Monthly Archives: September 2005

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OK, digital camera technology is moving fast enough that it’s time for an update. If you have a digital point-and-shoot that’s over a year old (yes, only a year), you might want to take a look at the new crop of cameras that are out now. With point-and-shoots, most people complain about shutter lag (the amount of time from when you push the shutter button to when the photo actually gets taken). Movie modes in older cameras were also pretty dismal, with low resolution and poor quality. The newer crop of cameras out have addressed these issues and are adding great new features like image stabilization.

Point-and-Shoot

If I bought a point-and-shoot now, I would get the Canon SD400 (or wait a few weeks for the SD450, which has a larger LCD screen). In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of Canon. Between my wife and me, we now have 7 Canon cameras (2 digital point-and-shoots, 4 digital SLRs, and an SLR film camera). Their build quality is great and they take great pictures. The SD400 is a 5-megapixel camera in an extremely small package. It has a 3x zoom and takes 640×480, 30fps movies (basically DVD quality). And did I mention it’s tiny? Oh yeah, I guess so. As of today, it can be found for about $300. There is also an SD500, that’s a very nice 7-megapixel camera, but it’s a little larger and a bit more expensive. For a “throw in your pocket” little camera, I think the SD400 is perfectly suited.

“Hybrid” Point-and-Shoot

There’s a new class of camera that bridges the gap between the point-and-shoot and SLR. The provide the creative control of an SLR (aperture/shutter-priority and full manual exposure control, RAW file format, etc.) but have fixed lenses and movie modes like P&Ss. In my last post on this topic, I recommended the Panasonic Lumix FZ20. Since then, they’ve released the FZ30, which has some significant improvements. It’s now an 8 megapixel shooter, has a 35-420mm (35mm equivalent) image stabilized lens, a much improved LCD and EVF (electronic viewfinder), and a mechanical zoom ring on the lens (rather than a electronic zoom) that you can use during the movie mode. From the specs and what I’ve read, it kicks butt over Canon’s equivalent, the S2IS, and is therefore the one departure from Canon in my recommendations. I don’t have this camera yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Oh, and you can pick it up for about $600, but it’s brand spankin’ new, so the price’ll come down.

Digital SLR

On the digital SLR front, we have 2 20D cameras. It’s an 8.2 megapixel camera that takes the entire range of Canon EF and EF-S lenses (as well as third party lenses from Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina). For about $1300, it’s one kick-ass camera. As for lenses, we mostly use Canon’s 28-135mm IS (image stabilization), which is a great “walkaround” lens because of the zoom range and the IS. We also have a couple of “L” lenses, which are Canon’s luxury line (mostly used by pros). They usually cost well in excess of $1000 each, but there are a few that are reasonably priced (in the L world, “reasonable” is relative). The 17-40mm f/4 and the 70-200mm f/4 can be had for about $600 each and are great quality lenses if you don’t need the low-light performance of a faster (f/2.8) lens. Canon is also adding a 24-105mm f/4 IS lens to the lineup at the end of September that we’ll likely purchase, but it looks like it’s going to come in at around $1100 (a bit much for a “slow” L lens, but the IS should make it worth the premium). I’m also planning on getting Canon’s new 70-300 IS lens. It’s a consumer lens (not an “L”), but it’s still of good quality and is ALOT more affordable (will probably retail for about $400). The IS is great in a long zoom, since the greater the zoom, the more difficult it is to get a handheld shot without shake. Note that Canon currently has a 70-300 IS lens, but it doesn’t have the newer ring-type USM (ultrasonic motor) focusing, so it doesn’t focus as fast and quietly as the new one should.