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Compact Digital camera suggestion?
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Mac Elite
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Jan 21, 2013, 07:15 AM
 
Hi! I used to own a Canon SD1400 IS which really pleased me and had every feature you'd imagine. Unfortunately, it died last week from the infamous "Lens error" problem. I'm looking for a replacement but I have yet to find something similar. This is to be used as my main camera, and I usually carry it in my pockets at all time (hence it has to be light and compact). But as it is my main camera, I want very good picture quality and manual functions, ideally with a good zoom and wide aperture.

The 16x zoom of the SD160 pleased me but I found out it has a smaller aperture than my current model, even with a bigger lens, and it lacked many features and modes (beach, kids and pets, multi-faces focus, etc). Plus people say it's a bit slow before it can be used after startup, which is important to me. It also uses standard AA batteries instead of a pack, which leads me to believe I'd have fewer shots before it runs out (my current pack has an awesome longevity).

In short, I'm looking for

• light and compact (I can go as big as as SD160 at most, if it's worth it, but I'd prefer something in the SD1400 range as I have it with me at all time.
• great optics, as it's my main camera (preferably a powerful zoom but I can do with 5X if the rest is worth it, plus a great aperture (something around f/2.7-2.8 as a minimum), good macro
• short minimal focal length (28 mm equivalent is fine), as I don't want to back up a lot to take portrait, as my gf has to do with hers
• easy to use manual control, many automatic modes (beach, snow, kids and pets, slow shutter, foliage, etc)
• smart features (great autofocus, preferably with a timer which works with smile or wink detection, but it's not a must)

I'd favor models with physical controls instead of digital. I don't want to fumble thru countless menus just to shoot a movie or select a shooting mode or set the flash mode. I favor image quality and functionality (speed of operation, features accessibility) over amount of modes, those are just icing on the cake.

I'd be tempted to buy a SD1400 on the web but I'd prefer not as I found the lens to distort images a little bit and the autofocus wasn't really smart, and the pictures were quite bland and not well balanced.

Thank you for your suggestions
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 07:50 AM
 
I'm a photographer.

I'd seriously consider an iPhone 5. The only thing you're really losing out on is the zoom. You can't pick aperture or shutter speed priority, but you can set exposure effectively by tapping what you want to expose. It does a good job too. My black poodle sitting in front of my white, sunlit curtains? Tap on the poodle and you get detail in the fur. I'd have to bracket (take shots at different exposures) or chimp (look at the exposure on the screen) to do that with my DSLR.

It also has excellent (though grainy) low-light performance. This is important for me because I refuse to use an on-camera flash. Makes stuff look like garbage, IMO.

The only downside other than the lack of zoom is the autofocus needs to think about stuff more than it should when you are doing closeups.
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 08:02 AM
 
My cousin has a 4 and I'm impressed by the picture quality! I'll get a 5 (or 5S or 6) eventually but I doubt it would fulfill all my needs, even if it's impressive for a camera phone. I used it a couple of times and I find it hard to keep it stable while touching the screen, plus I don't want to risk dropping a 800$ glass phone. Also, I'd like to avoid a touch-screen based camera if possible, as I like physical control (it's faster and easier to adjust features on the fly). I used to have a very good reflex 35-mm Pentax camera when I was a photographer like you (but I got an arrow in the knuckle so I'm used to adjust the focus manually. I also don't see myself shooting my entire Cancun vacation with a phone
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 08:50 AM
 
Makes sense.

I don't have personal experience with them, but I'd take a peek at the micro four-thirds format. Big, honkin' sensor and detachable lenses with all manufacturers using the same mount. You give up the zoom again, but I hear the Panny pancake lenses are awesome. Of course, you can always put the zoom back on.

When you narrow your choices, DPReview has insanely detailed reviews.
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 09:02 AM
 
Micro four-thirds, for sure. I've got a Lumix GF1 as my "carry with me but better than the iPhone" camera, rarely bothering with my DSLR anymore. The 1/1.7 pancake lens is a thing of beauty, the low light performance is stunning. The newer cameras have shrunk in size even more.

You can also use a wide variety of lenses with adapters, I am playing with a 1950's Russian knock-off of a 1930's Leica lens at the moment. Camera uses that lens with no issues. Also, HD video in decent quality is a bonus.

In addition, I still shoot film with an old Yashica rangefinder.
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 09:52 AM
 
Another vote for micro four-thirds (another Lumix here).

