Cameras, cameras, cameras and a solid compact zoom camera

On Sunday, August 21, 2011 1 comments

I will never claim to be a photog but do enjoy taking pictures. I find that it is a creative vent for me that both helps to satiate my desire to create something original with the simple click of a button...all the way to the complex of getting up early to take all my gear out for some beautiful landscapes in the morning light.

That said, I have my trusty Canon 5D Mark II with all its lens/accessories and my ever present Canon S95 which is arguably the finest "pocketable" camera in existence today. These two get me through pretty much any photographic situation. I do have a third recent addition but I have not fully vetted it and it makes a lot of compromises to accomplish one task...the Panasonic TS3 is a rugged, waterproof camera that allows us to take it to the pool, beach and on watercraft. We love taking underwater photos while playing in the pool.

Shot taken with Canon 5D Mark II
w/EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens
If you want to get inside my thought process for choosing cameras lets address why I have the Canon 5D Mark II and am eagerly awaiting a Mark III? And keep in mind I was a Nikon user for many years going back to film (pre-digital). The Canon offered two great features for me to jump the chasm and leave all my Nikon lens and gear behind. Initially it was the first digital SLR (single lens reflex: the ability to look through the viewfinder and see exactly what will be captures on the photo) to offer 1920x1080 high-definition video capture at 24 and 30 frames-per-second, cinematography caliber when combined with its high-end camera controls for depth of field and assortment of lens options. And the 21 mega-pixel full-frame sensor (the chip that captures the image) inside the camera is equivalent in size to an old 35mm film negative thus being large enough to provide amazing clarity. Most digital cameras have a fraction of a full-frame (35mm size) chip. So when you hear a camera is 14 mega-pixels, it doesn't mean it is better if the sensor is really, really small. So it's important to know what you are getting and not just look at the number of pixels. But what I noticed most about the Canon versus the Nikon equivalent was the colors. I love the vibrance, almost surreal palette it creates within a photo.

Shot this with the Canon S95
during a drive-by near Versailles
Why the Canon S95? In my opinion, this is the smallest, most pocketable, high-quality images camera on the market. The best photo can only be taken if and when you have a camera. So size matters...small size...something portable. It is important for me to have a camera available most of the time. I have terabytes of photo libraries with images from the 5D and the S95 in the same set and I would be hard pressed to tell which photo came from which camera. The S95 is a marvel of size and features from simple point-and-shoot to the ability to manually tweak camera parameters like aperture and shutter speed. The lens on the camera is amazing. With an F2 aperture setting at its widest opening, the camera can let in so much light that in most settings you don't need a flash! It's almost magical. The only challenge with the S95 is it zoom. It is only a 3.8x zoom. Good but not great. So many times when I am traveling, I really want to zoom in on a distant object or scene.

So I have a quandary. There are times when I don't want to haul the big gun 5D around but would love to have a strong travel zoom camera. I'm talking AMZAP (As Much Zoom As Possible) caliber BUT it still needs to be "pocketable" or as close to pocketable as possible, otherwise I'd bring the 5D with me.

My father has the predecessor to the Panasonic ZS10 but this latest version seems to have gone backwards on image quality, so it is out of the running.

I won't talk much about the Nikon S9100 which is getting poor reviews from end users though its specs seem to fit the bill. The Fujifilm F550EXR which seems to be suffering the same fate of the Panasonic ZS10 where its image quality has gone backwards from the previous models.

The Sony HX9V has some great, unique features and seems to be up there as one of the better overall compact travel zooms but for some reason I've just not been a Sony camera fan. I owned a few Sony cameras in the early digital camera age and was never satisfied with their image quality. Sony actually makes the sensors for many camera companies today so in theory they probably should be worth another look. Some day I am going to try a Sony camera again.

As it stands right now if I had to pull the trigger on a compact travel zoom camera, I am leaning toward the Canon SX230HS. It will fit in a pocket, offers 12 megapixel resolution and a 14x zoom (equivalent to nearly a 400mm lens) with optical image stabilization. It shoots 1080p high-def video and has a built-in flash. From my experimentation with the camera at the local camera store and the reviews online, this camera seems to balace the size, zoom and image qualities the best with image quality being key.

Lastly, a solid video feature like the SX230HS has is becoming crucial for me in any camera as I am finding that I take most of my videos with cameras nowadays and don't use my camcorder much anymore. The only thing the camcorder had was a great zoom which a sold zoom camera would address for me.

Below is a YouTude video demonstrating the zoom and video capture aspects of the SX230HS.






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1 comments:

wouldntmind said...

My sister happen to pick up the SX230HS and took it on a trip to Aspen last week. She said it took some fantastic photos. Looking forward to seeing them.

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