Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

CAMERA BLEG....For the past six years my camera of choice has been a Nikon Coolpix 995. As you can see, its unique feature is that it rotates in the middle, so you can point the camera up or down, hold it above your head or down at ground level, or grip it between your arms and point it straight down at a tabletop if you want to take pictures of documents. You can do all this while keeping the LCD facing toward you and your finger at the usual angle for pressing the shutter button.

This particular feature is one that most people either love or hate, but since I do this stuff all the time I love it. Scratch that. I adore it. Going back to a camera that makes me squat and bend and guess whenever I want to frame a shot that's anywhere but eye level would feel like giving up my word processor and going back to a typewriter. And I've already told you how I feel about that.

Sadly, most of the rest of the world disagrees. Even more sadly, the image quality on the 995 is only so-so, and the autofocus on mine has sucked pretty badly ever since something jarred it a couple of years ago. Result: too many blurry cats. I'd like to get a new camera, with all the bells and whistles that six years of technology wizardry has added since 2001, but the only rotating camera still made is the Coolpix S10, which doesn't meet even my modest needs. What to do?

I'm not willing to give up LCD flexibility completely, which means I need a camera with an articulating LCD screen. In fact, I have three fairly nonnegotiable demands:

  1. An articulating LCD screen.

  2. Image stabilization, since I've never had a very steady shooting hand.

  3. Wide angle capability. I'd like the equivalent of 24 mm, but I'll make do with 28 mm.

Long story short, there doesn't appear to be a camera on the market that has all three of these features. I can get frustratingly close, but not quite there. So far, the best fit I've found is the Canon S5, which has features 1 and 2 and the capability of adding a wide-angle attachment that provides feature 3. It's not ideal, but it's the closest I can find.

So here's the bleg: does anyone have anything to say about the S5, good or bad? My biggest concern is image quality, which appears to be only adequate, and will inevitably be softened further with a wide angle attachment. If you actually have a wide angle attachment you've used with an S5, I'd love to hear about that too. Raynox seems to garner better reviews than Canon's own add-on, but personal experience from someone who cares about image quality would be very, very helpful.

Of course, if you know of some other camera that has my three features, feel free to shout. I'd be delighted to get a DSLR and then choose my own glass, but none of them have everything I want, and I don't feel like paying DSLR prices if I have to compromise.

Beyond that, consider this a digital camera open thread. But Canon S5 chatter would be especially appreciated.

Kevin Drum 3:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (73)

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What is this, "bleg"?

Posted by: fidelio on December 8, 2007 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK


Also browse the forum

Posted by: richard on December 8, 2007 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I do not know a damn thing about the S5.

However, I do know that what you ought to do, Kevin, is instead of asking for advice, go to some camera-nerd forum and post a story about how you needed to find a camera with 1, 2, and 3, and you settled on the S5 with wide-angle attachment, and you L-O-V-E it SOOOOO much and how great it is for all your needs.

You will, within minutes, have several replies deriding your stupidity and telling you that you really ought to have bought Camera X instead - or you won't, in which case the really is the way to go.

Posted by: DJAnyReason on December 8, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Get a Nikon D70, 80, or whatever the latest version is and don't look back....

Posted by: Paul on December 8, 2007 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Check out the Panasonic Lumix FZ30 and FZ50.
They meet all criteria except wide angle- this goes to 35 mm (as 35mm film equivalent I guess); don't know if that's wide enough for you.

Posted by: Drew Steen on December 8, 2007 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

The reviews say that the Olympus EVolt DSLRs (say, the 330) has what you're looking for. You don't really need IS unless you're shooting telephoto, but presumably there's an IS lens you can attach to the Olympus.

Be sure to go to a store and try it out, though!

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot on December 8, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

I've used the S5's predecessor, the S3 IS, for a couple of years now and I've been quite happy with it.

The flip-out, rotating LCD is quite useful, although I understand your point about the shutter release button being inconvenient to reach sometimes when it doesn't rotate with the LCD.

The Auto mode is generally OK for most things, and there's enough built-in modes (right on the dial) to cover most other scenarios without having to get too deep into menus.

If you do find yourself taking lots of pictures of documents or table-top objects, there is a third-party program called PSRemote (about $50 I think) which you can download which takes over the complete functionality of the camera over the USB cable. You get to see a large preview window on your PC, and can trigger the shutter with the mouse or a hotkey, play with exposure, etc., without having to fiddle directly with the camera.

