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Old Dec 19, 2011, 12:56 AM   #1
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Default Busy mom on a budget - please help!

OK, I've already spun around the web a bit and seen some nice things but still having a hard time coming to a decision.

I'm quite a novice but have long been a "wannabe" serious hobbyist. This is not the best time of my life to make that move though, because I am very busy taking care of my toddler who is also, by the way, costing me a fortune. Not much room in this life for a hobby with expensive equipment.

However, I want to take great pictures of my kid (and future siblings?) And anything else that comes my way, but most of that will be easier to photograph than the kid.

So here's the scoop on what I need:
1) Something that will satisfy my inner photographer, but can still perform flawlessly in full auto when needed (i.e. most of the time probably)
2) Excellent for people pictures, especially fast-moving little people
3) Great indoor, low-light, and flash performance - at least during the winter months, the vast majority of my shooting will be in un-ideal lighting.
4) Easy to focus and produces sharp, un-grainy, un-noisy images
5) Decent video. Nothing too fancy needed, just enough to show the grandparents the cute new things the baby says and does. Even my 5-year-old camera can do this reasonably, I assume anything on the market now is an improvement. But I just thought I'd mention it anyway.

And here's the budget constraint:
Ideally I was going to give up on DSLR ambitions for now and aim to spend under $150, up to $200 for something special.
Then I started shopping around and saw that there's a whole category of compact DSLR-wannabes.
So now my big question is, are they good enough to make me double my budget, or is it just another non-DSLR in the same category as the ones I can actually afford?
This is a big purchase for me but in the scheme of life, if I get something that I will love for a good long time, that will take such good pictures of the kid/family that I won't need to waste tons of time and money going to studios a couple of times a year, it would be worth it. A $300 camera will hurt in the pocket but we would still be eating and paying our rent.

Here's what I've been looking at so far:
- Canon S95: Seems to be the belle of the web, but definitely more than I was hoping to spend. Possibly worth it, but need some advice here... I see it around $300 thru holiday season. I am positively *drooling* over the S100 but there is NO WAY I am spending that much at this time. So please don't even say it.
- Canon SX230: Much closer to budget. Newer - newer sensor? Doesn't seem as serious as S95, but does have many manual controls - is it a toy or what? I have no interest in the GPS, I tend to stick to home. Superzoom is not a deal maker or breaker for me. It seems a little clunky but if quality and performance are comparable to S95 then the size/looks are a tradeoff I could live with.
- Canon Elph xxx? Something else entirely? 100? 300? 310? What I'm trying to say is, am I deluding myself by thinking I need anything more than a $120 camera? They all have HS low light thingamajig. They all have image stabilization. They all should be faster than my old carp that wants replacing. And then I can continue to sigh over not having a DSLR until it breaks down and I have to start this whole choosing process again.

Looking at the S100 (talking about the S95 but looking at the S100 because they have already cleaned out all the old models) and SX230 side by side in Best Buy, the guy said S has a bigger sensor than SX and that will mean a noticeable difference in quality, sharpness, low-light, speed (did he say speed? not sure)... but I still question whether bigger and older is better than smaller and newer. I am not well versed in the difference between CCD and CMOS, and the older one doesn't have HS, whatever that involves... does any of this matter? Anyone able to give me a crash course in sensor technology and what it will actually mean to my photos?
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Old Dec 19, 2011, 7:25 AM   #2
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The canon s95 has the bigger sensor, so it takes better indoor pictures, and overall has a better pic quality, but on the donwside has little zoom capabilities can't remembre exactly but around 28-115mm. Don't know if zoom is important for you. Right now Amazon has it for 229 and free one day shipping, deal of the day..
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Old Dec 19, 2011, 10:54 AM   #3
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You can always check the used market for S90 and S95. Maybe some of those people are upgrading to S100 now. You can also check for used Canon G10/11/12. Alot of people doesn't use their camera much, so you can be lucky and find one in good condition.
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Old Dec 19, 2011, 11:15 AM   #4
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WOW! Thank you for alerting me to that Amazon deal. I hope I will love the camera because now I really can't resist. Narrowing the price differential really helps

A better zoom would be nice but it's not a deal-breaker for me, I already set my priorities as speed, image sharpness, and low-light performance. I do wonder why Canon seems a little stingy in the zoom department on their highest-end compact, but that's why I'm not an engineer.

