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The best bushwalking camera is...
Well, I think I thought I knew what the best bushwalking camera was, but the past weeks has shown me that it's a difficult question to answer. At one point I was thinking that the various companies were colluding to produce cameras that were not perfect
My definition of "bushwalking" also changed, or clarified: it's definitely multi-day walks. On single day walks I'm more able, and I think I'd prefer, to take something that will take more quality photos that I'm more likely to spend more time composing. The photos from our multi-day walks are for recording memories, not making art, and are probably only going to be displayed on web pages.
From my last post I identified what the main requirements were:
- Big zoom
- Wide angle
- Macro mode
- Not too many megapixels
- Manual control
- Good auto modes
- Good image quality
- Pocket sized
- Light weight
- AA Battery powered
It's felt like I was in a washing machine some days, each time I read a new review I'd be keen on that camera! The only thing to do was to keep the washing machine going until it was finished (painful as that was); but it did help me refine my those requirements:
- Easy & Quick to use
- Fun to Use: when you're walking you're meant to be having fun not worrying about the photos!
- Good Auto Modes: it really does need to be a good Point & Shoot. When you're puffing up a hill you don't want to stop and fiddle with the camera (well, maybe you do, but you'd never get anywhere if you did at each photo). Originally I thought that Sandi (the non-photographer) would be the one using the auto modes, but I've since realised that in an ideal situation the auto modes is what I'd like to use too!
- Light Weight
- Good Battery Life: means carrying less batteries on multiple day walks
- Good Zoom & Wide Angle
- How much zoom has been a problem to try and figure out. Our old A20 had 3X and we lived with that OK for over a decade! But I think the Wide Angle is more important than the zoom, but only marginally.
- Good/Easy Macro
- The easier it is to get close to that flower as you're passing the better
One of the issues with reading so many reviews is that you collect a lot of data and analysing it is near impossible. So I put it all into a spreadsheet and weighted the scores by my own priorities, which has helped me short-list the cameras. If you're interested in the Excel Spreadsheet, email me and I'll send you a copy.
My short-list has changed dramatically as I've read the various reviews on the web, some of which I'll quote here (I was only really interested with "hands-on" reviews, by people that seemed to know what they were talking about; there are plenty of reviews that just rely on the specification sheets):
The Sony Cyber-shot HX5 very narrowly misses out on a gold award in this test, primarily for the reasons that we mentioned on its individual page. Although it is capable of extremely good results, slow operational speed and a quirky interface did cause us some frustration. Treat it as a primarily 'auto everything' camera, however, and you won't be disappointed.
Quoted from 'Compact Super Zoom' Camera Group Test (Q2 2010) Review: 24. Conclusions and ratings: Digital Photography Review (at Wednesday, 15 December 2010 7:57:38 PM).
Turn it on, compose the image and fire. Don't worry about the settings except to ask yourself if you should be in Program Auto, HDR, HHT or iSweep Panorama. And maybe 4:3 or 16:9. Then let the camera take it from there.
You'll be as surprised as I was when you get the picture you wanted instead of the one you expected. The Sony HX5V will capture what you saw, what attracted you to the scene, not what a camera sees through its tiny lens, crammed on its tiny sensor and massaged with brass knuckles by its image processor. The Sony HX5V makes few excuses.
Quoted from Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V Digital Camera - Review - The Imaging Resource! (at Wednesday, 15 December 2010 8:06:51 PM).
The Fuji F300EXR has dropped way down, if not off the list all together; basically because of image quality. I'd been giving the benefit of the doubt to the camera thinking that most reviews I'd read didn't employ it's advanced modes. This quote is what clinched it for me:
The Fuji FinePix F300EXR is one of those cameras that sounds great when you look at the spec sheet and press release, but in reality, it turned out to be a major disappointment. A camera can have all the bells and whistles in the world, but at its core, it needs to be able to take high quality photos. And while the F300EXR may be good enough for small prints at low ISOs, the simple fact is that other cameras do just about everything better. I'd recommend spending your hard-earned money on something other than the FinePix F300EXR.
Quoted from Fujifilm 12 Megapixels FinePix F300EXR 15x SuperZoom Review by DCRP - DSLR Camera & Lenses News - DSLR Photography News & Reviews (at Wednesday, 15 December 2010 8:28:04 PM).
The Sony does similar HDR things as the Fuji, but did it with full resolution and multiple images, which obviously gives greater flexibility with final output size. It also seems to be the perfect point & shoot that'll deliver good results in a wide array of situations. It's obviously not without its negatives, but every camera seems to have those and it's a matter of getting to know how to get the best out of your camera.
...so I'm rolling that around my mouth for a while to see how it tastes...