One very nice feature is that there is a dedicated "movie" button -- whatever mode you're in, if you suddenly want to grab a quick video of a surprise event, just press the red button and within less than 1 second you're recording 640x480 30fps motion-JPEG video. A memory hog compared to H.264, but very, very handy, and the quality is quite good because there's no MPEG compression artifacts.

The camera has been dropped a couple of times from chest-height to the floor (both times, not by me...) and survived, but that's probably excellent luck rather than a truly durable case.

The lens cap fits loosely on the S3 IS, I don't know if they've improved it on the S5.

I don't have the wide angle adaptor lens, but I do have the sun hood lens attachment and a filter ring. Warning: If you use the sun hood on and find yourself in a dark environment where you need to use the flash, the lens will cast a shadow on the lower 10% of the frame. Check to see that the wide angle adaptor is sufficiently narrow in diameter to avoid this.

The S3 IS uses regular AA batteries (4). I've been using Energizer Lithium batteries and the battery life, even when using flash, is amazing. I can get hundreds of shots with flash without needing to change batteries.

There is no hotshoe for an external flash, but there are "digital-compatible" flashes count the pre-flashes this camera puts out and go off at the right time. That's sort of OK, but the built-in flash still goes off so doing bounce effects is largely not possible.

If you have other questions, please let me know. Good luck with your shopping.

- Bob R.

Posted by: Bob R. on December 8, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

If you're primarily interested in "preserving the moment" for yourself and your loved ones, then be practical, dear, and go with a cheaper model that takes quality pictures.

Otherwise, I can only warn you that your relatives might not appreciate the degree of photographic clarity that really serves only to highlight pimples and rosacea.

Posted by: Aunt Bea from Bakersfield on December 8, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 is a SLR with the features you're looking for, including a tilting screen and Live View (so you can see what you're about to shoot on the screen, which is somewhat unusual in SLRs). The kit lens is 14mm x2 = 28mm (35mm image equivalent).

The Olympus EVolt cameras don't have a tilting screen as far as I can see (but I sure do love my e500!)

Posted by: Drew Steen on December 8, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm bummed the Canon G-series lost it's articulating screen. You could get the G-6 but it doesn't have image stabilization.

Posted by: B on December 8, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, you can get an S3, which is nearly identical to the S5 for $200 less.

Posted by: The Bobs on December 8, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

I love that dual-body design from Nikon. I wish they found a way to keep it alive.

Posted by: Misplaced Patriot on December 8, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Most people look for image stabilization in the super-zoom cameras (like the S5). The Panasonics (FZ30, FZ50) also offer super-zoom with IS and twist/swivel LCD -- but they are larger and about 50% heavier than the S5.

If super-zoom is not a desirable feature, then image stabilization may not be so important. In that case, the Canon A640, smaller and 60% the weight of the S5, offers a twist/swivel LCD.

You will have to use add-on lenses for wide angle. But why the wide-angle obsession? A lot of group / party shots? Try making some portraits of the cats (and of people) with telephoto. It's all in the eyes. They will be more effective.

Posted by: JS on December 8, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin -

I spent several hours on the web a couple of weeks ago. I was looking for a camera with the rotable/flexible LCD screen, too. I fell in love this feature with my Canon A610. I can't imagine going back to squatting for low shots, and going blind with high ones.

Alas, it seems Canon is the only major maker still doing the flex display. With IS, it's offered only on the A650 IS, and the S5 IS. They're each attractively priced -- about $400 list. But the A650 is 12.1 megapixels -- much more than necessary, perhaps with degradation of image quality in exchange. The S5 IS is 8 MP, and a very nice package, but it uses a proprietary rechargeable battery. Unfortunately for me, I swore off these years ago -- AA lithiums (or akalines in a pinch) for me! BTW, the prefix "A" on a Canon model number stands for "alakine").

So, once again, I'm disappointed with the abandonment of what I think is one of the useful features of digital photography to come along in years. Perhaps the added weight, bulk, and cost of the flex screen is to blame. Or maybe it's just the myopic marketing sense that afflicts makers of both digital camers and camcorders in the latest generation.

Good luck! I'm staying with my A610 and foregoing IS.

Posted by: wileycat on December 8, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

You should get a Mac and all your problems will be solved.

Oops. Sorry. Wrong thread.

