Nov 13, 2006

I need a new Camera.. what should I get?

This cry for a new Camera is not the usual geek-instinct to upgrade (as Joe, my programming professor, used to say "You mean they make'em bigger?" - he ended up buying a jeep from the Swiss Army that is made in 1950 and has a mere 40km on it!)

No, my need for a new camera is for ... Layan, the little angel of my life. I was very disappointed the other day when I found out that almost all the in-door pictures of her were below par. My warrior, the Pentax Optio 555, while usually great, did not cut it this time.

Here's an example of the noise I get for in-door pictures (people taken out):
Do you see how the wall is grainy? With low light, any 'smooth colors' look grainy - even people's faces or clothes.

This drove me crazy. I don't have this problem with outdoor pictures. My camera does very well there (and it seems that until one has children, most of one's photos are outdoors):

So, with this great reason in mind, I start drafting my requirements for a new camera:
1- Should be able to handle low-light situations gracefully (no flash or ambient flash - I hate flash pics)
2- Should be able to take the 'portrait' shots - where only the person's face is in focus, and everything in the background is nicely fuzzed out.
3- Should be quick - important to capture those invaluable children's face impressions.
4- Image stabilization is possible: shaky images are rather common, especially in low-light indoor situations. A camera with Image stabilization feature - I hope - should help.

With these requirements in mind, what should I get?
After looking through - which is a great site, I found few interesting options:
1- Canon S3 IS: the S1, 2, & 3, are Canon's family of consumer long-zoom cameras (~10X). My uncle has one, and it's very nice. It has image stabilization (thus, the IS in the name). It's quick (2.5 images per second). It's big (downside, but not very important for now). The low light (high ISO) quality is so-so (check the test here).

2- I'm also thinking about the super compact Canon SD700 IS. It's super compact, and fast with ~2 frames per seconds. The IS seems to work nicely (IS test). The noise, however, it not impressive (test).

3- While reading about the SD700 IS, I read about it's competition, the Fujifilm Finepix F30, as one of the most impressive consumer noise-reduction cameras. They even compare it to the SLR Nikon D50 at ISO800, the the fuji does pretty well (test here). It's fast ~2.2 fps (it seems all new compact cameras are fast). However, the review concludes that the Fuji F30 is really good in low-light, but so-so with out-doors pictures. And this camera does not have Image stabilization.

4- My fourth option is to get a Digital SLR system (single lens reflex camera). Those cameras are bulky, expensive, require additional time to fix images, but... supposedly, they produce the best quality pictures possible.

Between these 4 options... I will start my investigation. As some know. I take a very long time to make such 'electronics' decisions. I expect I won't make a final purchase until the end of the year (1-2 months from now).

I will try to blog as I go. If you know of a good camera, please send your recommendations.