My next camera

Several years ago, I decided that my only practical response to the gadget industry’s unreasonable rate of obsolescence was to impose unreasonable purchase requirements of my own. That is, once I’d gotten comfortable with a phone, computer or other device, I would insist that its replacement vastly exceed its performance in a few significant ways–this way, I might wait longer to upgrade, but then I’d feel vaguely like I’d won.

I bought my current digital camera back in the summer of 2007, and by the usual camera metrics I’m clear to upgrade: I can easily get double the zoom lens as well as wide-angle capability, doubt the resolution, faster shot-to-shot performance, smart picture modes like automated panorama generation, and high-definition video recording with stereo sound. And this next camera would also be thinner than my current model (even if it probably wouldn’t take AA batteries).

Unfortunately, the camera on my phone–while inferior to my four-year-old “real” camera in every measure of picture quality–also geotags photos automatically and allows for near-instant sharing on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and any other online service with a phone-friendly site or app.

All this is to make clear my ulterior motive in trying out a round of cameras over the past few months, as written up for Discovery News on Monday. I’d hoped that a clear winner would emerge among the four models I tried there, three with built-in GPS–Canon’s PowerShot SX230 HS, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-ZS10 and Casio’s Exilim EX-H20G–and one that borrows geotagging from a nearby Android phone, Samsung’s SH100.

(I also tried a fifth model, Nikon’s 36x ultrazoom P500, but wound up only having room to mention it in passing in the Discovery piece.)

No such luck. The Canon and the Panasonic ruled themselves out for sluggish GPS performance or bad battery life, while the conceptually-impressive Samsung flunked for its clumsy, expensive system of pairing with too-few Android phones. If I had to buy a phone among this bunch today, the Casio would be the likeliest to land on my credit-card bill–but I’m annoyed by the fact that I can’t recharge its battery by plugging the camera into a computer’s USB port or any other USB charger, much less the fact that Casio still seems to think it’s okay to use a proprietary USB plug in the year 2011.

But I’d also worry, given the average useful life of a camera, that in a year or so, we might finally see the camera-to-phone fusion prototyped in the Samsung done right. (Hint: Use Bluetooth instead of WiFi to avoid making the user pay for tethering on the phone.) So it’s easier for me to wait and limp along with my four-year-old model–which, aside from its eroding battery life, continues to take decent pictures. How much longer do you think I’ll be doing that? Any other cameras I should consider?


12 thoughts on “My next camera

  1. I must be weird with my liking for single use gadgets. My primary camera is a camera. A Canon Digital SLR. Sure, it’s 5 years old. But it’s Good Enough. And a helluva lot better than the crapcam in my LG Ally. Or, for that matter, the iPhone.

    I have a first gen Nook (still works) which gets lots of use in the summer, when I’m at the beach, or when I’m on the road.

    My cell phone is used for communications, and is the most multi-purpose device I have. But I still don’t take many pictures with it, nor do I use it as an e-reader.

  2. The Micro 4/3rds series of cameras are really quite nice and just a smidge bigger than the smaller point and shoots. Much better sensor performance, and you can get some interchangeable lenses.

    • The concept of Micro 4/3rds appeals to the Lego fan in me; the lens pricing, not so much. Are there any ultra zoom, or sort-of-ultrazoom models with bigger sensors than the average point-and-shoot?

      • I look at micro 4/3’s and ask, why not just get an SLR? They’re not that much more expensive, the sensors are larger, and the lenses are much better.

        What I’d like to find is a waterproof digital camera with a viewfinder. I don’t wear my glasses while surfing, and thus can’t really use the LCD to aim.

      • I can tell you why I bought into the Panasonic G line of M4/3. It was about a pound lighter than some of the alternatives. Also, when they came out with new models, the prices of the last models plummeted to within reason, and they were not missing any important features to me. I like the G1 and GH1 (slightly different sensor and does HD video), and find the approx 1million pixel (effective) electronic viewfinder to my liking. They both handle nicely, and seem to give me great pictures I could never get with my old Panasonic ultrazoom cam. Lens choices are very limited, but I am doing ok with the 14-45 and 45-200mm zooms from panasonic. Some people rave about using other lens brands on these cams, but you have to use an adapter and give up most automation. I am happy enuf with the Panny lenses.

  3. Buy an Nokia N8 phone and leave all your other cameras behind, the 12 megapixel camera takes excellent photos and videos.

  4. Pingback: What's Next for the Digital Camera? | CEA Digital Dialogue

  5. Pingback: Gadget-guide Guidance | CEA Digital Dialogue

  6. Pingback: CES 2012: Answers To Your Electronics Questions - Not All That You'll Like | CEA Digital Dialogue

  7. Pingback: Weekly output: Nokia 900, podcast, Fuji FinePix XP170, Web chat, This Week in Law, Reddit | Rob Pegoraro

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.