the great camera debate


I have a friend that is a fellow camera buff, for the sake of argument lets call him Ed, because that’s his name.  Ed and I should be studied by camera companies. Every time Canon or Nikon put out a camera they should call us first to make sure we are happy. Between the wants and needs of Ed and I, we cover just about everything a camera should have. You would think that maybe we want the same things, but that wouldn’t be true at all. We actually are very different in our camera requirements. Well mostly anyway.

Ed and I had this conversation a while back where we discussing what would be the perfect camera for each of us. We decided we would write about what would be our dream cameras and why. He has written his, this is mine.

I am currently shopping for a new camera. I have a camera already, its a Canon Rebel XTi with a couple lenses to go with it. The XTi does a great job and takes great photos but its big, especially with my 17-40mm lens on it. For many situations this doesn’t bother me at all, for other situations its a huge pain in the arse. Ed once made a blanket statement that no one uses big cameras because they are such a pain to carry around, which of course is just a ridiculous statement. At the time I had taken around 20K pics with mine and carried it daily. Ed is right in the respect that there are many times that it just is silly to carry around that monstrosity. I think when you have a giant camera around your neck it draws attention to you and maybe keeps you from getting candid shots that would be more easily obtained with a smaller more covert camera. I also think that people may worry that you might be shooting in somewhat of a professional capacity and might be leary about being in a shot that may be printed somewhere they don’t know about. I have actually been asked by people if I am taking pictures for magazines as if they were worried about it. Ed despite his previous statements has just bought a couple of SLRs and is starting to carry them, not sure why, my guess is that he finally would like the flexibility or quality that they provide DESPITE being a pain to carry sometimes. Yes they are big and yes they are an incredible pain to haul around sometimes but the simple fact of the matter is that they are better than point and shoots. No point and shoot to date has put an SLR sized sensor in their camera and therefore PAS (point and shoot) cameras are plagued with high noise levels and less versitility. So if you want the best quality you can get, especially at higher ISO levels you really need to be shooting with an SLR. Here is one area that Ed and I differ greatly in opinions. He made the statement that (and I am paraphrasing) that image quality is secondary to composure, or artist level. I disagree. I want a high quality image first and foremost. If you have taken a great shot, its artistic, its composed well yet is a noisy mess because you had to shoot at 800 ISO, then its unusable to me. Now of course all this makes little difference if you aren’t printing large prints which actually very few people do. I do, that is why its important to me. At 12×17, noise and blur are very evident.

So all that is the long way around the start of my list of features that I would like to see in a camera and why.

1.  First and foremost I would like a camera that has  extremely high quality photos in terms of sharpness and color. This means low noise at all ISO levels up to 800. After that I am willing to deal with some. I shoot in low light and being able to use a higher ISO is critical to getting those shots. This means some camera manufacturer is going to have to put a large sensor in a PAS. I doubt this is ever going to happen because then less people would buy their SLRs, especially the lower end ones.

2. A fast lens. I want a lens that is AT LEAST 2.0 on the wide end. It would be REALLY great if they gave me something faster than that, but 2.0 is fine. Panasonic has a camera out right now that I have considered, the LX3 which has a 2.0 lens. That is great but it fails the perfection test in other areas which I will get to later.  Also to go along with a fast lens, I want image stabilization. I didn’t make it its own catagory because all cameras have it these days so I don’t need to wish for it. Its already a industry standard.

3. A good zoom range. I would like something wide on the lower end, at least 28 but wider would be better. I shoot more wide than telephoto but that is because I don’t own anything long. If I need long, I rent it. I would like the high end to be 200mm. 128mm is acceptable but this is my dream camera so I want 200. I am tired of standing on top of people to get candid shots. The lack of a long lens has just about caused me bodily harm in a couple situations.

4. Being able to shoot in RAW format. I now shoot this exclusively. Yes its more work, but iPhoto can view RAW photos so I only need to process the ones I need to print which is not that often. I have done much comparison and RAW simply provides a nicer image by a wide margin and provides post processing flexibility that you just can’t get in a JPEG. If you never print anything big and you are just going to be viewing your photos on a computer then don’t bother with RAW. If you are going to print photos big and hang them on your wall, then you are short changing yourself if you aren’t using it.