Posted by: Bob G on December 8, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know how much of a macro you're looking for but about a year ago I looked for the best combination video/still camera I could find at an affordable price.

I settled on the Panasonic NVGS 500 with a "Lens: Auto iris, F1.6 to F2.8, Focal length; 3.3 mm to 39.6 mm, Macro (Full range AF)"

It has the articulating screen and the image stabilization and the manual focus option if you prefer. For videos it has three sensors, rather than the one typically found in hobby cameras.

Who knows you may want to get into video.

It shoots a still, at maximum resolution, of 2288 x 1728 to give you an idea of what size print can reasonably be printed from the image. You do realize that the whole megapixel envy thing is, to a large degree a marketing gimmick. My conclusion is that the lens is a more important consideration.

Posted by: Chris Brown on December 8, 2007 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

We've used Nikons for personal and professional work ever since the 995, and we're addicted to the rotating body feature as well. But we went for a Canon S3 to take to China and LOVED it. My professional gig also involves shooting pix inside a public aquarium--low light and moving critters shot through glass. A very hard task that the S3 handles very well, better than anything else I've used in its price range. Image stabilization is a wonderful thing.

If you want to see some examples of what it produces, we've got an extensive site of pix from China. We went to attend my brother's wedding to a woman of the Jingpo, the smallest of the 57 officially recognized minorities. Had to climb to the tiny village where it took place on foot. Slept on the floor in their dirt-floor, mudbrick and bamboo house for 5 days and it was the most wonderful, hospitable and welcoming experience we've ever had. I don't normally do any personal linking here but I think this is pretty cool stuff, and it does demonstrate what the camera can do.

Posted by: DrBB on December 8, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I started out with a CP 900 (1MP!) and progressed thru the 950 and 990 (passed on the 995, I wanted AA bats. for traveling). I STILL have the 990 and it has survived many 'adventures' in rough handling without complaint, The cases on the 'mid series' C-Pix cameras are outstanding.
The CP 4500 is reported to be a very good camera and a slight upgrade to the 995 though I doubt that any new ones are still available. I suppose you might find a new/refurbished one with a warranty stuck away somewhere, and the price would likely be pretty good.
I bought a D-80 when they came out and they are excellent but don't really have the features you want, though one would help capture those hard to shoot black/BW cats.
You should try DJAnyReason's experiment and blog what happens, I think it just might work!

Posted by: jay boilswater on December 8, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Check out http://www.steves-digicams.com/2007_reviews/canon_s5is.html

A very detailed review of the camera in question. I have read the reviews on this site prior to purchasing any digital camera.

Posted by: Satyagrahi on December 8, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

wileycat, I hadn't seen the A650 IS when I recommended the A640.

Clearly the A650 IS is the way to go -- unless Kevin needs the 12x zoom of the S5. The A650 IS has a respectable 6x optical zoom and, at 300g, it is just a bit more than half the weight of the S5 (550g).

Camera size and weight are extrememly important -- if you ever leave the house (?). In fact, for this very reason a lot of people have discovered that the best cameras are the ones you can fit in a shirt pocket.

Also, something that is not always completely appreciated is that, in digicams, resolution is exchangeable for optical zoom. Since ultimately it's the number of pixels that counts, shooting at higher resolution (and the A650 goes to 12 megapixels) allows you to crop the picture and end up with the same pixels you would have had with a higher zoom at a lower resolution.

Posted by: JS on December 8, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

JS - The Canon A640 doesn't have IS.
The Bobs -the S3 isn't listed by Canon any more, but is available on Amazon and ebay. Awful lot of MPs, though.

Posted by: wileycat on December 8, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

wileycat -- I know -- I said so in my first post above. That's why I was glad you pointed out the A650, which I wasn't aware of.

Posted by: JS on December 8, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'll second the Canon flip-screen posts. The A600 body is a little bigger than most non-SLRs, but it has the swivel screen, an actual view-finder, a decent 4x lens that will also do macro-zoom, good flexibility, and good battery life on AAs. I used to use a (smallish) 35mm and had trouble with the relatively small size at first, but I got used to it mighty fast. If you have big hands, Kevin, and hate the toy feel of most point-and-shoot digitals, you really should check these out.

