As most of my friends on Twitter and in the real world know, my beloved Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi has given up the ghost. After three years of frolicking in meadows, admiring yarn, and feasting together, the shutter seems to be slowing down. It reminds me of when my family Labrador could no longer jump up to steal food from the kitchen counters. A sad day that I just never thought would come. But faced with a quickly approaching week in Morocco and an addiction to taking photos (and a fondness for the trickle of income I get from selling prints of my images), I am researching a new camera purchase. This is what has been going through my brain this past week or so and if you’re in the same position, perhaps you’ll find it helpful in your search.
Since you’ll be the one partnered up with it out in the world, take the time to understand its strengths, weaknesses, assets, and limitations. Check Consumer Reports camera reviews as they are always helpful and look at the customer reviews both on the Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com product pages. I also strongly recommend that anyone shopping for a digital camera look at Flickr to see what the photos look like. You can actually look for specific cameras on Flickr through their Camera Finder! This is a great resource that not enough consumers utilize. I use four cameras on a regular basis and the results of these can be seen in my Flickr Photostream. Definitely take a moment to check in with the Test Freaks because they have information that you could spend days trying to compile yourself. If you are debating Nikon vs Canon, read Ken Rockwell’s article of the same name. In the end, go with your best judgment because it is your camera and it could help you flourish in your creativity as a photographer or at the very least help you preserve your memories.
For those of us in Ireland, we can expect higher prices for the same goods that are sold state-side and in Britain. If you are traveling through London, check out the duty-free shops as this may be the best option on this side of the pond. Pixmania.ie is competitive in some instances too. Keep in mind that though Argos sells digital cameras, their usual return policy does not always apply to such purchases. If you have a trip to America coming up, look at Fry’s Electronics, CostCo, and Amazon.com to prepare yourself for the prices.
I’ve been considering my past cameras’ performances as well as those my shutterbug friends use since what is written in a catalogue or online is great, but holding a camera and snapping a few pics tells you a lot too.
My mother’s new Nikon D3000 Digital SLR Camera is a joy. I only used it for a couple of days before she wanted it back, but it takes crisp photos without graininess bringing out every drop of color and its natural intensity. I am not fond of the beep before the shutter goes, but that is probably an option to unset. It doesn’t stabilize in dim light so photos without a tripod can be blurry, but that may be helped if I’d read the manual. After using this for a half hour, I was looking at my Canon like it was an camera phone. Not true, but it felt so amazing and the photos were so vibrant that I really fell for the Nikon. I also like the feel of the button. Seems small and silly, but I loved my mom’s old Nikon because of the click and shutter sounds – the new one also makes happy noises (except the beep). Great for scenery, close-up food and still-life photography, and portraits. You can find the Nikon D3000 Digital SLR Camera on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com. Now, see what the photos look like (Flickr) and immediately below.
In 2007, I researched and saved for six months, resulted in the purchase of a Canon Rebel XS 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (Black) (I actually got the XTi, but couldn’t find it online when I looked today) for $747 (that was the price in 2007, much less now) from Beach Camera via Amazon.com. It was less expensive than at CostCo AND no sales tax because I did not live in the same state as Beach Camera. This was an upgrade from a point-and-shoot since I had been using my 35mm Canon EOS Rebel for ‘good photos’, but longed for the convenience of digital storage. The features allow control for advanced photographers, but settings for those not wanting to go manual – or read the manual. The fact that the lenses from my old 35mm Canon work with this camera made the choice simpler to go Canon instead of Nikon for this purchase. I don’t regret it. The only thing is when I bought a back-up Canon battery, upon using it a strange error started coming up so now it only takes photos when I am zoomed in at least 25% on my kit lens or more on my telephoto. Tough when I see a stunning view and can only take a photo of the tree within it. A pain in the neck when I just want my camera to work! Sadly, this started three years and one month after date of purchase so the warranty is useless. Even the camera shop is stumped and said they had no idea what was wrong or how to fix it, so I’m left adapting my photography habits to the annoying “Err99” while saving and searching for a replacement. Canon has suggested it is the shutter and though I do not know what my shutter actuation number is, I worry it is high enough to be the cause for this heartbreak. When the camera was working, it was great for scenery, portraits, and food/yarn/still lifes. You can also find the on Amazon.com and on Amazon.co.uk. Now, see what the photos look like (Flickr) and immediately below.
