Tech Life My current kick

Camera Advice

There’s a new version of Rands in Repose in the works. I’ve got lots to say about the whole redesign process and how it sucks every single once of creativity out of your life, but right now, I’m thinking about buying a new camera.

Asphalt GrassMy eye is instantly drawn to textures. I was stumbling around Boston last summer and took more photos of various forms and arrangements of brick than anything else. My current kick is taking close-up shots of asphalt during various times of the day.

Yes, I might be losing it.

Anyhow, I’ve got Sony 5 mega pixel Cybershot on loan right now and I’m digging the sea of pixels, but I’ve gotta give it back, so I’d like to ping the weblog-o-sphere for camera advice.

What I need… prioritized:

  1. Small, small, small.
  2. Battery life is a big deal, I’m away from juice for long periods of time
  3. Fast flash reload — I need to be able to take several pictures quickly
  4. I’m willing to pay $100-$200, but not much more. I’m not a pro
  5. 5 mega pixels is fine, but it’s not a requirement
  6. Zoom is not a big deal for me
  7. I really don’t need to take shoot movies, I have a video camera

Whaddya like?

20 Responses

  1. One of the various Canon “Digital Elph” cameras.

    I’ve got one that’s a couple years old now, which I’ve been quite happy with. Canon seems to keep updating this line in the obvious sorts of ways you’d expect (the new models are smaller and have more pixels) without doing anything to make them terrible.

    From a quick look online, I see one of the new models (SD110) available for $160. That’s for a 3.2 megapixel with 2x optical zoom.

    They’re small; not crazy james-bond small, but palm sized (3.4*2.2*1 in).

    Uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Good for at least 100 shots. (according to the official specs, 210 with LCD on, 550 with LCD off. they don’t say what happens when you use flash, that’s probably what gets you down in the 100 shot range) You can pick up a second battery so that you have a spare charged one. The li-ion rechargeable battery packs are pretty small, so it’s easy to drag along if you’ve got some kind of camera case.

    I don’t know about flash recharge speeds… I suspect the only place you find super-fast flash recharge speeds is when you move to external flashes with a lot more juice. (capacitors only move so fast…)

    One thing I like about my older model that I’m not sure the newer models have is the *very* solid feel of the camera body itself. One problem with really small cameras is that your hand always shakes a little and that can lead to blurry photos or slightly longer exposure times; a heavier camera body helps minimize that. The new one is, at least, a nice-looking metal body, though.

    Shutter speed’s kinda slow, though (1 second or so). I think you need to pay $$$ to get fast shutter speeds. (takes a while to move 10MB on a cheap bus)

    And, of course, like all digital cameras, it comes with too small a memory card.

    To be fair, if you get the SD110, a spare battery pack, a bigger memory card and well-made case to hold all three things, you’d likely end up above your declared price range by about $50. Without any accessories its in the middle of that range, though.

  2. If you would let go of price just a bit I think you’d do better and have a lot more choice. Flash refresh is not going to be great on any consumer camera so let go of that one too. There may be small differences between them but the big jump comes when you get to a DSLR. Also, a bigger speed issue is how fast the camera writes to the card and is ready for another picture. This is even bigger than the flash issue. Again, most consumer cameras, especially ones in your low end price range are slow here.

    I have had many digital cameras and my small, pocket camera is currently a Canon S400 (elph) which is a nice little rig.

    But, believe it or not, there is a rather large downside to small size and low weight: camera shake. Few talk about it but it’s a real issue and it’s true: the smaller, lighter cameras tend to take blurrier pictures because there is not enough mass and weight of the camera to hold steady as the shutter is pushed. My heavy, big 300D is steadier in the hand than any elph.

    i do like Canon cameras though and I’d consider a used S30 or S45 (not newer, those models are best in class) or an A95 or something in that range that takes CF cards (or, if you like smaller media, models that take SD cards).

    I’ve taken some great pictures with an S30 and it was one of Canon’s most popular cameras in its time. If you can find a high quality used one I’d go for that. Battery lasts a long time although recovery after shooting is not any faster (or slower) than other cameras in its class.

    The menuing system on Canon cameras is excellent and the build quality on the models I’ve mentioned is first rate. My last camera before my current 300D was a Canon G3 and it was incredible. If you would let go of size as a requirement I’d go for a used one of those, great camera and big enough to be steady in the hand.

    Good luck, let us know how the chips fall.