Although, my newest favourite camera is the "lifeproof" Lumix TS4. It's fantastic, and you can take it literally anywhere - I've had it 35 feet in the ocean, dropped it while climbing in a volcano, and took it snowboarding with me all within 3 weeks. Since it can go anywhere and be dropped anywhere, it's rapidly taking over as my favourite do-it-all piece.
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Jan 21, 2013, 10:16 AM
 
Originally Posted by FireWire View Post
My cousin has a 4 and I'm impressed by the picture quality! I'll get a 5 (or 5S or 6) eventually but I doubt it would fulfill all my needs, even if it's impressive for a camera phone. I used it a couple of times and I find it hard to keep it stable while touching the screen, plus I don't want to risk dropping a 800$ glass phone. Also, I'd like to avoid a touch-screen based camera if possible, as I like physical control (it's faster and easier to adjust features on the fly). I used to have a very good reflex 35-mm Pentax camera when I was a photographer like you (but I got an arrow in the knuckle so I'm used to adjust the focus manually. I also don't see myself shooting my entire Cancun vacation with a phone
I have an iPhone 5 and a Canon G11.

I have a hard time justifying taking the G11 anywhere, because 90% of the time, I get better shots with my phone. My phone can take 10 pictures in the same amount of time I can take 1 on my G11.

Yes, there are some advantages to the G11, it has a zoom, better in low light, better flash, etc... but for most things (casual pics of kids and life) it really doesn't make sense to haul around a big fat camera.

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Jan 21, 2013, 10:47 AM
 
Thanks for the info! So far, I was leaning for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20. I'm partial for Leica lenses. My girlfriend has a low-end Lumix and while I don't like how the camera works, the pictures are always good. This model is different and seems easier to use. It has a 20x optical zoom and an focal length of 24-480, which is really good. The only drawback is the aperture which only goes to f/3.3, which is a little big, but given the great reviews and other characteristics, I presume it's a good trade-off. Given that most high-end cameras I've seen so far have f/3.2-3.3, it should not be too bad? It's strange that lower-end cameras offer f/2.7...

But now you're tempting me with the TS4 with its waterproof abilities. Leica lens, too, and a 28-128 focal length. However, I'd lose on physical control. The waterproofing may come handy when on vacation or while skiing. I tend to buy waterproof disposable cameras but I always end up with unusable pictures... Does it take good pictures underwater or it's too dark?
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 11:09 AM
 
Of course it depends on the water - if it's too murky, there's nothing you could do with any camera - but it takes fantastic underwater pictures IMO. I've had bad results with the underwater disposables as well and bought the TS3 (last model) before heading to the Grenadines last year - it was friggin awesome. We got absolutely fantastic ones within 2-10 feet, and very good ones deeper than that (when you start getting less sunlight and more floating particles). It's rated to around 40 feet or so, and our depth at the dive site was 42 feet.....so we get down and swim around this old wreck and have fun snapping pics, and then I tried to get a good upward angle and angle myself down along the seabed....and the screen suddenly goes a blotchy purple. I realized what I'd done, freaked out and turned it off......cleaned it when we got to the top, turned it on again, no problems at all since then, including another dive. Don't go significantly below the rated water depth, is all I'd say - and you can hardly blame it in that case.

I got a rubber drop-case and a floatable strap - anytime we're near water we can just throw it in without any consequences. I love it. And I had a few epic wipeouts while it was in my pocket while boarding - not a problem.

I have a killer video of a sea turtle I was swimming a couple feet behind.

The TS4 is even better.
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Jan 21, 2013, 12:42 PM
 
Good! This model seems interesting. I just read the TS5 is coming out in march. However, while doing some reading, it appears there have been several cases of leaking, and that image quality was sometime questionnable. Do you find this is a good camera "for a waterproof camera" or is the quality on-par with regular good cameras? I'll only be using it underwater a few times a year so it there's a trade-off in quality I might be better with the ZS20?
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 01:08 PM
 
Can't say about the leaking - mine's been great - although you should watch for any sand or dirt blocking the door before closing and locking it. I would suspect many instances are where the door wasn't properly locked. Again, mine went down to around 40 feet, and although it gave a little hiccup at that depth it survived just fine.

As for quality - I honestly am very happy with the TS3, and I've played around with the TS4 and it's even better. The zoom is more than adequate; I've never found the use for a zoom longer than 5x on a handheld camera, as you really need a tripod past that point to get sharp pictures IMO.

