Buying a Camera – Follow up

I’ve been asked by a friend “What about a decent travel camera, small enough to fit into a pocket, good built quality, with a reasonable set of features and available at an affordable price?

I assume that most of our casual photographers will ask the same question without actually thinking too seriously about the camera they would really like. For them I went back on dpreview.com to search into the camera database but with a slightly different input:

  • Camera style: fixed lens, compact
  • Zoom range: 10x
  • Zoom wide: less or equal to 28mm
  • Zoom tele: any (or not selected) – determined by the wide focal and zoom range
  • Image stabilization: both optical and sensor shift technologies selected
  • Custom white balance: selected
  • Maximum aperture: F3.5 or brighter
  • Shutter speed range: 1/1000 to 1 sec or larger range
  • Exposure modes: aperture priority and shutter priority
  • Sensor size: compact and larger
  • Effective pixels: more than 8 and less than 14 MP
  • HD (movie) mode: 1920 x 1080

I highlighted in red the changes I made in my previous example (at the end of the last post). Here is my motivation:

  • Being a travel camera, I assumed a wider zoom range (10x) to accommodate various situations the traveler can encounter. A larger zoom is not necessarily better because you may experience more optical problems like distortions, chromatic aberrations, etc. For some, even 8x is too much; for others even 20x is not enough. Try to be realistic in your expectations.
  • I changed the minimum focal distance to 28mm or lower to help on the wide angle side of the zoom: 24mm would be great if available, especially, in cramped spaces where it is difficult to find a spot to capture the whole scene you intend to shoot..
  • I reduced the restrictions on the sensor size, allowing smaller sensors from the compact class (most likely 1/2.3″ or 6.17 x 4.55 mm); while the quality of the images will suffer (especially in low light), the camera will remain small and pocketable (ideal for travelers).
  • Sensor resolution remained roughly the same: I increased the upper limit just enough to allow some cameras that use 12.1 MP in place of 12 MP to be included in the list.
  • Most people would like to be able to capture short video clips as well: not to replace a real camcorder but to add a bit of atmosphere to the photos they took into a certain place or just to record an event (e.g. a parade or a street concert). The HD standard (1920 x 1080) is probably the most desirable by many to match a modern TV set.
  • As you probably noticed, I kept the exposure modes that allow more creativity (aperture priority and exposure priority). One day the casual photographer may want to become more involved in the process of capturing photos and experiment more.

Here are the results:

  • Canon PowerShot SX240 HS: 12.1 MP, 3″ screen, 25 – 500 mm (20×)
  • Canon PowerShot SX260 HS: 12.1 MP, 3″ screen, 25 – 500 mm (20×)
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS15: 12.1 MP, 3″ screen, 24 – 384 mm (16×)
  • Samsung WB750: 12.5 MP, 3″ screen, 24 – 432 mm (18×)
  • Canon PowerShot SX230 HS: 12.1 MP, 3″ screen, 28 – 392 mm (14×)
  • Canon SX220 HS: 12.1 MP, 3″ screen, 28 – 392 mm (14×)
  • Casio Exilim EX-ZR100: 12.1 MP, 3″ screen, 24 – 300 mm (12.5×)

Most likely any of these cameras will do the job and fit the bill. But I suggest you read the reviews and the specifications. Study the samples taken by the reviewers and follow the discussions in the forums about these cameras to see if you are happier with one in particular. Only when you are satisfied, start looking for a deal.

Please notice that certain cameras are not reviewed or they are just recently announced (maybe not even available in the stores or online). The best think to do is to select a model that has been on the market enough so that you can gather enough information and take the right decision. Please remember that the latest models may hide issues undiscovered yet by the users and the reviewers; not to mention that they are probably more expensive than the models they will displace in the near future. On the other hand, don’t go back in time too much or you won’t even find the camera that you are looking for (except in very rare circumstances).

In the list above, the first three models are too “fresh” and excluded from further investigation (at least for the time being). You may want to return to these cameras later (in half a year for example) and look for reviews or user opinions.

Canon PowerShot SX230 HS is reviewed together with other cameras in an article that can be viewed by clicking on the “Read Review” link on the right side of the list. It also comes with a score of 77% (you can compare the cameras and the scores in the above mentioned article).

For the other cameras, you have to keep searching for reviews on Internet. I also suggest you visit amazon.com for real user reviews (however, take them with a grain of salt because they are not experts).

Already decided? Well, start looking for a bargain :-)

(More to follow on bargains, deals, refurbished and second hand cameras.)

 

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