30 January 2006

Advice on Digital Cameras?

Since starting to blog, I have included one or two photos, usually of pretty poor quality. A bad workman always blames his tools...

I have a lot to learn about photography and indeed digital photography, and most of the quality problems lay firmly with the photographer! Nevertheless, I've decided I would like a new digital camera, and I'm interested in any views of the readers out there!

Most of the photos I've shown have come either from my Nokia phone (quality just about ok for very low expectations), or my 4 year old Sony DSC P5. I may be on an anti-Sony rant at the moment, but the P5 has been a big disappointment however I view Sony as a brand. It's Li-ion battery never seemed to work properly, and the camera failed me at key moments, even when charged. I will never forgive it for not working when visiting the Golden Temple in Kyoto forcing me to use a throw-away camera that afternoon. I think it might have had something wrong with moisture as some of the times it didn't work, the weather was a bit wet (though the camera had not got wet). I've also been disappointed in other aspects of the camera - flash performance for instance.

Now, I've always liked the idea of a camera that fits in the pocket, and I know some of the newer cameras are smaller than my Sony, have more MP's and many more features. But I also find myself looking for zoom features, and for macro. The worst postings here are when I've missed those features (see Hoar Frost, Whale, and Hummingbird Hawkmoth blog postings).

So, I've convinced myself that I need some kind of near-SLR camera without the bulk of a real SLR and the hassle of carrying multiple lenses. I've narrowed down my search to the Canon Powershot S2 IS, or Panasonic DMC-FZ5/FZ7. I would have considered the Sony DSC-H1, but, as I say, I'm a bit down on Sony.

I quite like what these compact zooms offer - 10x optical, lots of control, good battery life, video (in the case of the Canon), image stabilisation, for instance. And the prices also seem right. But I'm a bit concerned with size, with the lack of MPEG4 for video (very large file sizes) and the Electronic ViewFinders. Has anyone got views on either of these cameras, or some strong reasons why I might be making the wrong choice? Do let me know with a comment here, or an email.


Paul Guinnessy said...

I've found you can never go wrong with a canon. If I was replacing my Powershot 300SD, I would get the 450SD or 550SD to replace it with. Its all about how quickly can you take a picture when you press the shutter button down that matters (had a minolta for a very short time period which was terrible at that simple task).

Anonymous said...

You want to put it in your pocket? With your choices, you must have mighty big pockets. I think you either get a truely pocketable camera, like paul has suggested, or a DSLR (or even the new sony DSC-R1). For me its all about speed and noise. If you want to be able to take low light and/or indoor shots AND you want great quality, the point and shoot cameras will be a bust. BTW, you can buy a single lens w/18mm - 200mm for your DSLR that will cover a similar range to the cameras you id'd.

Ian Hobson said...

Yes, I'd agree with you on the Canon. I had an APS Ixus, and it just worked. I do not know many Canon owners who are not happy with their purchase.

Of course, you're right about the big pockets. I didn't make it clear that I was talking about my ideal camera and that essentially such a camera is unlikely to exist anytime soon! The Compact Zooms certainly suffer from noise at low light when using the higher ISO settings, and that has been a consideration. But I know my own behaviour, and there are too many situations where I would not take the whole kit of a DSLR with me on my travels. But I want more than a tiny camera can offer. So, I THINK I'm willing to deal with the noise (I don't usually make large prints), for a flexible camera that can cover a good range, has video (perhaps for some astronomy stuff), image stabilisation, and is REASONABLY portable. Otherwise it will be a DSLR + a tiny compact further expanding my budget. And then, I suspect I'd still have the wrong camera with me at the wrong time!