My husband has the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS70S 7MP Digital Camera with 3x Image Stabilized Zoom which has been practical and a handy small size for traveling, nights out, or having in your pocket when you’re out on the town. It is wonderful outdoors in good light and picks up the colors well. Before that, he had the Canon PowerShot SD10, which was a great size, but had some structural issues. The Lumix also comes in a newer model out in 2009: Panasonic DMC-LS75S 7.2MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom. Now, see what the photos look like from the DMC-LS70 versus the DMC-LS75 (Flickr).
For Christmas 2005, my husband gave me the Casio Exilim 5MP 5x Optical Zoom Camera. It was a versatile upgrade from my previous point-and-shoot digital (we’re getting to that one in a moment) that was a few years old at that time. The lens is impressive for a compact and it also takes movies. The key to the zoom feature is not going past the optical line because the digital zoom is unimpressive. I still use this and find it great for something to carry in my purse even though it’s too large to slip in a pants pocket. A similar model is available as the new and improved Casio Exilim EX-FH20 9.1 MP Digital Camera with 20x Optical Zoom and 3-Inch LCD (Black) on Amazon.comor the Casio Exilim EX-FH25 Digital Camera – Black (10.1MP, 20x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD on Amazon.co.uk. Now, see what the photos look like from the EX-FH20 (Flickr) and immediately below.
For Christmas 2002, my parents gave me an HP PhotoSmart 320 Digital Camera. I was reluctant at first to make the switch to digital, but once I got the hang of it, I was hooked! This camera was by my side for three straight years and took some beautiful shots. With a tripod or steady wall, it takes stunning night photos. One nice feature with this camera is that you can choose what quality to photograph something. Let’s say you’re at a sporting event and you want to remember the score, you can snap a pic of the scoreboard at the end in low-res, but choose to photograph your daughter by the dugout in high-res. It also is nice if you are running out of space on your memory card so you can budget MBs accordingly. If you only have a few dollars to spend, get rechargeable AA batteries and give this camera a go. The price has gone down significantly in the eight years since I got mine, but it’s still the same quality camera in a basic package. This is what the photos look like on Flickr as well as the photo below.
An avid photographer friend swears by her Canon PowerShot SX200 IS Digital Camera – Black (12.1 MP, 12x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD. You can see the photos she has taken with it on Flickrand the camera itself is pictured below with my Canon. The Canon PowerShot SX200IS 12 MP Digital Camera with 12x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD (Black) is available from Amazon.com for shutterbugs state-side. Now, see what the photos look like from the SX200 IS (Flickr).
I have used both detachable lens cameras and fixed compacts and each serves a purpose so don’t scoff at one or think the other is beneath or above your abilities. After all, who wants to whip out a professional telephoto-equipped digital SLR when you’re at the pub with friends and want to capture the moment? Let me just tell you, I’ve done it and it’s a mood killer unless you are the professional photographer working the pub or an event. Don’t be afraid of more features because you will learn to use them – At the same time, don’t go with more features just because you think it makes the camera better. One of the most versatile cameras I had was a little one my parents got me in 2002 and it worked great though it had low MPs so that was its only issue – and little control on depth of field and manual settings. But sometimes the basics are fab. My dad has a Canon fixed lens compact he loves and the Elph series have done well for me and a couple of my family members.
Here are a few cameras which I’ve never owned or operated, but want to link to because they’re interesting in appearance of features. The Olympus Pen E-P1 Micro Four Thirds Digital SLR Camera (14-42 mm Black Lens Kit) – Silver looks retro which I love, but I’ve never had the chance to see it up-close. This is what the photos look like (Flickr). I should do a whole post about modern things that look vintage! But first, back to this post. In the Lumix family, I’ll admit I like this one for its color: Panasonic Lumix G2 12.1MP Compact System Camera Kit – Blue
Why listen to me? Well, I’ve been playing around with cameras since I was about four years old. I grew up with both my parents having nice equipment and was born into a home with its own darkroom. That having been said, I did not take my own photography seriously (not sure I do now actually) until I took a class in high school and began to truly understand the science of how a camera works. Until then it was all visual to me and done ‘by feel’ so my photography class was an awakening. I saved up to buy my own camera when I was eight years old. It was the Polaroid. I had my first 35mm Canon with two lenses in high school – so I’d stop borrowing my parents’ cameras. My latest digital camera is a Canon. I researched and saved for it for about six months before buying it. We had three good years together. I’m gutted that the shutter only lasted that long a time considering I am very gentle on my electronics.
If you have any of the cameras mentioned in this post, please share your thoughts in the comments.