Time for a new Camera

I’ve never been terribly impressed with my current digital camera. It’s an Olympus FE-280 that I bought on the spur of the moment in Boston a few years ago when my previous camera decided it didn’t want to stay charged any longer. Feature-wise the Olympus probably has almost everything I want, but its menu system is so convoluted that I can never find how to enable the things I’m after in a reasonable amount of time. In the past few years it has slowly developed some bad pixels (both on the view screen itself and on the CCD cell and now the battery charger is starting to flash ominously suggesting that the battery is about to go to a better place so I think it is about time to start looking for a replacement and this time I want to do some research.

Sadly I know probably just enough about taking photos to make me dangerous which means that I occasionally want to do things that probably warrant use of some expensive feature-packed camera. While I would love the power of something like a digital SLR the reality is I would barely make use of all its features and I need something smaller otherwise I will never carry it around with me. But here is a list of the features I am after, maybe someone has suggestions for cameras that have all of these and more?

  • An easy to use mode that does fast exposures
  • Good motion stabilization
  • A way to take a quick sequence of images with one press of the shutter
  • Maybe manual focusing to allow shooting through windows
  • Orientation detection, ideally actually orienting the image file but I guess just putting the EXIF orientation marker is a start
  • I’d sort of love to get RAW images to play around with in the occasion the camera hasn’t been clever enough to work out what I want

Update: So I guess everyone is recommending either one of the Lumix series or the Canon S90. The latter seems to provide more control over shooting at first glance but then the Panasonic site doesn’t offer the full instruction manual for the Lumix cameras, only basic instructions which makes figuring out exactly what you can do with them and how a little more tricky. The Lumix cameras do claim a faster fps in burst mode and all have more zoom than the S90’s relatively paltry 3.8x. I wonder how much use zoom is though when I’m not going to be using a tripod for shooting.

4 thoughts on “Time for a new Camera

  1. The better camera review websites tend to have camera databases where you can search for cameras with specific features:

    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/compare.asp
    http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/cameraList.php

    Feeding all the criteria you specified into either will give you a fairly succinct list. Out of those, the Panasonic LX3 is the star of the camera world in terms of both image quality and creative control, or Panasonic also offers the FZ35/FZ38 if you want a bit (read: a lot) more zoom. On the Canon side of things, there’s the G11 (Canon’s build-like-a-tank top-quality line of compact cameras), or the S90 for something a bit more compact. Have a look here too:

    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/Q408enthusiastgroup/

    Now, the one thing you didn’t specify is price, so if the above seem way too expensive for you, just give up RAW support and you’ll get a much wider list of models (though out of those I’ve mentioned, the FZ35/FZ38 is pretty affordable).

    (Oh, and the reason I’m only mentioning Canon and Panasonic is because I think these two really have an edge over the competition these days for compact cameras, both in terms of performance / features / image quality as well as in terms of handling / user-friendliness).

    Hope that helps!

  2. Johnath has managed to talk most of the Canadians into buying Canon S90s. You should look into that model — I have one and it’s fantastic. Tiny (small enough for pocket or purse), fast, simple, RAW support, capable of everything from full-auto to full-manual, etc. Lovely little camera, and built like a tank.

  3. What Deb said. Right now, the “serious point and shoot” champ is the S90 by a wide margin. If you can stand to wait until mid-may when I’m in town, you’re welcome to poke at mine. They aren’t cheap, as P&S go, but they are remarkable. As Deb says, I think I’ve personally talked 4 or 5 people into them so far. :)

  4. I don’t have an S90, though pfinette and bmoss do. For general purpose photography, it’s the current leader. The LX3 beats it on the extreme wide end, both focal length and speed. But the Canon S90 has a longer zoom, if a bit slower. The S90 also has better manual controls (as in, the switchgear is better, you can do all the same stuff with the Panasonic)

    I also have a TZ3 which is a phenomenal all-rounder. That line is up to the TZ10, which for some reason Panasonic has decided to call the ZS7 in the US. Panasonic actually makes a dizzying array of cameras, all called Lumix. But for what you’re after the LX and ZS lines are the ones to look at. (I like the FZ’s, but they’re not pocketable)

    More money and more size, the G11 is really the S90’s big brother. You get a little more zoom, more knobs, and a hot shoe, but it’s the same sensor, and pretty hard to justify over the S90. (If you care about what makes the G11 great, you should looking at DSLRs or Micro 4/3, IMO)

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