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Friday, February 17, 2012

In the market for a new camera - thoughts?


Okay, folks, I’m in the market for a new camera, and I’m looking for advice and suggestions.

A little background: Way back in the mists of time when I was a reporter, I used a bells-and-whistles camera, plus my husband at the time was a great photographer and we had a proper camera. But over the years, I’ve moved to point-and-shoot (and digital, natch). Now I want to get back to real photography again…but I’ve forgotten a lot.

So the questions of “What do I want?” is hard to answer.

Here’s what I want to use the camera for:

  1. concerts. I need to be able to shoot decent pictures without flash, and the camera needs to take pictures quickly with little down time. Concerts mean I’d need a camera without removable lenses.
  2. book covers. I need to be able to take reasonably high quality photos for covers (300 dpi for print covers).
  3. travel. I want to take nice pictures when we travel. The camera doesn’t need to be waterproof, but reasonably light, small, and hardy are pluses. Extra lenses might be too bulky for motorcycle travel, so again, I’m probably looking for one w/o removable lenses.

I like the idea of having one that has point-and-shoot capability as well as all the manual controls.

I’m somewhat flexible on cost. This is an investment and I’m not necessarily looking for the cheapest camera; however, I want to find a balance between quality/functionality vs. break-the-bank/more features than I’ll ever use. So far, $500 doesn’t scare me; more than that and I’ll have to be convinced the cost is worth the added features.

Thoughts, suggestions, recommendations? Feel free to ask me questions to help me refine what I’m looking for! And thank you!

(And please leave comments here rather than FB/Twitter/G+…that way I don’t have to look four places to compare everyone’s suggestions. Thanks!)


Update 2/20/12: I think I've narrowed it down to the Canon S100, the Sony HX100V, and the Sony HX9V. Which is not to say that I'm still not completely waffling…see the comments for more!

18 comments:

Cat Ellen said...

I currently have the Canon PowerShot SD1000, which is several years old now. I love that it folds COMPLETELY flat. For concerts, you will want to turn off the flash, to get the existing lighting in the room. For nice book covers, you would set some good lighting and possible use a macro setting.

The current model in this PowerShot series is the Canon PowerShot SD1200IS, well under your budget (and apparently comes in several cute colors). The Canon PowerShot S100 seems to get the highest reviews of all the PowerShot cameras, so that might be worth looking at too.

I bought several SD cards, an extra battery, a good battery charger, and a case... and I highly recommend similar purchases. If you always have a 2nd charged battery, you're ready for that quick, last minute, "oh noes!"

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Thanks, hon!

Yes, I know I have to turn off the flash at concerts - believe me, I've been doing it for years! It's required by the bands. The real question is, how does the camera perform under those conditions? Blur/speed/coloration? (My now-dead point-and-shoot was very iffy and concert lights turned a lot of photos green.)

I've been exploring the PowerShot series and I'm glad to hear a thumbs-up from a user I know. On the Canon site, I'm seeing the SX40 HS getting the highest reviews; the S100 is newer, which may be why it's getting a flurry of reviews elsewhere.

Of course, this is where it gets tough for me - I can compare different cameras in the PowerShot series, but I'm not savvy enough to know how the different features will affect what I want to do!

Cat Ellen said...

I just did some more comparisons: http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-ELPH-110-HS-vs-Canon_PowerShot_SD1000

And I think I'm headed out to buy an ELPH 110 or something similar.

I listen to a lot of tech podcasts that talk about camera specs, and lots of the buzz words match the information in the link/comparison above.

As for performance at concerts: I've really liked the images I've gotten for the past 5 years or so. Some of it is just the zen of taking photos, some of it is the editing software afterwards to improve the images, but I get some pretty great shots. I'll dig up some of the bellydancing images I've taken in the past year, with low-light in bars... best comparison I can think of to music concerts.

J. Steven York said...

I'm a fan of the Canon Powershot series. I'm on my third one now, a SX120IS that I like quite a lot. In fact, with the exception of one Olympus, I've pretty much bought Canon cameras exclusively since the mid-70s. I've always liked their lenses and attention to usability. They also throw a lot of bells and whistles, even into the mid-range products that I can usually afford.