  3. kristen 12 years ago

    canon, all the way. the lens quality is excellent, the useability is great. they’re just really fine cameras. i have an slr that i use for journalism and my little dinky digital for everyday, and i love both. i’d say go for the canon powershot a series (a75, a85, etc). any one of those would be terrific, it’s just a matter of how many cool features you want (the higher the number, the more megapixels / features). i like the a series better than the s/d series because while it’s slightly larger, the zoom is better and it’s easier to use (no HOLY CRAP TINY BUTTONS).

  4. Tracer 12 years ago

    I own two Digital Cameras and have owned many Film Cameras before. I have used many different digital cameras from many different manufacturers, including Canon, Sony, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus.

    I can tell you that you will currently not find a camera that matches your list of requirements.

    You can have Fast, Small, or Cheap. But I have yet to see a camera that does all three well. Not even close actually.

    In the small category I personally own a Canon S400. I would currently recommend the SD330 or wait for the new SD400 when it comes out if you want 5MP. The new SD series is smaller and has a larger Screen. All blow your budget.

    With a small camera you have a few disadvantages. Your flash is too small and too close to the lens, camera shake, as noted by someone else, and slowness.

    Slowness == Slow response time, snow write speed, slow flash re-charge.

    Flash too close == unnatural shadows, red eye, loss of detail in objects close to you like people.

    You want a fast Camera, you get the Nikon D70 SLR Kit and an external flash. This blows your size, budget though.

    I would recommend http://www.dpreview.com for general camera reviews and http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech.htm for some good articles on Digital Cameras. Though he only reviews the SLR cameras.

    Good Luck.

  5. I have to agree with everyone about the Canon. I have an older 2.1 megapixel PowerShot S110 that I adore. It’s been nothing but good.

  6. I have a Minolta DiMageXT. Very small camera, and very rugged. I can throw it in my pack/pocket/car and it works fine when I take it out. Very innovative lens design which makes for a very fast start up time (from pocket to shooting). Few manual features, but it has the basic point and shoot capabilities. Megapixelage is small, but I mostly do on-screen viewing or 5×7 prints, so I don’t really notice. Picture quality is average to good.

    I’ve also messed around with the Olympus Stylus series. Nice cameras, also rugged. Not nearly as small as the DiMageXT, but they take slightly better pictures.

    For $200, the Olympus are very very nice cameras. The Minolta’s great if small is your #1 priority (it is for me).

  7. One more thing: http://www.imaging-resource.net/

    Best camera reviews out there, plus sample pics you can DL and print.

  8. I was quite pleased with the S110 and then the S200; these days I use the kyocera contax SL300RT, which is rather smaller and faster and supports external lenses (there’s another one with more megapixels, and if the canons are *small enough* you’ve got more options with them.)

  9. you need to decide how much control you want over things like aperature and exposure. I wanted all the manual modes (i was used to an slr), so i went with a canon powershot a80.

    i would also second some of the previous comments that you should not go with a super-small camera. it will be more difficult to hold correctly and keep your fingers away from the lense.

  10. Canon A75. 3mp,3x zoom,small,light.uses cheap AA batteries.<200$.

    Sony DCSP93,DSCP72 are also good.

  11. Pezsheriff 12 years ago

    Another voice in the Canon camp. I have an S400 as well and love it. I also have a big DigiSLR but I always have the 400 with me so that’s what I take most unplanned shots with.

    I’d look at the SD200 for an inexpensive pocket camera. The baby-brother SD110 is nice, but for a small price increase go for the 3x vs. 2x zoom lens.

    I’ll also add a vote for http://www.dpreview.com and add http://www.steves-digicams.com as an invaluable resource as well.

  12. Klaatu 12 years ago

    Mmmm….Fujifilm FinePix E500 zoom.

    If you like taking pictures of textures, one of the best accessories to buy is a tripod. You will thank yourself for obtaining as much opical zoom as possible. Also, anything more than 5 megapixels is a waste unless you’re truly into esoterica. If anyone disagrees, let me know how come John Q. would want more megapixels.

  13. I concur with the suggestion for dpreview.com. It’s an awesome site for camera reviews.

    We’re using an older Canon ELPH s230 and we love it. For an older camera it is quick, very durable, and small. The movie mode is amazing. We have a 3 month-old baby and we haven’t felt a need for a video camera.

    I’d buy another Canon in a second.

  14. I wasn’t going to make a comment, because my taste in cameras is competely opposite yours. I’d rather a big, solid, customizable camera, and you want a small, automatic camera. Nothing wrong with the difference, I like photography, and you want something to “capture the moment.”

