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Next on the “To-Buy” List

November 20th, 2004

My top-rated Canon Powershot S30 is showing its age–and its damage in that I’ve dropped it on concrete a couple of times. It has served brilliantly over the past couple of years, taking beautiful photos and having the flexibility I really enjoy in a camera. But now the shutter window is kind of messed up from the concrete-dropping (it tends to close shut at the slightest touch and is often difficult to open), and with digital cameras, a couple of years is a long time. So it’s time for a new camera.

I am not looking for more megapixels. Really, 3.2 (what the S30 provides) is more than enough if you’re not printing 8×10 glossies, which I never do. More megapixels is mostly for print quality–though it could be used as a quasi-zoom, messily–and I use my camera 99% of the time for digital storage, rarely printing images on paper, even 4×6 sized. So I don’t mind a 3-megapixel camera. Which is what I’m going for.

In steps the Canon S1-IS (pictured at right). Not new, it’s about 8 months old; I’ve been waiting to buy on the off chance that Canon will introduce a new version, but it looks like that won’t happen in time. But the S1 has a lot of what I want.

First and foremost, the 10x zoom with the image stabilization (the “IS” in the name). On far too many occasions I wanted to zoom way more than my 3x S30 will allow. Digital zoom just ain’t the same thing. And from what I’ve read, the image stabilization–a big selling point for such a strong zoom lens–really does work, allowing not just stable long-zoom shots, but also good low-light shots with a relatively fast shutter speed–another thing on my wish list. And the zoom works fast, smooth and silent–allowing zooms to be made during movie shooting.

It still has the wide variety of settings and features that the S30 has, with manual focus, aperture and shutter settings, allowing for special photographic effects like extended exposures and depth-of-field tricks. Improvements include full-frame, full-TV-quality video shooting. Though it takes up lots of space, I intend to buy a 1GB Compact Flash card (I’m glad they’re staying with that format) that can hold about 8 minutes of video; as such, it will almost replace my digital video recorder. The longest shutter speed is still 15 seconds (why not 30?), but the fastest has doubled to 1/2000th of a second. And it will work nicely with my Canon printer, plugging in directly so that photo printing–when I want it–will not require the computer to be involved.

I thought the fact that it eats 4-AA Alkaline batteries would be a disadvantage, but after consideration, it beats out the expensive, proprietary battery packs–it’s cheaper to have rechargeable AA’s, and if the available rechargeables all lose their juice, standard AA’s will work nicely.

The down side is the form factor–being a bit bulkier with more protrusions, it will not fit into my shirt pocket like my S30 does–but I can live with that. Maybe it’ll still fit in pants or jacket pockets. The lens cap is a nuisance, but can be dealt with. There are a lot of buttons and controls, but not so many that I’ll be lost or anything. I also expect the flash and low-light focusing to be sub-par–a common failing among Canon cameras, but well-made-up-for by the image quality and feature set.

Finally, the price is right: about $320 to $350. Though I have to buy it in the U.S.–ironically, the cameras are quite a bit more expensive in Japan, at $510–even with the 15% point-card “discount,” it’s still a big chunk of change cheaper in the U.S.

I plan to order in the next couple of weeks so that it will be delivered to my folks’ house before I arrive for Christmas vacations. The 49ers-Washington game my father’s taking me to should provide a good test for the zoom.

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  1. November 21st, 2004 at 07:03 | #1

    I think the price of electornics is one thing that has always shocked me on my visits to Japan. Americans have always been led to believe that electronics are so much cheaper in Japan. Sure you can find an electronic store a lot faster and easier in Japan, but cheaper? My aunt fanny! This camera is a perfect example of this. And it wasn’t until this last trip that Bic Camera deemed me worthy of a point card, so until they gave me that it was even worse!

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