Bulbous, Not Tapered

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Camera Drama

My old digital camera died.

My Canon A70 digital camera gave up the ghost after a year a half. Luckily, the folks servicing my Staples extended warranty came through and cut me a check for the purchase price of the camera, after determining that the repair was too expensive to bother with.

Update 9/2/05: It’s worth mentioning that Staples was more of a pain than I first thought to deal with. They originally sent me a Staples gift card (after telling me I would get a check, and which arrived after I had already bought my new camera at Best Buy), and it took me over 2 months of frequent follow-up calls to get my check.

This put me in the market for another camera. I wanted something with a longer zoom. I was always trying to shoot things with the A70 that were too small or too far away to frame properly with the 3x lens. I eventually decided on another Canon, the Powershot S1 IS, which has a 10x zoom (equivalent to a 38mm-380mm lens on a traditional SLR camera). It’s only 3.2 megapixels, but since I rarely print photos I have never felt limited by resolution. After using it for a few days, I find that I enjoy using this camera much more than my last one. In addition to the big zoom, it has several features that make it fun to shoot with:

  • Good Controls: Almost everything I do while shooting can be done in one or two button presses without taking my eye off the “action”. I almost never need to use a menu when setting up a shot.
  • Electronic Viewfinder: The badness of the A70 viewfinder defies description. I never ever used it, no matter how much I had to squint to see the LCD screen in the sun. The viewfinder in the S1 IS is nice, I like it better than the LCD most of the time.
  • Focus Zoom: While adjusting the manual focus, a zoom view automatically pops up so you can see what you’re doing. This combined with the well designed controls make manual focus a worthwhile alternative when the auto focus has trouble (which it sometimes does in very flat scenes or in low light).
  • Sleep Mode: The camera optionally switches into a low power mode after a short period of inactivity, and it can wake up again in less than a second.
  • Intervalometer: The camera can shoot unattended at regular intervals. Most people wouldn’t care about this, but I think it’s great and I use it all the time.
  • Image Stabilization: This feature is supposed to smooth out the natural movement of your hand, allowing you to shoot longer exposures than you would otherwise be able to without blurring the image. I expected that it would work so poorly as to be worthless, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I hate flashes, and the IS has allowed me to get halfway decent shots using available light in situations where I would otherwise end up with a blurry mess. My most amusing IS shot to date is a 1 second handheld exposure that looks soft but not sloppy.

I did briefly consider getting a 5 megapixel superzoom. I even went so far as to purchase a Kodak DX7590 on impulse because it was 5 megapixels and had a big, beautiful LCD display. I ended up returning it unopened after reading that it has substandard image quality and long write delays. There are some recently released 5mp superzooms that are supposed to be very nice, but they are also substantially more expensive than the S1 IS, so at least for now I’m not second guessing my choice.