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Monday, August 2nd, 2004

I Need A Camera To My Eye

I have begun the process of shopping for a new digital camera. I’ve just about outgrown my Fuji Finepix 2600z and am looking for something towards the higher end of point-and-shoots to suit my needs for the next few years at least, if not longer. I’m not prepared to go DSLR because, really, I don’t want to spend that sort of money and time to learn how to work everything. Well, mostly the money. Who knows – maybe by the time I outgrow this next camera I’ll be ready to take that step. Anyway.

I had my choices narrowed down to either the Canon PowerShot A80 ($499 CAN) or the Canon PowerShot S60 ($699 CAN) as Canon seems get far and away the best reviews of the consumer-level P&S digicams. The Fuji came out last week and announced a whole slew of new models, including the FinePix E550 ($599 CAN) and the FinePix F810 ($649 CAN). I can’t tell spec-wise how these two models differ, actually, though the F810 is twice as heavy as the E550. There’s been no reviews of either of these models since they’re not even on the market yet (I heard end of October for the E550).

Anyone want to offer some advice on my purchase decision? Nikon? Minolota? I’m looking for something that will offer decent low-light/indoor performance (for concert pics, natch) and while I’m obviously not going to get professional results, I figure anything in this price range will be a step up from my current camera. I also want a greater than 3x optical zoom or at the very least, a threaded barrel for attachable lenses. Anyone have suggestions on any of the ultra-zoom models out there? Or how to read/compare specs in general? What’s important, what’s not? Other matters like battery type, memory type, etc etc will be considered but won’t likely be deal-breakers either way. Also, if anyone has suggestions on where/how to buy to get the best deal – there has to be a better way than walking into Future Shop and paying sticker price – those recommendations are appreciated as well. I’m not rushing into this, I’m willing to wait till Christmas to take advantage of Boxing Day sales if I have to. I also don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of new product launches. I’m looking to keep the price within the $500-$700 CAN range (around $350-$550 US?) cause I’ll have to be spending on memory cards, a case probably and other ancillary items as well. Thanks!

Jeff Tweedy does some press with The Toronto Sun to promote their sold-out show at the Mod Club tomorrow night. “It all sounds very pretentious, but mostly we just wanted to rock, it’s good for you!”

I did make it to Wavelength last night after all, though it was by no means a sure thing – it’s damned easy to simply not go out by 10:30 on a Sunday night. The lure of a free beer finally won out, however, and was enough to get me on my bike and away to Sneaky Dee’s. I guess they were running behind schedule because when I arrived Jet Project Labs was still rocking the mic with his odd Maritime folk-hop. It was mildly compelling but not really my thing. I was more interested in seeing the other two bands, both fronted by regulars on the 20Hz message boards, which have become sort of the defacto hub for the grassroots Canadian indie scene.

Montreal’s A Vertical Mosaic are a three-piece with a lot of keyboards, but also an old-school guitar and bass to keep things a little rough around the edges. I found their sound to be a bit of a cross between a really mellowed-out Stereolab and early New Order. Some of their material was much better than the other stuff, particularly when the guitar was more to the fore. Granted, I personally like guitar music, but I think the music benefitted from the more organic sound. On the peppier numbers I think they could have really benefitted from a real drummer to put them over the top as opposed to the drum machine sequences they favoured, but I guess that’d be rather contrary to what they’re trying to do. Good musicianship and nice vocal arrangements (when they could hear themselves, at least) and decent enough all in all, anyway.

Locals Femme Generation were the headliners of the evening, as evidenced by a) their going on last and b) everyone actually moving to the front of the bar when they started their set. They trade in the disco-inflected downstroked post-punk sound that’s de rigeur these days, but with a significantly more aggressive approach – you can tell there’s some serious rock in these guys’ background. They had really good stage presence up there but the songs didn’t quite have the hooks to really get my attention. That was just me, however, and the rest of the audience seemed to be having a splendid time and the band’s just-released EP Circle Gets The Square netted a very positive review in this week’s eye.

Late post? Yeah, it’s a long weekend, chumps!

np – Rogue Wave / Out Of The Shadow

By : Frank Yang at 10:35 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Gary says:

    Frank — I’ve heard that the Olympus D-510 is supposed to be a great digital camera and really responsive in lots of lighting conditions. You should certainly check it out.

    I’ve never been a big fan of Canon cameras… mostly because they have funky proprietary batteries, which means getting a charger and being screwed if you’re away on holiday or something and have forgotten the charger. When I was in France with my Fuji (that takes AA batteries) there was no issue should power run out, I could pick up batteries at any corner store rather than hauling around some charger and universal adapter kit for european power plugs.

  2. Carrie says:

    I own the Canon A80 (which takes AA batteries) and so far I’ve found it’s okay. I might be a little biased, though, because I’d much rather have a DSLR, since it fits my needs much more than a point & shoot. That said, though, the A80 is pretty good for the specs it has. It has 3x optical zoom, but is also threaded (as you mentioned), so you can attach various other lenses. As far as taking concert pictures with it, if you’re fairly close to the stage and want tight shots, it’s not bad (a little noisy), but if you’re farther back and using the digital zoom, you won’t get very high quality shots unless you have it set on super-fine, and the highest resolution. A lot of the photos on my site are taken with the A80, if you want to check out results.

