I’ve got a hankering for the perfect picture
One of my friends wanted a camera, and as luck would have it, I was on my way out to get one for a colleague when I got that call...
Previously, anyone wanting a Digital Camera would be pointed towards the de facto 5 to 7 megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom. But needs differ, and vendors have done well to recognise this fact. Although the larger semi-professional DSLR cameras have always had a multitude of settings in their exhaustive and sometimes complicated menus, I’ve found compact cameras to lack many options—either in their menus or in terms of usability. The compact cameras today are another story. I did a little surfing and came up with quite a few cameras that were refreshingly different. There are the ultra zoom models—cameras with optical zoom (ignore digital zoom claims please) in the region of 6x to 12x, as well as some compacts with smaller zooms, but large resolution image sensors. Then there are the ultra compacts—about as big as the average cell phone.
Vendors will have you believe that Kodak, Fuji and Nikon are entry level or mid-range offerings—though this isn’t true—probably because of the cheaper models they stock from these brands. One vendor told me, “People who want higher-end models usually ask for Canon or Sony, while those looking for a budget camera prefer Kodak and Nikon.” My advice: ignore what vendors tell you—most of them really don’t know what they’re talking about. Before you go out and buy a camera, do your research, read our reviews and make up your own mind.
Among the ultra compacts, the first brand worth mentioning was Canon with their Digital IXUS series. The IXUS 800IS, 860IS, 900Ti and 950IS were all on display. The 800IS is based around a smaller 6 megapixel image sensor and priced at
Rs 12,000, while the 950IS is based around a larger 8 megapixel sensor and priced at Rs 16,000. Both cameras sport an optical zoom of 4X—good for an ultra compact camera, but strictly ordinary for a regular digital camera. The more expensive SD 900Ti isn’t necessarily a better camera with a 3x optical zoom and a macro shooting range of not less than 5 cm. Its selling point is the titanium body, which isn’t worth it at Rs 18,000. The newer IXUS 860IS is available for Rs 15,500 and features a 3.8X optical zoom. Sony’s T series of cameras is even more attractive. For one, they are tinier than Canon’s offerings, and come in different colours. They also have all the features that some larger cameras lack—like the 5x optical zoom on the Cybershot T300 (10 MP) and T200 (8.1 MP). Both feature Sony’s patented double anti-shake blur reduction, which is fancy handle for optical and digital image stabilisation systems that these cameras integrate. At
Rs 18,000 for the T300, and Rs 17,500 for the T200, these cameras vie for your cash. In addition, the T200 features a touch screen, something nifty to watch out for.
Among the entry-level cameras, Nikon’s Coolpix L16 and L18 are available at Rs 6,000 and Rs 6,800, respectively. Both have 3X optical zooms, the former is a 7 megapixel camera, while the latter is rated at 8 megapixels. Kodak’s C713 (7 megapixel, 3X optical zoom) is available at Rs 5,000 and should be the minimum you should settle for. Canon’s A470 was also on display, 7 megapixels and a 3.4x optical zoom for Rs 5,500.
Among the ultra zoom models, Kodak’s ZD710 (Rs 9000) is a spanking new model with a 7 megapixel sensor and a large 10X optical zoom. Even more capable is Canon’s SX100IS, which also has a 10X zoom and a slightly larger sensor at 8 megapixels. Priced well at Rs 12,500, it also features image stabilisation, which is a plus when using such long zooms. The largest zoom-bearing model I could find was the Nikon P80, which astonishingly enough features a large 10 MP rated sensor and an 18X optical zoom. It’s priced well at Rs 16,000.
Among the regular cameras Sony’s W300 impressed me with its sleek titanium-coated body, and a whopping 13.6 megapixel sensor and 3X zoom. Priced at Rs 16,800, this camera is great for those looking for something compact yet powerful. The W200 (12.1 MP, 3X zoom, Rs 14,720) and W120 (7 MP, 4X zoom, Rs 9,000) were also on display although the latter (W120) isn’t as impressively built as the other two. Nikon’s P50 (8.1 MP, 3.6X zoom, Rs 8,800) was another well built, well laid-out camera and has a better grip for shooting than the flat, compact Sony’s, but isn’t as pocketable. The P5100 adds a larger sensor, that is, 10 MP to the P50. The zoom is identical, as is build quality, with a price of Rs 11,700. Olympus’s FE310 is one of their entry level offerings with some impressive specifications at 8 MP, 5X zoom. It’s priced extremely well at Rs 6,600. The only minus is Olympus’ proprietary memory standard—xD cards. Canon’s A720IS was on display—a successor to my now old A710IS. At Rs 10,400, and with an 8 MP sensor and 6X zoom, the A720IS is a well-built and well-balanced camera in terms of features and performance. A whopping 12 MP rated A650IS, also features a 6X zoom and is priced at Rs 14,000. This one also has a larger grip, a consequence of it requiring four AA batteries, rather than two, and features a swivel viewfinder display. The A580 (8 MP, 4X zoom) was priced at Rs 7,700 and the A590IS (8 MP, 4X zoom) was priced at
Rs 8,600. Kodak’s M893IS is a neat looking camera (8 MP, 3X zoom), but it’s not as well built as some of the others.
I recommended the all round capabilities of the Canon Powershot SX100IS to my friend and he decided to pick it up for this price. My colleague at office decided he didn’t want the extra zoom and went for the A720IS, another great all rounder.