Not sure whether to post here, or under Compact Digital Cameras ...
I have a fair idea of what features and performance I want, but would welcome suggestions as to what model might suit. There is no substitute for tapping into the experience of others. In addition, writing this post forces me to think carefully about my needs and priorities, and write them down, which I might otherwise be too lazy to do. I am not a photographic enthusiast per se – for me a camera is 90% just a means of recording “stuff” which is interesting, important and beautiful to me – a means to an end. I doubt I’ll ever take shots RAW, too much mucking around, so that makes it important to get the best camera I can that takes good JPEGS straight out of the camera. List of priorities :-
Size and weight (Priority: Very High)
Most of my shots are taken on outdoor ‘adventures’, where the camera is stuffed in a day-hike sized pack, so size and weight really matter to me. As I am not a photographic enthusiast as such, I know very well that for me, the practical result of a bulky camera is simply that it will not get carried or used, and I can’t make that point strongly enough. I appreciate image quality though, so a compact point-and-shoot just doesn’t cut it. To put some numbers on what I regard as acceptable, a total weight (including lens) of 600 gms is perfectly OK, whereas above 900 gms is getting too heavy. In terms of size, most non-SLR cameras are OK, the smaller SLR’s are just OK, whereas some of the larger APS-C models are too big.
Low light performance (Priority: Very High)
The very compact class of non-SLR is almost certainly not acceptable, the top end non-SLR cameras are potentially OK depending on zoom range and physical size of lens, while any of the SLRs are likely to be OK also. I am not a photographic enthusiast, so will never have a tripod, or external flash, and don’t want to ‘muck around’ to get a good shot. I have in the past been forced to take far too many (hand held) shots at 1/10 or slower, and I’ve had enough of it. To put some numbers on what I regard as acceptable, it is necessary to normalize the lens F-number to a 35mm camera equivalent, by multiplying the F-number by the crop factor. At wide angle a typical APS-C SLR zoom lens does F3.5 with x1.5 crop factor, giving a 35mm equivalent of F/5.2, which I regard as completely satisfactory. Everything is a tradeoff, but if the other advantages were sufficiently compelling, I may accept as poor as F/9, 35mm equivalent, especially with image stabilization which permits longer exposure.
Articulated screen. (Priority: High)
My present Canon G2 non-SLR has an articulated screen, and I love it. In the simplest case it enable you to angle the screen out of direct sunlight, or at other times it lets you easily get shots holding the camera above your head or in other awkward positions where viewing the screen or viewfinder would be difficult or impossible. Also protects screen when not in use.
Image Stabilization (Priority: Medium to High)
As I said, all my shots will be hand held, and image stabilization is a de-facto way of obtaining a faster lens. I don’t shoot action stuff, so the abilty to get crisp shots at slower shutter speeds is attractive.
Ideal would be a single lens with zoom ratio of between 4:1 and 5:1, any more and the tradeoffs such as loss of light, and size and weight, are unlikely to be acceptable to me. However, I rule nothing out, as everything is interrelated. Possibly a higher zoom range, in a top quality lens, with image stabilization, could work out OK. I’m not a photographic enthusiast, and don’t want to muck around changing lenses, or carrying multiple lenses. That said, the standard ‘twin kit lens’ solution that comes with many low end SLRs will be considered if the other advantages are overwhelming.
Does it need to be SLR?
No. I can live without an optical through-the-lens viewfinder, though would still strongly prefer to have a viewfinder of some sort, either electronic or not-through-lens optical.
Video Recording Capability (Priority: Medium)
All else equal, of course it is useful to be able to record video. Yeah, I know that even the most basic dedicated video camera is much better, but that is not the point. I’m definitely not going to carry more than one camera (don’t even want to carry more than one lens), so the reality is that any video beats none.
Not important. Um, well, not that important anyway, if it does everything I want.
OK. Is there anyone else with similar needs and priorities? You guys are enthusiasts who know just about every camera out there – what would you suggest? Also, for anyone who owns a camera that broadly meets these needs, how do you find it? Also, what else should I consider? I have a few potential models in mind, but don’t want to add my bias before hearing suggestions.