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Old Nov 15, 2007, 7:48 AM   #1
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I currently own a Pentax Optio S4. I bought it nearly 5 years ago and one of the main things that attracted me to it was it's small size.

I'm now looking to upgrade but since I borrowed my dads Nikon D80 i've decided I want something more than a point-and-click camera. Size and expense rules out SLR's like the D80 and I would like to rule out anything SLR sized, even if its in budget.

I have managed to narrow it down to 2 cameras:

Canon PowershotG9 (currently in the lead) or Nikon Coolpix P5100

Both are at the top end of my budget (£300) and are not too big (2 boxes ticked so far!)

Some questions:

Are there any other cameras I should consider?

Does anyone think these are worth the extra money (when compared to more regular compact cameras) or should I just get another standard point-and-click camera? (I wouldideally like a camera which will allow me tolearn to use all the manual functions)

Are there any camera's on the horizon that fit into the 'prosumer' category which might be worth waiting for (I don't know where to look for as yet unreviewed cameras)?

So, I suppose this all boils down to whether I will get anything extra out of the cameras I've mentioned.

Any advice would be much appreciated.


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Old Nov 15, 2007, 8:43 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forums. Unfortunately we can't give you a good answer with the information you've provided. Any camera is merely a tool. Buying a more expensive tool is only good if that tool has a feature that helps you do the job better.

So, to that end I have a couple questions for you:

1. What types of photography are you interested in - please be specific.

2. What is it you find lacking in your current camera? I.E. how is that current tool letting you down?

3. You decided you want "something more than a point and click camera". What is it that you want? There's a BIG difference between the cameras you're looking at and a D80. So,what is it you want that a "point and click" can't provide?

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Old Nov 15, 2007, 10:20 AM   #3
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[suP]Ok Thanks JohnG.[/suP]

[suP]I'll do my best to answer, it seems I probably have quite a simplistic view of what I should be looking for in a camera.[/suP]

[suP]1. Types of photography interested in... Probably the hardest question to answer. Up til now, only really used camera for family snaps (indoors with a flash, outside landscapes (on holiday)). I took it to silverstone F1 gp a couple of years ago (see 'whats wrong with current camera' to imagine how they came out!), I've had a go taking pictures of clouds (no time lapse so just stood by the camera with a stop watch for 15min). With the D80 I had a go at taking pictures of fireworks, & stars which was good fun. [/suP]

[suP]2. Whats wrong with current camera... No manual shutter, images look blurred at edges, shutter lag + photo saving speed seems slow. only 3x zoom. small LCD. There's probably more but can't think of anything else right now.[/suP]

[suP]3. Was hoping for a camera with the ability to adjust settings so I can learn the basics e.g. for this shot you should need ISO XX, apature XY etc. We used the D80 at my brothers graduation recently, it was a quite dark room and we were right at the back. Our shots all came out blurred. I'd like to learn how to set up a camera to get the best out of it - books would be a good place to start but I'd like a camera I can practice on. Don't really want to buy a lot of extra equipment (well not yet) so no need for changable lenses or adding flash units. Size is an issue, don't want anything as big as a SLR[/suP]

[suP]Does that answer your questions? Please let me know if i've missed the point or you need any other information. Thanks for your help.[/suP]

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Old Nov 15, 2007, 11:14 AM   #4
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OK let me consolidate your statements into a list of requirements:
  • Need manual, shutter priority and aperture priority exposuremodes[/*]
  • lens with decent edge sharpness (> Optio S4)[/*]
  • Improved shutter lag (vs. S4)[/*]
  • Improved write speeds / buffer handling (vs. S4)[/*]
  • greater than 3x zoom[/*]
  • LCD > 1.6" (size of s4 lcd)[/*]
  • good flash[/*]
  • For use with general, family & vacationphotography
Does that sound about right?

Also, let me address some of the other points of interest in your post:

Fireworks - Ideally the best solution for fireworks is a tripod and remote release. Short of that you want image stabilization and decent high ISO performance (which is why tripod is the best approach since you don't need good high ISO performance OR IS). So if this was a type of shooting you were going to do you have a decision - do you want to buy/use a tripod or if you wouldn't get much use out of it otherwise do you get a camera with better high ISO / IS. IMO, unless you're REALLY into fireworks I wouldn't let something you try to do once a year factor too much into your decision process.