If you're in a situation where that camera isn't "good enough" for the shot you need to get, then I would submit that you probably want/need the sort of control that a removable-lens camera provides - see, the micro four-thirds above. I do have the Panasonic GF2 and really like it - but I find I rarely reach for it for "everyday" camera work, unless I really want a specific lens to shoot with. That probably says something.
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Jan 21, 2013, 09:06 PM
 
Good points! I "rented" (Staples 30-day return policy) a TS20 (TS4's little brother) to see if I like how it works, since they don't have the TS4. If I like it I might buy the TS5 when it comes out! Since I liked my old Canon, it should be enough, plus the image quality will be better since it has better optics.
     
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Jan 21, 2013, 11:04 PM
 
So far, with the TS20 : the LCD is horrible. Very poor viewing angle, poor resolution (looks grainy, pixelated), poor rendering (color, contrast). The image displayed lags when you move the camera while shooting and you see very poorly when the scene is dark, where my old Canon did an amazing job to let you see what you're shooting while in darkness. At first, you think you've missed your shot, but upon inspection, the picture end up really fine. The next revision has a better display so that should be fixed. Ergonomy could be better, it's a little bit confusing to use, as with my gf's current Lumix. Options are limited but this is to be expected with this low-end version. TS4 is better, I read. Zoom buttons should be on the top, not where they are currently, as they are hard to reach while shooting. Camera takes a while to save the shots when using effects but is quick enough on normal mode. Image quality is excellent, however. My hopes are high for the TS5 to correct those issues, as the optics/algorithm are doing a really good job! Minimum focal length is up to par with my expectations but I fear the smaller aperture will bother me on low light situation.
     
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Jan 22, 2013, 10:16 AM
 
I've yet to see a point and shoot zoom camera that isn't a major compromise in some way or other.

For me, the jump goes from iPhone straight to removable lenses.
     
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Jan 22, 2013, 10:27 AM
 
Yes, that's what I discovered. It's like they have an agreement to not produce a perfect product...
     
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Jan 24, 2013, 02:02 AM
 
take a look at Sony RX1 24.3 MP

Simple, compact, with slr like quality.
Review:
Sony RX1 | Underwater Photography

I currently have an NEX 5 and am happy with it, it fits in my pocket when I travel (if I wear loose pants), theres underwater case for it.... for what its worth. Just like subego I don't like flash; so it's important to me to have good iso.
     
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Jan 24, 2013, 06:45 AM
 
Yikes! 2800$ I forgot to mention "inexpensive" My target budget was 160-200, but I can go up to 300$ for a really good model.
     
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Jan 24, 2013, 09:45 AM
 
Yeah, let me clearly say that if you're talking image quality in all situations, the GF2 generally beats the TS3. But having said that, you can't really be disappointed - you're looking for a small, inexpensive camera. Trade-offs are inherent.

My big boost for the TS series is for its take-it-anywhere function. I mean, I live in Canada and regularly vacation down south - it's huge for me. We had a pretty big snowstorm a couple weeks ago - 20+ inches - and we were wandering the streets in the middle of it, snapping shots of cars buried in snow drifts and so on. I wouldn't be taking my GF2 out in -8 C weather with 70-mph winds and blowing knee-deep snow and all the rest! With the TS3, I didn't even think about it - the only bad thing was trying to operate those awkward buttons with mitts on.

Same goes when we were down in the Grenadines last year - started out using the GF2, and by the end I was just bringing the TS3, because I didn't need to worry about water or sand or dropping it or anything else.
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Jan 24, 2013, 09:45 AM
 
That budget won't buy you what you're looking for. It's a compromise budget, meaning you'll end up with a compromise product.
     
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Jan 24, 2013, 03:40 PM
 
You might look at getting a used camera that would normally be out of your budget. Ill research this more when i get home today.
     
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Jan 24, 2013, 08:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by FireWire View Post
In short, I'm looking for
• great optics, as it's my main camera (preferably a powerful zoom but I can do with 5X if the rest is worth it, plus a great aperture (something around f/2.7-2.8 as a minimum), good macro
All the small cameras I've seen have excellent macro. I find they focus easier on compacts than slrs.
• easy to use ...... many automatic modes (beach, snow, kids and pets, , foliage, etc)
As you probably know those are just white balance features the camera applies after it takes each photo. They don't really matter for pic quality. and white balance can be applied by freeware programs once the pics are on your PC. In any case most cameras come with them. An important function to look for is speed priority (might be hard to find on compacts).
I'd be tempted to buy a SD1400 on the web but I'd prefer not as I found the lens to distort images a little bit and the autofocus wasn't really smart, and the pictures were quite bland and not well balanced.
I didn't want to repeat what others have said, so I've now read through the thread and can add 2 cents... Im not a good photographer or anything but I like to follow the technology side of it.