A couple random points:

First, I have so-far refused to buy a camera (other than the one in my phone) that doesn't use standard, off-the-shelf batteries. All the Powershot models I've bought have used AA batteries, and I always have a zillion extra sets of rechargeable and chargers around. It means I'm not locked into one supplier, and can replace the batteries inexpensively when they inevitably fail. And best of all, in an emergency when shooting in the field, you can ALWAYS find a replacement and keep shooting.

I rarely use a flash for ANYTHING (except as fill in full sunlight), and so I like the flip-up flash on the 120 because it gives me a very positive way to be sure it's OFF. If you don't open it, it won't flash. That beats a lot of cameras where you have to scroll through menus, or where it may keep turning the flash back on by default when you shut the camera off or change batteries.

I like image stabilization (the "IS" in SX120IS) a LOT. I hardly use my tripod and monopod any more except when shooting video.

It isn't hard to to do the basic hardware of a camera any more. Consider the controls, usability, and exposure smarts as much as the hardware. Canon is good at all those things (especially in exposure smarts).

And I did mention video. Many still cameras, even compacts, take pretty good video these days. The SX120IS is good, and even has an on-camera microphone, which many lack (I used it to make the book trailer for Chris' book, "Dory Cove), but it isn't HD. Canon has been slightly behind the curve on that, probably holding back to get it right (they build wonderful, professional, video cameras too), but I believe there are other models with that option.
(Here's the video link, for anyone interested:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-n2CqII-nQ)

nancireal said...

I have owned almost every major brand of compact and mid size digital cameras. 2 canon Powershots and My pro camera is a Canon 5DMII. With that said I think you know I like Canon. BUT When it comes to mid size cameras Sheri and I have compared and compared and The Sony HX100 is the best I've used. GREAT video, GREAT Leica Lens, 30X zoom and if you go to my facebook photos of Styx, Taylor Swift and REO you will see the shots it takes in concert lighting. If you want a professional opinion go to Steves Digicam and do some comparison. By the way it is under $400

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Steve, thank you! You've hit the nail on the head with some of the features I'm looking for, and also brought up things I hadn't thought of (like the batteries and IS).

What do you mean by exposure smarts?

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Nanci, thank you! (Although, just when I was convinced about Canon -argh!)

How is the IS on the Sony?

The Canon has a lot more ISO settings; do you miss them with the Sony?

Also, I see it doesn't have a red-eye flash mode - is that something you can avoid by changing various settings?

nancireal said...

Dayle,

Regarding ISO. If you go above 3200 you will have very noisy or grainy shots on a point and shoot. What ISO setting do you feel you are going to miss? I use the 200 for outdoor shots and 400 or 800 mot of the time at a concert depending on their lighting. If it is very dark I go to 2500. The Sony has a red eye detection and reduction for flash and also a customization section in the menu for portraits etc.

nancireal said...

Oh and you mentioned IS. The image stabilization on this camera is the best I've seen. It has auto focus even at 30X.

nancireal said...

One last comment. Most of the canon Powershots at the $400 range have 780DPI and the Sony has true 1080 with STEREO digital audio. I am not sure if that is important or not.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Nanci, the Sony has Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200; whereas the Canon has Auto, 80, 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, 1600, 2000, 2500, 3200, 4000, 5000, 6400.

Do you (or anyone following this thread!) see a need for the extra ISOs?

Thanks for clarifying re: red-eye. The comparison chart I was using didn't list it for the Sony.

The Canon does have 1080 with stereo for video, so no issue there.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Oh, I'm getting so confused! I thought I'd settled on the Canon, but then the Sony whispered its 30x zoom siren song....

I tried to physically compare the two today, but neither Frys nor Best Buy had the Sony. Turns out there's a newer model, the HX9V, which I did get to fondle. It doesn't have 30x zoom, though, which would be so handy not only for concerts, but birds of prey.

But I'm worried about the Sony HX100V's weight and size. Do I want to lug it through airports? What will I have to give up in order to fit it in the bike's saddlebags?

