Japan or bust: recommend a camera
January 30, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning on going to Japan later on in the year, and I need a new camera.

I don't know much about digital cameras, so I figured I'd use my weekly askMeFi question to get some help.

Basically, I want a camera that isn't too expensive (I was thinking up to about AU$500), takes a decent photo when I point and click, and isn't too chunky. I'll want to be able to lug it around to a lot of places.

I'm liking the look of the geotagging feature in iPhoto 09, so something that incorporates GPS in some way would be awesome.
posted by doctor.dan to Shopping (22 answers total)
 
Well, I think Japan is officially camera heaven, so you may want to wait until you get there. If you make the first part of your trip a visit to the electronics warrens of Akihabara, you could save quite a bit of money and get a very cool camera. Even a Tokyu hands or similar (department) store (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro) will have many better options that you can find at home.

(Most salespeople are knowledgeable, though unilingual, but most packages include English and they'll happily open/demonstrate anything for you. AU$500 is a lot of camera these days. The sort that would bf $500 a couple of years ago is $129 now.)
posted by rokusan at 2:34 PM on January 30, 2009


In general, I would suggest looking at the Canon line of point and shoots. The powershot line is nice. My digital SLR is Nikon but I think Canon makes better point and shoot digital cameras.
posted by Carbolic at 2:38 PM on January 30, 2009


You can get a whole lot of point and shoot for ~$330 USD (~500AUD). I just bought a 10MP Canon that was like $150 (pretty good deal) and it's a slick little p&s.
posted by jckll at 2:46 PM on January 30, 2009


In general, I would suggest looking at the Canon line of point and shoots. The powershot line is nice. My digital SLR is Nikon but I think Canon makes better point and shoot digital cameras. I don't know that any have GPS though (Never heard of a straight camera that does. Maybe an iPhone feature.)
posted by Carbolic at 2:57 PM on January 30, 2009


Oops!
posted by Carbolic at 2:58 PM on January 30, 2009


Tokyu Hands? They didn't have cameras the last time I was there.

$300 USD puts you in the sweet spot for point-n-shoot cameras. I don't have any recommendations but looking at Amazon I see this bad boy for $250.

With the present exchange rate wonkiness (the Yen is WAY too strong ATM), AFAICT you won't be getting any deals buying the camera in Akihabara.

Eg. the same Panasonic camera at Bic Camera is Y26000 ($286) + 5% tax.

AFAIK GPS requires a camera phone, which I refuse to use on the general principle.

IMO going for a mini HD video cam is becoming a better option than point-n-shoot. You can capture SO much more with a 5sec video pan than 5 pictures.
posted by troy at 3:00 PM on January 30, 2009


I concur on the Canon.
I have an 700IS (a few years old) that is a workhorse.
Very stable, takes a great picture, very easy to use, and uses standard mempry cards.
posted by Drasher at 3:05 PM on January 30, 2009


Tokyu Hands? They didn't have cameras the last time I was there.

I got a cute little Kyocera point and shoot there in 2007 after losing my 'real' camera on the street somewhere. Maybe just the flagship store?

Seconding Canon, I should have said that. Other than the above, all my favorite digital cameras have been Canons. They're durable and have really wide software support. Avoid Sony and their goofy proprietary memory sticks.
posted by rokusan at 3:20 PM on January 30, 2009


Canon 870IS
posted by iamabot at 3:40 PM on January 30, 2009


Yeah, the Canon 870IS has been good for me.
posted by various at 5:48 PM on January 30, 2009


I am in love with my Canon G9, but its probably heavier than youre looking for. But I've been very impressed with Canon in general and their customer service is excellent (especially compared to Casio, manufacturer of my last digital camera, do NOT go Casio).

I usually turn to Cnet.com when I'm looking for something like this. You can find the best reviewed cameras for your price range and check out user reviews. Very helpful.
posted by minicloud at 6:00 PM on January 30, 2009


Thanks for all the great advice guys, keep it coming.

Canon seems to be winning the consensus. Have a Sony at the moment, it is completely underwhelming and disappointing, to say the least.
posted by doctor.dan at 6:29 PM on January 30, 2009


Why buy a camera before going to Japan? You don't even have to go to Akihabara, as the average big box electronics store will have loads and loads and loads of better selection than Australia will.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:15 PM on January 30, 2009


When I first bought a digital camera, I took months reading websites, trying to make a good choice. Agonized over it. I'd made my choice, then went to a store to try it out. I found out that my first choice had menus that not only I couldn't understand, but the shop assistant couldn't either. I picked up an Ixy 400, and it was love at first snap. When it started to fail on me (after five years of pretty hard use, including being carried in a backpack for the entirety of it's lifetime), I was in a hurry (doing sightseeing with friends visiting for my wedding), and ran into a store, looked at the Canon cameras, and bought the 810IS. It was last year's model at the time, so it was cheaper, but it's great. It doesn't feel cheap or plasticky, and it has just the right amount of weight, not too heavy, but again, not so light that it feels cheap.

