My camera died. Well, it hasn’t really died yet, but it is definitely on it’s death bed. I bought my Canon S90 on the suggestion of a professional photographer friend of mine when I was in New York City attending a wedding several years ago. Other than the lack of a view finder, I loved the camera. Then, about a month ago, it quit focusing when the zoom was extended. It still works great if you don’t zoom in, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a compact zoom camera. Though the power of Google, I learned that this is a common failure of this particular model and the general consensus was that it is not worth the money to get it fixed and since digital camera features advance almost as fast as cell phone technology, there had to have been many advances in camera quality in the intervening years since I bought the S90. I decided it was time for an upgrade.
I have been wanting a DLSR ever since they came out, but since I already have a closet full of good SLR cameras, (most notably a Canon A1 – my favorite camera of all time), I couldn’t bring myself to lay out the cash for a camera that may not even be as good as my old Canon. I have always held out hope that maybe someday someone would make a digital back for my old film cameras and I wouldn’t have to invest in a whole new camera system. Fast forward 15+ years and I am still waiting. I don’t think it is going to happen, but I can’t bring myself to part with all my camera “junk”. Besides, if I sold my old Canons, I would only get about a $100 for what was several thousands of dollars in camera bodies and lenses. It seems almost criminal that overnight my investment went down the tubes. Welcome to the digital age!
So while I was biding my time for this non-existant digital camera back to not appear, I bought several point and shoot digital cameras. I have had Nikons, Panasonics, Sonys, and, more recently, Canons. The progression of sensor quality, lens focal length (but not necessarily lens speed), and other features in a body that gets smaller and smaller has been impressive. While none of the digital cameras I have owned could turn out as good a picture as my film cameras, they were, for the most part, easier to use, faster, and they all had the defining advantage that all digital cameras have; you can see the picture the instant you take it!
During my research and soul searching to devine the absolute perfect camera for me, I realized that most of the photos that I keep consist mostly of buildings, landscapes, and people. Gone were the “artsy” f-stop manipulations, ultra-long time exposures, double exposures and all the other things you can do easily with a “good” camera. The sad part was that I haven’t missed them much. Occasionally I will pine for the good-old-days when there is a shot I want to take but know my digital camera won’t do it justice. Is this worth the extra $500-600 that a DLSR would cost? No. There is also the size issue with a DLSR; they are large and can be a pain to lug around all day. It is hard to beat the portability of the new “travel zoom” cameras. The best advice I have ever gotten about photography was “the best camera is the one you have with you”. Even a crappy photo of a momentous event is better than nothing!
So, armed with the realization that I probably would use a DLSR only slightly more than I use my old SLRs, I began the quest of finding a portable camera that will give me good pictures. Even by eliminating all of the lower end cameras that are for people without a camera on their cell phones (whoever they are) and the über-expensive prosumer models, there were too many choices for mere mortals to decipher. I decided not to get another Canon since my last one only lasted five years (it was not a cheap camera), so that narrowed my choices down a bit. By narrowing my price range to under $300, I was able to limit the choices to about 20 cameras. Still too many. Then the Costco flyer came in the mail and they were offering $70 off the Panasonic Lumix ZS40. The reviews checked out good, so the decision was made for me.
Wish me luck!