Consuming – Musing

This is the kind of question people love to debate, so let me tap the collective strong opinions of the web. If — and I emphasize the word “if,” because tax refunds and financial aid decisions and medical bills and so on will make a big difference — if I were to look into buying a camera so that I could hand down to Pippa the camera I’ve been using for two or three years, now, what recommendations would my visitors make?

Myself, I don’t make vast enlargements, so I don’t need to impress anyone with the size of my megapixels; on the other hand, there’s no point to skimping, either, so I’d guess that 4 megapixels would be a fair compromise. I don’t typically take the pictures that require extreme wide-angle capacity, but I do like being able to zoom tighter on a composition (though I don’t envision needing the extreme high end of a zoom range; back in my 35mm days, when I was continually proving that great equipment can be used to produce mediocre photographs, I relied on a 135mm lens, mostly, occasionally reaching for a 200mm lens, which I loved but didn’t use that much).

I’m a wobbly sort of person, so the camera itself should produce images as sharp as possible. I end up taking a fair proportion of photos in low-ish light, so flash and image-stabilization require consideration — but I really hate most built-in flash units (it’s the one most irksome feature of the Nikon 2200 that I now use); it would be spectacular if a digital unit permitted some sort of bouncing. I like using the rechargeable Li-ion battery in my present camera more than the multiple-rechargeable NiMH AA-battery option in its predecessor, but I’m open to persuasion. I have an irrational attachment to Compact Flash memory cards, because those are what I’ve used all along, and I like being able to use the cards that worked in the camera I used years ago (even if it would only hold four images from a new multi-megapixel camera). OK, I’d have to let go of that, but I needed to confess my groundless predilection. And while I’m admitting to irrationality, I have to admit that I have been a long-term Nikon loyalist, so if my advisors strongly suggest a different manufacturer, they’ll have to soothe me with sweet blandishments.

And then there’s price.

The A K M Adam, tailor-made ideal camera would thus be something like a 4 megapixel camera with a zoom roughly equivalent to 35-200mm, possibly with stabilization (though at 200mm, would it be necessary?), a humane flash (not placed too close to the lens, bounceable?), very sharp lens to make up for my instability, Li Ion rechargeable battery, Compact Flash memory. . . and a firm recommendation from my friends about reliability and quality, for between $200 and $300. I know I’ll need to compromise on some of that — what compromise would you recommend?

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5 Responses to Consuming – Musing

  1. Hmmmm…I was going to recommend Canon’s Powershot series of cameras (I have an A70 and it’s wonderful), but it sounds like you’re looking for something in the more professional range of cameras.

    However, from what I’ve seen, you’re not going to get the camera you’re looking for for 200-300 dollars.

    The Powershot takes great, crisp pictures. It allows you to fiddle with things quite a bit (aperture, exposure, etc.–I’m just pretending I know the lingo. I just know that you can tweak it quite a bit.) It is also possible to accessorize the PowerShot with zoom or close-up lenses (although it’s built-in macro setting is quite something as it is) Unfortunately, it has a built-in flash.

    Anyway, my thoughts. Digital cameras are quite versatile. A person can take professional-looking shots without a professional-looking camera.

  2. dave paisley says:

    Hmm, the toughest part to do for under $300 is the equivalent 200mm zoom, which you really want to do with optics. That means you’re looking at a minimum 6x optical zoom requirement. The other tricky part is finding one with an external flash connector – there just aren’t that many (if any) in the lower price range.

    This site:
    http://www.dpreview.com/

    has a pretty nice comparison engine.

    Tinkering around, I could only find the Canon Powershot S1 (10x optical zoom, compactflash, 4xAA batteries) and the Panasonic DMC-FZ3 (12x image stabilized optical zoom, SD card, Li-ion battery)

    Both in the mid-$300’s.

    Happy hunting!

    Youi can tinker around

  3. dave rogers says:

    AKMA, I’ll echo the comments above regarding the price constraint. I don’t know that you’ll find what you want for less than $300.00. You might, I haven’t been shopping much lately. But for $50.00 more at Amazon, the Canon PowerShot S1 IS was one of the cameras I seriously considered when I replaced my A70. I ended up getting a Kodak DX6490, which is a 4MP camera with 10x zoom, but no image stabilization. You really need a tripod for the longer exposure times involved. I believe the 6490 has a sync port for an external flash.

    The LCD on the Canon PS S1 is tiny, but it does offer a kind of “zoom” function to mitigate that limitation when you’re trying to check focus. It’s also articulated, which is very nice. The LCD on the Kodak is big and bright, but I couldn’t use it in snow last week.

    The Canon takes CF, while the Kodak uses SD/MMC cards.

    I really, really liked the Canon, but I’m not sure how reliable an inexpensive camera with IS electronics will be, particularly after my experience with the A70.

    Good luck!

  4. ginny says:

    For what it’s worth, I had pretty good luck with an HP that I *think* was 4MB, but don’t have the specs handy as it was sold a while back. I’m currently very happy with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel – a little out of your stated range, but we found some sort of discount deal. I uploaded some new pictures to the linked photoblog that were taken with both cameras.

    I will say that the HP was fine for what I needed, but my husband already had his Canon EOS DR and the difference in the quality of our images was very noticeable. Also, he could use a polarizing filter, I couldn’t then. But now I can. ;)

  5. Well, I just got a Canon PowerShot S70, and I really, really LOVE it. It’s more than the price range you were talking about, but if you buy it from your own Amazon-associates-generated link, and take advantage of the rebates and such out there, you can get the camera AND a photo printer (not something I was looking for, but hey, it was free, with the rebates and whatnot) for about $420, as I recall.

    I didn’t think I needed all of what I got with the PowerShot S70, as I was mostly going to use the camera for web photos for the site of the parish I work for, plus some personal (and not all that artsy) snapshots, but a number of features I didn’t think were worth considering when I bought it I use and appreciate a great deal now.

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