind of operation- point and shoot with a bright flash and f2.8 35mm lens. Everything about this camera is fast- the pop up flash charges in 2 seconds and kicks like a mule, the film drive is continuous and the f2.8 lens means you can shoot in all but the most difficult light. And as one of the cheapest camera’s I have ever bought, it contrasted nicely to Anna’s top of the range Contax T3 (estimated value $1400AUD) in terms of features. It had the same focal length and f stop, so I wanted to see just how the two compared against each other.

I will first post all the comparison images below as full size, and if you want to, you can play a guessing game below:

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From a sample of 973 volunteers, only 484 were able to identify which photos were taken by the $5 dollar camera over the $1400 one. Here are the results graphed:

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Before I get into discussing these results, I have a disclaimer: this a ballpark comparison, not a scientific test. I didn’t use the same film in both cameras. My Minolta was loaded with Lomography 400 and the Contax had Fuji Color 200 in it. They are however, both consumer grade films, so the difference between them would be minimal, especially since they were both in their use by date and had been refrigerated since purchase. This was mostly about the lens sharpness- the thing that Zeiss lenses are famous for; we are not really looking at the way the colour is rendered or in grain detail.

And judging from that criteria the Contax looks better, but not THAT much better. Perhaps under a higher resolution scan the difference in sharpness might be more apparent, but for my purposes, the Minolta is more than serviceable for large prints. Also, and this might be blasphemous to say, but in just using the cameras I much prefer the Minolta. It’s simpler to use, with a flash that you pop up when you want it and push it down when you don’t - the Contax seems to have a mind of it’s own when it comes to firing the automatic flash. The Contax’s focusing is far slower and also, if I dropped the Minolta on the road (which I already have once) it isn’t a total disaster if it doesn’t survive the fall.

James Cater