    P.S. it’s quite possible that I’ll be getting a DSLR in the near future and haven’t fully decided yet whether I’ll get rid of the A80, but if I do I’ll let you know, if you’re interested.

  3. Andrea says:

    I use the Olympus D-565 (which isn’t made anymore) for concert photography. The zoom isn’t much (3x optical) and I wish it had a little more, but other than that, I’ve been happy with the camera. About half the pictures on my site have been taken with the Olympus, if you’d like to see the results. The digitals are fairly easy to spot because they’re sharper and clearer than the scanned pics.

  4. Frank says:

    thanks for the suggestions – I did a fair bit of research today and now the more I know, the harder my decision has become. I’m looking closely at models from Canon, Minolta, Fuji and Olympus. All have pros and cons and I’m notoriously bad at pulling the trigger on major purchases – expect this one to be dragged out for a while. One thing I do know, however, is that whatever I get will probably be far superiour to what I’ve got now so that’s something, at least.

    What’s the best place to buy something like this?

  5. monkeyinabox says:

    I always like to price out everything with a shopping engine.

    http://…/

    That one is pretty good and you can see how much you can pay for what you want.

    Since you already have reviews from the two sites I think are the best for reviews, I think you’ve already got a good start.

  6. Carrie says:

    I bought my digital at Downtown Camera on Queen St. I actually went back and forth between them and Henry’s (a block away) and compared prices. You can usually get a better deal at one place over the other if you mention you’re looking around. I think I got my camera $20 cheaper than at Henry’s, plus $10 off a 256mb memory card. I’ve also heard Vistek is good (a little further east on Queen St.), but have never been there myself.

  7. Carrie says:

    Oh, and I recommend buying your camera in person…this way you can ask additional questions and you can feel the cameras. Once the camera is in your hands, you’ll know if it feels right. The good thing about the Canon A80 is that it’s a little weighty, which I find to be an advantage, since it’s easier to hold steady to prevent camera shake.

  8. solace says:

    in order of pref, of digital cam makers currently:

    Canon

    Olympus

    Fuji

    Minolta

    don’t think i’d buy anything other than those, though some of the new Panasonics are really nice.

    as for the A80, my gf has the A70, which we both love, and a friend of mine has the A80, which he also loves. but if you’re eyeing the A80, they are coming out w/ an upgrade of it soon. (they just announced the A85, but that’s basically an upgrade of the A70/75, to 4 MP, but no flip out LCD)

    i was looking pretty hard at digicams earlier this year, (i want something w/ at least 6x zoom, and 3-5 mp, wouldn’t mind more zoom, but usually you sacrifice photo quality then), but i backed off after i was a little overwhelmed w/ the choices, and underwhelmed w/ the few i’d narrowed it down to (Fuji S5000/S7000, Canon S1 IS, and Minolta Z2). i might see how that new updated A80 is, and go for that in the spring.

  9. Ryan Waddell says:

    My girlfriend picked up a Nikon 4100, and it’s a great little camera. Comes with rechargeable AA’s (and a charger), it’s lighter than the A80, and takes pretty good quality pics. Also, it was about 70-80 dollars cheaper than the A80, but since it doesn’t use compactflash (I forget which one it uses…) the memory is a bit pricier. Still ended up being about $50 cheaper including a 256meg memory card. I personally prefer Nikon to Olympus when it comes to interface, as the Olympus interface generally sucks… but that’s just a personal opinion.

  10. Frank says:

    I’ve been looking very closely at the yet-to-be-released Minolta Dimage Z3.

    http://…/

    It’s right at the top of my targeted price range and I think after buying memory and such, it’d have cleared a grand, but it looks sweet. I wouldn’t get an ultra-zoom without image stabilization, which pretty much eliminates most of the market at present. I don’t know, it’s entirely possible I’m now trying to buy far more camera than I need. I want to see what Canon replaces the A80 with and get some reviews of the new Fujis before making a decision.

  11. Frank says:

    And the Z3 looks like a little Star Wars ship. :)

  12. Nik says:

    My canon powershot A70 has been frickin’ awesome, I’d highly recommend it, I don’t think there’s a huge amount of difference between that and the A80.

  13. photojunkie says:

    My recommendations would never fall into your price range. BUT that being said I would love to get my hands on a Canon Powershot S1. it has a 10 x optical zoom. But the drawback is that it costs 700 dollars and only has a 3.2 megapixel rating. For that kind of money, I would be hoping for at least a 4 megapixel camera. Basically you are paying for the optical zoom here and all the great manual features. It is essentially a Powershot Pro1, but dumbed down.

    Whatever you choose make sure it has manual features. I know you are not quite savvy on that side of things yet, but it would be good to have as a learning feature.

  14. Frank says:

    let me guess, Rannie – you’d say to go DSLR, right? If they didn’t cost multiples of what my budget is, I’d consider it. I’m already letting a little too much budget creep into the picture… Either way, I figure that even if I do go DSLR in the future, it’ll be good to have a decent P&S handy for when I want to travel light.

    I was looking at the S1 IS as well, but the relatively low resolution is off-putting. A lower pixel count in that size of sensor could be a good thing, though. And it is expensive.

    I like the looks of Canon gear but they always spec out below gear by other manufacturers at the same price point.