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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Wednesday (3/16/11) 5:00pm - ... wherein Peter muses about camera-buying.

I'm thinking of buying a new camera.

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I'm thinking about this for three reasons:

1.  I'm not satisfied with my improv photos.  Taking pictures at ISO 200 is not always possible, and if I go even to ISO 400, my PowerShot G6 gets all chroma-noisy.

2.  I'm interested in a better solution for improv videos.  The iPhone just isn't hacking it, for a number of reasons.  I suspect that a better camera with even passable video capabilities could shoot HD video without (1) crapping out after 50 minutes or (2) using all the wrong exposure/white-balance settings.

3.  As for taking dance photos without the flash, forget about it.

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So now I'll look at some cameras that Digital Photography Review recommends:


The PowerShot G12.
I could just upgrade to the latest model in the PowerShot line.  I presume I could then keep using my extra camera battery and my 4GB CompactFlash card.  AFAICT, this would solve the ISO problem handily, as the ISO 12,800 on the G12 looks a bit like the ISO 400 on the G6.  Granted, it does this mostly by 'pixel binning', or reducing the image size to cut down on the chroma noise.  Given that I have yet to make a print of any photo I've ever taken, I don't really mind this.

The downside is that it doesn't really solve my video problems.  It does shoot HD, but it offers no manual exposure settings for video.


The Olympus XZ-1
Or, I could get a different point'n'shoot.  The XZ-1 has a ridiculously bright lens (for a point'n'shoot).  Apparently it starts to lose fine detail (due to noise reduction) around ISO 800, but according to Digial Photography Review, you should rarely ever need that ISO setting.

That said, I don't think there's any full-manual control for this camera.  If the built-in modes, with their limited settings, include something that handles typical improv shows, then great, it works.  If not, it's useless.

And again, there's no way to change exposure settings for video (AFAICT).


The Sony SLT Alpha A55
This is a "single-lens translucent" camera -- AFAICT, this is kind of halfway between a point'n'shoot and a DSLR.  No, it can't record more than a half-hour of video, but it produces usable output up to ISO 12800.


Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i / Kiss X4 Digital)
Or, I could go whole-hog and just upgrade to a proper DSLR.  I've actually taken a bunch of improv photos with the T1i and chromatic noise was not an issue at all.  But it doesn't comfortably solve the video problem, since it, too, cuts out at 30 minutes.  (And even if it didn't, the battery would crap out shortly after that.)  And a full DSLR might be too bulky (and expensive) for me to carry around all the time.

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So I'm drawing a few different (and possibly erroneous) conclusions here:

1.  Nothing in camera-land will solve my improv-video woes.  I suppose I could hunt down a pocket camcorder that would let me manually set its exposure setting (maybe the Sanyo Xacti or the Creative Vado), or just wait for an iPhone video app that finally gets around the built-in video app's limitations.

2.  Any new high-end compact camera might be a substantial improvement, chroma-noise-wise, over the 2004-vintage PowerShot G6 (which, mind you, has done pretty well for me).  I could keep a G11 or G12 in my backpack and probably take better improv photos with it.  That said, there's no way to know for sure that either camera would handle improv photos much better.

3.  The T2i (or I suppose the upcoming T3i) takes gorgeous photos (yes, technically that's a T1i that took those).  It wouldn't work for videoing improv shows, though its video capabilities would be pretty impressive if I wanted to shoot sketches.  That said, I don't have any particular ambitions to shoot video.

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So at this point I've mostly talked myself out of buying a new camera.

I don't think I can justify ~ $700 on the T2i, especially if I'm likely to forget to bring it to the show half the time.  I don't think I can justify ~ $450 on the more portable G12, especially without being able to try it out and confirm that it would make my improv-photographing life easier.

Though maybe I'd be okay with spending $600 on the T1i?

Shopping is hard.

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[User Picture]
From:happywaffle
Date:Wednesday (3/16/11) 4:12pm

T1i

(Link)
I had the choice of T1i and T2i, chose the 1, and am perfectly happy. Especially if video is not a dealbreaker for you, in which case the 1's video capabilities are more than enough.

You can probably score a T1i + kit lens for $500—who knows, maybe even less once the T3i is out. The biggest catch is that you'll end up wanting to get a better lens that can handle lower f-stops; when shooting shows, I'm constantly switching back to my 50mm f1.8 for individual portrait-type shots.
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