Posted by: Altoid on December 8, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have experience with both the Canon 3s and 5s. For me it’s been a great compromise camera: relatively flexible, easy to carry, decent range of user options (automatic and manual). The 3s served me well on trips to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Berlin, London, and San Francisco. The 5s just got back from a trip to London. On each trip the cameras performed admirable—I snap, literally, thousands of images. They worked under well under a wide range of lighting conditions. The 12X optical zoom was a definite plus. And, while there are some very minor image issues, they are a lot easier than lugging around a digital SLR.

These cameras only have two of the features you are looking for: no wide angle. I’m afraid I’ve no experience with lens attachments, so I can’t speak to their quality. Lens cover, on each, however, is deficient. The LCD is bigger, brighter on the 5s. The 5s also has more advanced image processing.

Oh, batteries are AAs—takes four. I use rechargeables. If you make minimal use of the LCD screen battery life is really good. They use SD and SDHC cards.

This camera works well for me. I’d recommend it. At the very least you should get one in your hands to get a feel for it.

(And yes, you should get a Mac--wrong thread or not.)

Posted by: Bart Salisbury on December 8, 2007 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

CoolPix 995 was my camera as well, for seven years. Loved it despite the so-so picture quality. My wife and I spent months looking at cameras after it broke and never did find one that combined its unique attributes as well (extensive manual control, good macro, flash that illuminates even at macro distance, flash that fires in macro mode, swivel body, fully enclosed telescoping zoom parts, apparent durability). It seems as if most of the digital camera manufacturers are all aiming at the same sector these days, so there is less real variation across models. Sorry, I know this is no help for you, but I couldn't resist a chance to whine.

Posted by: Dave on December 8, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

The A600... has the swivel screen, an actual view-finder, a decent 4x lens

Altoid, as noted above, in the A650 the zoom has been upped to 6x. Sounds like a great set of specs.

Posted by: JS on December 8, 2007 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

IS5 has a hot shoe, if you want to use a strobe, one advance above the IS3.

Fairly noisy at 1600ISO; don't use that unless you have to.

It does shoot up to an hour of OK video time, too.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 8, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

Please disregard my previous comments about the hotshoe flash ... I see that the S5is does indeed have a hotshoe. I may just have to upgrade and foist my S3is off on my father. :-)

Posted by: Bob R. on December 8, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

I have a Canon G5 with articulating screen--it's about 3 years old and I love it. It can take a lens attachment easily; it has manual focus option though it's very slow to use it. The pictured back of the S5 is very similar to my G5, so assuming the other S5 upgrades are good, I'd highly recommend that model.

Posted by: Duncan Idaho on December 8, 2007 at 7:08 PM | PERMALINK

If you have the money ($2000 with a starter lens) and time (it just came out so it'll be in short supply until next summer), I'd say check out the Nikon D300. It has a fantastic looking articulating screen, great high ISO performance and good ergonomics. If you can spare another $1,000 or so, you can get it with a fast 50mm f1.4 and a wide 12-24mm DX lens.

If spending that kind of money sounds crazy...then I would go with a Panasonic Lumix, 10X optical magnification is nice and color/sharpness is pretty good for point and shoot.

Posted by: fifi on December 8, 2007 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

I will never for the life of me understand the obsession people have with taking photos with an LCD screen instead of a viewfinder. I find zero inconvenience with using a viewfinder and having the camera flush against my face rather than at arm's length keeps it steady.

I use a Canon Rebel XT that's two years old and my key lenses are a Canon 22-55mm zoom from my old Canon APS SLR and a 75-300mm zoom. I've gotten beautiful enlargements as big as 20x30 and go bigger if need be. In a 2 week trip to Italy in which I took some 800 picturss, I had to recharge the battery once - for an hour and a half.

I started using a circular polarizing filter and only regret not getting it earlier. I use a monopod for shots that I need to get from way overhead and I have a wireless remote to take the photo. I have yet to be disappointed with the results.

If you get an SLR Kevin, see if you can get one with a self-cleaning sensor. If not, when you change lenses, make sure that you turn the camera off. The sensor remains charged with the camera on and it's a good way to attract dust.

Posted by: Randy Paul on December 8, 2007 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

Look at the Lumix FZ50. Standard is 35mm but you can get a wide conversion lense that takes it to about 24mm if my math is correct.

Posted by: Geoff on December 8, 2007 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the techical stuff, but can someone tell me what would be a nice, small (fits in your pocket), durable digital camera that takes good photos? Probably at $500 or less. I would like one that shoots a lazer type light at the subject when it is dark to help line up the photo.


