Should I buy a camera?
November 23, 2013 3:57 PM   Subscribe

That's my question, really... I'll be going on a short overseas trip soon and I'm still undecided about whether or not I should splurge in a new camera. Surprisingly long (more inside) for a camera question. Please advise.

I've always dabbled in photography from back in the film days. I enjoy taking pictures. I love looking at good photography. I know about speed and aperture and how to develop monochrome film in darkrooms if provided with the necessary equipment, etc. etc.

The thing is, I like photography but I've never been exceptionally good at it, and I'm far from being an avid photographer. For a long time now my only camera has been a Canon Kiss Digital X (called Rebel in the States?) with a couple of wide angle Canon pancake lenses and Tamron zooms. I used to take lots and lots of pictures of my son when he was smaller, but now that he's a teen I've found that I take out my DSLR less and less, partly because he doesn't enjoy being followed around with a big ol' gaping lens pointing at him all the time. Which is understandable, but as with all other doting moms out there, my son was my favorite subject for a long time, and now that I don't shoot him much anymore, I don't really feel the need to go around shooting pictures of the neighborhood cats and filling up my computer with data of my less-than-stellar photographs.

Thus my iPhone camera had been enough for me these past couple of years, but I'll be going on an overseas trip soon. This trip will be with my parents, and it occurred to me that I wanted more than just iPhone photos of this trip, which could become my last overseas excursion with them considering their ages.

So take my DSLR, you say? Yes, so this is why I'm asking for your advice. I'd really rather not take my Kiss Digital on this trip. I've lugged it around on various trips in the past and it's just too much hassle. I like the photos that it gives me but it's so clunky and heavy. I want to travel light, but I want good photos.

I've read and reread this and the entire internet it seems about the great point-and-shoots available today and I'm so torn. The other option is the new Canon PowerShot S120 since I'm a longtime Canon user. They're such... great cameras! I want one! But should I just suck it up and bring my old DSLR along, since I probably won't be using it much when I return anyway? Or will I start use a point-and-shoot if I had one? Or...

I know I'll have to make the decision myself in the end (and soon), but could you please give me a nudge in either direction about whether or not I should invest in a good point-and-shoot? Are they worth getting? And if so which one and why? Sorry for the rambling post. I appreciate any feedback. Thanks.
posted by misozaki to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't use your old DSLR, sell it and buy the nice little S120, or maybe an s110, with the proceeds. Give up the thing that's not working and give the new thing a chance.
posted by jon1270 at 4:05 PM on November 23, 2013

The PowerShot that you linked to is in the $400 range, but there are lots and lots of really high-quality point-and-shoots out there for sub-$300. Why not go for a slightly cheaper point-and-shoot?

If you're already not happy about dragging your DSLR around on vacation, you're going to be miserable about it once you arrive.
posted by mekily at 4:07 PM on November 23, 2013

I'm no photographer, but two things that I've found invaluable in a point-and-shoot camera, especially when traveling (domestically and abroad), are a high optical zoom and one that uses AA batteries. Check out the Canon SX160 IS for $170... I have an older SX120 IS and although it's a bit bulky compared to other point-and-shoot's, being able to buy batteries for $4/pack anywhere in the world is awesome.
posted by mrrisotto at 4:35 PM on November 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Unless you are going to be taking photos of wild animals on your trip, I'd suggest getting the Canon S110 or S100, which are, respectively, ~12% & 25% cheaper than the S120 and still quite nice & compact. I would avoid the Lumix and RX100 from that other thread because 1) I HATE Panasonic's noise reduction in marginal lighting conditions 2) The RX100 is somewhat larger and significantly more expensive. While you are at it, pick up an extra 3rd-party battery or two.
posted by Good Brain at 5:51 PM on November 23, 2013

Which iPhone do you have? If you're open to an upgrade, the newer ones, especially 5s but even the 5, take really great pictures to the point where a p&s would have to be truly superlative to make me even thinking about carrying around an extra device, power source, memory card. Look into it at least.
posted by Salamandrous at 5:58 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I mean, I would take the Canon DSLR, but if you don't want to lug that around, any Canon point and shoot should serve you well. For Canon that's their Powershot series and they are all small, light and easy to use. I've tried a lot of point and shoots and in my experience Canon is really the best. It's just a matter of how much you want to spend.

