Plants in the Wild: Cameras in the wild
Started by: Stephen Cotton
Any suggestions for a compact digital?Go to latest contribution by Stephen Cotton, 23 November 2009, 20:50. Go to bottom of this page.
I'm looking to replace an older digital compact camera. I want something light weight so I can have it with me wherever. In particular, I want something that does a decent job with flowers in a macro mode, can cope with really short focussing distance. I was impressed by Cameron McMaster's pictures taken with a Canon Ixus in South Africa, but he says he's looking to replace that himself. No more than £200 please! Wasn't sure which thread to place this under so by all means ask around of anyone you know who won't see this thread but might read another one.
There are a lot of possible answers to this I'm having a look through some bits and pieces to try and come up with a good suggestion for you, in the meantime anyone else is very welcome to chip in with their personal experiences of cameras.
A key issue for me would be to define what your precise needs are and then try before you buy.
I'll be on later with some comments and questions.
First of all it's important to stress that I'm no camera expert. The following stems from having looked around for cameras for myself and family. In today's market there is a plethora of choice and unlike when I bought my first digital, you will get a lot for your £200 budget.
I do believe that the electrics behind the lens at this price range are very similar, so you should focus more on the capabilities of the lens.
Optical zoom is very important. Most compacts in the £150+ range boast a 8-12X optical zoom, this gives you about the same as a 25-200, 25-300mm equivalent of a 35mm camera. A lot of cameras also feature image stabilisation which helps prevent shake at the 200-300mm extension of these lenses....not much point in a compact that needs a tripod to steady it as you shoot.
Low light, the higher the ISO range that camera has the more sensitive it is to light and the better able to cope with low light situations. Field shots in full sun are one thing but on overcast dull days you still want to take home good images of what you have found.
Very few cameras in this price range allow manual priority which means you have to trust the balance of Aperture, Speed setting chosen by the camera, again not a problem in good light but sometimes good to be able to adjust your depth of field through slowing your shot down.
Close focus, my first digital was bought on the basis of being able to take a full frame in focus shot of a £1 coin. An easy test to run in any camera shop and one which surprisingly closely represents what we are trying to do in photographing flowers.
Macro mode, again most now have this many going right down to 1cm, 2-3cm is common. The combination of zoom/macro needs to be tried to see what you are most comfortable with.
Megapixels....everyone has lots.. 5Mp was deemed to be the equivalent when shooting in TFF mode to a 35mm film. The current 10-12Mp is like a medium format....again largely irrelevant depending more on the quality of the lens in front of the sensor than on the number of Mp captured...where this does make a difference is in the amount of memory space taken up with each image.
Digital zoom, only purpose of this is to allow you to have a quick close look at the image using the LCD screen. On that same basis the LCD itself needs to be sharp. All digital zoom does is blow up the portion of the image, it does not capture any more detail, but I guess everyone is now aware of this.
Battery life, again surprisingly important when off on a 3 day trek...2 sets of batteries capable of lasting 500 shots each, is fantastic, unfortunately many barely do half that. Worth checking.
Finally in this section, Compatability with what you already have..if you have 10 16Gb SD memory cards as opposed to Minisd or Compact Flash, that may have a significant impact in other spend required. Worth thinking through the costs of spare sets of batteries, memory and whatever other setup you have already invested in.
There are other factors to consider.
Size, weight and capability of being slipped into a pocket.
Ruggedness, there are a batch of cameras now boasting being able to be dropped, on concrete from 1.5 meters....not relevant perhaps, depends on what sort of scrambling you do on a cliff face from time to time?
Also, waterproof, equals dustproof, means dropping in a boggy meadow is not fatal and can simply be washed off.
Lots of gimmicks which mean not a lot, unless you have a particular need.
One thing that always annoyed me about my first digital which was otherwise fantastic was the speed of shutter. I could manage a frame about every 3 seconds, which is fine for still objects growing in the ground, but when an eagle pops into view barely 20 meters away and is moving too fast for the camera to capture, is a very frustrating experience...so if you want fauna as well as flora, give that a thought.
Arm yourself with a good Digital Camera review magazine and set off to your local Jessops or wherever to try a few of the likely models.
Prices are likely to vary from place to place and it is worth looking for deals that might include additional memory cards or discount from list prices.
From things I have seen written, at this level Samsung with the NV8 and WB500 are the only ones which allow manual priority on exposures....however they may not display the fine detail that some of the others do. These trade at £113 and £182 and attract best budget buy status in the mags.
Then Panasonic appear high in any reviews with the Lumix FT1, Lumix DMC-TZ6 and 7 and the Lumix DMC LS85. These range between £85 for the latter to £280 for the TZ7...again deals abound so getting a TZ7 for the price of a TZ6(£210) is not impossible. However from what I can see all the basic quality is there with the TZ6 and you add gimmicks with the TZ7. There's also the Rugged, waterproof DMC-FT1 at £250.
Finally Fujifilm have the most innovation in their FinePix F200EXR(retail at £267), a 12MP camera that adapts to a 6Mp camera in low light and gives better sharper pictures as a result. Apart from this feature and revised menues, this is very similar to the FinePix F100fd at £160, often rated a best buy although only 5x optical, more than enough in most Flora situations.
There are many more, the preceeding are simply a selection from what appear on paper to be among the best at this point in time.
This is not a camera review..this is mostly things to lookat first. Personal preference will relate to the type of autofocus and menus presented, how you feel about the handling of the camera is the most important aspect.
If anyone has any positive or negative comments to make on any of this can they please add their views and thoughts here.
I hope these pointers go some way to helping you choose between the very wide selection available.
Stephen, Can I ask you, as having raised the query in the first instance, was the above of any use whatsoever??
Regards, John H
Have just upgraded my Olympus Camedia D-435 to Olympus X-42 (£69.99 at Argos)...seems to be FE-46 elsewhere. The new one is a joy to use....more money means more fiddly complications in my experience. The old one has survived many treks(and monsoons), cost about £80 years ago. Olympus has good colour rendition,XD cards are a bit pricy but try internet for low prices.2 AA Li's should last a short trek. Reliability is always a problem with rain and condensation so I always take a few cameras with me! Has any one come across a showerproof digital camera?
Additional info on new Olympus X-42: I find blues are more muted and crimsons tend to scarlet compared with Camedia. Use of microSD cards (adaptor comes with camera) reduces cost, but have not tried one yet.
thanks all, in the end I bought a Canon IXUS 970, which proved quite difficult as it was being discontinued. I'm very happy with it, especially its ability to get in close, which Canon IXUS seem to make a feature of.