It sounds like you're ready for a step up in camera quality. I second the micro four thirds group, or any of the pocket cam SLR in-between cameras such as canon EOS M, Sony NEX family etc.. Probably every company has their version of an in-between by now. I believe canon also tried to go in that direction with the G11. Since then they have released the G12 and G15 ($499). I have seen great underwater pictures taken with the G11 back in the day and thats the one I thought you could get for a discount by now. I checked goog shopping prices on it and used its $270, new is $480. There must be somewhere that has if for cheaper because the G12 is selling for quite a bit less. Off the top of my head the micro four-thirds cameras mentioned in this thread should take better pictures than the Canon G series (I dont know for sure). The Sony cameras definitely take better pictures than all of them since they have a better sensor. The problem with Sony is it's war against standards make dealing with the raw format, lens compatibility etc. a pain in the ass.

One problem is the quality your asking for doesn't exist in a small enough design. I don't see it changing any time soon either. The sensor technology has been evolving slowly. So when they put a larger sensor in they have to use a larger lens. They can shrink various electronics and mechanisms in the cameras but they cant shrink the physics of light. So what you end up seeing is the housing gets smaller and smaller and the lens stays the same bulky size. There's only a few different types of sensors out there and you don't want to get one of those tiny ones thats in all the cheap pocket cams. A mid range camera will give you better iso, less grainy, better color depth, and look for a speed priority setting. With the sony you can just hold the button down and it takes ~5-6 pics/sec.

I would argue not to make a big deal out of size. Back when I was healthy I traveled the world and climbed to the peaks of mountains with the NEX in my pocket; and it's the biggest of them all.
Dont take for granted how convenient having a water proof camera is. When I'd go to the rain forest, often it would.. rain... We'd all quickly start packing our cameras up, except for the person who had the compact water proof camera... That person could cross rivers, waterfalls etc with the WP camera in hand. Most cameras have a waterproof case made for them; but its to bulky to fit in pocket, cant zoom, and adds $200-2000 to the cost. So it might pay to go with something like what shortcuttomoncton recommended depending whats important to you.

edit:
Have a look at these upper range compacts.
http://shop.usa.canon.com/webapp/wcs...highPrice_list

again these probably wont have the picture quality of micro four thirds mention in the thread, but I've had a similar canon before and feature wise I was satisfied as far as compacts go.
     
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Jan 29, 2013, 02:54 AM
 
thank you all for your input! Wow this endeavour is a lot more complicated than I expected! I started up looking for an el cheapo 160$ camera and the more I learn about them, the more complicated it gets! I didn't know much about digital camera as I didn't own one as of four years ago, but I didn't like it so I didn't use it much. It was bulky as a DSL while not having the convenience of being one. I almost never missed a shot with my old 35mm Pentax and I found myself with a lot of blurry pictures as the camera didn't do a good job and you can't really manually adjust the focus by looking at a crappy LCD. I bought my SD1400 specifically for a single purpose but I found I liked to have it with me all the time so I didn't bring my bigger camera anymore. Image quality was not impressive but the convenience was a good trade-off. I plan to buy a good DSLR (probably a Pentax K-30 so I can reuse my existing lenses and flash) in the future but as I don't have the budget for now and that may take a while, I thought that maybe I should invest a bit more in my compact camera and forget about my DSLR for at least 6 years.

I read a lot about cameras this week so I know a lot more about what to look for. I know I have to get a compromise but it's frustrating because it would be easy to merge all what I want in a single camera. At first I was pretty much set on the Panasonic TZ30 (or TZ40, which will replace it next month), but then I found out the sensor is quite small. I then decided on the LX7, which had a 1//1.7 sensor and is more advanced than the TZ40 (there's a hot shoe for external flash, and can be fitted with a viewfinder). However, I'd miss on the wi-fi and touch screen, which I ended up finding convenient. The wi-fi can be used with an iPhone as a remote, and the touch screen saves time for viewing pictures on the camera (it still have all the manual options so I don't lose that). I then found the Canon S110 which seemed perfect, and I know I already liked the features, menus and LCD, but I fear the lens used is not up to par with the Leica on the Lumix, plus there are report that it may suffer from the infamous "lens error" issue found on most compact Canon cameras... Plus I can't use the wi-fi to use a remote, it's just for uploading pictures.