If you want to use your iPhone, I would worry about draining my phone's battery. I don't have an iPhone so I can't compare that to a point and shoot, but I would assume a Canon Powershot would have to be better.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:17 PM on November 23, 2013

In your clothes, I'd buy a new camera before the trip and get used to it, try to use it for a month or so afterwards, and if it does not work out then resell it (in the original packaging). It seems like the occasion warrants a bit of a splurge, and having a decent camera around may rekindle your photography habit.

I had a Kiss X, but since the DSLR is too heavy and bulky to carry I now use a RX100. I really like the high dynamic range (better than the Kiss X)* and decent low-light performance (although not quite as good as the Kiss X, especially autofocus). I have used a Panasonic LX 5, but it is disappointing indoors. The LX7 is a bit better and the Canon S120 better still, but neither quite reaches the RX100*. If you do get an RX100, make sure to get an additional grip.

* Based on DxOmark data.
posted by froghopper at 3:02 AM on November 24, 2013

I've had a couple different Canon point and shoots (the Ixy model in Japan) and they were great for what they were. The Powershot were the next step up, and now that I'm needing more than a iPhone camera again, that's what I'm leaning towards.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:07 AM on November 24, 2013

We bought a Canon Powershot S100 last year as an alternative to DSLR lugging, and couldn't be happier. It is very easy to use, and the picture quality is fantastic. It was a bit pricier than we had originally budgeted for, but we're very glad we splurged!
Enjoy your trip!
posted by PlantGoddess at 6:32 AM on November 24, 2013

The best camera for any situation is the one you're willing to have on your person and ready to go. Point and shoots have gotten really great, but if you're interested in a step above, an Olympus Pen Lite (or the Panasonic Lumix) with a 20mm "pancake" lens is pocketable, and has the feel of a Leica, and the PL-5 has the performance of a reasonable DSLR.
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:29 AM on November 24, 2013

I also like photography but am not great at it. My previous digital camera generally took poorer pictures than an iPhone 5, so I got rid of it, but when I was getting ready to go on a long-planned trip, I got a new camera, a good-quality point and shoot (Olympus XZ-1). I'm glad I did. As you point out, there are some point-n-shoot cameras that take really good pictures, and I was able to get much better shots with the one I bought than I can with my iPhone.

So I'd say yes, invest in a good point and shoot camera. DPReview is the go-to website for research. Your budget is going to drive your decision here. Here is their top 10 compacts.

One thing I would investigate would be getting an Eye-Fi card that let me link the camera to my phone. Best of both worlds.
posted by adamrice at 8:14 AM on November 24, 2013

Response by poster: Writing out this post and reading your answers have thankfully knocked some sense into me. I have an iPhone 5, and yes, its camera is more than enough for everyday snapshots, which is why I hadn't really looked into getting a new camera for a long time. I think I'll try to find one of the older S models of the Canon PowerShot used, which should cost me less than half of what a new (or even used) Sony RX100 would currently cost here. I'd like to give everyone best answers, but I'll mark Good Brain's for giving me the downsides of the LX7 and RX100... maybe I just wanted to be reasonably talked out of coveting a shiny new gadget.

Selling my DSLR and lenses for a new point-and-shoot hadn't really occurred to me, but as a few of you pointed out, what's the point in having a camera if I don't carry it around with me? I don't think I'll sell it before this trip, but it's something to think about for another day.

Thanks to everyone who responded!
posted by misozaki at 3:29 PM on November 24, 2013

Response by poster: Update: Got a pretty good deal for a used PowerShot S110 in Akihabara today! Yay! The photos are good and the wi-fi feature is awesome for those who might be wondering. Works beautifully with my iPhone 5.
posted by misozaki at 9:55 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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