Graduation - The shots you took were blurry because your shutter speeds were too slow. Most likely a combination of motion blur (i.e. subjects moving) and camera shake (i.e you couldn't hold the camera steady) - both a result of slow shutter speeds. A tripod/monopo/IS will help with camera shake but they don't do anything to stop motion blur. For example if it's going to take1/15 to get the shot - even if you used a tripod chances are you'd have a good amount of motion blur. There are two solutions to the problem: 1) get a faster shutter speed or 2) create more light. To get a faster shutter speed you need a combination of wide aperture lens and high iso. Your friend's D80 was capable of pretty good ISO 1600 (and OK 3200) but probably didn't have a lens with wide aperture (wide aperture lets in more light which gives you faster shutter speed). Creating more light in this situation would mean using a flash. In either case you also need to be close enough that the camera/lens you're using will be able to provide a decent image (i.e. your subject filling > 1/2 the frame) AND if using flash that you're close enough for the flash to illuminate your subject. No built in flash on any camera is going to do much good past 15 feet. So that means you would need an external flash (some digicams have a hot-shoe for attaching an external flash). without that, you want a digicam that has good high ISO performance (think ISO 1600 here) AND preferably a 2.8 aperture. Either of those requirements really limits your selections. So you need to decide how important this requirement is to you. Again, if it's something you're likely to use only 1 or 2 times do you really want to limit your selection to cameras better suited to accomplish the task? So decide how important this aspect is to you.

F1 racing - sports is a WHOLE other concept. And different sports have very different requirements.For instance, assuming you're in the stands and not in the pits you really need a LOT of reach to get good racing shots. High ISO isn't as important as racing shots are typically taken with a panning approach (you move the camera to follow your subject as you take the picture - the net affect is you get the sense of motion - the car itself is sharp but the wheels show motion and the background is blurred). Good shutter lag is important because you don't want to have to hold the panning motion for very long - the longer you hold it the more likely your speed of movement will vary vs. the speed of the car. Other sports have completely other requirements. So, is sports shooting something you envision really wanting to do? Or was this a one time event? Again, we go back to do you want to limit yourself to a camera capable of doing sports work if it's not something you plan on doing?

The bottom line is: no camera will do everything. Some tasks require VERY specific and hard-to-get (and possibly expensive) features. So while we would all like to be able to take any photo that strikes our fancy in reality we need to categorize requirements into:
  • Need to have[/*]
  • Nice to have[/*]
  • Wow that would be cool for use once or twice in the next 5 years.
So, let me know how important these other aspects are (fireworks / time lapse with long exposures ; low light (graduation); sports (F1)
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Old Nov 15, 2007, 5:10 PM   #5
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Hi JohnG,

Thanks again foryour very in depth response.

Yep, your list of my requirements is correct. I'd probably go one step further though and say I'm not just interested in better than the S4 (as I'd imagine most cameras on the market today will be a step up), I probably want a lot more out of a camera (as long as I can get it in budget). As you say, the main use will be general, family & vacationphotography. But I'd like to do more (my lack of knowledge prevents me from being much more specific).

The other events listed are just examples of things I've tried.

Fireworks - I was quite pleased with the outcome of these. Once we played with the settings (I had advice from some people we were with) the pictureswere ok (tried to attach a couple of pics to this thread but couldn't get it to work).I didn't borrowtripod for the fireworks (we found that it took a bit of practice to track them) but we had one for thenight skyphotography (mid aug meteor shower).

Graduation - (hopefully a one off - I don't fancy another 3 years of lectures and exams and i know my brother certainly doesn't!) We were in a poor position - too far back - so the flash was useless, a tripod would have been excellent if we'd remembered it (oh well!).

F1 - another one off. I see your point - not useful for choosing a camera to buy. If I go again I'll take whatever camera I've got and do my best.

So, on to your 3 point plan (+ one point added by me):

Need to have:

Good shutter lag, time lapse, long exposures, suitable for general, family & vacationphotography, ability to set to full manual so I can learn the ropes and experiment.

