How we test digital cameras

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05.Ease of use

Ease of use is evaluated by five people, at least three of whom have some formal photographic training. Scores range through a five point scale from bad to very good. This section of the test is broken into the following:

Manuals

The printed documentation and the manuals on CD-ROM supplied are evaluated for the following:

  • Complete documentation with detailed explanations and examples for the use of the camera?
  • Appearance, paper quality, readability of text and sketches etc..
  • Does the manual correspond to the delivered camera, its structure, sufficient and easily understood content, are technical expressions explained for 'non experts'?
  • Are there safety hints for electrical danger or damages by static discharge?
  • Are there helpful hints in case of malfunction?
  • Quality of explanations for the use of digital cameras in general and the use of the camera itself.
  • Quality of the description for connecting to a PC and file transfer.
  • Is there a table of contents or equivalent available?
  • Are there hints for the care of rechargeable batteries?

Shutter delay

All the cameShutter delay triggerras functions are set to automatic and the lens focused at a target at 10 metres. Then, with the camera positioned one metre from a stop watch, the shutter release button is pressed in one motion and the time it takes for the shutter to open is measured. A device is used to start the stopwatch at the instant the shutter is pressed and the resulting image shows how far the watch had progressed before the image was captured. We then repeat this process with the target set to one metre to help assess the cameras ability to cope with different circumstances. This whole process is repeated 10 times per camera and the results are averaged.

High end cameras such as SLRs may have a choice of phase detection or contrast detection autofocus depending on their mode (usually LiveView for the latter). Where this option is available the test is carried out in both modes.

Camera ready for operation

The camera is switched off for at least one minute. Then we measure the time it takes before the first picture can be taken. The monitor is on and has to preview the live scene before the release button is operated.

Picture taking speed (single shooting mode)

We measure the time taken from pressing the shutter release to take a picture until the camera indicates it's ready to take next picture. It's set to its highest quality setting with the flash off.

Picture sequence speed (continuous shooting mode)

Using a consistent normal illumination, with the camera set at medium focal length, a subject at three metres and the flash off we measure:
a) the number of pictures / sec or the shortest possible time interval between 2 pictures.
b) number of pictures till the buffer is full.

Inserting and removing memory card

The insertion and the removal of the memory cards is evaluated for: Battery_SDcard
• How easy is it to grip when inserted?
• Is the eject button accessible and easy to use?
• Is there a clear indication of which way/side the memory card should be inserted?
• Does the card compartment have a cover and is it easy to open?

Release button

Is the release button easy to handle? Does it need much force to depress (if it's too stiff there's a danger of moving the camera while releasing)? Is there a clear indication when the shutter releases?

Autofocus

We give a rating for the quality of the feedback of the toggle point when using the focus lock by half pressing the shutter release.

Manual focusing

How easy is it to use the focus adjustment in manual mode? Are there easily readable scales or other information aids for determining the object distance?

Zooming

We give a rating for the adjustment of the optical zoom control, speed, responsiveness, number of steps and precision.

Battery change and control of the remaining power

We check how easy it is to change the battery and what indications there are when the battery is getting low.

Lens Change

We check for precision, mechanical play and friction when changing larger and smaller lenses.

Video Recording

We rate the following:
• How the device fits into the hand and its comfort for taking video
• Delay of video recording starting after pressing the record button
• Feedback during video take
• Control of the zoom
• Control of the record button
• Control of other functions such as focusing

Video playback

We rate the following:
• Access of playback, pause and stop function
• Possibility of fast forward and rewind
• Video clip selection (including sorting, searching and filtering)

 

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