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General Electric continue to expand their range of digital compacts with the E840s (the 's' standing for slim).
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GE E840s: Specification
- Zoom: 4x optical
- Resolution: 8Mp
- Sensor size:1/2.5in
- Sensor type:CCD
- Image size: 3264x2448
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO80-1600
- Storage:SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Single, multi, face detection
- Normal focusing: 60cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 6cm-infinity
- Metering types: AiAE, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 4sec-1/2000sec
- Flash: Built-in
- Monitor: 2.7in LCD
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 95.7x56x21mm
- Weight: 95g
The basic features are 8Mp resolution, 4x optical zoom and a 2.7in LCD and prices for this start at around £109. The Olympus Mju 1040 costs around the same but has a smaller zoom. It does have a higher 10Mp and the same size monitor.
Alternatively, the Casio Exilim EX-Z85 at £112 offers 9Mp, a lower 3x optical zoom and a slightly smaller 2.6in LCD screen.
GE E840s: Features
With a smooth, curved edge leading to a smooth front and 4x optical zoom lens, the GE E840s looks similar to some of the Fujifilm FinePix models such as the F40fd. The fancy GE logo gives you a reminder of the company's heritage and at first I thought they'd ditched the modern blocky font that accompanies other models in the range. That is until I peeled off the advertisement on the front of the camera and lo and behold.
The lens is a three barrelled telescopic type which sits almost flush with the rest of the body accentuating the curve of the edges that roll over the top plate to the back. The only things to break up the top are the indented power button which is designed to avoid accidental turning off, the shutter release and zoom rocker.
On the back, the 2.7in LCD screen takes up the majority of space but down the right side are some function buttons for accessing features such as face detection or the main menu. There's also a command dial and D-pad accompanying the buttons which are dedicated to quick access features such as shooting modes and scenes or controlling the flash, macro, self timer and exposure compensation.
A function button in the middle of the D-pad gives faster access to white balance, sensitivity, resolution, quality and colour settings. These colour settings are quite common on compacts around this specification and lower. The only one that has any real value is the vivid mode as it boosts the colours which can make some scenes look awesome. However, the black & white and sepia modes are just there to make up the numbers and have no real power of making an image look good.
Switching between modes on the command dial will determine exactly what you're allowed to do in the menu systems. For example, in auto mode you're only allowed to adjust the resolution in the function menu while changing it to manual will open up the rest of the options.
There are also some other shooting options to have a bit of fun with such as panoramic mode which uses an in built stitching program, portrait mode, video and scene modes.
Interestingly, the scene mode offers up some decent options on top of the usual suspects. These include museum, night landscapes, glass (for use in areas such as aquariums) and plant mode which boosts the green in the shot. You still get sports, kids, beach & snow and sunset modes as well as landscape, fireworks and night portrait modes too.
GE E840s: Build and handling
From the light weight of the camera, I get the feeling that it's primarily made of plastic but it's difficult to tell through feeling the casing as it's covered in that clever paint that makes it feel metal. However, tapping it does sound tinny. Further investigation on the GE website confirms that the E series of cameras are made of metal.
It's well thought out in design with buttons and dials having enough personal space to feel comfortable in. The dials sit just over the edge of the camera so they can be operated easily by your thumb.
I like the build quality of other areas such as the lens. It's a GE aspherical lens which is made by GE in their own production facility and the motors that power it are fast and quiet.
GE E840s: Performance
The GE website claims that the E840s has a start up time of 1.5sec and for the large part, it's true. However, it doesn't include set up time for the camera to be able to start taking photographs. That takes a little over two seconds due to the GE welcome screen getting in the way.
It takes around another second to focus and take a picture which isn't the slowest camera I've seen. In fact the more I play with the GE E840s, the more impressed I am by its features and performance.
I managed five shots in the continuous shooting mode in five seconds before the buffer was full. However as this is a ten second test, I had to recycle and start shooting again. Unfortunately the camera hadn't downloaded the previous images before the time was up. This is one of the main problems with the E840s, it takes so long to download or flick between record and playback.
The skin tone may be a little on the pink side but apart from that, the earth colours are rich and the mono tones are balanced.
