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.