    But then somebody posted the comment about the Nikon D70. Now, if you’re really going to blow your budget, get the Canon 20D- faster than the Nikon (5 frames per second, continuous for several seconds). Of course, it weighs in over a pound *without* the lens and costs at least $1k (less if you buy it from someplace shady, more if you buy it with a valid canon warranty).

    Sorry, I’ll shut up now.

    Oh, btw… I third, fourth, and/or fifth the suggestion for dpreview.com . The most complete camera reviews I’ve found, very fair and unbiased, give great comparisons across different cameras, and talk about both advantages and disadvantages.

  15. Since you started with a Sony recently: I just picked up a DSC-U30 – 2megapixel, decent autofocus, and absolutely freaking tiny. Like, so small it makes my cellphone look big. (Roughly – 1.2″ tall, 1″ deep, 3″ long.) And it stabilizes the picture as best it can even though it’s super-small. It also comes with some rechargable AAA’s and a charger.

  16. I’ve had good experience with Nikon’s… the current 4600 is a good pick for you… uses a SD card for storage and has great battery life, you can also use lots of different battery types:

    Power Requirements:Two EN-MH1 Rechargeable batteries, two LR6 (AA-size alkaline) batteries, two ZR6 (AA-size nickel manganese) batteries, two FR6 (AA-size lithium) batteries

    Has digital and optical zoom, is light, nice screen… I think you’d like it…

  17. Anonymous Peon 12 years ago

    “anything more than 5 megapixels is a waste unless you’re truly into esoterica. If anyone disagrees, let me know how come John Q. would want more megapixels.”

    Two reasons:

    -Showing things off on the extremely high-DPI display wall in your living room 10 or 20 years down the line. Film is going to do ‘better’ here because grain at least looks aesthetic blown up, however pixellation will be ‘retro’ by then. Especially if someone picks up on random sampling as an artistic image compression technique (sample a ‘grainy’ scatter, then compress that) — but we won’t need to because storage is scaling like the dick ends for now.

    -Cropping after the fact. This depends on how you imagine your photographic workflow to go, but the ability to take a full-frame and then sample from it after the fact gives you a lot of freedom, especially if you want to do candids and motion and things other than rocks. One thing to keep in mind — image rotation algorithms are often lossy, so hold that thing level if you want ‘esoteric’ detail. (Look up “PanoramaTools” for some demonstration of this.) Anyhow, this brings you back to actual glass — if you want to be able to blow up 1/32nd of your image to fill your display (which will be doable eventually-shortly), you want to make sure it’s going to be sharp and not fringy or any of that.

    If you just want to take carefully composed pictures of textures, I think you’re cool treating the thing as a miniature view camera and just getting enough megapixels in full-frame to satisfy you on your eventual 50″ Cinema Display. Especially if you’re Rands and can afford crap like that.

  18. Showing things off on the extremely high-DPI display wall in your living room 10 or 20 years down the line. Film is going to do ‘better’ here because grain at least looks aesthetic blown up, however pixellation will be ‘retro’ by then. Especially if someone picks up on random sampling as an artistic image compression technique (sample a ‘grainy’ scatter, then compress that) — but we won’t need to because storage is scaling like the dick ends for now.

    -Cropping after the fact. This depends on how you imagine your photographic workflow to go, but the ability to take a full-frame and then sample from it after the fact gives you a lot of freedom, especially if you want to do candids and motion and things other than rocks. One thing to keep in mind — image rotation algorithms are often lossy, so hold that thing level if you want ‘esoteric’ detail. (Look up “PanoramaTools” for some demonstration of this.) Anyhow, this brings you back to actual glass — if you want to be able to blow up 1/32nd of your image to fill your display (which will be doable eventually-shortly), you want to make sure it’s going to be sharp and not fringy or any of that.

    If you just want to take carefully composed pictures of textures, I think you’re cool treating the thing as a miniature view camera and just getting enough megapixels in full-frame to satisfy you on your eventual 50″ Cinema Display. Especially if you’re Rands and can afford crap like that.

  19. Klaatu 12 years ago

    Talk Rands;

    I found an article in Dwell magazine April/May 2005, about what the editors found at the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas. The article had a picture of the Casio EXILIM-S100 featured at the show. It might be compact enough. The article commented on the CES coinciding with the Adult Entertainment Expo. No doubt, you can make correlations.