The portrait images were taken in natural light inside and have a really unusual finish to them. I boosted the exposure in photoshop to illustrate detail and while the skin tone has a pinkish cast to it, the background has a cooler blue cast.
Using the flash has balanced the cast out but is in fear of bleaching near points such as the forehead, cheeks and nose. A minimal shadow has been given dsepite the flash being further away from the lens than I normally see on a compact.
A mixed bag of colours makes up the standard portrait shot.
Adding flash settles the colour cast but borders on being too harsh.
It was the day before the bad snow came when I took the landscape pictures and this is a light dusting in comparison.
The mistiness appears to be glare from the sky and could be reflecting off the floor. Because it's a dull day, the camera has upped the ISO and noise is evident in the darker areas.
The lack of contrast doesn't help me determine the scale of noise fringing around the branches in the top left corner. In that area, there's a lot of colour invasion from noise so I can't make an accurate analysis. However, luckily there's a hint of it on the lower part of the white bars andI can see that there's quite a bit. This would be exacerbated in bright sunlight.
I took the opportunity of the snow to see if the white balance would cope with the white on the floor. It didn't and instead gave the usual blue cast associated with natural light. In the manual mode you can choose manual white balance in the function menu and by pointing it at a patch of snow and pressing menu, you can get the white the correct cast. I found that a couple of times, the image came out green but resampling the same patch of white balanced it on the second attempt.
For the macro shot, I selected macro and the camera has not only used a nice slow ISO rating but has also selected a wide aperture to give maximum depth of field for this type of image. Only a thin band across the centre of the frame is in focus meaning the eye is drawn to that point.
GE E840s: Focus and metering
Luckily the E840s has a manual mode as it gives you a lot more scope for being creative with your photography. Sticking it in auto (the red camera) will block your attempts at changing the focus options in the menu but if you switch to manual (red camera with an M) you can change the first option in the main menu between single and multi AF modes.
Face detection has its own dedicated button on the back of the camera and works by looking for eyes and a mouth in the frame. It then locks onto that pattern and follows it around the frame if the face or you move. It will also catch onto faces in pictures or statues if the features are defined enough, not that it's much of a problem.
The camera then uses a series of equations to work out the best exposure to get all faces in focus and exposed properly.
In the main menu below the AF assist beam option are the metering options. You have three to choose from and the default is AiAE (Artificial intelligence Auto Exposure) which will work out the best exposure for each shot. In manual mode you can also choose between centre-weighted and spot metering.
Centre-weighted metering takes a general reading from the main area of the frame giving more priority (or weight) to the middle. In contrast, spot metering reads only from a tiny percentage of the centre of the frame(usually around 2-3%) and ignores everything else.
This can lead to quite interesting results so it's best to use this when you have time to experiment.
GE E840s: Noise test
A small sensor has produced noise at all levels of ISO ratings which is unfortunate because I'm starting to get fond of the camera's features and performance in other areas.
Colour invasion is aggressive even at low ratings such as ISO100 and by ISO400 the detail in the petals has started to diminish. Noise control is working overtime to sort this problme out and that's where the blurry smoothness of the images comes from.
It can't prevent the artefacts at ISO1600 though and the image succumbs to noise even more so.
The ISO80 test.
The ISO1600 test.
GE E840s: Verdict
The more I used the GE E840s, the more impressed I was with it. For just over £100, the build quality and performance are pretty good and while it may not have as many features as some other compacts, they're still pretty useful.
It has a similar set of features as the E1050 TW I reviewed sharing the same sensitivity rating, metering modes and close focusing.
Noise is worse on this than it was on the E1050 TW but it does have a smaller sensor which won't help. I think if they can address this problem and get a better noise reduction facility installed, it'll be a formidable range of cameras.
I'm beginning to really like the GE cameras and I'm looking forward to seeing how the higher specification models fare. If you like your cameras cheap with some decent features and a good build quality then take a look at this.
GE E840s: Plus points
Good build quality
Easy to use
Decent features for the price
GE E840s: Minus points
White balance can struggle in normal situations
Prices online vary but balance out at around £109. Take a look at the GE website for more details.