Posted by: brian on December 8, 2007 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

all three of your features can be achieved with the new olympus E-3, just released at the end of november and for sale now from amazon. it's olympus's top of the line pro dslr, so the body by itself will be about $1800, but it has an articulating lcd, live view, built-in image stabilization, and of course wide angle lens options (which are particularly good in the olympus system).

i myself am a nikon user, and i don't have any experience with the E-3, but it's getting good reviews, and it has everything you're looking for.

Posted by: paul goyette on December 8, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Randy - if you're short and in a crowd, sometimes holding the camera up above your head is the only way to get the shot. With an articulating screen, you can stare straight up at the camera and frame the shot.

Posted by: Dennis on December 8, 2007 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK


I feel your pain. I'm a Canon man myself -- I've used an A1 with motor drive and 200mm lens, an S300 Digital Elph, an SD600 Digital Elph and a ZR500 digital camcorder. I, too, am in the market for a new camera and am oscillating between the PowerShot G9 and the PowerShot S5 IS.

The S5 feels better in my hand, but seems like less bang for the buck when you factor in buying rechargeable AAs and the charger. The G9, meanwhile, feels clunky and heavy, but seems the much better camera. And I prefer its retractable lens -- the S5's lens cap pops off way too easily.

Decisions, decisions . . . wish me luck with mine, and good luck with yours.

Posted by: Patrick O'Grady on December 8, 2007 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

brian: I own and have used several digicams, and if I were buying one now that is small and capable I would go for the Fuji F40fd or the Fuji F50fd. They are both much cheaper than $500 -- in fact, the F40fd is just $186 at beachcamera.com (a reliable vendor by the way). The F40fd has 8.3 megapixels and the F50fd has 12, as well as image stabilization.

What distinguishes these cameras from others is their low-light capabilities. You can take pictures without flash at much lower light than is possible with the Canons, Nikons, etc., of the same ilk. To me, this is important (I don't like pictures taken with flash).

Here is a review of the F50fd at what most people consider the most serious photo review site. The link should take you to the "Conclusions" page of the review -- but use the menu near the top to read the rest. Note that page 18 is a samples gallery, which will show you many pictures taken with the camera (you can display each at full resolution if you want). They have no review for the 40fd, but read their comments (on the conclusions page) on the previous models (F31fd and F30). Some consider the earlier models better, so that $186 F40fd seems to me like a very good bet -- if you consider low-light capability important.

Note that some people consider the latest 12 megapixel cameras to be less good than the 6 - 8 megapixel ones. It seems that a lot of consumers have focused on the megapixel number as the main criterion for purchasing, but more megapixels can cause more noise if everything else (i.e. lens and sensor area) stay the same. So many Fuji zealots consider the F30 and F31fd to be the best in the series -- but they are not current models now.

Posted by: JS on December 8, 2007 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

I've had the S3IS for about a year and a half and I love it. I have both the WA and telephoto converters which takes it from 28mm to 660mm (35mm equivalent). See lensmateonline.com for adapters and lenses.

The S3 has also been hacked to do a bunch of other things--shoot in RAW, uses scripts to automate actions and other exciting stuff. See http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page for details.

I use NI-MH rechargeable AA batteries which last for over 500 shots. And the movie mode is incredible.

I think you'd be happy with it. The S5 is not yet hacked.

Posted by: Andrew on December 8, 2007 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you very much.

Posted by: brian on December 8, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

One last question. I became enamored with the "laser light" on a friend's camera that allowed you to point and shoot very quickly at night or in dark places. Does the Fuji F50fd have once, or is there a comparable small point and shoot that has one?

Posted by: brian on December 8, 2007 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

I've only seen the laser light AF systems in Sony cameras. In other cameras it's a simple visible or IR lamp. You could tape one of Kevin's cats laser pointers on top of your camera??

Posted by: B on December 8, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's an "auto-focus assist lamp" -- not a laser -- and the F50fd seems to have it, according to its specs.

Note also: the F50fd has manual exposure controls (shutter and aperture priority) and the F40fd does not. That's very important -- if you expect to use them.

I don't own either of these, but I am considering giving the F50fd as a prsent for the holidays -- as I looked again, Amazon seems to have the best prices.

Even if buying online, I recommend a visit to a camera store (or Best Buy / Circuit City) to see the camera. These don't look as sexy as some other ones, if that's an issue.

