Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I think I need a new camera - what do you think?

I'm in a right quandary.  My beloved camera which has taken great pics in the past is beginning to take not quite so great pics and I've got to start thinking about what next.

I think I may have fallen over with it round my neck once too often.  (I should add for those who don't know me that I have a balance problem due to damaged feet which don't function as they should).

I've always had a policy of working out what the next camera is before I need it as I tend to buy a new one every 2-3 years and cameras change so fast these days that I like to know what I'm going to buy before I have to.

Now the problem I have is I don't know which way to go.  You were all such a help ( see PC vs Mac for artists) last time when I had to decide what to do about my next computer (for which my iMac and I would like to thank you for two extremely happy problem-free years) that I decided the best thing to do is to ask for your help again.

OK - so here's the problem.  I've been working my way through the Canon Powershot S series Super Zoom (bridge/prosumer series)  for some years now.  I currently own and have flogged to death a Canon Powershot S5 1S.  (Here's the detailed specification)

My beloved Canon S5 1S

The type of photos I take

Looking through my photos I've developed a pattern over the years
  • strong emphasis on colour and form
  • things rather than people (only a small element of cats and babies and people on outings/holidays)
  • reference photos
  • paintings in exhibitions
  • flowers and plants - and their internal structure at macro level
  • vegetable gardens
  • food
G is for Grapes - Grapes in Tours market
(taken while walking around with my sister and niece - no time to faff around)
  • parks and gardens
  • landscapes and cityscapes - with a slight tendency towards being "arty" at times
I is for Indian Summer - at Sheffield Park
The things I like about it and would like in my next camera are as follows:
  • fabulous Intelligent Image Stabilisation - I never ever have shutter shake on any photos.  I never ever want to see any.  I'm probably faithful to Canon on this one feature alone.
  • Great zoom Optical 12X and Digital 4X.  I've had problems finding anything which comes close which also has....
  • a good macro / super macro function.  I love taking macro shots of the structure of flowers so this one really matters. I don't actually care what a macro does in principle - what I care about is how long it takes to get there.  My Canon Powershots prior to this one did it faster.  This one is tolerable - and involves me shuffling backwards and forwards until I find the distance it's focus at.  However I currently can't find anything which does it better and faster.  My test is how easy it is to focus on the small print of the camera labels in Camera shops which gives me a good baseline to do the same thing in different shops
  • Great grip - which makes it very easy to hold (think 'Good Grips" kitchen tools) in a hand which has some difficulty gripping and hence makes it difficult to drop
  • Good Flash - nice to have for the odd occasions I use it and very simple to use
  • Dioptre correction - essential for those of us whose eyes are not what they used to be
  • very flexible vari-angle monitor - really helpful for difficult to shoot shots
The things I'd like to be better in my next camera
  • much better results in low lighting.  By better results I mean find the colour in the low light and don't give me a lot of noise at the same time. I do a lot of photographing in exhibitions and as a matter of principle I never use a flash.  Partly because it's counter-productive of the work is glazed and partly because it's very anti-social if you're using flash at the same time as people are viewing an exhibition.  I'm fine about flash if it's a press view but won't use if it's not.  I was absolutely gobsmacked recently to realise that my Galaxy smartphone delivers a better photo in low lighting than my camera does!
  • minimal post-shoot processing in PS would be absolutely wonderful.  I have to adjust the levels on virtually every interior shot I take at the moment which is why an exhibition post can take ages.  Anything which takes a better picture in the given lighting and reduces time processing is a good thing.
Big versus small or both?

Now the really big question revolves around which is the more important of the following and which camera can deliver the goods.
  • Small is good - up to a point: I'd take more photos if I had a camera which was smaller and would go in a decent size handbag.  However I don't like cameras which are too small (eg normal 'point and shoots' as I find them very difficult to use.  If I could get back to the size of my original Canon S1 1S I'd be delighted
  • A good grip is essential:  I do like a camera with a good grip - something I can wrap my fingers round and feel secure.
  • Simple to use is good
    • I like simplicity - but I don't want just a "point and shoot". 
    • I'd like to be able to take even better photographs as I really enjoy photography.... 
    • ...but I'm not into being overly techie 
    • I lean towards taking a lot of photos fast using auto settings....
    • ....rather than working slowly and using the manual options.  The time I take is over composition not super techie stuff
  • Lightweight is good: Balance is a big issue for me - and a heavy weight camera is almost certainly something I don't want to carry.  My risk management strategy for my balance problem is to avoid carrying anything over a shoulder which is too heavy
  • Megapixels - enough is enough.  I've go an 8 megapixel camera at present and that's absolutely fine.  Pixels are not a driving force for me - so long as there are enough.  More pixels to resolve the low light issue is good.
  • Type of camera is up for debate: In the DSLR vs Bridge vs compact debate I think I still lean towards Bridge (mainly because of the zoom and the extra functionality and because they're easier to hold) but not if it's getting too big and heavy and trying to be too much like a DSLR (which is the route Canon seemed to be taking of late)
My ideal camera would deliver me all the things I like at present, give me better results on the aspects I think can be improved and be small enough that it doesn't need to be carried around in its own camera bag.

