I have owned the Epson 3100Z for 3 months with little use of it. In comparison to my Olympus 2020 and 2100, initially the results of the 3100 seemed great. Recently I took my Epson 3100 to the Detroit Auto Show. I took about 80 shots (most with flash). 40% of these shots are out of focus. I had the camera set to auto with the onboard flash used.
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Re: 3100Z Focus Problems
Re you sure the out of focus condition is due to the actually focus or do to motion blur? I think the 3100Z in auto and flash on will set the shutter speed fairly low like 1/30th of a second for wide angle and 1/90th for full telephoto. This may not be fast enough to avoid motion blur. I would suggest using manual mode and shutter priority and set the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second. This won't effect the flash output but will reduce the amount of ambient light being captured which could cause long range shots to become darker in the distance. Name of the game, don't be afraid to take it off auto mode and experiment with manual setting.
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I had one of these cameras, and all I can say isd that it was a joy in every respect. Fast accurate focus, feature normally seen on much more expensive cameras, build quality etc. The 3.1mp sensor gives photo's of high quality up to A4 site. I have an a3 phto taken by mine on our lounge wall!n Value? well, I'd pay up to £80 depending on its condition. If you do decide to buy it, make sure you see a photo produced by it in your presance if possible. Good luck with it!
I have notice a similar problem when using my 3100Z. I have found if I use Shutter priority mode and set the shutter speed to 1/60th to 1/125th that the problem is corrected. There are several reasons you are seeing motion blur. Most 35mm would set the shutter to 1/60th or higher for flash sync speed. The 3100Z at wide angle in Auto mode will set the shutter speed to 1/30th even when the flash is on and 1/90th at telephoto. Also I notice 2 things when comparing my 3100Z to my Epson 850Z. The shutter release on the 3100Z presses harder thus causing my wrist to want to straighten as the muscles connected to my index finger tighten. This causes the camera to rotate clockwise slightly. Also the shutter release on the 850Z is raised up higher than the 3100Z which means the index finger doesn't need to be bent as much to press it. Less of a bend means less muscle tension in the wrist. This all gets worse with action shots, like candid photos of people, since the tendency to "jerk" the trigger instead of "squeezing" it to catch just the right shot will make it harder to avoid the slight rotation of the camera.
Along with trying a higher shutter speed I would also suggest practicing with the optical viewfinder. Your wrist will be in the straight position and you will notice moving the camera during the shot much more. If you use the LCD viewfinder it is easy to treat a digital camera like a video camera. Since we are used to seeing things move on a TV screen you are less likely to realize you are not holding the camera steady. I noticed I was doing this after a few months of using my Epson 750Z. I used the optical viewfinder for awhile to break myself of the habit.
The last thing I can think of is I always try to press the shutter release halfway down, wait till it is done focussing, then press the shutter release all the way down to take the shot. When I don't want to wait that long and press the shutter release all the way down right away I tend to get more blurry shots. I am not sure if this is because I have "jerked" the trigger so the camera can't focus while it is being moved or it is motion blur and not a focus issue or if the camera fires even if it hasn't found a good focus when it hasn't been given a chance to pre-focus.
I have only had my 3100Z for about 3 months but I have found the battery life outstanding. I have the NI-MH batteries and haven't actually counted the number of pictures I take between chargings but it seems as if it is 200 or more. I also have many menu changes, view the photos in the camera and leave it on between shots. I also have sleep set for 30 seconds.
I have actually never run the batteries down but recharged them twice in anticipation of needing plenty of power when I planned to take a lot of pictures. I'm guessing that you might have some faulty batteries.
I have a 3100z and you are right that alkaline batteries do not last long. The thing to do is buy a couple of sets of NiMH rechargable batteries and they last much longer. I,ve just been on holiday and had no problems at all with the batteries. (Although the camera does not give much warning when they need replacing).
With the telephote lens, I am assuming that the camera is a bit more sensitive to any form of camera shake. My suggestion, when using the telephoto lens, is to manually set the shutter speed to its fastest setting (that, or set it to "sports mode"). Also, experiment with the telephote lens using your tripod. Set the camera up on a table and use the timer so that the camera will snap the image automatically. See if the picture is still blurry. If you don't have a tripod, just place it flat on the table.