Oh, and according to the Amazon page S95 does have HS system. Still don't know the difference between CCD and CMOS sensors.

Used seems risky to me...
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Old Dec 19, 2011, 11:26 AM   #5
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This is a tough one. Reading your post, the adjectives you use lead me to believe your expectations are completely unrealistic.
...but can still perform flawlessly in full auto when needed (i.e. most of the time probably)
No camera, regardless of price, performs flawlessly in full auto mode. This is why other modes exist. There are simply certain shooting situations that are going to cause a camera to "guess wrong". A camera just isn't as smart as a person. Now, beyond that, if you read critical reviews of the various cameras you may see where one has a particular problem in a given situation. For example, auto white balance - you might see that a given camera has problems in "tungsten" light for example

Excellent for people pictures, especially fast-moving little people
By fast moving little people I assume you mean your children. Taking photos of kids moving around indoors is TOUGH WORK. Unless you have great amount of light in the room (large windows letting in sunlight or extremely bright house lights) - you're going to have to use a flash on any camera you're looking at to freeze the motion. Typically, many of these cameras have a long recycle time (>1 second) between flash shots. That means you better get the shot on the first try or you don't get it. Which brings up the second and third problems: 2nd - how quickly the camera powers on and 3rd: how quickly the camera focuses. You're just not going to see stellar results. You can get results, but when you use phrases like "excellent for fast moving little people" - and in the context of being inside during winter I think you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

4) Easy to focus and produces sharp, un-grainy, un-noisy images
Well, that depends on how you use it and in what circumstances. Again, try to take a photo of kids moving indoors without flash and you're either shooting at high ISO (which means the shots will be grainy) or you're using flash which, as I mentioned, means you get one shot.

Bottom line - fast moving kids in low light is an EXTREMELY demanding type of photography. Tough to get quality images even with DSLRs. Static subject? You can get wonderful shots with the cameras specified. Outside action? You can get some decent snapshots. But you want to spend $200 and get flawless photos of your kids playing indoors in poor light - that's not going to happen. In lots of instances any of the cameras you're looking at will produce wonderful results - just not always in auto because the cameras just aren't smart enough. And they might do a 'passable' job of kids playing indoors but you will likely have to take a lot of flash shots to get very few keepers. With startup and focus times you may not catch moments you hope to by just picking up the camera and firing.
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Old Dec 19, 2011, 11:49 AM   #6
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Marubex, thank you for alerting me to that Amazon deal, now I don't think I will be able to resist! Hope this one is good, I don't know much about the return policy there...

Marquzz, I'm a little suspicious of second-hand...

John, Yes I know my post was unrealistic, I was just talking in superlatives to give an idea of what I want. I don't actually expect to get exactly what I want but would like to know what comes closest to meeting my needs. I guess "flawless" was not the best word to use, but relative to other cameras I want one that can do well in auto - I want the option of tweaking but not the necessity.

Just to give you an idea of where I'm coming from, my old Sony Cybershot is *&%$ no matter what settings you tweak (there aren't many. But none will do it) On auto - With flash, you get white faces and black everything else. At best, you get a usable picture but still noisy even with flash. Without flash indoors, you get impossibly dark and blurry, not to mention abundant noise. In natural light, everything is too blue. Even outdoors, it doesn't always focus correctly and sure doesn't do it fast. Video is tiny and pixely. In contrast, I borrowed a friend's new Elph 100 for ten minutes in a poorly lit room and caught a couple of nice snapshots of my fleeing baby. For those couple of good snaps, I had to throw out another 20. Everything without flash was blurry. With flash, the colors in the faces were good. I got her gray eyes without them turning red or blue like the Sony would do. BUT I would still have liked sharper images with less noise, also a faster/better focus so more of the shots would have been caught successfully. What I would like to know most of all is, is that just wishful thinking or will I be able to get that better with a better camera (on any setting, need not be auto - in that situation, I doubt auto is the answer)
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Old Dec 19, 2011, 1:32 PM   #7
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Hi and welcome I think Johng has summed it up but if i was in your position and I have been I think I would look at the canon range. They may not be perfect but they do tend to get the job done most of the time. Both my son and daughter have canons ixus 70, 75 an a640 and I forget the rest but they all serve them well. Good luck
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