Tuesday, January 31, 2012

And now, something completely different: photo cameras

This time I decided to briefly write about something different - photo cameras. The problem that I have right now is that my aging DSLR camera does not fit in my jersey's back pockets. Not to mention that its weight is unacceptable on a bike. Taking pictures with this SLR requires me to carry panniers on my bike all the time. This may not seem like a problem on my Schwinn, but when I want to ride Poprad, I end up riding with no camera at all.

So far, I tried to rely on my phone "camera" but to be honest, no matter how "smart" that phone is, its camera is only a ridiculous toy. It is just too dumb to be even called a camera.

I have one more camera that I really like. It is very small, pretty lightweight, fun to use and its output is excellent:
It is the Olympus 35RD and yes, it is a film camera, which makes it unsuitable for taking quick pictures for the purpose of this blog. Too bad.

Because of all this, I have been thinking about buying a new compact camera. The only problem is that I am very picky when it comes to photography and there aren't many compact cameras that I would consider worth buying. Cameras, like bicycles, are just tools for me but it doesn't mean that I like using tools with unfriendly user interface, difficult handling and giving results that I am not happy with.

First I looked at Panasonic DMC-GF2, which is a great little camera, especially when paired with Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens. This combo is not particularly cheap (~$650), but I think it is worth it. My only complain would be the lack of optical viewfinder.

Even better than the Panasonic is Olympus PEN E-P3. Yes, it is quite a bit bulkier and also more expensive (>$800, yikes!) but its picture quality can be rivaled only by SLR cameras. PEN with a flat "pancake" lens could be almost the only camera I would need (Well, most of the time).

And then, when I was debating which camera would be better for me the CES 2012 happened at the beginning of this year and two more interesting cameras were announced. One of them was Canon PowerShot G1X, which looks particularly interesting for me since I own a Canon flash lamp and I could use it with G1X as well. Plus, it comes with a viewfinder (although likely a lousy one) and first sample photos looked promising. It shouldn't cost more than Olympus and overall looks quite attractive. I would prefer a faster lens though (even with less zoom).

Another new one was Fujifilm X-Pro1. This looks to me like THE one. It seems to have a fantastic viewfinder, excellent handling and build quality and user controls that are very much like those on traditional film rangefinders. I am really excited about this one and while it still is not going to fit in my jersey's pockets, it is much smaller than my SLR so maybe a small handlebar bag would the most appropriate place for it. The only problem is its price. It is not going to be cheap, for sure.

1 comment:

  1. I can comment intelligently here, as I'm a long-time hobbyist photographer.

    Firstly, I have to disagree with you that no phone cameras are good enough for real pix. My wife and I just got iPhone 4S' a few months ago, and one of the things improved on it is the camera's lens. The optics are much improved, and it seems to be multi-coated too. The saved photos are 8 MP, in resolution, and the video camera shoots in 720P HD. With the Camera+ app, some of the 8 MP of resolution can be used for zooming. The only real drawback to it is lack of manual control (not a problem, most of the time) and lack of optical zoom.

    Secondly, consider a Canon S100. If you don't mind buying used, and don't need the GPS feature, look on ebay for deals on used S90 and S95. They are 10 MP, and have a zoom that starts at 28mm in 35 mm equiv. and go out to 105 or 112mm. Also, at wide angle, the lens is fast, at f/2. However, when zoomed out, it quickly "slows down" to f/4.9 or more.

    Thirdly, consider the Olympus XZ-1. This is the one I sold my Canon S90 for. It has the same fantastic control ring around the lens, a 28-112 mm zoom, and most importantly, the lens is FAST at ALL apertures. At 28mm, it is f/1.8, and at 112mm, it is only f/2.5. The art modes are more fun than I thought they'd be too, especially Grainy Film and Dramatic Tone. This is about a $400 camera. I think I got about $150 for my "old" S90, by selling it on ebay. Here is a photobucket album with some test shots of the different modes: http://s134.photobucket.com/albums/q112/jzorns/XZ-1/

    Lastly - I don't think you should carry it in your rear jersey pocket. Why not? because if you fall on a camera carried there, it'll likely break your spine. Carry hard things like that in an under-seat bag instead. When I was a motorcyclist, I read a story about a Russian motorcyclist who was wearing a backpack and crashed. He didn't hit anything hard, like posts or cars or curbs, but he landed on his backpack, which had a can of Coke in it. It broke his spine and paralyzed him.