Is the size/weight a compromise I can make when balanced with that 30x zoom?

So now I'm torn between the Canon and the two Sonys (the HX9V is a compact). AAAAARGH!

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

In case anyone's interested (and also a reminder for me), here's a comparison chart for the three cameras:

http://www.dpreview.com/products/compare/side-by-side?products=canon_s100&products=sony_dschx100v&products=sony_dschx9v

The HX100V won't fit in the computer bag I bought recently, so for flights, I'd have to pack it in my luggage. ::ponders more::

Sheri Hastings said...

Nanci already told you about our
sony HX100, and I still have my smaller Sony H20 (no longer available), which the HX9V is the replacement model...Nanci talked me out of that model in favor of the HX100, ONLY because I already had the H20, which has 10X optical zoom, so going up to 16X wasn't that big a deal. I don't take as good a photo as Nanci does though. :-)
One thing I want to comment on, is...do NOT ever pack your camera in your luggage, unless it's carry-on. Just saying. Although I have a case for it, the HX100 will also fit in one of my bigger purses as well.

Andrew said...

The more ISO options the better you (or the camera) can fine tune things. In general the higher the ISO the noisier/grainer/more artifact ridden the image will have. Thus all things equal you want to shoot at the lowest possible ISO and the canon gives you more options.

If the Canon shooter and the Sony shooter need a high ISO for a low light shot. The Sony shooter has to use either ISO 800 or 1600. If there is not a need for an ISO as high 1600 the Canon shooter can choose one of the two intermediate ISOs and get a picture with slightly better image quality.

While it is an advantage it is not a huge one.

Three things stand out as positives for the Canon:
Better high ISO performance (not as explained above with the intermediate ISOs but an ISO 3200 shot will look better from the Canon than the Sony; F2.0 at widest angle; ability to shoot RAW.

The big positive for the Sony is its zoom range.

But ultimately I think the choice comes down to size and weight, because this is where the two cameras are very different.

In a perfect world you would have the Sony for travel in cars and planes, the canon for the motorcycle and walks, and a Nikon D4 and a press pass for concerts.

Alas the world is far from perfect.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Sheri, I think you tipped me over the edge...to the HX9V.

Right now I'm pretty sure the HX100V is too big and bulky. It won't fit in my computer bag or my purse. (I hate carrying large purses...the only reason I have the "concert purse" that I do is because of the inner pocket where I can often hide a camera. And I don't have the Female Purse Gene - I have my everyday purse and my concert purse, and that's it.) It's likely to be too bulky to fit in the bike's saddlebags for long trips. I have a gut feeling I won't want to schlep it around.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Andrew, thank you! Lots to think about.

I think I'm coming down on the zoom being the primary feature, compared with everything else. My obsession with birds of prey make that a selling point. While the bigger Sony has that sexy 30X zoom, I'm thinking the camera itself is just too big. Between the Canon and the smaller Sony, the Sony wins out w/its 16X zoom.

Plus, the fact is, I'm not stuck with whatever camera I buy. If I decide 6 months or a year from now that it's not what I want, I'll sell it along and get something else.

You're totally right about it not being a perfect world, though! Although I'd rather have a backstage pass than a press pass...oh, wait, occasionally I get those.... ;-)

Pete Bansen said...

Hi Dayle - I have a Canon Elph 300HS, the latest in a bunch of Canon pocket-sized point 'n shoots as well as Nikon digital DSLR's and Nikon film SLR's. The 300 is a great little camera with a 24mm equivalent wide angle lens, 5:1 zoom ratio, HD video and it's very, very small and thin. I'm a demanding photographer and I've been very impressed with the image quality afforded by this tiny camera. I've auditioned Pentax and Nikon pocket digitals also, but I keep coming back to Canon for the image quality. For concert pictures with available light, the S100 with its 2.0 aperture might be a better choice, but since concert pictures are typically taken at at least a moderate telephoto setting and since the maximum aperture is typically only available at the widest zoom, it may be sort of academic as to which is superior.