September 10th, 2006

Shopping Conundrum: Finding a New Camera

Our digital camera is nearing the end of its useful life. You have to open the clamshell multiple times to get the lens to emerge. Sometimes it just won't extend. The autofocus mechanism is becoming less and less reliable. I can still take photographs I like with it, but my results feel more random than before. So I've been looking for a new camera. What an exhausting task! My initial preference was for a non-SLR, both because I've grown to love the compactness and quiet of our Olympus C-50 and because they are cheaper. But I really want it to have manual focus control that's intuitive and non menu-driven. RAW mode would be nice as well. That's easier said than done, however.

Although I've found a few models online, none of the stores I've visited stock them. And I really want to handle the camera before I buy it, so I can get a sense of how easy it is to use. I've also realized that I need to see whether it's too small, because many of the higher-end non-SLRs are so compact that operating them is like typing a text message into my tiny mobile phone. This means that I've spent my time at stores playing around with cameras that fall short of my desired specifications and also with digital SLRs, because at least those are in stock. The latter obviously have significant photo-making advantages. But they are big and, more importantly, loud. I don't want to lose the ability to take unobtrusive candids a la Gary Winograd with his trusty Leica. And, yes, I've thought of getting a Leica, but they are so pricey.

The next best option might be the high-end Panasonic with a Leica lens, because it does RAW mode and the Panasonics have a retro IIIF feel that pleases my hand and mind. So far, though, I've only seen the old 6 megapixel version, which has more of a noise problem, in stores. I'm also willing to take a leap towards a bigger fixed-lens camera with a long zoom range, because they are still lighter and quieter than digital SLRs. Anybody out there have experience with cameras of that sort? Or advice more generally?

The Shame

I woke up this morning with one of those headaches I used to get when camping in the cold, the kind that takes hours of warming-up to vanquish. The temperature in the room I was sleeping when I awoke? 62 degrees Fahrenheit. I feel like such a loser. The next thing you know I'll be reaching for a sweater when the temperature drops below 80 degrees.