By the way, as I looked again at the review I see a curious menu control: "Trim for Blog". Maybe Kevin should look into that.

Posted by: JS on December 8, 2007 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks again.

Posted by: brian on December 9, 2007 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin and I think alike when it comes to P&S cameras. I have an A620 with the rotating LCD but wish it had real wide angle capability - at least down to 28mm (35 mm equiv.). IS would be great too. The articulating LCD is extremely useful. Odd that virtually every camcorder has the feature but so few digital cameras do. Also, the focus on megapixels and zoom capability at the telephoto end has never made sense to me: I'll bet the vast majority of casual shooters would use the wide-angle capability far more than the telephoto.

Posted by: Ian S on December 9, 2007 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Olympus E-3 is it. All the features you want, plus some. How wide do you want to go? The standard 12-60 lens has an equivalent fov of a 24mm lens (on 35mm format camera). For more a lot more money you can also get a rectilinear 7-14mm lens that is unsurpassed at that fov.

Posted by: Tokyoite on December 9, 2007 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

I will second all the good things said here about the S3 (and its predecessor the S1) which I've used for years in many situations and always been happy with the results. Especially the awesome image stabilization.

But to add one point: the Canon S-series is one of the few intermediate level cameras with a diopter correction on the viewfinder. For those of us who would otherwise need glasses to see the LCD screen, or just prefer to use a viewfinder, the diopter adjustment lets you tune the viewfinder to your personal eye. A unique feature of Canon.

Posted by: BillyK on December 9, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

I haven’t read anyone mention getting a separate flash attachment.

If you need wide angle for document photography, the built in flash may show a gradient shadow in the lower part of the frame doing close work. A wide angle attachment may increase this shadow.

You may need to add the cost of a flash to your recipe (a flash bracket [not too expensive] will extend the flash away from the lens providing more flexibility in flash photography [less red eye too]).

The Canon brand is well regarded and is the brand I use for photojournalism.

Posted by: MEG on December 9, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

I'll take the Canon 40D over the Nikon D300, whoever mentioned it. The Nikon may be slightly better at high ISO, but, you pay too much, in part for the Nikon name.

And, the 40D has some things the D300 doesn't.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 9, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

If you like nonintuitive overcomplicated hard to use user interfaces, buy a Nikon. I find my own CoolPix very unfreindly, and I have a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics. I have heard good things about Olympus and Canon, and one of these will probably be my next digital camera.

Posted by: fafner1 on December 9, 2007 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

Buy Canon.

I shoot with an SLR, so I can't recommend what you need, but in a choice between Canon and Nikon, Canon would win out everytime.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on December 9, 2007 at 2:51 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the dearth of wide angle cameras at the P&S level. Yeah, for portrait shots or safari, a telephoto is more useful. but for shots of a cathedrale, inside or out, I'll take a wide angle any day of the week.

I scoured the reviews last year before going to Spain and ended up with the Kodak dual lens, first the v570 and then the v705 (I liked it so much I went for an upgrade when the price took a sudden, temporary, dip (to $225, I think)). The first lens is something like 24 mm, and the second goes out to 117 or so. It is almost annoyingly small, but very sturdy (a couple of drops out of my shirt pocket). If the wide lens isn't enough, the in-camera panorama function will give you an almost 180 degree picture. The only real problem is a poor low light capability combined with a weak flash.

While I was in the process of upgrading, I took the same picture with the 5 Megapixel camera, and the 7 megapixel at both 7 and 6.1 Megapixels. At 11x17 I can't find anybody that can tell the difference. So I don't see much point in any more pixels. I have only ever done one print ever that is bigger than that. Ironically, it was with a borrowed 3 megapixel of a monastery in Armenia last summer. At 12x18 it is not very sharp, but you have to be closer than arm's length to really notice.

Posted by: McDruid on December 9, 2007 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

Buy Cannon - whether you're going for a point and shoot or a DSLR, Canon cameras tend to be the best. Also, the lenses for Canon DSLR cameras tend to be much cheaper than they are for other brands, due to economies of scale (larger market).

A DSLR will give you better picture quality and a wide selection of lenses (a true wide angle lens is a joy as an option, and its hard to beat the image quality from a super-fast, high quality lens).

