Thursday, March 12, 2009

Looking for feedback on cameras

One of the thoughts that's occupying my mind lately is the question of what kind of camera I should get before I go to Germany in October. This is something that I do when I know I'll be buying a new piece of technology sometime in the next year: I start researching early, pick out what I want, and then watch sales and start saving over the next six months to a year. I'd picked out this computer that I have a year before I bought it, and then knew when the cheapest time to buy was (for Dell laptops, it's the sale right BEFORE the back-to-school sales).

I'm going to be using a camera as much as possible when I do my archival research next winter. Whenever archives let me take photos of documents, rather than make me pay for photocopies, I'll take pictures and then use text recognition so that I can search for specific documents on my computer and keep track of them. My current (three-year-old 4.1 megapixel Sony point-and-shoot) can't handle that task: not only is it on the brink of dying, but also it can't handle the possible low-light situations (there's a good chance I'll have to do a bunch of this without a flash), nor can it do any sort of close-ups.

Originally, I thought I wanted a some sort of fancy Digital SLR. However, I'm re-thinking that for a couple of reasons:
1. Considering that it'll be a tight squeeze already to get enough funding/possible student loan to pay for this trip, for rent in two places, and for (hopefully) Chris to come and visit me at Christmas, I can't see how I will be able to come up with at least $500 for a DSLR.
2. More importantly than that, nearly all DSLRs are too big for me to be lugging around every day to archives, along with my laptop and my German dictionary. I need to think about keeping things light and portable with this trip.
3. Quite honestly, I'm useless with manual settings on cameras. I need a camera that has good automatic settings where I just have to choose where the camera focuses and make minor (pre-set) adjustments for lighting. That's pretty much my limit, and I'm not going to have time to learn more than that in the same time as I'm madly writing my dissertation and trying to learn a second language.

My main wish list looks like this: not too big, uses rechargeable AA batteries, uses a memory card that I can use in my computer's card reader (so, preferably SD or MMC), and a combination of being good with low-light settings and hopefully some kind of image stabilization.

I did a bunch of research on Imaging Resource, and I think this might be my answer: the Canon Powershot SX110 IS. The Imaging Resource review was ridiculously positive (it's one of the "Dave's Picks" cameras, and the reviewer talks about how he usually is a bit hesitant to recommend a point-and-shoot, but that this one is actually fantastic) and it seems to do absolutely everything I need it to do.

So, to anyone out there who knows anything about cameras: is this the right choice for me? What are your thoughts?


The Blog Fodder said...

You won't get much digital SLR for $500. I've got a Canon Powershot S3IS and sure like it so if you are looking at a Powershot you likely can't go far wrong.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

That's my thinking too, Uncle Al. I'm glad that you've had a good experience with yours, because the only Powershots I've ever used have been the little ones like my parents' one.

Arlen said...

Canon has by far the best lenses on the planet. I have loved our Canon Powershot A540. The new Powershots have much more power and pixels for much less money than I paid. They are also very easy to use in both preset and manual settings. I will let you play with ours this week.


ncsteph said...

I agree about Canon lenses, especially on SLR film cameras, but I have learned to trust Nikon for digital point-and-shoot cameras. I am on my 2nd Nikon Coolpix and I have never regretted it. I've never used a Canon powershot, so I cannot compare, but my Nikon took photos of cabins on lakes as I flew over the Swiss Alps in 2007... fyi... not bragging, just sayin'! :)

dance said...

I talk a little bit about using my Canon SD700 in the archives here.

I was quite happy with it, and I should think the SX110 would be just as good. One thing not already on your list--a macro setting is important for clear text in a close-up. And my Canon was different from my previous Nikon---I had to use a Digital Macro setting that was a bit buried from the regular macro setting (Play with them---I could see the difference in clarity while focusing on the screen).