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Shopping Conundrum: Finding a New Camera - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
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?

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10 comments or Leave a comment
parilous From: parilous Date: September 10th, 2006 05:30 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I can't help you out, but I will make a recommendation for a great digital camera review page, which may help you target your search.

Also, our Canon Powershot A95 is a fantastic camera. It has the right amount of heft to it, a really nice grip (I don't like the compact cameras because they tend to be too flat), takes regular AA batteries, and offers a variety of picture types (landscape, action, microfocus). You can choose where your focus is by watching what areas of the viewfinder are highlighted by a green box -- to change your focus, simply move the camera around a bit until the green box is on something you want. Or trick it by forcing it to focus on something far away, then pivoting the camera to shoot something close up.

When a friend of mine was looking to buy a digital camera (she was starting an eBay business to sell southwestern dollhouse miniatures), we looked everyone for my model (which she loved). Apparently, it's an old model, so the one we found was a floor model, discontinued and deeply discounted. I believe she paid $179 for it. We paid about $300 for ours back in 2003.

You can get wide angle and zoom lenses for it, and I tried the wide angle out on our trip to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. I wasn't that impressed with it -- it tended to produce blurry distortion at the edges of the frame and partially blocked the viewfinder. I don't have any feedback about the zoom lens.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 10th, 2006 05:48 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The turnover in digital cameras is so fast. There are models that interested me a few months back that have disappeared from stores. And some of them received excellent reviews. I may end up going that "retro" route, but I wish I could get something as up-to-date as possible. The nice thing about buying for the future is that you can make do longer. Our C-50 is from 2002, but because it was a high-end 5 megapixel camera when It came out, it's still not obsolete. Anyway, thanks for the input.
danthered From: danthered Date: September 10th, 2006 05:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'll second the Canon recommendation. I've been consistently favourably impressed with their build quality, and while there are some things I don't like about the Powershot G3 I bought a number of years ago, I really like its controls and its no-holds-barred manual mode.

Bill shoots Nikons. Me, I have been bitten too hard by breaking Nikons to trust 'em again.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 10th, 2006 07:01 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I liked those Powershots to handle. The new Canons are too small for me, though. Tiny. Almost as bad as Sonys. I have to have something to brace my hand against!
danthered From: danthered Date: September 10th, 2006 05:52 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
First stop for pages-long, detailed reviews of almost every digicam on the market: DPReview.com.

Don't get a Leica; they're not cost-effective. You pay thousands for the cachet of a nameplate.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 10th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yeah, I realize that. They are nice to handle. But the Panasonic comes close. Thanks for the URL.
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: September 11th, 2006 10:00 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I have this Panasonic:


It's a little more than a year old, and a few steps down from what it sounds like you're looking for. But I've been really pleased with it.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 11th, 2006 03:44 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks. Do you like the image-stabilizing feature?
jstgerma From: jstgerma Date: September 11th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yeah, the image stabilization is great. The first setting doesn't do much, but I leave it on the highest of the two, and it works wonders.

You're welcome to take a look at it, test it out, borrow it for the weekend, or whatever. I could bring it with me to campus one day.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: September 12th, 2006 12:21 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
That might be nice. I'll let you know. Thanks!
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