Thursday, September 18, 2008

Choosing my new camera

I'm feeling a little crabby about digital cameras. First of all, I just bought my fourth one, and it's the only one that works. The first fell off a table, the second stopped working, and the third stopped extending its lens. The third is currently in pieces on my dining room table, because I was hoping that I could clean any sand out of the lens and perhaps fix the problem. I had nothing to lose -- it is two months past its warranty, and it costs a minimum of $160 to repair.

I did not jump on the digital camera bandwagon early. My first digital camera was a Christmas present in 2002. Four in six years seems like too many, especially when compared to the longevity of film cameras.

So when I went looking for a camera this time (and I knew I'd get an extended warranty, although we usually self-insure) here's what I wanted:

  • Good pictures. Although I mostly take pictures of my family, I used to dabble in photography, and can be a bit of snob about picture quality.
  • Quick pictures. I want to be able to take a number of pictures quickly, as my kids aren't known for staying still. I don't want to wait for the camera to actually shoot after I depress the shutter button.
  • At least 5x zoom.
  • Under $300
I also prefer AA batteries, wanted image stabilization, and a decent movie mode.
Totally unreasonable? Not really. However when I read reviews at
and other sources, one thing I notice is that none of the reviews for cameras I looked at said anything to the effect of "the quality of the pictures will knock your socks off." Last year when my Canon S1 IS died, I compromised because I couldn't afford what I thought I really wanted. This year I'm not even convinced that what I want is out there, because manufacturers seem to be "improving" cameras in ways that don't match my wish list.

I looked at a variety of cameras, but ended up focusing on the Canon SX110 and the Lumix TZ5. I saw multiple mentions of the TZ5 having trouble focusing in movie mode, and the sound quality of movies being poor. There is a work-around to the focus problem, but since my kids like to make movies, I'd like a camera that they can make movies with without my turning off the autofocus first. I'm still eyeing the Canon S5 IS, but am put off by the fact that the reviews mention that photo quality was better in earlier versions! And the price is really beyond my budget. Also, my kids will use it, and the S5 IS is a little bulky. I enjoyed my S1 IS, but I didn't always take it places because of its size.

The other factor this time around for me was extended warranties. I want one that's bulletproof. I hope to have and use this camera for more than a single year! I discovered that Ritz Camera has a good warranty, but it's really expensive -- over a hundred dollars. Best Buy's warranty also seems good, and it's much cheaper, although their prices on the cameras are more expensive. I didn't get into a search for a good warranty from a mail order company, but at this point the convenience of being able to drop off the broken camera is a big selling point. As is the option to say "my kid dropped it, and it doesn't work." Best Buy told me that if I can bring them the camera, they will fix or replace it. Many warranties cover only defects, not accidents, so read carefully, and decide what you want.

I now own a Canon SX 110, however, it's still sealed in the box. I'll be thinking about it for a few more days, and seeing if the next Depression starts before I open it. I'll let you know what I think.

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