Failing that it would be like my Canon S5 1S but better.

My questions for you

  1. What camera do you use at the moment - and would you recommend it to me?  If so, why?
  2. What's the camera you've got your eye on which might suit me?
  3. Are you faithful to one make of camera - and if so, why?
  4. Is there any particular function which you think I should have?
Do please share - I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels confounded by the all the details about the cameras on offer which change every six months.

As last time - I'll share my thought process as I go through and feedback to you what my conclusions are.

15 comments:

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Hi Katherine, I have got my eye on a new Canon 550d, a real investment but a contender I think. I too had that Bridge / DSLR quandry, but my Dad has been using Canon cameras for over 40 years and swears by their robust build quality and functions. For their size, these cameras are also quite light so easy to use for my small hands.

Tamron lenses fit Canons and are a lot cheaper than the Canon brand and there is a good range to choose from. I need to have a good macro lens as I take lot of flower photos for my botanical work. Hope this helps, I am not techie at all but know what I am after.

Anna Wilson-Patterson said...

For a small camera that can fit into your pocket and you can take to shows, exhbitions and post pictures onto my blog I am addicted to Panasonic Lumix. I have a DMC FX07. There is a new one out. You can do all sorts of clever things with it or you can point and shoot. It has a really wide angle. I'm sure it costs less than £150. I shoot my paintings for my website with it. I get a pro to shoot promotional pieces but for everything else I'm a Lumix girl.

Zsu said...

If you can afford it, I would get an Olympus OM-D E-M5, or the smaller brothers E-P3/E-PL3. They are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, which means all the flexibility of DSLR's with the small size and light weight of compacts.

The bigger models support attachable external battery grips, which should probably take care of any gripping issues.

The lenses available, especially those manufactured by Olympus are really high quality, and a good selection. (Although I think just the kit lens would be enough for you for now, and maybe a macro lens later on, once you got used to it.)

The body itself has super-fast autofocus, built-in electric viewfinder, 5-way image stabilization, good low-light performance, etcetc. I don't want to sound like some kind of advertisement, I am just really excited about those myself. :D

Downside is maybe the flash being not built-in, but clip-on, but that can be a plus too - when you don't need it, you can just leave it at home!

Robin Wong has a nice usage-focused review series going on about the OM-D, check it out (first part, navigation is to the right): http://robinwong.blogspot.com/2012/03/olympus-om-d-e-m5-review-batu-caves-kl.html The butterfly park part is especially beautiful! :D

Tina Mammoser said...

I can't add a lot but simply that I stick to Canon now, but also the Lumix more compact cameras really are excellent. I don't know if they do a bridge range? A photographer friend has one and I swear it's better than my dSLR. (a bit of jealousy showing!) With Canon I also agree about the grippability, they just seem easier to hold.

Ruth S Harris said...

I suggest you make a shortlist of possible cameras and then go to a good camera shop and try each.

I have a Fujifilm HS10 bridge which is perfect for me, but this model is discontinued so that's no help to you! You might still find the HS20 and at a reasonable price (around £200). If your budget is closer to £400, the HS30 is the new version although this has the disadvantage of using a battery pack rather than the AA rechargeable batteries used in the HS10 and HS20.

I take the same kind of photographs as you, mostly macro, some landscapes, few people. The features I look for now in a camera are

excellent macro settings

easy set-up (for example, my camera has a custom setting which allows you to choose manual settings and save them, meaning your photos are better than they would be on auto)

a manual barrel zoom - I'd be lost without this, it gives me so much more control than a mechanized zoom!

Image stabilisation too is important, I'm not the steadiest on my feet either lol!

Another great feature of both the HS10 and HS20 is the screen on the back which is hinged to allow you to take photos of low level subjects without having to lie on the ground to see what you're doing!