The latest Canon DSLR model is the 40D, but the 30D and 20D are close enough in features that you shouldn't hesitate to pick one of them up instead if price is an issue (I shoot with a 20D and don't feel it lacks compared to the 40D enough to justify my upgrading).

As for your feature requests...

#1 an articulating LCD screen is nice, but shouldn't be a deal-breaker if you're looking to upgrade the quality of your camera. I shoot with a DSLR and am used to looking through the view finder and find it strange and awkward to frame shots with an LCD view (it's what you're used to).

As for #2 and #3, With a DSLR you can buy lenses to fit your changing needs. You can buy lenses with image stabilization. You can buy wide angle lenses. Zoom lenses. I have one of each and couldn't be happier with the flexibility and quality that the specialized lenses bring.

But of course a DSLR is a bit more expensive and requires more time and interest to learn about all of its features and how best to use them. However, your efforts will be well rewarded.

Good luck!

Posted by: Augustus on December 9, 2007 at 4:01 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know a damn thing about the Canon S5 either. My only observation about digital cameras is that the pink Kodak brand one we bought for my 12 yr. old daughter for $85 this Christmas has more features, more megapixels and takes better pictures than the $500 Olympus I bought five years ago.

Unless you are taking pictures professionally (and I guess your catblogging may qualify), to spend a lot of time noodling over which digital camera to buy is pedantry and a waste of time. Even the cheap ones, foo-foo ones take good pictures anymore, for Chrissake!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 9, 2007 at 6:55 AM | PERMALINK

We use Sony digital video cameras for our needs... Since they don't have the SLR need, they do what we want. And they're video as well as still, of course.

The problem you're encountering is that cameras are stuck between shoot cheaply and SLR - neither supports what you want. So the cameras made change wildly from year to year right now.

Maybe in a couple more years it'll settle down again, but right now... No.

Posted by: Crissa on December 9, 2007 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Sony's R1 has an orientable LCD and an excellent lens that goes wide enough for your requirements, though this camera was replaced in their offerings by the Alpha series (which has a fixed LCD) due to the merger with Minolta. You can still find the R1 for sale in many places. The R1 does not have image stabilization, something I have never experienced and therefore don't miss.

Posted by: dlangton on December 9, 2007 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

The Coolpix 990/995/4500 also had a wonderful, affordable fisheye lens for taking forest canopy photos, and thus are still in great demand from foresters and ecologists. [And a $75 microscope adapter that made better photos than the $3000 dedicated microscope cameras.] Good condition 4500s still get snatched up for backups and spares (I'm down to my last one).

In addition to the Steve's Digicams noted above, Ken Rockwell has a very informative site, especially for Digital SLR:

The suggestion of posting a rave to a camera website and reading the responses has been made elsewhere and apparently provided good information.

Posted by: tp on December 9, 2007 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

tp: Do you have some links for those fisheye applications? I'm curious what software you would use to get useful data out.

I'm playing around with low altitude aerial photography of forest canopies in infrared and visible.

Posted by: B on December 9, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Sample photos taken with wide-angle conversions lenses for the Canon S5. (These were taken with an S2, but the lenses will fir the S5). Click on the photos (except the first one, it seems) to see them in full resolution. Several brands of conversions lenses are included.

Posted by: JS on December 9, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

And here are sample photos with conversion lenses for the Canon A650 IS. Again, multiple brands are included.

Click on the camera model on the left to see sample photos taken with many other conversion lenses sold by Lensmate.

Posted by: JS on December 9, 2007 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Unless the swivel screen is a real deal breaker, I would shoot with a Rebel XT (or XTi, but the XT is more than fine and cheaper) or, my favorite, the Nikon D40.

Once you use a DLSR, it is really, really hard to use a point and shoot for anything other than times when the ability to put it in your pocket is paramount. They are faster, easier, take much better photos, and you can change the lenses. Plus the Rebels and D40 are only minimally bigger than the S5is or S3. Finally, you can add closeup filters (about $50) to any normal lens and they come stock with 18-55mm lenses (equivalent to approximately 24-85 in 35mm format).

If you try out any cameras in the store, you would be highly remiss not to fool around with one of the cheap DSLRs, the difference is amazing, and the number of poor shots you take goes down a huge amount due to no shutter lag.

Posted by: abject funk on December 9, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

That's an easy one:

You want the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10. It just came out, has great reviews, and does everything you're looking for. It even has a software that recognizes faces and auto sets focus and lighting.