5. A REALLY good rear LCD, and it would be nice if it were articulating like the older G series but the articulating thing is not a deal breaker for me, just a wish. The newest G10 has a LCD that is very high resolution and has been remarked that NOW its a high enough resolution to actually be able to tell if your photos are perfectly sharp or not. Because I often will look at a shot as soon as I take it to make sure its sharp, having an LCD with a high resolution is important. I do like that many new cameras are using a 3″ LCD. I remember some of the first ones weren’t even 2″.

6. Being able to shoot HD video. This wasn’t even on my wish list a year ago. But now several cameras do HD. The Canon 5DMarkII shoots HD that is gloriously beautiful. I want that in a PAS. I thought I had found the perfect camera with the LX3 because it has a fast lens and it shoots HD (it has one very big shortcoming which I will get to). The only problem is that it doesn’t use a decent compression so the HD is 3megs a second. That is a little high.

7. Weather resistant. This has always been high on Ed’s list but not as high on mine. Lately I have had moments where I was caught in torrential downpours and wished that my camera was more weather resistant.  Its my wish list so it needs to be here albeit at number 7.

8. Ergonomically comfortable. Ed likes tiny cameras, me, not so much. Even though I want something smaller than a SLR, its not important that its pocketable, but what is important is that its comfortable to hold. When I was reading up on my XTi before I bought it, a lot of people said it was terrible to hold. I couldnt find one in town to hold so I just bought it. When I got it, and first held it I couldn’t believe how terrible it felt in the hand and was just about to box it back up and send it back when I remembered something I read that said that if you get the battery grip for it, that it adds an inch to the grip and makes  it comfortable. So I went out and bought it and they were right, it went from the most uncomfortable thing I have ever held, to something very comfortable. Plus the battery grip holds two batteries so my battery life is incredible. I can shoot on and off for a couple weeks without having to charge the batteries. All of the prosumer level PAS cameras are a little bigger than the standard pocketable PAS. This is a result of them needing to do more things.

Well that is it. That is the wish list. There are minor wishes like a decent menu system and good controls but those things generally aren’t deal breakers for me and think that you can get used to whatever controls they give you. So right now because I am headed off to Japan in a week I have thought about buying a camera to take with me that wouldnt be such a pain to haul around. I have narrowed it down to 2, although Ed wants me to add a third consideration to the mix which I am not going to do as there is not one site anywhere that says it compares with the two I am considering. The Canon G10 and the Panasonic LX3. Lets go through my list and see how they stack up.

Both the Canon and the Panasonic take decent photos. The G10 has the edge in bright light, the LX3 has the edge in low light. Neither are fantastic above the lowest ISO levels.  Canon 2.8 lens on the low end. LX3 2.0 on the low end. Winner LX3. As for zoom range, the G10 does 28-140mm the LX3 24-60mm. This is where the LX3 gets the boot (although I am still on the fence somewhat). 60mm is REALLY short. I am just not sure I want to be held to that. Yes the lens is fast, 2.0-2.8 but it really fails my zoom needs. HD, LX3 does it, the G10 doesn’t. To be fair, the video on the G10 although not HD, is good and it doesn’t take up gobs of card space. As far as rear screens go, from everything I have read, the Canon screen is stellar. The LX3 just good. I like stellar. Neither are weather resistant and both are fairly equally matched ergonomically (although I must say I am just going by photos and from what I have read, I have yet to hold them). Both shoot RAW

So there you have it, neither is my dream camera. One is better at some things, the other is better at other things. I am going to go down to Kenmore Camera this week and chat with them and get their thoughts. I could just take my XT1 to Japan and put the whole thing off but that camera can’t go in my work bag and therefore has to get left behind when I go to work. In Germany that wasn’t an issue as my room was a 15 minute walk from work. In Japan where I am an hour train ride to work, I need a camera with me. There are simply too many things I am going to want shots of during that time and may not even get back to my hotel before bedtime.

Nikon, Canon get crackin on my perfect camera will you!!! You have 7 days to get one done and get it to me!!!!!