Nice to have:

time lapse (don't mind the manual stopwatch method). I understand that the sensor size is important although I didn't think there was much you could do about it unless you went for an SLR. Better than x3 zoom (I understand that rejecting SLR size camera's severely reduces my options).

Wow that would be cool:

I think that I can say that if Iever go anywhere special I'llcan justborrow my dads D80 again (I'm sure he won't mind) so we can cut out any particularly specialist types of shots (anything the D80 can't do with whatever tripod/lens/flash combination he currently owns is just out of my league and not worth contemplating). Also, I'm sure I'll be back on these forums asking for technical advice when the time comes.

Don't want / limiting factors:

Don't want SLR size. Price limit of ~£300 (not sure about $ conversion).

I initially saw the Canon G9 by looking at the ‘Best cameras' section of the site and started ruling out categories. These were my thoughts (even if they're a bit simplistic):

ultra compact / compact – not too fussed about getting the smallest camera in the world

Super zoom – most tend to be a bit big in size

SLR – too big and expensive

Which leaves Prosumer & Entry Level. I thought I'd be able to ‘play around' more with the G9 (or other ‘prosumer' cameras) and hone my skills. My worry is that it's 1 of 3 cameras in a ‘best of' section when there doesn't seem to be any more on the market bar those 3 (other 2 being the Nikon P5000 & Fujifilm S9100).

Also, is there really that much difference between the ‘prosumers' and the ‘entry levels'? Maybe I should really be comparing it to something like the Canon PowerShot A560. If one of my most important factors is the ability to set it to manual and learn how to take pictures will something like the A560 do?

So many questions! Does this all sound like we're getting somewhere or am I just leading you round in circles and not giving you the information you've asked for?

I think I can narrow it all down to the following 2 questions:

On the info I've given, should I be looking at the ‘prosumer' group of cameras or will ‘entry level' suffice?

Are the extra features you get with the ‘prosumer' group worth the extra money?

I'm not sure I've distilled this down to what's important but I should probably stop typing and give you a chance to respond.

Thanks again, I really do appreciate your time and advice.

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Old Nov 16, 2007, 2:00 AM   #6
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In your shoes I would go for the G9.

To be honest I really don't believe there is a great deal of difference in image quality between 90% of the P&S cameras on the market today. (I would bet that even experts like Steve would be hard pressed to score much above random on a double-blind test sorting 50 pictures from 10 modern P&S cameras.)

The main differences are in how they look and their features, zoom length, etc.

So to match your requirements for a camera that will allow you to learn the ropes in photography the G9 seems the best bet. It certainly seems to be the P&S camera that is most popular amongst people who also have a whole bunch of expensive gear too.
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Old Nov 16, 2007, 8:54 AM   #7
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I agree.

The g9 seems to fit the bill quite nicely. It's got all the features(all exposure modes), plus a hot shoe (should you decide to do more flash photography) AND probably the most zoom you can get before going up to the larger super-zooms.

The 2 things it's NOT going to do well:

1. Action (you really need a superzoom to get enough reach for most sports shooting)

2. High ISO - canon DSLRs are among the best at high ISO but their digicams are completely mediocre (which is to say poor). So this camera is NOT going to fare well at the graduation type shot - but only a VERY select few will do OK at that.

As mentioned before - no camera does everything well. I think this one does enough well that it should serve your needs as well as any digicam can. You just have to realize some types of photography are too difficult and require specialized equipment. Given those types are not in your everyday needs I don't see a reason to be concerned.

Just make sure you handle the g9 before buying it to make sure you are comfortable with it's ergonomics.
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Old Dec 3, 2007, 6:43 AM   #8
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Hi JohnG & Peripatetic,

Thanks for the advice. Bought the Canon G9 last week.

It just about fits in my pocket and ergonomically, I thinkit feels ok to hold + buttons are all accesible (the directional buttons with the wheel round it is really good). Menus are clear and easy to use. Can't tell you much about picture quality - they look good to me but I'll just have to trust the detailed online reviews for that.

very happy with my choice so thanks again!

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