Sunday, December 12, 2010

Best point and shoot

O.K. I don't know what THE best point and shoot is. I don't know you, nor do I know all your needs. But the following are three suggestions as to great little point and shoots that in the right hands will keep a photographer busy capturing life's important moments.

Love that f/2.0 wide angle.
My first suggestion is actually two suggestions: either a Canon S95 or a Panasonic Lumix-DMC LX5. I own the Canon S90 and I am quite satisfied; It does what I expected. This means it is not perfect but it answers my needs.

My first need is a fast lens. In most cases, I do not like straight on flash photography. All too often, for 1/1000th's of a second you destroy the light and the shadow that drew your eye in the first place, and replaced that with harsh, straight on strobe.

Both the S95 and the LX5 have very fast, for point-and-shoots, lenses. At wide angle both can be opened to a maximum aperture of f/2.0. Nice.

Team a fast lens with a big chip and you have set the stage for a camera that can shoot usable images at ridiculously high ISO settings. Both cameras, I believe, top out at 12,500 ISO! If you think that's crazy, you're right. Images shot at such a high setting suffer, but they are usable.

Owning the Canon S95 has been a delight. The shutter lag is noticeable to me, but then I used a DSLR for many years with absolutely no shutter lag. If you prefocus the camera by depressing the shutter button half way, the shutter lag is maybe a fifth of a second.

A small camera is always handy. My Canon S90 is rarely far away.
 The Lumix LX5 seems to be Panasonic's answer to the Canon S95. And, although I haven't used an LX5, the specs and the reviews indicate that it is a fine response indeed. If size is all important, the smaller Canon wins. With a slightly longer lens, the Canon may again be your choice. But the Panasonic sports an 24mm wide lens rather than the Canon's 28mm, the chip in the Panasonic is slightly bigger and the LX5 has a lot of other nice bells and whistles to keep those with technological savvy more than happy. Check out the comparison of these two point-and-shoots on Snapsort.

Let me end this with some info from Dana Wollman's recent article in the Huffington Post. Note how Wollman starts right out by accenting the S95's small size when declaring the Canon the best point-and-shoot.

Pros: About as compact as a deck of cards, the S95 looks like any other point-and-shoot, but its photos are lovely enough that even people used to carrying bulkier, more advanced digital SLRs will be impressed. Although it's the same size as other cameras, the body feels particularly solid, well-made.

This camera from Canon Inc. has an unusually large sensor for a small camera, which means clearer, sharper pictures, especially in low light. It takes generally beautiful shots and does a better job of blurring the background than other point-and-shoots. The camera also shoots HD video (1280 x 720) and has an HDMI port, enabling people to connect the camera directly to a high-definition television. Serious photographers looking for a lighter camera will enjoy the various manual controls.

Under low light levels, the Canon S90 sings.
Cons: The S95's battery life is relatively short: Canon says it can take up to 200 photos on a charge, whereas competing models such as the Panasonic Lumix-DMC LX5 ($399) claim to take up to 400. The shutter button is small. Also, the S95's 3.8X optical zoom – about what you'd get on a $99 camera – might be too shallow for some people.

Let me add, the short zoom criticism also holds for the Panasonic LX5. And one should never leave home without a second, charged, spare battery. Never! I spent almost six weeks traveling across North America last summer and not once did I miss a picture because of a dead battery.

Since relatively short zooms may not answer all your needs, I know they don't for me. That is why I also own the Fuji HS10.

I love that little camera but note I said love and not like. It has some, what my wife would call, idiocrazicies. The time lag is truly annoying but when that little camera with its incredible zoom delivers, all is right with the world. There is a clunker of a work-around for the shutter lag problem and I've learned to rely on it but it is still a clumsy work-around. I talked about this in length here: Best Frame Capture.

A long lens is sometimes one's biggest need. Think Fuji HS10.
Of course, since buying my Fuji HS10 other camera makers have put out competing models. Still, all things considered, I remain happy with my HS10 and can't see dumping it in the foreseeable future.

You may have noticed one common thread here: Size. I carried a "door stop" camera for years for work. I don't want to lug a monster camera and bag of lenses in my retirement.

In the end, if you do your homework, you will love the camera you buy and you will make beautiful pictures together.

And if you want the 'marriage' to work, don't have a wandering eye. Lust destroys relationships.

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