Monthly Archives: January 2005

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Actually, this is pretty well covered in my friend’s blog. In this post, he picks the point-and-shoot cameras that I’d recommend. Namely, if size is your main priority, the Canon Powershot SD300 (also mentioned in my previous post) is my favorite. It has a 4MP sensor, which is more than enough for anything up to 8×10 or even a little bigger, which should satisfy most people’s needs (especially for a little walkaround camera). It also takes little video clips (up to 3 minutes) – a feature I’ve come to know and love. Who needs a camcorder anymore?

If you want more creative control, get the Panasonic Lumix FZ20. A 5MP sensor, 12X image stabilized Leica lens (and a f/2.8 lens all through the zoom range!), TIFF mode, movies up to the limit of your memory card,…. And all for under $500 street. If you want a true camcorder replacement (so a really good movie mode is your priority), I’d go with the Canon Powershot S1IS. In fact, if this camera had a higher resolution sensor (it’s a 3.2MP), I’d probably give it a higher recommendation than the Panasonic. What it does have is a super quiet ultrasonic, image-stabilized 10x lens and a movie mode that lets you shoot to the capacity of the memory card. The differentiating factor is that you can use the zoom during a movie. Most point-and-shoot zooms are too noisy and the camera’s microphone picks up all that noise when zooming. You will, however, sacrifice picture quality and some creative control over the Panasonic.

What am I carrying in my camera bag? Well, in my pocket I have a Canon Powershot S400. It’s a 4 megapixel camera in a tiny package. I bought it specifically for its size, but it takes great pics too. Yes, that link is to an article that published one of the pics I took on my hike to Mt. Whitney taken with the S400. If I were to buy a camera today and my priority was size, I would probably opt for the Powershot SD300. It’s even smaller and has a big LCD for viewing images.

When I need more creative control, I use a Canon Digital Rebel. It’s a 6.2 MP digital SLR and takes the entire range of Canon EF lenses. When I bought it, it was the only digital SLR under $1000 and the little brother to my wife’s camera, the 10D. We primarily bought Canon because she already had a Canon film camera and an assortment of lenses and we had great experiences with Canon equipment in the past. Since I bought my camera, Nikon came out with their sub-$1000 competitor, the D70. If I had a strict budget to spend for a digital SLR and no other affinity to Canon (like an existing set of lenses), that’s probably the one I would get. It costs a little more than the Rebel, but it’s features match or exceed Canon’s 10D. If, however, I had $1500 to spend on a camera, it would hands down go toward Canon’s new 20D. It has a 8 MP sensor, Canon’s new DigicII chip (faster with better noise reduction), and is lighter than the 10D. Don’t tell my wife, but she’s probably getting one for her birthday (which, of course, means I get to upgrade my Rebel with her 10D!). More on cameras I don’t own but would recommend later.

Let’s start with Photography. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no pro (though I did win $25 in a contest once!), but I’m definitely an avid enthusiast. I’ve been shooting digital for about 8 years, which means I took some pretty crappy pictures 8 years ago. Between my wife, Jean, and myself, we have 3 digital cameras we actively use (more on that later). There are several sites I use as great references for a number of different purposes. For equipment reviews, the must read digital photography site is DPReview. They have the most comprehensive reviews I’ve seen and their forums have a very high participation rate (you often have your questions answered in minutes). Steve’s Digicams also has good reviews and is where I go to find printer reviews. If you have a digital SLR and are looking for new lenses, check out Fred Miranda’s site. I usually go there for good, user-contributed reviews of an assortment of lenses (especially Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and Tamron). They also have some tutorials, but many of them involve purchasing Fred’s Photoshop Plugins (haven’t actually tried any of them yet).

There are several sites that have product information as well as tutorials to improve your photography. My favorite is probably Luminous Landscape. They have very comprehensive reviews (including field tests), though mostly of higher-end equipment (digital SLRs and accessories). They also have really good lessons on how to use your camera more effectively and how to maximize your photography through post-processing in Photoshop. Photo.net has tutorials that cover the basics and reviews from contributing pros. What I find interesting there is that readers can comment on many of the articles and the authors will actually respond. So don’t stop at the end of the article, keep reading the comments. I use Vivid Light Photography mostly for the tutorials, though they do have some reviews (not nearly as good as dpreview). They also have an monthly email newsletter highlighting their latest articles (one of these days all these sites will learn about RSS!).

OK, why do I think I’m qualified to even suggest what to buy and where to buy it? Well, for one, I’m really cheap. Which, of course, means that I have a natural urge to try to get the best deal. That sometimes bites back, though, as it’s occasionally necessary to pay a premium either to buy quality product or buy it from a reputable source. My garage is a testament to bad purchasing attempts – all kinds of random electronics and computer gear that either don’t live up to their promise or just plain stopped working. I’ll make sure I document all those experiences, too, so you can learn from my mistakes.

I also love gadgets. I admit it. My name is Jeff and I’m a gadgetaholic. Let’s see…Treo, portable video player, MP3 player, plasma TV, noise-cancelling headphones, those goofy glasses that are supposed to project your computer screen, point-and-shoot digital camera, digital SLR, 4 computers (in actual use, about 4 more in parts), DSL, wireless network, firewall, Linux server – you get the idea.

Speaking of gadget freaks, if you’re one and you’re not regularly visiting Engadget and Gizmodo, then do it now! And they both have RSS feeds so you can track them everyday in your reader. Speaking of RSS readers, the RSS capabilties of My Yahoo! are pretty darned good for getting a little snapshot of your favorite feeds. For a more comprehensive view, I’ve been using the Sage extension for Firefox. There are readers out there that may organize feeds better, but I like how Sage renders the feeds – almost like reading a magazine (complete with pictures!). Check out Engadget and Gizmodo with Sage – I rarely need to visit the actual sites anymore!

Ok, so everyone always asks me advice on purchasing all sorts of electronic gadgets – computers, home theater stuff, cameras, you name it. I guess it’s because I tend to research the hell out of things – always looking for the best bang for the buck. So instead of having to repeat myself a million times, I figured I’d just record my purchasing experiences here. Enjoy!

P.S. Give me some time – I’ve got lots of catching up to do!