The only downside in my view is that it can only shoot 2-3 shots a second on maximum RAW. Other than that, it's perfect. More than perfect considering the bargain you get with the lens kit.

Posted by: PhotoEx on December 9, 2007 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

True -- the Lumix DMC-L10 will do everything Kevin wants.

It's $1,300 though, compared to about $350 for the Canon S5 and A650. We'll see how price-sensitive he is.

A lot of people consider Panasonic not to be a camera company -- but I have used digicams of all major brands, and my favorite one was a Lumix (earlier super-zoom model).

Posted by: JS on December 9, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

And to round out the price picture, the Olympus E-3 also satisfies the requirements -- at $1,700 (body only price).

Posted by: JS on December 9, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Oly E-3 for big bucks, or the (recently discontinued) E-330 both have articulated live view screens. The E-3 has in-body IS, as does the E-510 for a third of the price.

The downside to dslr live view is the time lag required to swing the mirror out of the way and focus before taking the image--not generally a problem for snoozing tabbies.

Posted by: Trollhattan on December 9, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I have the S5's predecessor -- the S3 -- and have been extremely happy with it -- image quality and all. In particular, I love the quality of its pix in ambient light with no flash. I have had the camera for about 6 months now, and have probably taken a total of 6 flash pictures total. Enjoy!

Posted by: Barry R on December 9, 2007 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Another vote for the Canon. I have the S3 and am pretty happy with it, although I could use a few more features (thanks to the commenter who mentioned the hacks available). Do check out www.dpreview.com. Even if they haven't reviewed the camera, they've made room for people to comment on their own experiences. Shots from my Canon are here:
http://picasaweb.google.ca/derrylm (ignore the WFC07 album, which was shot with a much smaller digital).


Posted by: Derryl Murphy on December 9, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Unless the swivel screen is a real deal breaker, I would shoot with a Rebel XT (or XTi, but the XT is more than fine and cheaper)

I would agree, but one advantage of the XTI is the self-cleaning sensor.

Posted by: Randy Paul on December 9, 2007 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

I love my 990 with a similar intensity; the optics are just incredible. But the battery compartment cover is busted and I have to replace the whole body; so I have a D40, incredible value at about half the price of the old 990.

Posted by: bob h on December 10, 2007 at 7:41 AM | PERMALINK

I'm coming to this a bit late, but you might look for a used Olympus C8080WZ, Kevin. I bought it for the wideangle - I believe it's a 25 or 28mm equivalent - and got to really love the tilt viewfinder. Which I used, by the way, mainly for cat photography:


It's about a two year old model, so you ought to be able to find a nice cheap one.

Posted by: Ponto on December 10, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

If we're on the subject of buying ideas and perhaps gifts, I've been trying my darndest to find a simple (no radio), gentle alarm clock, one that will hopefully wake me but not blaring to point where I have heart attack (and don't want radio because it never fails the knob becomes overly sensitive so radio either silent or too loud). Thanks!

Posted by: GM on December 10, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

If you are looking for something that won't cost you and arm and a leg, look for a Konica Minolta A2 on ebay. While the camera is no longer made, it is serviced by Sony. It has a 28-135 zoom, Electronic View Finder, Image Stabilization, built in flash, 8 mg pixel, two macro modes, a viewfinder that flips up for low level shots. Best of all you can get one for $150-250 with all accessories. Also can get a screw on wide angle lens which will give you the 24mm you're looking for.

Posted by: rwgate on December 10, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Sony CyberShot DSC-H9 has almost all three "demands" The LCD flips up so you can shoot above and below, the image stabilization is spectacular, but the wide angle "only" goes to 31mm. Sony makes a wide angle add-on, but on the other hand the zoom goes to 465mm.

Check out "Steve's Digicams" for a review, he has it on his top ten list.

Posted by: jpmist on December 10, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Just a few comments from my experiences with an S3 (which you can still find and are a couple hundred dollars less than the S5).

Pros: Rugged. Accurate colors. Versatile. Great battery life. I love the articulated screen. (Great for taking shots over the heads of crowds at political events.) Telephoto is amazing.

Cons: Focus in low light can be soft. Forget using 400 or 800 ISO settings without anti-noise software. Can't save shots in RAW format.

Someday I'll get a DSLR. But for now, this is the next step up from the point'n'shoots. I like it a lot.

Posted by: pongo on December 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK



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