All point and shoots seem to suffer from low-light/flash badness, and Canon is no exception. Do yourself a favor and pick up a gorillapod, which will make those great pictures of temples late in the afternoon actually come out.

But yeah, definitely Canon. You can easily pick one up in the price range you're looking at.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:25 PM on January 30, 2009


Why buy a camera before going to Japan? You don't even have to go to Akihabara, as the average big box electronics store will have loads and loads and loads of better selection than Australia will.

Except that the exchange rate is bloody awful right now. The Aussie dollar bought Y97 four months ago, Y57 now.

Some of the Nikon DSLRs can do GPS with an external receiver dingus, and the Coolpix P6000 has a built-in receiver, although it's a little out of your price range.

Nthing everyone who said Canon.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 9:13 PM on January 30, 2009


Nth-ing Canon, and get one that has "IS" in the model name -- image stabilization is awesome. I have an A720IS and love it. I think the SD series is too small (small = less glass = lower quality pics, in my book).

You can look forward to all sorts of cool modern frills like panorama stitch assist, which keeps exposure settings constant across pano series. Movie modes, high and low res. Autofocus with face recognition.

Any resolution about 5MP is icing on the cake, IMO. My current camera is 8MP and I have it cranked down to 3MP for most shots and occasionally bump it up to 5MP for important setups.

Personally, I require my cameras to use standard batteries (AAA or AA, not proprietary battery packs) so that you can charge and pack extras, and duck into a store in an emergency.

Surprised nobody's mentioned www.dpreview.com yet.
posted by intermod at 9:13 PM on January 30, 2009


Nthing Canon. I have a powershot, can't remember the model, but three years ago it was about USD$ 225, generally reviewed as at or near the top of the price range. (I read reviews, checked out the cameras in a shop to see the build/case quality, how they felt in my hands.) Definitely worth looking at dpreview.com. They've very recently done some round-up reviews of cameras that look to be in your price range.
posted by ambient2 at 11:07 PM on January 30, 2009


Buy a Panasonic LX3. Or a Canon G10. Or a Ricoh GRD-II.
posted by chunking express at 11:34 AM on January 31, 2009


I love our Canon Powershot G9, and would certainly buy a G10 if we needed a new camera now It's a fantastic camera that bridges the gap between point & shoots and SLRs. Looks like they're in the $600-$750 AUD range, though, but worth every penny.
posted by The Michael The at 4:21 PM on January 31, 2009


I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ4 with a nice Leica lens. Simple to use but lots of customizable settings if you want to tweak it. It has a substantial feel to it; not plastic and flimsy, but it's nice and compact. It has a great zoom (and a return-to-zoom setting), burst mode (burst mode is fantastic for taking shots of movement such as festivals and dances where things are moving), image stabilization, face recognition, video, and all that. etc. I personally hate cameras that use regular batteries; this one has a compact charger (easily slipped into cafe power outlets) and holds a charge for a long time. There's a third-party battery you can buy on Amazon, etc., which apparently lasts even longer, so with one of those I'll be set.

When one of my clients went home to Japan for a visit a few weeks ago, he saw lots of Japanese people using the same camera. According to him, it costs more in Japan than it does in the US, so you should definitely compare prices between Japan and Australia if possible.

As for dpreview.com, honestly, they give so much information that I found them to be almost useless for my level of knowledge. Kind of overwhelming. If someone starts dpreviewlite.com I'm there. ;)
posted by wintersweet at 5:05 PM on February 1, 2009


I have a Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ4, too, and it's everything wintersweet says it is. It takes awesome photos in natural light.

However... its flash is too too too powerful, and the camera does not take good snapshots in a lighted room... the lense or CCD or whatever doesn't like fluorescent lights, either. There's a lot of noise, and a lot of blurring. Using the flash tends to wash out *everything*.

So taking indoor snaps of birthday parties, etc is a little out of the question.

But I love the camera's heft, I love the quality of the natural-light images, and I love being able to adjust the different settings.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:54 PM on February 6, 2009


Huh, my indoor photos of our Thanksgiving dinner came out just fine (that was a combo of candlelight and CFLs, I think). The flash rarely fires, actually, so you may be right about it being too strong.
posted by wintersweet at 3:13 PM on February 9, 2009


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