…the idiot being me.
You see, I bought my first Digital Camera (a Canon Powershot) way back in 2002. Since then, I have changed 5 cameras and clicked a few thousand photographs of every kind – Landscapes, Portraits, Macros, Sports and Night Shots. I graduated to a D-SLR with the excellent Olympus E-520 in 2008…and though my output as a photographer has improved in terms of quality, my knowledge about the intricacies of Digital Photography was still at 2002 levels – with the final output more to do with the environment and the IQ of the camera – rather than my control. In fact I bought the Olympus D-SLR just because I read a good review, and because it came with two lenses (a wide-angle and a telephoto) at a price lower than a comparable Canon or Nikon. Now I know, even though the choice was not all wrong, it was made for the wrong reasons. My realization over the past year or so is that your choice of camera will impact your success as a photographer, whatever your scope of photography is. I also realized that selecting cameras is not about megapixels or zoom capability, as demonstrated by the cameras that I have listed here. Here are a few cameras which which will help you turn ordinary situations into photographic masterpieces.
The Panasonic LX3/LX5
Panasonic is not a specialized camera manufacturer. They don’t have decades of experience like some of the others featured here, do. But what they do have is a amazing partner in the form of Leica. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leica_Camera) And lots of money to throw into R&D. The result is one of the most prolific line-ups of consumer and prosumer cameras which put the best to shame in terms of features and output. The Lumix LX3 (now soon to be upgraded to LX5) is the tip of the Panasonic arrow. It has a sensor that is larger than other consumer cameras which allows it to capture amazing detail. Couple that with a maximum Aperture size of f2.0 – and you have pocket-sized dynamite which can even capture beautiful photographs in low-light situations (the typical Achilles Heel of compact cameras) . Just check out the LX3 groups on Flickr… you wouldn’t believe those pictures have been clicked with a pocket camera. It has full manual controls, but intelligent auto controls too. It doesn’t have too many megapixels (10) or too much zoom – but what it has, is an IQ which will put much bigger and more expensive cameras to shame. It doesn’t come cheap though. If you can find it (it is perennially back-ordered), you will have to shell out $380 to $500 for it. Worth every penny though. Watch out for the LX5 – upgraded with more zoom and a better lens – to be released soon.
The Canon S90
Inspired by the success of the aforementioned LX3 – Canon decided to put their heads together and come up with a “Pocketable camera which produces professional results”. And boy did they succeed. The S90 rocked the establishment as the LX3 killer – featuring similar functionality with traditional canon refinement and picture quality. In fact search Google for LX3 Vs. S90 to get a sampling of the impassioned debates about which camera is better. The Canon features a bright f2.0 lens with a longer zoom and a slew of manual options for full creative control. More crucially it is cheaper than than the LX3 by $50 or more – and is more pocketable. As some one said – the best camera in the world is the one that you have with you when the opportunity strikes… this is one camera which you can keep in your pocket and produce brilliant results. Also, being from Canon, the S90 is much more readily available.
The Samsung TL500 / EX-1
The Korean juggernaut is unstoppable these days, it seems. After literally monopolizing the consumer Audio-Video space – Samsung has now shifted its intense focus to imaging. The TL500 is Samsung’s answer to the LX3 or the S90. But with a f1.8 lens! This means the camera is theoretically capable of better pictures, especially in low light situations – as it can leave the Aperture more open. Though the launch was met with skepticism (more to do with Samsung being an outsider than anything else) – the camera has gotten almost perfect scores wherever it was reviewed. Alas, it is not readily available… and at $400+ it is quite dear. Galleries of photographs clicked with the TL500 are cropping up on the internet and the photographs are awesome. This is one device which is destined for cult status… unless the Samsung badge is seen as a negative.
The Sigma DP2S/DP1S
Sigma is a relatively unknown player in the consumer digital camera space – and are more known for their professional lenses, which can fitted onto other manufacturers’ cameras. But around 3 years ago Sigma entered the compact camera space with the DP1 and the DP2 – two cameras which feature the amazing Foveon X3 sensor. What you need to know here is that this is a sensor that is similar in size of what can be seen in the best Digital SLR cameras – but with a difference. Instead of giving the full 14.1 megapixels in one large image, the Sigma camera “stitches” three 4.7 MP images together – giving an effective resolution of just 4.7 MP! Small you think? Not really, because the detail captured in these 4.7 MP photographs is phenomenal. And what do you need a 14 MP picture for anyway? Most of the photos you will click will only be seen on the screen. Even if you do print, the depth of detail that is available in the images that the Sigma produces will be enough to print an 8X10 with a clarity that will put much more expensive cameras to shame. But the Sigma cameras are not beyond reproach – they don’t focus very well in low light situations and are quite basic when it comes to video recording and other bells and whistles which much cheaper cameras have. But as a reviewer put it, the Sigma DP1S/DP2S features 2002 level functionality but 2012 level image quality. Again, to really get an idea about what the Sigma compacts are capable of, check out the following link on dpreview.com.
Of course, this quality doesn’t come cheap – with the DP2S retailing at upwards of $600 – if you can find it!
The Ricoh GR Digital III
Ricoh builds copiers. And so you think. They also build some of most cult cameras in the industry…and a shining example is the Ricoh GR Digital III. The camera defies conventional logic by featuring a Fixed focal-length lens (20mm). In lay terms, that means it does not have any zoom! And it costs upwards of $600 – if you can find it. Interested? 😉 But when you look at the 1/1.7” CCD sensor (very large for a compact camera) coupled with F1.9 lens – you know that something is special about this camera. The build and design are classic camera…and somehow exudes confidence. You know that this one will click some amazing pictures. Want proof? Check out the samples page:
Photographers say that no zoom frees them. Now they can just focus on capturing the moment…rather than fiddling with the zoom… how true! Again, very rare to get – your best bet would be to buy it in Japan – where it is, as I have mentioned before, quite cult.
So the next time you go and buy a camera – look at just more than megapixels and zoom capabilities and focus on quality of image. Read about it on the internet… usually people are pretty unanimous about which cameras give good image quality. And at the end of the day – that’s what matters. Happy Clicking!