I'm pretty sure they also have all the features you mentioned above, the grip is certainly great even for my small hands, dioptre correction, manual zoom is an amazing 30x and even at that zoom there is little if any blur.

One more plus, Fuji offer a super warranty which covers your camera against any faults or accidental damage for up to four years beyond the 1 year guarantee, I've found this to be invaluable being a clumsy oaf!

There are a great many examples of photos taken with both of these cameras online if you search.

Happy camera hunting!

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks for all the kind suggestions. I've started to make a list to check out suggestions

Plus I've identified the two Canon cameras I want to follow up on. They are:
* Canon PowerShot SX40 HS
(Links are to Canon's website)
* Canon PowerShot SX150

Ujwala Prabhu said...

i'm a panasonic fan.. tried the canon powershots and would rate panasonic super zooms higher... i still use a fz18 and it has a 18X optical zoom and if you use 3mb res then you get up to 23X the new ones out are fz40 i think with a 24X optical going up to 32 i think... do try them out... did buy their micro 4/3rds as my next upgrade and it failed to match up to my earlier cam and i'm continuing to use it. panasonic's image stabilization is v.v.good

Gina said...

Dear Katherine, Are you familiar with Susan of "Between Naps on the Porch"? Susan takes fantastic shots for her blog. She has also written many posts about photograpy and cameras. Before you decide on a new camera please visit Susan first. You will be amazed at her knowledge and easy to understand tutorials. Gina

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Many thanks Gina.

I've just found a condition that I didn't know I needed to be specific on and that is that the compression will do superfine.

Michael Bailey said...

I have an Olympus E-PL1 with the stock 14-40mm zoom lens (28-80mm SLR equivalent ). Add on the electronic viewfinder and it will do pretty much everything a D-SLR will do, but for a lot less money. It will do SuperFine compression and JPEG,RAW or dual JPEG+RAW format file format. A superb camera all round.

Gail Kent said...

Hello Katherine,
again you write about help that I need, too. After years of the both Canon and Nikon SLRs, I fell in love with cheap little point & shoot digital for snap shots. Most recently on my third Kodak--break them after a year or less as I drop them frequently.

I can't afford a top dollar purchase now, so I'm looking for a short-term solution that will shoot my art well enough for my reproductions site. (And maybe a neck strap, too!)

I'll look forward to your follow-up post. Your photos in the blog are great! Your 2 Canons sound good for my short list start.

Thanks so much,
Gail Kent
Gail Kent Studio

David J Teter said...

Hi Katherine,
You look for the same things I do in camera, I too have begun looking.
My first digital was a Canon, my current one is a Kodak, which I hate. No matter, Kodak is getting out of the camera biz anyway I've heard.

My only definite is to go back to Canon, theirs seem more intuitive to me. Nikon users are just as dedicated. But Canon I know.

Advice would be to identify what you want in a camera, as you have done.
Compare to others.
Seek out objective reviews
Then try it out, hold it in real life, which is why I won't buy online.
I love the idea of all the cool features in SLR's but I'm not a photographer so I don't want to spend 2-3 years learning how to use it, then once I know how it's all obsolete and time to start over!
Apples and Canons for me, what the heck is a nikon anyway?

Lorna said...

I use a Nikon digital slr for the formal photography I need to take. It's down side is that it's heavy and people notice it and are intimidated . I also use a Fuji finepix F600ERR. It is small, is always in my bag as a result, will do raw files and with a 32 GB picture card and an extra battery makes it fab.
Personally it's biggest flaw is that there is no view finder but for under £200 at the beginning of the year I can not complain.

http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/digital-cameras/1288114/fujifilm-finepix-f600exr

Jose Romero said...

For a carry-everywhere camera, consider the Nikon P7100. And the articulated rear LCD is very useful.

Sophie said...

You make me laugh Katherine. While you searched out a new imac I was with you the whole way and bought my first apple imac too. I also had 2 years of trouble-free computing since then!
And now..I was just wondering....I want to upgrade my camera....started to look around and do some research...and then you post this! My requirements are slightly different as I want the complete impossible: a small camera that can do well in low light without a flash (indoor, people). Yep, the moon on a stick. I know. But my old Canon G7 is slow and grainy....there must be better ones out there by now. Currently looking at the Panasonic GF3 or Sony Alpha Nex 3 but far from decided and will look at many more.....good luck with your hunt!

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