Friday, October 10, 2008

Gear: The Camera Buying Decision

It's been almost two weeks since I last saw my camera. I've been holding out hope that I would open a drawer or move a pile of things and find it sitting there. My hope is quickly fading -- at this point, it's probably gone forever.

On the one hand, it sucks that I lost a camera that I was accustomed to using and it further sucks that I have to spend money to buy a replacement. But, on the other hand, that camera wasn't perfect and this provides an opportunity to evaluate exactly what I liked and disliked about that camera so I can get something a little better this time. As a way of gathering my thoughts, I'm going to bullet point the pros and cons of my camera. For reference, this is the camera I had, a 2.5 year old Canon A75 (anybody seen a slightly beat up one of these around?).

  • Four AA battery compartment makes a nice grip
  • Four AA batteries provides long life between charges
  • Manual controls available at a level between point-and-shoot and high-end SLR
  • 3.2 mega pixels was fine for my purposes
  • Has optical viewfinder (useful in bright outdoor situations when you can't see the screen)
  • Tiny viewscreen (by today's standards)
  • Four AA batteries is too heavy
  • Four AA battery compartment makes grip that's a little tough to slip into your pocket
  • Shutter delay can be incredibly long, particularly in low light
  • Compact Flash not as popular anymore? (not a dead format, but it seems to be getting phased out in favor of smaller formats)
Anybody have any advice about features I should be considering on newer cameras (or features that are not worth paying for) or any stores around town that might be good for information gathering?


braingirl said...

Chris, can't tell which Canon model this is and I supsect your spending more than I did, but I have a Canon with the same feature set you note above (including the manual controls which come in terribly handy if you already know how to work a 35 mm and want to adjust shutter speed or light).

Mine (A570IS) also has an enourmous view screen. But only two batteries in the battery compartment. 4x zoom. 7.1 mega pixels, but I always take pics in the most compressed setting.

I think you have to go to the full digital SLR for the pop-up flash -- my dad has one and I played with it last weekend. Same feature set as my $200 model -- and Canon is pretty consistent in their buttons, features, menus, etc from product to product which is nice.

Anonymous said...

I'm interested in this question too. As one who learned (as braingirl) photograpy with a 35mm, I wonder how many of these "essential features" of cameras I need to lose:

1. Hefty, solid feel
2. Viewfinder
3. Shutter feedback (solid "click" or "ker-chunk")
4. Manual adjustments

Clearly, this depends on what kind of pictures one wants to make: art or news. It also depends on how they're going to be displayed and viewed: on a computer monitor or in print form. And it depends on one's tolerance for "idiot-proof" features that can't be shut off.

braingirl said...

My small digital camera has all those features. It's surprisingly heavy -- but very small for my hands. You get used to it. Mine has a manual viewfinder that is better to use for certain settings. However, I found I quickly became comfortable using the screen -- and in fact, quite prefer it now. Mine also has a "ca-click" shutter noise, although the delay can be a little irksome sometimes.

But I completely had the same concerns and just took the plunge and found that it's a lot easier than I thought it would be to switch. (And for $200, I figured even if it sucked, it would be useful to have a digital camera for the occasional need. Now I use it exclusively.)

braingirl said...

Also, for a real confidence boost? Go to flickr and plug in a camera model, even a very inexpensive one, and see some of the incredible photos people are taking with them.

Alan Maginn said...

I really like my Olympus Stylus as a point and shoot. Big selling points? It's waterproof and shockproof up to 10 ft.

CorrND said...

Thanks for the tips everybody.

I'm thinking about going low for this purchase with an eye toward buying an SLR in the future. The Canon A590 has all the features I had before plus a bigger screen, only 2xAA and 8.0MP. It looks like an evolutionary step on your A570 Renee. And big bonus: it only costs about $130, less than half of what I spent on the old A75.

Better features and lower price -- I love technology pricing!