I, too, don't like flash so I may want a large sensor and great aperture. Is there a big difference between a 1/2.33" and 1/1.7" sensor? I really like the fact that I can install a digital viewfinder on the LX7, however, I'm wondering if you really see well in it? I find I do a better shot when I'm looking in a viewfinder. I don't know why but my shots are not well composited when looking in an LCD.

The NEX and G series are too big as it has to fit in my jeans pocket daily, where I already have other stuff.

I don't think it would be that hard to merge all that I want in a single camera, without making it bulkier. I think I will pass on the waterproof camera and just borrow one when I need it.
     
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Jan 29, 2013, 11:50 AM
 
I have a mint condition Pentax K10D (plus lens) that I am looking to sell. I am looking for a little bit more than your budget ($350) but if you're already invested in Pentax then this might be a good fit.
     
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Jan 29, 2013, 01:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by FireWire View Post
I used it a couple of times and I find it hard to keep it stable while touching the screen, plus I don't want to risk dropping a 800$ glass phone. Also, I'd like to avoid a touch-screen based camera if possible, as I like physical control (it's faster and easier to adjust features on the fly).
Everyone else has covered all of the important stuff, but I thought it was worth mentioning that you can control the shutter of an iPhone by clicking the volume up button (on the phone or headphones). This makes holding the phone much more natural and prevents shaking the phone when tapping on the screen.
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Jan 30, 2013, 02:40 AM
 
Funny story...

The developers for Camera+ hacked that option in a couple years ago, and had their (very popular at the time) app get yanked for like, a month, because they violated Apple's cardinal rule about repurposing physical buttons.

Guess what feature Apple put into their next rev of the camera app?


Camera+ is not a bad app BTW, allows you to set focus and exposure to different places in the picture. Still go for the ease of the Apple app myself though.
     
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Jan 31, 2013, 03:48 AM
 
Phileas: that's an ineresting offer but I don't have the budget for two cameras and the most urgent is the compact, so I will postpone the acquisition of the slr for a bit! Thank you!

so, does anyone know if there's a big difference between a 1/2.33" and 1/1.7" sensor? My current Canon has a 1/2.33 sensor and was not so bad but I had to use the flash a lot, and as I'll be using it as my main camera for the foreseeing future, I may want a better camera. I'm torn between the LX7 and the Canon S110.. The feature-set and size are better with the canon but it lacks the excellent Leica lens of the Lumix and I have doubts regarding the reliabilty. I had a disappointing experience with the lens of my SD1400 (distortion around the edge, mostly). According to samples I've seen, this seems to be resolved but I'm still skeptical..
     
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Feb 2, 2013, 12:46 AM
 
I went to the store and saw them in person and as much as I liked the LX7, it's too big to fit in my pocket for everyday use. I'll have to settle for the Canon S110, which the expert recommended. I'll lose a bit on quality (lens, optical stabilization, aperture) and LCD resolution but I think it's an acceptable trade-off. It was DPreview's recommendation if we needed a very small camera. It still has 1/1.7" sensor and a slightly more powerful zoom, and a good set of features. It doesn't support remote operation via iPhone like the TZ30 but its timer has interesting options (wink, smile, face recognition, etc).
     
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Feb 2, 2013, 02:08 PM
 
Originally Posted by FireWire View Post
I went to the store and saw them in person and as much as I liked the LX7, it's too big to fit in my pocket for everyday use. I'll have to settle for the Canon S110, which the expert recommended. I'll lose a bit on quality (lens, optical stabilization, aperture) and LCD resolution but I think it's an acceptable trade-off. It was DPreview's recommendation if we needed a very small camera. It still has 1/1.7" sensor and a slightly more powerful zoom, and a good set of features. It doesn't support remote operation via iPhone like the TZ30 but its timer has interesting options (wink, smile, face recognition, etc).
Let us know what you think of it in a few weeks (or months) of using it. Since you're into photography you can probably give us a better critique on image quality than most the people on Amazon reviews. Personally I don't like dpreview's site structure to try and find info.

I really like that it has RAW capability; most point and shoots historically lack it.

Electronista has reviews/news from time to time on some of the latest camera models and technology. I hope macnn gets paid for those articles; I've spend several thousand based on cameras I was introduced to on this site.
     
   
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